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Eisenstein, Phyllis

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1946-2020) US teacher – in later years increasingly active in this capacity – and author, whose first sf story was "The Trouble with the Past", written in collaboration with her husband, Alex Eisenstein, in New Dimensions 1 (anth 1971) edited by Robert Silverberg. She and her husband wrote other stories together, and he was influential also on work signed only by Eisenstein. Her first book, Born to Exile (stories August 1971-February 1975 F&SF; coll of linked stories 1978), is a deft, romantic, episodic fantasy or Science Fantasy about Alaric the Minstrel, a "witch" minstrel who with a few others in this setting belongs to a kind of Pariah Elite with the power of self-Teleportation, this traditional psi power being the only foregrounded fantastic element in the medieval setting. There followed perhaps her best work, Sorcerer's Son (1979), this time outright fantasy, an oedipal quest involving magical apprenticeship.

Her next two books were sf romances, Shadow of Earth (1979) and In the Hands of Glory (1981). The former is a racy Alternate-History story in which the tough-minded heroine transported from our familiar timeline must cope with the male chauvinism of a US Midwest belonging to a world in which the Spanish Armada won. Eisenstein's praiseworthy narrative facility in this productive period may have left her other capacities as a writer somewhat unstretched. She slowed down, for a time publishing only short fiction and in no great quantity, then returned seven years later with two fantasy sequels: The Crystal Palace (1988), sequel to Sorcerer's Son, both volumes being assembled as The Book of Elementals, Vols 1 and 2 (omni 2003); and In the Red Lord's Reach (1989), continuing the adventures of Alaric the Minstrel. Both were marked by a change of pace to something almost languid, more reflective and metaphoric than before, with some gain and some loss. Her first collection of independent tales, Night Lives: Nine Stories of the Dark Fantastic (coll 2003) "with Alex Eisenstein", assembles some late work as well as examples from the more active years of her career. Still further tales of Alaric the Minstrel remain uncollected, including her last story published during her lifetime, "The City of Lost Desire" (January/February 2019 F&SF). [PN/DRL]

see also: Magic; Time Machine.

Phyllis Leah Kleinstein Eisenstein

born Chicago, Illinois: 26 February 1946

died Chicago, Illinois: 7 December 2020



Alaric the Minstrel

  • Born to Exile (Sauk City, Wisconsin: Arkham House, 1978) [coll of linked stories: Alaric the Minstrel: hb/Stephen Fabian]
  • In the Red Lord's Reach (New York: New American Library/Signet Books, 1989) [Alaric the Minstrel: pb/Richard Hescox]

Sorcerer's Son

  • Sorcerer's Son (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 1979) [Sorcerer's Son: pb/Darrell K Sweet]
  • The Crystal Palace (New York: New American Library/Signet Books, 1988) [Sorcerer's Son: pb/Richard Hescox]
  • «The Book of Elementals, Vol 3: The City in Stone» (Atlanta, Georgia: Meisha Merlin, 2006) [there is no evidence this volume has in fact been released: Sorcerer's Son: hb/]

individual titles

collections and stories

works as editor


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