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Kurland, Michael

Entry updated 12 December 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1938-    ) US author who began publishing sf in September 1964 with "Elementary" for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction with Laurence M Janifer, and Ten Years to Doomsday (1964) with Chester Anderson. The latter is a lightly written alien-Invasion novel, full of harmless violence in space, in which a planetary society must Uplift itself to fend off the foe. Kurland may also be an uncredited collaborator on Laurence M Janifer's The Wonder War (1964), as is suggested by the dedication. He then participated in the writing of the unusual Greenwich Village Shared World trilogy (see New York) comprising The Butterfly Kid (1967) by Anderson, The Unicorn Girl (1969) by Kurland and The Probability Pad (1970) by T A Waters. The books all feature the various authors as characters (see Recursive SF). The Unicorn Girl deals with a number of sf themes in a spoof idiom which is sometimes successful; Matter Transmission and Alien Invasions abound. Although Kurland has perhaps gained most recognition for his suspense novel A Plague of Spies (1969) – part of his War, Inc sequence [for titles of this only marginally sf series see Checklist], which won an Edgar Allan Poe Scroll from the Mystery Writers of America – his later sf has admirers for its briskness and its bright touristic promenades through various venues. Other linked books include the Moriarty series of Sherlock Holmes pastiches beginning with The Infernal Device (1979) [for further titles see Checklist below], in which Holmes is a bungler and the central character is his more competent foe Professor James Moriarty; and a fantasy Sharecrop series set in the popular Lord Darcy universe created by Randall Garrett, comprising Ten Little Wizards (1988) and A Study in Sorcery (1989) – the former title echoing an Agatha Christie mystery and the latter an exploit of Sherlock Holmes.

Transmission Error (1970) is an adventure set on a colourful planet. Pluribus (1975), a Ruined Earth tale, though breaking no new ground, makes effective use of its US locations. The Whenabouts of Burr (1975) is an Alternate-History tale featuring Aaron Burr (1756-1836). Tomorrow Knight (1976), set on a planet divided into hundreds of societies (see Games and Sports; Pocket Universe; Cultural Engineering) is a lighthearted Godgame tale. The Princes of Earth (1978), a crowded Young Adult tale, takes its young backwater-planet protagonist to school on Mars. The Last President (1980) with S W Barton (pseudonym of Barton Stewart Whaley [1928-2013]) posits the survival of a Nixon-like President in office and his subsequent destruction of democracy. Star Griffin (1987), another tale whose main flaw is crowdedness, sets its protagonist a series of detective puzzles on an overpopulated Earth choked with sects, some of which may be opposing the development of a Faster-than-Light vehicle. Perchance (1989) initiates a never-continued sequence of humorous Time-Travel tales, to be called The Chronicles of Elsewhen. Unlike many lesser (and some more significant) writers, Kurland puts the themes and venues of sf to work in a professional manner, with no radical innovations but always imparting a sense of secure competence, with considerable hijinks but no contempt for his chosen genres. [JC]

Michael Joseph Kurland

born New York: 1 March 1938



War, Inc

  • Mission: Third Force (New York: Pyramid Books, 1967) [War, Inc: pb/Jack Thurston]
  • Mission: Tank War (New York: Pyramid Books, 1968) [War, Inc: pb/]
  • A Plague of Spies (New York: Pyramid Books, 1969) [working title Mission: Police Action; retitled before publication: War, Inc: pb/]


Lord Darcy

individual titles


works as editor


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