Resnick, Mike

Tagged: Author

(1942-    ) US author and dog-breeder who has usually signed his work as above for many years, though his early titles were often signed as Michael D Resnick. He began his genre career with an Edgar Rice Burroughs pastiche, The Forgotten Sea of Mars (1965 chap); his interest in Burroughs also generated material which he published in ERB-dom Magazine, and his first sequence – the Ganymede series of Planetary Romances comprising The Goddess of Ganymede (1967) and Pursuit on Ganymede (1968) – showed Burroughs's influence. After Redbeard (1969), a Ruined Earth tale set a thousand years hence in the Mutant-infested New York subway system, he left sf and fantasy, restricting his activity to pseudonymous novels in various genres, most often soft pornography and Gothics, writing (it has been estimated) well over 200 before returning, around 1980, to sf as Resnick.

After Battlestar Galactica 5: Galactica Discovers Earth (1980) with Glen A Larson, a Tie to Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979), the first of two Television series under that name, Resnick began to construct an umbrella over-series known as the Birthright Universe, into which much of his work has since fitted, sometimes very loosely – as, for instance, in the late Birthright Universe: Starship sequence, beginning with Starship: Mutiny (2005) and ending with Starship: Flagship (2009), which combines Military SF and Space Opera in Rimworld settings, or the Dead Enders sequence, beginning with The Fortress in Orion (2014), set 2000 years further on, with similar characters though near the centre of the galaxy – but sometimes very explicitly. In clear, diagrammatic terms, Birthright: The Book of Man (fixup 1982), for instance, exposes to view the two structural features that distinguish the Birthright Universe from its ostensible stablemates: the nature of the Future History it presents; and the Matter of Africa.

The Birthright future history is a contrarian version of the future histories familiar to readers of American Genre SF: Homo sapiens is uniquely aggressive among the numerous species of the galaxy, and thousands of Alien species have been conquered – and enslaved when convenient – in the course of humanity's drive to create a Galactic Empire, which is maintained by a vast standing army and marked by constant Wars. This phase of Resnick's vision roughly coincides with the "normal" period of youthful expansionism found in more traditional work, though always described in terms that make it didactically clear that the behaviour of our species in unconscionable. The second and third stages of the standard version – interregnum and slow recuperation – are folded into a few thousand years of irreversible collapse, caused by what might be called internecine toxins: with no more enemies to conquer, it becomes clear that humans are incapable of answering the demands of history, that we are too short-lived and too caught in our mortality to answer the challenges of a greater world: and so the human empire begins to eat itself alive. 17,000 years after it all began, Homo sapiens is extinct.

The second element that structures the Birthright Universe is Africa; Resnick has made it clear on several occasions that the history of that continent over the past two centuries served him in general as a model to depict the Colonization of Other Worlds and Race in SF, with nineteenth century European empires being equated with human sovereignty over the galaxy, and native Africans being equivalent to aliens; and also as a source for specific analogues. The Birthright Universe: Chronicles of a Distant World sequence, for instance, recasts in detail the history of various African countries: Paradise: A Chronicle of a Distant World (1989) uses Kenya; Purgatory: A Chronicle of a Distant World (1993) uses Zimbabwe; and Inferno: A Chronicle of a Distant World (1994) uses Uganda. Other series that marry the two structural principles, sometimes conspicuously, sometimes as assumed background, include: Birthright Universe: Tales of the Galactic Midway sequence, beginning with Sideshow (1982) and ending with The Best Rootin' Tootin' Shootin' Gunslinger in the Whole Damned Galaxy (1983), the entire series being assembled as Tales of the Galactic Midway (omni, 2001); Birthright Universe: Tales of the Velvet Comet, beginning with Tales of the Velvet Comet #1: Eros Ascending (1984) and ending with Tales of the Velvet Comet #4: Eros at Nadir (1986), the entire series, which is set in a Space Habitat, being assembled as Tales of the Velvet Comet (omni 2001); and the Birthright Universe: Santiago sequence, beginning with Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future (1986) and ending with The Return of Santiago (2003), both these volumes from the series being assembled as Legends of Santiago (omni 2003).

Other novels and stories that make explicit use of the example of Africa include Ivory: A Legend of Past and Future (1988), in which a descendant of the Maasai searches through many worlds for the tusks of a particular elephant; and in particular the Kirinyaga sequence: Kirinyaga (November 1988 F&SF; 1992 chap), which won a Hugo award, and was incorporated into Kirinyaga: A Fable of Utopia (fixup 1998). In his Afterward to this book, but including nominations in his count, Resnick describes it as "the most honored science-fiction book in history"; of its component sections, "The Manamouki" (July 1990 Asimov's) also won a Hugo and "When the Old Gods Die" (April 1995 Asimov's) won a Locus Award. Kirinyaga is an African-styled Space Habitat whose guiding genius, with the aid of a Computer-link with Earth, attempts to maintain this Utopia on lines strictly defined by ancient Kikuyu laws and practices; he fails. Some of the Kirinyaga material also appears in An Alien Land (coll 1997), where other stories based on the African model, like Bully! (1990 chap), are also assembled.

