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Palwick, Susan

Entry updated 26 October 2021. Tagged: Author.

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(1961-    ) US academic, Professor Emerita at the University of Nevada since 2017, and author who began publishing work of genre interest with "The Woman Who Saved the World" for Asimov's in May 1985, and who has since published short fiction regularly, much of this output being assembled in The Fate of Mice (coll 2007). Her second collection, All Worlds Are Real: Short Fictions (coll 2019), contains work ranging from fantasy to sf, including at least three new stories.

Palwick's first novel, Flying in Place (1992), whose two-part structure hovers between fantasy and self-protective illusion, depicts with strongly moving deadpan intensity the nightly sexual abuse inflicted upon the twelve-year protagonist by her father. To protect her sanity, she embarks on a series of "imaginary" adventures with her dead sister; these adventures, told in the literal register of modern Fantastika, give the narrative a sense of imperative Equipoise, all told within a frame story that promises a good outcome.

Again told within a frame story that promises a good outcome after much travail, The Necessary Beggar (2005) is an intense rendering of a family's Near Future experience of living as emigrants to the southern United States, where conditions continue to worsen over the first decades of the twenty-first century. Their original home is on another planet, for they are genuine Aliens, who have been exiled unjustly from their homeland, and who will never return. Again Equipoisal with its insertion of ghosts and spirit messages, the novel gains a complex believability through its focus on the adolescent girl-alien who is learning to become an American: "I'm an American now. That's my job."

Palwick's third novel, Shelter (2007), beginning in a Near Future San Francisco and again extending decades into a darkening world as Climate Change bites deeper, is again a family romance: two women, both survivors in youth of a savage Pandemic, join together in uneasy association with an AI to protect the child of one of them from mindwipe; and in Mending the Moon (2013) the emotional repercussions of murder of their friend nearly destroys a group of exemplary figures out of contemporary America, who reknit themselves in part through Virtual Reality interactions with the online penumbra created by a Comics hero, Captain Cosmos. Palwick's control of sf plotting has sometimes been insecure; her work is memorable primarily for the complex human stories that her sf frames give full play to unfold. [JC]

Susan Palwick

born New York: 7 September 1961


collections and stories


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