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Morris, Janet E

Entry updated 13 March 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1946-    ) US defense specialist and author who gained some note as bass player 1972-1975 in the band named after her husband, Chris Morris; he subsequently collaborated with Morris on several sf novels, always as Chris Morris. She herself began writing with the ambitious Silistra sequence, comprising High Couch of Silistra (1977; rev vt Returning Creation 1984), The Golden Sword (1977), Wind from the Abyss (1978) and The Carnelian Throne (1979). Toughly told and intellectually extremist, the sequence (it now seems prematurely) proclaimed an ambition on her part to write at the highest possible level; it cannot be said that she quite fulfilled this ambition before ceasing to publish seriously in the early 1990s. Silistra intriguingly presents a society complexly conceived in terms of patterns (some literal) of cultural and biological bondage. Already, a sense of historical analogies pervades the texts, and in the Dream Dancer/Kerrion Empire trilogy – Dream Dancer (1980), Cruiser Dreams (1981) and Earth Dreams (1982) – this becomes explicit; wafted away from Earth, the young protagonist of the series climbs into the upper echelons of a culture whose assumptions about behaviour reflect the world of Hellenistic Greece. The main sf instrument deployed in these books – starships run by AIs which establish symbiotic relationships with humans – prefigures Morris's growing interest in the combat side of history, and with Military SF in general; and the sequence itself becomes nightmarishly complicated in its traversal of implied analogies from the past. In the Tempus fantasies, based on the Thieves' World Shared-World enterprise – starting with Beyond Sanctuary (1985) and ending with Storm Seed (1990) with Chris Morris – the traversals of historical material become even more hectic. In the Heroes in Hell Shared World enterprise, which Morris co-created with C J Cherryh – beginning with Heroes in Hell (anth 1986) with Cherryh and ending with Prophets in Hell (anth 1989) – the result is something like chaos. In these works, which occupy much of Morris's bibliography, the sharp cognitive focus has softened, and the use of female protagonists whose sexual natures are controversially foregrounded has also become somewhat routinized. It might also be suggested that Morris found fantasy all too easy to write; that she flourished when she felt required to exploit the argument structure of sf.

More interesting are some of the singletons, almost always written in collaboration; they are deeply engaged in military matters, violent, often extremely bloody, and profoundly cynical about all governments and their agencies. The 40-Minute War (1984) with Chris Morris presents an utterly disastrous nuclear Holocaust brought about by complacency (some of the intelligence failures that characterized 9/11/2001 are here prefigured); only by changing history through a commandeered Time-Travel device is the world saved. Active Measures (1985) with David A Drake involves spying activities in the Near Future. M*E*D*U*S*A (1986) with Chris Morris describes Sky War activities in a similar venue. Outpassage (1988) with Chris Morris is a bleak military adventure, and the Threshold Terminal sequence – Threshold (1990), Trust Territory (1992) and The Stalk (1994), all with Chris Morris – generates a similarly bleak vision of a solar system engaging in agonistic conflicts and interstellar diplomacy within the confines of the eponymous Space Habitat. The ARC Riders sequence, comprising ARC Riders (1995) and The Fourth Rome (1996), both with David A Drake, is set in an Alternate History version of Rome. Throughout her career, Morris has consistently worked to strip her language and plots of ornateness and idiosyncrasy, and her collaborative works are, at times, vividly efficient. At other times, however, too little a sense of Morris's individual gifts as a writer with strong convictions survives the inevitable impersonality of her product. [JC]

see also: Eschatology; Reincarnation.

Janet Ellen Morris

born Boston, Massachusetts: 25 May 1946




Dream Dancer/Kerrion Empire

  • Dream Dancer (London: Fontana Books, 1980) [Dream Dancer/Kerrion Empire: pb/]
  • Cruiser Dreams (New York: G P Putnam's Sons, 1981) [Dream Dancer/Kerrion Empire: hb/Don Ivan Punchatz]
  • Earth Dreams (New York: G P Putnam's Sons, 1982) [Dream Dancer/Kerrion Empire: hb/Don Ivan Punchatz]


Heroes in Hell

Threshold Terminal

  • Threshold (New York: Penguin/Roc, 1990) with Chris Morris [Threshold Terminal: pb/Edward Gazsi]
  • Trust Territory (New York: Penguin/Roc, 1992) with Chris Morris [Threshold Terminal: pb/Edward Gazsi]
  • The Stalk (New York: Penguin/Roc, 1994) with Chris Morris [Threshold Terminal: pb/Edward Gazsi]

ARC Riders

individual titles

works as editor


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