Search SFE    Search EoF

  Omit cross-reference entries  

Donaldson, Stephen R

Entry updated 6 March 2023. Tagged: Author.

Icon made by Freepik from


(1947-    ) US author who remains best known for his three formidably ambitious Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever high-fantasy sequences, the first two of which established him as a Fantasy writer of central importance in the 1970s and 1980s [for detailed commentary see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. He was the winner of the John W Campbell Award for most promising new writer in 1979. In Mordant's Need, a fantasy diptych comprising The Mirror of Her Dreams (1986) and A Man Rides Through (1987), characters shift between worlds via gates which consist of very precisely ground and curved mirrors and arguably work according to sf conventions governing Matter Transmission. These mirror-gateways allow a Science and Sorcery crossover that transfers a futuristically armed sf space-warrior into the story's fantasy setting. Much more recently, the Great God's War sequence beginning with Seventh Decimate (2017) and The War Within (2019) returns to the high-fantasy venues of his best-known work, with several volumes – as "decimate" designates either a tithe or an aggregation in ten parts – to come. Donaldson has also written some short sf, including a contribution to Berserker Base (anth 1985) edited by Fred Saberhagen, a Shared-World anthology set in Saberhagen's Berserker universe.

However, Donaldson did not become of strong sf interest until the publication of the Gap sequence, a metaphysical, Galaxy-spanning Space Opera: The Gap into Conflict: The Real Story (1990), The Gap into Vision: Forbidden Knowledge (1991), The Gap into Power: A Dark and Hungry God Arises (1992), The Gap into Madness: Chaos and Order (1994) and The Gap into Ruin: This Day All Gods Die (1995). [See Checklist for a later retitling and repackaging of the series in four rather than five volumes.] The sequence is characterized by a pounding bluntness of prose, a plot-pattern which makes some superficial homage to traditional Space Opera, an underlying extremism in both the creation of character (both the villain and the seeming hero are almost supernaturally monstrous) and in the expression of sexual violence; analogies and echoes of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle of operas are explicit from the first, and dominate the latter parts of the tale, as intergalactic Gotterdämmerung looms. An initial stiffness in the writing of the sequence loosens steadily as the pace intensifies, though the barriers imposed by those first volumes and a steadily increasing overwroughtness of emotion throughout (frequently bordering on hysteria) have kept some readers from the pleasures of the slow crescendo towards climax.

Donaldson's Reave the Just and Other Tales (coll 1998) received a World Fantasy Award as best collection; other collections are listed below. [JC/DRL]

see also: Del Rey Books; IAFA Award; Sword and Sorcery.

Stephen Reeder Donaldson

born Cleveland, Ohio: 13 May 1947



Thomas Covenant

Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever

  • Lord Foul's Bane (Garden City, New York: Nelson Doubleday, 1977) [Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: hb/Janice C Tate]
  • The Illearth War (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977) [Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: hb/S C Wyeth]
    • Gilden-Fire (San Francisco, California: Underwood Miller, 1981) [chap: section omitted from published first edition of the above: hb/Stephen E Fabian]
  • The Power that Preserves (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977) [Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: hb/S C Wyeth]

Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever

The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant

Mick Axbrewder

Associational detective novels, initially as by Reed Stephens.

Mordant's Need


The Great God's War

collections and stories


works as editor

about the author


previous versions of this entry

This website uses cookies.  More information here. Accept Cookies