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De Haven, Tom

Entry updated 26 October 2021. Tagged: Author.

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(1949-    ) US author who began publishing sf with his first novel, Freaks' Amour (1979), set in 1988 among a group of Mutants created by an atomic mishap, and following their lives as itinerant performers. A similar inclination to place a large connected cast in a surreally threatening world impels the otherwise very different Derby Dugan sequence – comprising Funny Papers (1985), Derby Dugan's Depression Funnies (1996) and Dugan Under Ground (2001) – a kind of urban fantasy/alternate history beginning at the end of the nineteenth century in a magic-realist New York (see Alternate History; Fabulation), when newspapers were just discovering the commercial value of the newly invented (or, as recent scholarship has convincingly demonstrated, the suddenly and visibly mature) Comic strip, and following Dugan and his colleagues into a fabulized twentieth century, territory more recently traversed by Michael Chabon in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000) and Jonathan Lethem in The Fortress of Solitude (2003). In the long third section of Sunburn Lake (coll of linked stories 1988), De Haven applied this easy fabulism to twenty-first-century New Jersey.

Towards the end of the 1980s, however, before his later return to Derby Dugan, De Haven gave some sense that he was dissipating his energies, producing the sharp but unremarkable tie in U.S.S.A. Book 1 (1987), a Young Adult tale whose cast opposes the dictatorship which has taken over America (further U.S.S.A. titles were by other hands); Joe Gosh (1988), which may have been Sharecropped for Byron Preiss; Neuromancer: The Graphic Novel: Volume 1 (graph 1989) illustrated by Bruce Jensen; The Orphan's Tent (1996), a fantasy about a rock singer, also for Byron Preiss.

But the fantasy sequence Chronicles of the King's Tramp represented a significant return of energy: Walker of Worlds (1990), The End-of-Everything Man (1991), and The Last Human (1992) traverse familiar territory – a sequence of Parallel Worlds nested into an ontological hierarchy – but with panache and knowing clarity. And It's Superman! (2005), technically a Tie about the childhood of Superman, is in fact an ambitious recasting of the early life of Clark Kent which pays some attention to the version of his life given in Smallville (2001-2011) while focusing more deeply (and smilingly) on his growth into his adult life in New York, which is intimately and explicitly portrayed, perhaps for the first time in the series history, where an unmistakable New York had always been called Metropolis. The New York setting, and the constraints young Kent experiences, mark the tale as to some degree an heir of Watchmen. Though it was published too soon to respond to the DC Comics reboot of the series, the nonfiction Our Hero: Superman on Earth (2010) continues to provide a relaxedly insightful analysis of the impact upon and meaning for America of her most famous illegal immigrant. [JC]

see also: Children's SF.

Tom De Haven

born Bayonne, New Jersey: 1 May 1949



Derby Dugan

Chronicles of the King's Tramp

  • Walker of Worlds (New York: Doubleday Foundation, 1990) [Chronicles of the King's Tramp: hb/Luis Royo]
  • The End-of-Everything Man (New York: Doubleday Foundation, 1991) [Chronicles of the King's Tramp: hb/Kevin Johnson]
  • The Last Human (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1992) [Chronicles of the King's Tramp: pb/Kevin Johnson]

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