Tales that stand outside the future history include The Soul Eater (1981), a retelling of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick (1851), Stalking the Unicorn: A Fable of Tonight (1987), a fantasy, and the Steampunk Weird West sequence of Westerns, comprising The Buntline Special: A Weird West Tale (2010), The Doctor and the Kid: A Weird West Tale (2011) and The Doctor and the Rough Rider: A Weird West Tale (2012), which hearkens back to one of the origins of Steampunk, the Television series The Wild, Wild West. After publishing relatively little short work in his early career, from around about 1980 Resnick became increasingly prolific; representative collections include Through Darkest Resnick with Gun and Camera (coll 1990); Will the Last Person to Leave the Planet Please Shut off the Sun? (coll 1992), which contains several award-winning tales; New Dreams for Old (coll, 2006); Dreamwish Beasts and Snarks (coll 2009); and Blasphemy (coll 2010).

A problem with Resnick's work in general may be that, although its themes and moral issues can be easily identified and are readily paraphrasable, the novels and stories themselves are sometimes told with an almost slapstick vigour that can drown out his serious purpose, as happens so frequently with the less accomplished but in some respects rather similar Mack Reynolds. That he is a consistently entertaining author is attested by the esteem granted his short work in particular; in addition to the stories mentioned above, he has also received Hugos for "The 43 Antarean Dynasties" (1997 Asimov's) and Hugo for "Travels with my Cats" (February 2004 Asimov's). A recent collection, Win Some, Lose Some: The Hugo Award Winning (and Nominated) Short Science Fiction and Fantasy (coll 2012), assembles all of his stories that are described in the subtitle. Even his least successful fiction has an appealing clarity; and his best stories, in which the fate and model of Africa are dramatized with unassailable cogency, comprise a significant alternate version of the triumphant tales of conquest told so often by writers in the genre he so clearly loves. [JC]

see also: Asimov's Science Fiction; Crime and Punishment; Heroes; The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction; Seiun Award; Skylark Award; Sociology.

Michael Diamond Resnick

born Chicago, Illinois: 5 March 1942

died

works

series

Ganymede

Birthright Universe

Birthright Universe: Tales of the Galactic Midway

Birthright Universe: Tales of the Velvet Comet

Birthright Universe: Santiago

Birthright Universe: Chronicles of Distant Worlds

Birthright Universe: Oracle

  • Soothsayer (New York: Ace Books, 1991) [Birthright Universe: Oracle: pb/Jim Burns]
  • Oraclesfgateway.com (New York: Ace Books, 1992) [Birthright Universe: Oracle: pb/Keith Birdsong]
  • Prophet (New York: Ace Books, 1993) [Birthright Universe: Oracle: pb/Keith Birdsong]

Birthright Universe: Widowmaker

Birthright Universe: Starship

Birthright Universe: Dead Enders

Chronicles of Lucifer Jones

Fables of Tonight

Kirinyaga

  • Kirinyaga (Eugene, Oregon: Pulphouse Publishing, 1992) [story: chap: first appeared November 1988 F&SF: Kirinyaga: hb/David Martin]
  • An Alien Land (Concord, California: Dark Regions Press, 1998) [coll: Kirinyaga: also Birthright Universe: pb/Patrick McEvoy]
  • Kirinyaga: A Fable of Utopia (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 1998) [fixup: incorporating Kirinyaga above as one of ten chapters: Kirinyaga: hb/David Stevenson]
  • Kilimanjaro (Burton, Michigan: Subterranean Press, 2008) [story: Kirinyaga: hb/]

With a Little Help

Dragon America

  • Dragon America (no place given: Phobos Impact, 2005) [all published in series to date: Dragon America: pb/]

Encounters

Weird West

individual titles

collections and stories

works as editor

series

Alternate

Whatdunits

Future Earths

Fantastic

This Is My Funniest

Stellar Guild

  • Tau Ceti (Rockville, Maryland: Arc Manor (Phoenix Pick), 2011) [anth: pb/]
  • Reboots (Rockville, Maryland: Arc Manor (Phoenix Pick), 2011) [anth: pb/]
  • On the Train (Rockville, Maryland: Arc Manor (Phoenix Pick), 2012) [anth: pb/]
  • When the Blue Shift Comes (Rockville, Maryland: Arc Manor (Phoenix Pick), 2012) [anth: pb/]
  • New Under the Sun (Rockville, Maryland: Arc Manor (Phoenix Pick), 2013) [anth: pb/]
  • The Aethers of Mars (Rockville, Maryland: Arc Manor (Phoenix Pick), 2014) [anth: pb/]
  • INCI (Rockville, Maryland: Arc Manor (Phoenix Pick), 2015) [anth: pb/]
  • Wishing on Star (Rockville, Maryland: Arc Manor (Phoenix Pick), 2016) [anth: pb/]
  • When Parallel Lines Meet (Rockville, Maryland: Arc Manor (Phoenix Pick), 2017) with Lezli Robyn and Larry Hodges [pb/]

individual titles

nonfiction

links

Previous versions of this entry

Website design and build: STEEL

Site ©2011 Gollancz, SFE content ©2011 SFE Ltd.