Oates, Joyce Carol

Tagged: Author

(1938-    ) US author whose immensely prolific career – at least sixty-five novels; around 800 short stories, many of them long and ambitious, partially assembled in something like forty collections; plus much other work – has in itself been a barrier to her proper appreciation, though in recent years, despite its almost unassimilable hugeness, that oeuvre has become recognized, none too soon, as a necessary part of the story of American literature. She has written relatively little sf as such; a story like "Family" (December 1989 Omni), a Ruined Earth tale conveyed with Gothic familial violence, is exceptional among these few for its sense of fitness as sf, for she is clearly unenchanted by the thought of extrapolation for its own sake, a distaste for raw cognition which may also help explain the relative unadventurousness of her nonfiction. "Commencement" (in Redshift: Extreme Visions of Speculative Fiction, anth 2001, ed Al Sarrantonio) is, for instance, a relatively stiff-jointed Near Future Satire; despite its illuminating intensity, "EDickinsonRepliLuxe" (Fall 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review) does not perhaps sufficiently convey the nature of the Computer (or imprisoned AI) that animates a Near Future replicant of Emily Dickinson (1830-1886); and the Gothic SF terror inspiring a tale like "A Hole in the Head" (Fall 2010 Kenyon Review), whose cosmetic surgeon protagonist engages in trepanning and high-risk illegal Botox-like injections, focuses on states of extremity rather than speculation. On the other hand, "Undocumented Alien: Very Rough Draft Report PROJECT JRD" (in Conjunctions: Other Aliens, anth 2016, ed Elizabeth Hand and Brad Morrow) savagely depicts a government experiment during which a Nigerian illegally in America is surgically transformed, almost as a side-effect, into a Parody of an Alien from Ganymede (see Jupiter); his state of extremity is registered, devastatingly, from without.

In their strengths and weaknesses, her full-length works of interest can show the marks of the Mainstream Writer of SF; she seems more comfortable, and is of considerably more relevance, as a copious author of works of fantasy and horror, including the Gothic Quintet comprising Bellefleur (1980), A Bloodsmoor Romance (1982), featuring some strange Inventions, Mysteries of Winterthurn (coll of linked stories 1984), My Heart Laid Bare (1998) and The Accursed (2013). The last of these, set in early twentieth-century Princeton, New Jersey, features Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), Jack London, the young Upton Sinclair and Mark Twain in an America – indeed in the planet as a whole – whose anxiety- and Sex-ridden dysfunctionality is exposed by the Devil, who at one point manifests as a hoax Sherlock Holmes, and who is ultimately revealed to be in fact the Christian God (see Religion). The tale complexly reflects the influence of H P Lovecraft (see Horror in SF); authors cited in the text for provenance include Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley and Robert Louis Stevenson. A singleton, «Vicissitudes of Time Travel», has been projected for some time. All her novels as by Rosamond Smith, beginning with Lives of the Twins (1987), deal with twins, doubles, Doppelgangers and impostures, sometimes verging into the supernatural. Middle Age: A Romance (2001) is a Mysterious Stranger tale whose intruding artist figure, after his inexplicable suicide, haunts the town in which the tale is set. Her three novels as by Lauren Kelly are thrillers with elements of horror.

Oates began publishing short fiction as early as 1958, and throughout her career has written many tales of the grotesque – a term she frequently uses, in homage to the most visible early influence on this sector of her work, Edgar Allan Poe – which have been assembled in several collections, including The Hungry Ghosts: Seven Allusive Comedies (coll 1974), The Poisoned Kiss and Other Stories from the Portuguese (coll 1977) as by Fernandes, original stories not in fact from the Portuguese, Night-Side: Eighteen Tales (coll 1977), Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque (coll 1994), The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares (coll 2011), and others, the most interesting of her later collections being perhaps Wild Nights!: Stories about the Last Days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James and Hemingway (coll 2008).

In truth, Oates's work is so often so intensely told, and its exorbitant storylines so often violate realistic premises, that much of that work may best be approached as a rendering of motifs and effects typical of Fantastika, but without the gear. [JC]

Joyce Carol Oates

born Lockport, New York: 16 June 1938



There is no reliable bibliography available of Oates's enormous list of works. Publisher's checklists, though seemingly comprehensive about her, never are. The University of San Francisco site dedicated to her works seems lamely, and without admitting its incompleteness, not to aspire to anything like full coverage. Titles listed below are highly selected from the whole, without any undue attention paid to "official" or academic sources.


Gothic Quintet

  • Bellefleur (New York: E P Dutton, 1980) [Gothic Quintet: hb/Susan Stillman]
  • A Bloodsmoor Romance (New York: E P Dutton, 1982) [Gothic Quintet: hb/James McMullen]
  • Mysteries of Winterthurn (New York: E P Dutton, 1984) [coll of linked stories: Gothic Quintet: hb/Kathy Jacobi]
  • My Heart Laid Bare (New York: E P Dutton, 1998) [Gothic Quintet: hb/Kathy Jacobi]
  • The Accursed (New York: Ecco, 2013) [Gothic Quintet: hb/Allison Saltzman from Giovanni Boldini]

individual titles

  • Lives of the Twins (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987) as by Rosamond Smith [hb/Fred Marcellino]
  • Soul/Mate (New York: E P Dutton, 1989) as by Rosamond Smith [hb/Eric Dinyer]
  • Nemesis (New York: Dutton/William Abrahams, 1990) as by Rosamond Smith [hb/R Kenton Nelson]
  • Snake Eyes (New York: Dutton/William Abrahams, 1992) as by Rosamond Smith [hb/Neil Stuart]
  • Zombie (New York: Dutton/William Abrahams, 1995) [hb/Neil Stuart]
  • You Can't Catch Me (New York: Dutton/William Abrahams, 1995) as by Rosamond Smith [hb/Neil Stuart]
  • Double Delight (New York: Dutton/William Abrahams, 1997) as by Rosamond Smith [hb/Melissa Jakoby]
  • Starr Bright Will Be With You Soon (New York: Dutton, 1999) as Joyce Carol Oates Writing as by Rosamond Smith [hb/Melissa Hayden]
  • The Barrens (New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 2001) as Joyce Carol Oates Writing as by Rosamond Smith [hb/Jeffrey Spielman]
  • Middle Age: A Romance (New York: Ecco, 2001) [hb/Honi Werne]
  • Beastssfgateway.com (New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 2002) [hb/from Henry Fuseli]
  • Mudwoman (New York: Ecco, 2012) [hb/Allison Saltzman]
  • Daddy Love (New York: The Mysterious Press, 2013) [hb/Royce M Becker]
  • Jack of Spades (New York: The Mysterious Press, 2015) [hb/]

collections and stories

works as editor


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