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Butler, Robert Olen

Entry updated 29 October 2021. Tagged: Author.

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(1945-    ) US author, much of whose early work intensively capitalized on his experience in the American Army Military Intelligence in Vietnam 1969 to 1972, when he learned to speak Vietnamese. Countrymen of Bones (1983) offers just short of literal Fantastika some analogies between an archaeological mystery and nuclear tests. Some of his later work – like the stories assembled in Tabloid Dreams (coll 1996), each story narrated by someone who has literally experienced a tabloid headline, such as "Titanic Victim Speaks through Waterbed" – moves into realms of Fabulation; as does Severance: Stories (coll of linked stories 2006), a sequence of sixty-two stories, each 240 words long (see Oulipo), each recounting two final minutes of reflection, on the part of the sixty-two protagonists, after their heads have been severed, an array which includes Medusa, Thomas More, a chicken, and the author himself two years after the publication of the book.

Of specific sf interest is Mr Spaceman (2000), which mutedly relates the experiences and reflections of an Alien planning to descend from his spaceship as Millennium frenzy stirs the Earthlings he has been observing. [JC]

Robert Olen Butler

born Granite City, Illinois: 20 January 1945


  • Countrymen of Bones (New York: Horizon Press, 1983) [hb/uncredited]
  • Tabloid Dreams: Stories (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996) [coll: hb/Raquel Jaramillo]
  • Mr Spaceman (New York: Grove Press, 2000) [hb/Charles Rue Woods]
  • Severance: Stories (San Francisco, California: Chronicle Books, 2006) [coll of linked stories: hb/photographic]
  • Hell (New York: Grove Press, 2009) [hb/]


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