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Marcus, Ben

Entry updated 26 October 2021. Tagged: Author.

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(1967-    ) US author whose work has from the first explored with exuberant gonzo ambitiousness a wide range of Postmodernist story-telling strategies (see Equipoise; Postmodernism and SF), generally creating through disjunct or colliding topoi an anatomy of modern America far beyond the range of mimetic fiction as that form continues occasionally to be written in the twenty-first century (see Fantastika). His first novel, The Age of Wire and String: Stories (1995), which may be described as a collection of linked stories, assembles a congeries of fragments and disquisitions that constitute a kind of bricolaged portrayal of the things – animals, cars, tchotchkes, visions of animate weather – that we must attempt to understand as meaningful in a perilous world; there are resemblances to Jorge Luis Borges at his most abstract, to Italo Calvino at his most minutely particular, and to the surreal Matter-of-America spoofing of the early George Saunders. Marcus's second novel, Notable American Women (2002), edges towards sf in its portrayal of a group of women who, faced with the noise of American history, engage in a rebellious Computer-assisted quietism, and in a breeding programme (see Eugenics) designed, perhaps successfully, to produce offspring whose inner and outer quiet is superhuman. His third novel, The Flame Alphabet (2012), is sf: in the Near Future, a plague strikes America, transfiguring the sounds children making, including any effort to use language, into Basilisks that kill off the elders of the land; some elements of allegory – in which this fatal condition conspicuously represents the fatal savage speed of the contemporary world, literally severing generations from Communication – can be detected; but the narrative is vigorous enough to retain interest. The stories assembled in Notes from the Fog (coll 2018), which are usually set in a Dystopian Near Future America, depict lives less improbably distorted by despair and the decline of Homo sapiens than the reader might wish to anticipate. [JC]

Ben Marcus

born Chicago, Illinois: 11 October 1967

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