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Hambly, Barbara

Entry updated 3 July 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1951-    ) US author, primarily of Fantasy, married to George Alec Effinger (1998-2000), though they remained close until his death in 2002. She entered genre publishing with the Darwath Trilogy fantasy sequence comprising The Time of the Dark (1982), The Walls of Air (1983) and The Armies of Daylight (1983). In these a historian and a biker from Los Angeles find themselves in a struggle between Good and Evil in a Parallel World where Magic works; the conventional fantasy situation is invigorated to a degree by the lively treatment, and the invading Lovecraftian horrors are in effect Aliens with whom Communication is ultimately possible. The series was later continued with Mother of Winter (1996) and Icefalcon's Quest (1998), set some time after the initial volumes. Her Sun Wolf fantasy sequence – comprising The Ladies of Mandrigyn (1984), The Witches of Wenshar (1987), both assembled reissued as The Unschooled Wizard (omni 1987); and The Dark Hand of Magic (1990) – is more original in both style and matter. These novels have, without preaching, an attractive element of Feminism in their depiction of the women in their medieval fantasy world, some of whom are mercenaries, others at least potentially self-reliant.

In the Windrose series – The Silent Tower (1986) and The Silicon Mage (1988), the first two assembled as Darkmage (omni 1988), plus Dog Wizard (1993) – Hambly, who had previously used occasional sf ideas in her fantasy, produced a true genre-bending sequence in its apposition of science and magic by placing two parallel worlds (one ours) in phase in a story involving an evil sorcerer's consciousness embedded in a Computer as "a series of subroutines". Hambly's sole pure sf novel to date is Those Who Hunt the Night (1988; vt Immortal Blood 1988), which was marketed as Horror. It is a good whodunnit in the Steampunk manner, set in Victorian England, about a skilled investigator hired to protect Vampires – rationalized as a race parallel to humanity but with somewhat different ethics – from whoever is murdering them. Persecuted magicians (see Pariah Elite) behave once again rather as displaced Scientists in the initial world of the projected Sun-Cross sequence: The Rainbow Abyss (1991) and The Magicians of Night (1992; vt Magicians of the Night 1992), both volumes being assembled as Sun-Cross (omni 1992). The second book, with savage irony, transports one of these true magicians into our own world among the occultists and Pseudoscientists clustered around Hitler in Nazi Germany (see Holocaust; Holocaust Fiction; World War Two). For more detailed coverage of Hambly's fantasy, specifically of those fantasy sequences not mentioned or listed here, see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy.

Hambly has produced several outright sf novels, always in the form of Ties – for example to the Star Trek universe, beginning with Ishmael (1985), and to the Star Wars universe, beginning with Star Wars: Children of the Jedi (1996). Beauty and the Beast (1989) and Beauty and the Beast: Song of Orpheus (1990) are novelized television episodes from Beauty and the Beast.

Hambly has created her own corner of the Fantasy market, characteristically pressing occasional sf ideas into the service of her fundamentally fantastic themes, but without pushing too hard against fantasy/sf genre constraints. Her books – by no means potboilers, and sometimes painful – are normally vigorous, interesting and alert within her self-imposed format. [PN]

see also: History of SF; Zombies.

Barbara Joan Hambly

born San Diego, California: 28 August 1951

works (selected)




Star Trek


James Asher Chronicles

Beauty and the Beast


Star Wars

individual titles

works as editor


previous versions of this entry

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