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Piserchia, Doris

Entry updated 16 January 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1928-2021) US author, born and raised in West Virginia, in the US Navy 1950-1954. She began publishing short fiction with "Rocket to Gehenna" for Fantastic in September 1966. Her first novel, the remarkable and densely plotted van Vogt-style revenge drama Mister Justice (1973 dos), appeared after she had established some reputation in shorter forms, one of her stories being included in Best Science Fiction for 1972 (anth 1973) edited by Frederik Pohl. Star Rider (1974) recounts first-person adventures in a chokingly vivid Universe occupying various Dimension, versions of which recur throughout her work: events are pellmell, and the protagonist's far-flung quest for Doubleluck, a planet of dreams, constantly becomes enmired in that environment. A Billion Days of Earth (1976) similarly loses energy towards its close, but depicts its Far-Future venue with precision and eloquence; its Cyborg ratmen with mechanical claws for hands are a particularly resonant notion, and demonstrate Piserchia's clear creative preference for Aliens, who rarely fail to outshine her human performers. Earthchild (1977) is similarly set on a far-future Earth under a similar threat of termination. The Spinner (1980) and The Fluger (1980) are energetic Horror in SF narratives in which great havoc is wreaked on Earth by the titular Alien Monsters, the first a humanoid with spiderlike traits, the second even more destructive (and near-indestructible) but also just a child.

Later novels – like Doomtime (1981) and Earth in Twilight (1981) – likewise tend to subordinate human protagonists to her ornate and sometime animate mises en scène, so that she is at times both daring and a trifle coy in subject matter and style: not even the female protagonists of Spaceling (1978) or The Dimensioneers (1982), though enjoying Piserchia's approval, genuinely manage to dominate their texts. Blood County (1981) and I, Zombie (1982), both as by Curt Selby, the latter a genuine sf novel (see Horror in SF) about the posthumous revivification – for purposes of forced labour – of Suicides, are also of interest.

In her self-consciousness, and in the sense she conveys that landscape drowns action (rather than vice versa), Piserchia seemed for a period very much a member of the US New Wave; but her later novels lacked some of the bounteous energy of the earlier work. She stopped publishing after The Deadly Sky (1983), and there was no further development in a career that had flourished, absorbingly, for only a decade. [JC]

see also: Children in SF; Crime and Punishment; Living Worlds.

Doris Elaine Piserchia

born Fairmont, West Virginia: 11 October 1928

died Hackensack, New Jersey: 15 September 2021



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