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Millet, Lydia

Entry updated 7 November 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1968-    ) US author whose second novel, George Bush, Dark Prince of Love: A Presidential Romance (2000), is political Satire, climaxing in a slightly fantasticated scene at the White House; its modestly raunchy exuberance marks it in retrospect as reflecting a more "innocent" world than that initiated by the Fall of the Towers slightly later in Bush's presidency. Some other early novels lay heavy stress on mimetic conventions, without breaking them; but Millet's fifth novel, Oh Pure and Radiant Heart (2005), trespasses deadpan into Fantastika, describing the Reincarnation in 2003 of three scientists – Enrico Fermi (1901-1954), Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967) and Leo Szilard (1898-1964) – central to the Invention and development of the nuclear bomb. Shocked by what has happened to the world since the moment in 1945 when their consciousness were extracted into the future, the three embark on a disarmament campaign, a Fantastic Voyage narrative that variously invokes in its emotional stymies and its discourse and its deadly dismissals Paul Auster, Don DeLillo and Kurt Vonnegut, among others; the influence of these three authors permeates her early work. Oh Pure and Radiant Heart tale more or less ends at the United Nations, with some flamboyance.

How the Dead Dream (2008), which begins the thematic Extinction series, again edges into the fantastic, its realtor protagonist moving from success to disaster while simultaneously becoming obsessed with vanishing species (see Ecology; Pollution), eventually finding himself going up a dark river into a Heart of Darkness (see Joseph Conrad), where his realtor skills return in the creation of a polder for nearly extinct animals. Though some characters appear in all three titles, the central element binding the subsequent Extinction titles is what was at one point commonly known as deep Ecology, though as the twenty-first century has progressed the term "deep" has come to seem tautological. Ghost Lights (2011) again carries its tormentedly befuddled protagonist into jungle territory, where he finds himself as an unremarkable example of Homo sapiens at large, a species threatened with self-extinction. In Magnificence (2012), a taxidermical assemblage of animals and humans (most of them hapless relatives of the protagonist) are gathered together in a mysterious house (see Gothic SF) which becomes a kind of Ship of Fools [for Little, Big see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], though the discourse becomes, by the end of the tale, almost rhapsodic: as though the house were a kind of organ through which the music of species sounded.

Millet's second series, the Dissenters sequence beginning with The Fires Beneath the Sea (2011), is Young Adult fantasy set on the New England coast, much of it taking place Under the Sea. Pills and Starships (2014), also Young Adult, is set in Dystopian Near Future world ravaged by Climate Change. In the very Near Future Satire Mermaids in Paradise (2014), newly discovered mermaids are discovered near a Caribbean Island. where they are threatened by the possibility they will become central exhibitions in a theme park, a danger that becomes trivial as it becomes clear that the End of the World is nigh. Sweet Lamb of Heaven (2016) is horror. In the very Near Future setting of A Children's Bible (2020), the young of the human species are seen to hold their elders in contempt, specifically because the exponentially worsening Disasters experienced in the first decades of the twenty-first century can be laid down to the cannibalizing of the human home by earlier generations of us (see Climate Change). One of the young protagonists of the tale, profoundly disaffected from the elders of his family drinking themselves to death in the family mansion (see again Ship of Fools), decides to build an ark in order to save the animals. A hurricane provides the Flood. [JC]

Lydia Millet

born Boston, Massachusetts: 5 December 1968

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