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Quinn, Daniel

Entry updated 13 September 2021. Tagged: Author.

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(1935-2018) US author who began publishing work of genre interest with Dreamer (1988), which reads initially as a dark Fantasy, but whose protagonist is in fact a victim of Dream Hacking; he came to wide notice with Ishmael (1992), which won the first and only Turner Tomorrow Award of $500,000, and was filmed as Instinct (1999) directed by Jon Turteltaub; it also became the first volume of the short Ishmael sequence, which continued with My Ishmael (1997). The novel is a quietly told but elegantly unrelenting indictment of Homo sapiens's lethal tenure as rulers of the planet, conveyed by a melancholy, Telepathic, didactic great ape (see Apes as Human) who attempts to teach the human protagonist what must be done: you must (he insists) change your lives, must attempt to live in harmony with the planet: or you will all die. This message, which may seem difficult to contest, did not easily bear repeating. In the direct sequel, Ishmael reiterates his convictions to a teenaged girl, with diminished effect. And the slightly earlier The Story of B: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit (1996) with T Whalen, by putting the message into the mouth of a Messiah figure, also diluted its central thrust.

After Dachau (2001) is an Alternate History novel whose nature is only revealed part way through: when the reader discovers that the main narrative is set two millennia after Hitler (see Hitler Wins) won the Battle of Dachau, and – it is also an underlying premise of Swastika Night (1937) by Murray Constantine (ie Katharine Burdekin) – the world settles in to an icy fixity. The tale climaxes in New York, Underground, in a redemptive ending. In The Holy (2002), mysterious Forerunners having been serving humanity as complaisant Secret Masters, but are reaching the end of their tether as the planet nears destruction at our hands. The persuasiveness of Quinn's convictions is sometimes vitiated by an insistent didacticism, but the power remains in memory. [JC]

Daniel Quinn

born Omaha, Nebraska: 11 October 1935

died Houston, Texas: 17 February 2018




  • Ishmael (New York: Bantam Books/Turner Book, 1992) [Ishmael: hb/uncredited]
  • My Ishmael (New York: Bantam Books, 1997) [Ishmael: hb/Claude Anderson]

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