Zahn, Timothy

Tagged: Author

(1951-    ) US author with a master's degree in physics who began publishing sf with "Ernie" for Analog in September 1979, and early proved himself an adept and productive creator of the problem-oriented Hard SF characteristic of that magazine. Some better examples of his work are assembled as Cascade Point (coll 1986), Time Bomb and Zahndry Others (coll 1988), Distant Friends and Others (coll 1992) and Star Song and Other Stories (coll 2002); the first's title story "Cascade Point" (December 1983 Analog) won a Hugo for its original magazine release, and was also published as Cascade Point (1988 chap dos). The title of the story, which fascinatingly reveals the outward-looking bent of this early work, refers to a point in space where ships flicker from one star system to the next; at the point of transition, Alternate-History versions of the humans on board ship manifest themselves hauntingly. An experiment designed to elicit more knowledge about humankind from this convergence of differing versions of lives turns out in the event most usefully to reveal methods for making the transition itself more efficient. In work like this, Zahn proved himself an exemplary member of the Analog stable.

Zahn's early fiction may have been genuinely competent, but he became suddenly more prominent around 1983, when he began to publish adventure sequences, beginning with the first volume of the Blackcollar series, The Blackcollar (1983), which continued with Blackcollar: The Backlash Mission (1986), both assembled as Blackcollar (omni 2005), plus the much later Blackcollar: The Judas Solution (2006), tales which embedded his scientific training within the arousing storylines typical of Military SF. The sequence begins with Earth suffering from an Alien Invasion, and describes the eponymous guerrillas' supernormal feats of resistance against the monolithic enemy, who seem to be defeated at the end, despite their use of a Clone "Judas" to infiltrate the brave Blackcollar team. The Cobra sequence, which begins with Cobra (1985) and whose latest volume appeared in 2013, locates similar military/commando heroes in a galactic venue, where they win through with the use of special Weapons. Given this track record, it seems almost inevitable that – after several years without any prospect of a new Star Wars movie – Zahn would be commissioned to keep the franchise active by writing the Star Wars: Thrawn trilogy, comprising Heir to the Empire (1991), Dark Force Rising (1992) and The Last Command (1993); the sequence carries on from Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983), starting five years after the end of that film, and made Zahn as famous as an author of Ties could expect to be. A second sequence, the Star Wars: The Hand of Thrawn books comprising Specter of the Past (1997) and Vision of the Future (1998) was also successful. Some later titles, like Scoundrels (2013), which features Han Solo, are set at the heart of the Star Wars universe. Zahn's lengthiest later sequence, the Dragonback books, beginning with Dragon and Thief (2003) and ending with Dragon and Liberator (2008), is a Young Adult Space Opera whose hero, in union with a dragon-like symbiont, must save his planet and his people from foes.

Some individual novels are of sharper interest than the series. A Coming of Age (1985) is set on a colony planet where a Mutation has given children Telekinetic powers, until puberty yanks them back into normality; the plotting is complex and swift, and Zahn showed creative awareness as well of the profound issues he was exposing to the light – for any novel in which puberty marks a passing of glory is a novel about the human condition as well as, more prosaically, a novel about why children entering puberty begin to read sf. Other early novels of interest are Spinneret (1985), Triplet (1987) and Deadman Switch (1988), another tale of considerable underlying complexity, set in a galactic civilization which exploits its retention of the death penalty by using the condemned as pilots to penetrate an area of space that only corpses can navigate. The eponymous Black Hole featured in Angelmass (2001) emits particles that render humans both extremely calm, and dangerously unable to dissemble; this alarms the distant Galactic Empire known as the Pax, but peace is gained in the end. Zahn's venues, especially for his Military SF, have been at times conventional, and even silly; but again and again he has transformed routine adventure-sf conventions into moral puzzles, without sacrificing a jot of momentum. [JC]

see also: Rays; Shared Worlds; Sociology; Superman.

Timothy Zahn

born Chicago, Illinois: 1 September 1951

died

works

series

Blackcollar

Cobra

Cobra: Cobra War

Cobra Rebellion

  • Cobra Slave (New York: Baen Books, 2013) [Cobra Rebellion: pb/Dave Seeley]
  • Cobra Outlaw (New York: Baen Books, 2015) [Cobra Rebellion: pb/Dave Seeley]

Star Wars: Thrawn

  • Heir to the Empire (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1991) [tie to the Star Wars universe: Star Wars: Thrawn: hb/Tom Jung]
  • Dark Force Rising (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1992) [tie to the Star Wars universe: Star Wars: Thrawn: hb/Tom Jung]
  • The Last Command (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1993) [tie to the Star Wars universe: Star Wars: Thrawn: hb/Tom Jung]

Star Wars: The Hand of Thrawn

  • Specter of the Past (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1997) [tie to the Star Wars universe: Star Wars: The Hand of Thrawn: hb/Drew Struzan]
  • Vision of the Future (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1998) [tie to the Star Wars universe: Star Wars: The Hand of Thrawn: hb/Drew Struzan]

Star Wars Universe

  • Survivors' Quest (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 2004) [tie to Star Wars Universe: hb/Steven D Anderson]
  • Outbound Flight (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 2006) [tie to Star Wars Universe: hb/Dave Seeley]
  • Allegiance (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 2007) [tie to Star Wars Universe: hb/John Van Fleet]
  • Choices of One (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 2011) [tie to Star Wars Universe: hb/John van Fleet]
  • Scoundrels (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 2013) [tie to Star Wars Universe: hb/Paul Youll]

Conquerors

Dragonback

Quadrail

Terminator Salvation

Manticore Ascendant

StarCraft

individual titles

collections and stories

links

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