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Koontz, Dean R

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1945-    ) US author of much fiction under various names. He began his career with a number of sf novels; but since 1975 he has concentrated on horror. Little of his later output attempts to accomplish the interweaving sf and horror tropes (see Equipoise; Horror in SF) in the manner evolved by either Stephen King, whose compelling sense of locality also stands out, or Peter Straub, whose cognitive panache distinguishes his work. Koontz has all the same become one of the bestselling authors of horror, and a figure of genuine significance for his well crafted and very various output. Sf titles were first published under his own name, or as by David Axton, John Hill and Aaron Wolfe. Much of his horror output first appeared as by Brian Coffey, Deanne Dwyer, K R Dwyer, Leigh Nichols, Anthony North, Richard Paige and Owen West; from the 1980s, these titles when reprinted are acknowledged as by Dean R Koontz or Dean Koontz (on many of his more recent books the middle initial is omitted). Much of his more recent horror is non-supernatural.

Koontz began publishing work of genre interest with "Kittens" in Writers & Readers (anth 1966 chap) and sf proper with "Soft Come the Dragons" in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for August 1967; with other stories the latter was collected in Soft Come the Dragons (coll 1970 dos). His first novel, Star Quest (1968 dos), was followed by at least twenty more sf novels within half a decade. The sensibility that would find horror congenial quickly revealed itself in a tendency to write stories in which, cruelly and effectively, the boundaries of human identity were stretched. Monstrous children – who classically embody a horror at the potential aliens beneath the human skin – appear in Beastchild (1970; text restored 1992) and Demon Seed (1973), filmed as Demon Seed (1977); and Mutants and Cyborgs and Robots appear throughout, notably in books like Anti-Man (1970) and A Werewolf Among Us (1973). As an sf writer, Koontz managed frequently to transcend the plotting conventions he seemed to obey and the forced "darkness" of imagery and style to which he was prone, and to create worlds of invasive mutability. Invasion (1975) as by Aaron Wolfe, moves from a psychically entrapping Los Angeles (see California) to Montana, where an Alien takes out his bewilderment with Homo sapiens through debasingly Gothic acts of aggression (see Horror in SF). Of those novels written within a more normal sf frame, Nightmare Journey (1975) stands out; though overcomplicated, it impressively depicts a world 100,000 years hence when humanity, thrust back from the stars by an incomprehensible Alien intelligence, goes sour in the prison of Earth, where radioactivity has speeded mutation, causing a religious backlash.

Koontz's large body of work contains some turns from the expected, though readings ascribing an astonishing prescience to The Eyes of Darkness (1981) as by Leigh Nichols [for further editions see Checklist below], because of its depiction of a deadly Pandemic generated by a virus known as Wuhan-400, should better be understood as a partial coincidence: the virus referred to is described as a man-made biological weapon; Wuhan itself, already known for a variety of natural Disasters, only replaces Gorki as the place of manufacture in the 1989 edition of the tale. His sf, much of it dark, includes comic novels like The Haunted Earth (1973). Some of his horror novels – such as Night Chills (1976) and Lightning (1988), a Time Travel tale – are plotted around sf premises, though the use of these is clearly subordinate to the mode within which they fit as arbitrary enabling devices. They are best discussed as Horror. Later novels with sf elements include Midnight (1989) and The Bad Place (1990), assembled with the above-cited Lightning as Lightning/Midnight/The Bad Place (omni 1992); Fear Nothing (1997) and its sequel Seize the Night (1999): two thrillers in the Christopher Snow sequence involving Genetic Engineering; From the Corner of His Eye (2000), which intermixes quantum physics and Psi Powers; and the Dean Koontz's Frankenstein sequence of Ties to his own Television series [for titles see Checklist]. In the end, however, the effect of his work is oddly diffuse. After many books, the portrait of the artist remains blurred. [JC]

see also: Biology; Gothic SF; Media Landscape; Monsters.

Dean Ray Koontz

born Everett, Pennsylvania: 9 July 1945

works (selected)


Santa's Twin

Christopher Snow

  • Fear Nothing (London: Headline, 1997) [Christopher Snow: hb/Phil Parks]
  • Seize the Night (London: Headline, 1998) [Christopher Snow: hb/]

Dean Koontz's Frankenstein

individual titles



about the author


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