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Newman, Sandra

Entry updated 23 October 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1965-    ) US author whose later fiction is of sf interest, though her earlier work edges deftly out of mimetic constraints, an instance being her first novel, The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done (2002), whose hallucinatedly fragmented narrative renders a dislocated America almost graphically enough to register as an exercise in Fantastika. Her third novel, The Country of Ice Cream Star (2014), is set in a moderately distant Near Future Ruined Earth version of America; all children die about the age of twenty of an incurable disease; the protagonist, who is Young Adult by default, embarks on a Fantastic Voyage through the surreal continent in search of a cure for this Pandemic (significantly, it is known as Posies). She tells her own story, in a transfigured English (see Linguistics) that may be deliberately evocative of the invented dialect in Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker (1981). Epiphanies are somewhat congestedly experienced.

Newman's fourth novel, The Heavens (2019), is set part in an Alternate History version of early twenty-first century New York. In a slightly (though fragilely) improved version of the real world, with a female president who does not deny Climate Change, the protagonist engages in her life, which she increasingly thinks she understands as mutating – like the world around her – in tune to changes she can detect in the text of plays by William Shakespeare. At the same time she experiences profound "dreams", described as though they were literal Timeslips, finding herself in 1593, and occupying the role of Emilia, who in this novel is Shakespeare's Dark Lady of the Sonnets. Her continuing effect on his work turns The Heavens (in part) into a Time Paradox drama, if read literally. In Mainstream Writer of SF terms, however, it may be possible to read the protagonist as mentally ill, and the novel as metaphorical of this; there is no warrant, however, for assuming the author does not entirely mean what she has written.

Her next novel again offers differing reality levels (see Equipoise), though once again a literal reading seems most useful. Making similar use of the kind of abruption presented in Philip Wylie's The Disappearance (1951) – where all men and women disappear from one another, each sex occupying a Parallel World – in The Men (2022) all humans with a Y chromosome disappear instantly. Ultimately the tale, set in a Near Future whose dysfunctionality is initially presented through a focus on a consuming Media Landscape, unpacks through a weave of personal tales and narrators where gender issues, in a world where they must be sorted and valued anew, dominate the telling, though a strand of the tale is manifested through a rogue video whose episodes depict the missing men as occupying a planet (perhaps a Parallel World) near to terminus as a result of unstopped Climate Change and other savageries. [JC]

Sandra Newman

born Boston, Massachusetts: 6 November 1965

works (selected)


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