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Ransom, Bill

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1945-    ) US author who has worked as a medic and as a firefighter. His early writing was poetry, with several volumes released from Finding True North & Critter (coll 1974 chap) onward. He began publishing sf anonymously with "Songs of a Sentient Flute" in Analog for February 1979, a collaboration with Frank Herbert published as by Herbert alone: Ransom wrote the first draft at Herbert's request, as related in Brian Herbert's Dreamer of Dune: The Biography of Frank Herbert (2003). Substantially revised, the story eventually became part of Medea: Harlan's World (anth 1985) edited by Harlan Ellison. Ransom is best known for the related Pandora sequence, also with Frank Herbert (whom see for details), sequelling the latter's Destination: Void (August 1965 Galaxy as "Do I Wake Or Dream?"; 1966; rev 1978). This series comprises The Jesus Incident (1979) – based on "Songs of a Sentient Flute" – The Lazarus Effect (1983) and The Ascension Factor (1988).

Ransom's first solo novel, Jaguar (part 1983 Kansas City Star; and elsewhere; fixup 1990), is also of interest for its depiction of the physically, psychologically and morally complex dream-driven pattern of connections between Earth and another planet, each planet containing two maturing adolescents whose sleep disorders allow them to make journeys between the worlds. The Jaguar – a disturbed World War Two vet who likewise roams the dreamways – must be halted before he disrupts the fragile tissues of reality. Slightly overweighted for the adventure-sf idiom in which it is told, Jaguar is all the same an intriguing attempt to say more than could easily be said, and to suggest Ecological reasons for self-restraint. The later ViraVax sequence beginning with ViraVax (1993) follows a similar procedure: an impressive presentation of the complex perils that inevitably accompany in-depth virological research (see Genetic Engineering) is conveyed through a Near Future storyline which focuses upon a suspenseful thriller-like action plot, here accompanied by strong images of body horror (see Horror in SF); in the sequel, Burn (1995), an apocalyptic cult has stolen the deadly virus, and threatens to unleash a Pandemic upon the world. The world is saved. [JC]

see also: Messiahs.

William Michael Ransom

born Puyallup, Washington: 6 June 1945





  • ViraVax (New York: Ace Books, 1993) [ViraVax: hb/Marvin Mattelson]
  • Burn (New York: Ace Books, 1995) [ViraVax: hb/Doug Struthers]

individual titles

  • Jaguar (New York: Ace Books, 1990) [fixup: part first appeared 1983 Kansas City Star and elsewhere: pb/Royo]

collections and poetry (selected)


previous versions of this entry

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