Neville, Kris

Tagged: Author

(1925-1980) US author – mostly of fiction – who worked for many years as a technical writer specializing in plastics technology, and through his connection with the Epoxylite Corporation co-authored several texts on epoxy resins. He began publishing sf with "The Hand from the Stars" (July 1949 Super Science Stories), and for several years was a prolific contributor to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and other magazines; he wrote some fantasy as by Henderson Starke. His short fiction was assembled in Mission: Manstop (coll with some stories updated 1971), and in the posthumous The Science Fiction of Kris Neville (coll 1984) edited by Barry N Malzberg and Martin H Greenberg, which was supplemented (but not replaced) by Earth Alert! and Other Science Fiction Tales (coll 2010). This material consistently demonstrated his notable technical strengths as a writer: concision, clarity of style, an ability to develop the sometimes routine initial material of a story so that its implications expanded constantly, rather in the manner mastered, with more recognition than Neville ever received, by James Tiptree Jr. "Hunt the Hunter" (June 1951 Galaxy), for instance, begins as a simple hunt on an Alien planet but expands subtly but quickly into a study in power politics whose trick ending very neatly turns the meaning of the whole tale in upon itself. Another early story, "The Toy" (December 1952 Imagination), powerfully structures a very sharp lesson in Anthropology within an apparently routine tale about humans oppressing "inferior" aliens. One of his very few late stories, "Ballenger's People" (April 1967 Galaxy), counts as sf only through its moderately futuristic form of urban transport; the tale itself describes, with superb concision, the complex internal politics of a deranged mind.

Neville's best known story is probably "Bettyann" (in New Tales of Space and Time, anth 1951, ed Raymond J Healy) which, with its immediate sequel, "Overture" (in 9 Tales of Space and Time, anth 1954, ed Raymond J Healy), eventually comprised Bettyann (fixup 1970). More powerfully than in most of his work, the two tales combine a clearly-felt elegiac sense of how lives can best be lived, in terms familiar through the work of Ray Bradbury and Clifford D Simak, along with a more radical and passionate sense of the primacy of love, in terms reminiscent of Theodore Sturgeon; but these indications of influence mark a conversation, not a dependency. An Alien lost in infancy on Earth, Bettyann grows into a deep rapport with the humans she learns to know, though the arrival her fellow beings from the stars to "rescue" her forces her to recognize her Superman abilities, including Shapeshifting, Telepathy and the power to heal. Her decision not to leave with her essentially touristic fellows, and to devote her life to humans, hints of Uplift but within a complex presentation of the complex fate of being human. The implications of this decision are developed in the later sequel, "Bettyann's Children" (in Demon Kind, anth 1973, ed Roger Elwood) with Lil Neville, Neville's wife and frequent late collaborator. Among the fiction he wrote with her is a 1975 novel published only in Japanese whose title translates as "Run, the Spearmaker".

Neville's comparative silence for two decades before his death, a silence obscured by the book publication of old material – most of it revamped, like The Mutants (February 1953 Imagination as "Earth Alert!"; exp 1966), Special Delivery (January 1952 Imagination; 1967 chap dos) and Peril of the Starmen (January 1954 Imagination; 1967 chap dos) – was to be regretted, for his intelligence was acute and his artistic control over his material was always evident. He was one of the potentially major writers of Genre SF who never came to speak in his full voice. [JC]

see also: Living Worlds.

Kris Ottman Neville

born Carthage, Missouri: 9 May 1925

died Los Angeles, California: 23 December 1980

works

  • The Unearth People (New York: Belmont Books, 1964) [pb/uncredited]
  • The Mutants (New York: Belmont Books, 1966) [first version appeared February 1953 Imagination as "Earth Alert!": pb/uncredited]
  • Special Delivery (New York: Belmont Books, 1967) [chap: dos: first appeared January 1952 Imagination: pb/uncredited]
  • Peril of the Starmen (New York: Belmont Books, 1967) [chap: dos: first appeared January 1954 Imagination: pb/uncredited]
  • Bettyann (New York: Belmont Books, 1970) [fixup: pb/W Thut]
  • Invaders on the Moon (New York: Belmont Books, 1970) with Mel Sturgis [Sturgis was left uncredited through a publishing decision against which Neville protested: pb/uncredited]

collections

links

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