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Hogan, James P

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1941-2010) UK-born systems-design engineer and author, in the USA from 1977 and latterly in Ireland; he was a full-time author from 1979. His first novel (and first publication), Inherit the Stars (1977), aroused interest for the exhilarating sense it conveys of scientific minds at work on real problems and for the genuinely exciting scope of the sf imagination it deploys. The book turned out to be the first volume in the Minervan Experiment/Giants sequence, being followed by The Gentle Giants of Ganymede (1978), both assembled as The Two Moons (omni 2006), plus Giants' Star (1981), all three assembled as The Minervan Experiment (omni 1981; vt The Giants Omnibus 1991); the series was continued with Entoverse (1991), a tale that laboriously expands the initial premise through the use of a Parallel World in which, rather oddly for a writer pugnaciously associated with the Hard-SF wing of the genre, only Magic can cope with the strangeness of the physical world – in the earlier volumes of the sequence the reader was safely in the hands of an author who brooked no such nonsense. This willingness on Hogan's part to re-activate sequences that had come to a natural halt generated a further sequel to the Minervan Experiment/Giants series: Mission to Minerva (2005), assembled with Entoverse as The Two Worlds (omni 2007), which features Time Travel back to a period before the original sequence began, and the creation of an Alternate History that side-steps the earlier closure. The original sequence is in fact a Hard-SF fable of humanity's origins – we are the direct descendants of a highly aggressive Forerunner species that had inhabited the destroyed fifth planet, and would have conquered the Galaxy had they not blown themselves up – and espouses a vision of the Universe in which other species must learn to cope with the knowledge that we will, some day, come into our inheritance. Although Hogan's later attempted rescue of the fifth world from Disaster may not fully satisfy, the sequence as a whole remains his best work.

Other novels variously succeed in presenting Heroes – generally clumped into male-bonded affinity groups – and scientific problems of a similar nature. In The Genesis Machine (1978) one of these heroes averts the End of the World. In Voyage from Yesteryear (1982) a colony world, governed according to the kind of Trickster Libertarianism of old and honoured Astounding writers like Eric Frank Russell (see Colonization of Other Worlds), effortlessly faces down and flummoxes, with the assistance of wise Robots and hidden Weapons, an attempt by Earth to re-establish control. This Libertarian SF novel won a Prometheus Award. In Code of the Lifemaker (1983) a Robot civilization on Titan is saved from similarly corrupt Earth corporations; there are entertaining sidelights on Earthly Pseudoscience and robotic Evolution and Religion.

But in Endgame Enigma (1987) a Near-Future Russian threat to dominate the world via armed satellite is recounted with leaden flippancy, and this brought to the fore a problem Hogan had presented to his readers from the first. Though most of them either shared or accepted his right-wing Politics, and (at least in the first half of his career) tolerated editorial animadversions addressed to personal bêtes-noires like the Ecology movement, Hogan's awkwardness as a stylist and creator of character made his books difficult, at times, actually to read. When he abandoned his strengths – his hard-edged sense of how Scientists think, and his joyful capacity to stretch the terms of Space Opera – this gaucheness was difficult to ignore – especially in his later years when his contrarian instincts led him in various directions, sometimes in defence of civil liberties, sometimes into favourable comments on Holocaust Denial as a form of "scepticism": his "arguments", which he maintained in actual conversations with Holocaust survivors, were abhorrent then, and remain so.

Perhaps surprisingly, a later tale like Echoes of an Alien Sky (2007), though its protagonists were still Talking Heads, imparted a sense of gravitas to its depiction of a Ruined Earth and of the Time Abyss between the present tense of the novel and any world its readers might hope will survive. [JC]

see also: Automation; Moon; Nuclear Energy; Seiun Award; Time Radio; Utopias.

James Patrick Hogan

born London: 27 June 1941

died at home near Lough Gill, Ireland: body discovered 12 July 2010



Minervan Experiment/Giants

Code of the Lifemaker

Cradle of Saturn

individual titles




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