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Scarborough, Elizabeth Ann

Entry updated 13 November 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1947-    ) US author whose work has long properly been read as fantasy, but some of whose later novels transcend genre boundaries in interesting ways. Her early novels – like her first, Song of Sorcery (1982), which begins the Songs from the Seashell Archives sequence, tend to lightweight effects; a little later, in tales like The Drastic Dragon of Draco, Texas (1986), the first volume of the Drastic Dragon sequence, a more humane note can be detected; and in her finest single novel to date, The Healer's War (1988), which won the Nebula Award, an altogether more complex kind of storytelling unfolds. The protagonist of the book is a nurse in Viet Nam; Scarborough's descriptions of events there are of a piece with those found in the work of Bruce McAllister and Lucius Shepard; and the central premise – and in this too The Healer's War shares preoccupations with those other writers's work – is that it is possible to access a deeper reality, in this case via an amulet given her by a holy man, and to cure the maimed. The protagonist of the Nothing Sacred sequence, comprising Nothing Sacred (1991) and its sequel, Last Refuge (1992), is also a woman haunted by the distress of the world, this time a century hence, who discovers that the Prison camp in Tibet to which she is sent is in fact Shangri-La (see James Hilton; Keep), and that the Buddhist doctrine of Reincarnation is not simply a belief. Because of their detailed setting in a recognizable world, and because the supernormal elements in each book are argued as being truly integral to that recognizable world, it is hard to pigeonhole Scarborough's mature novels as either sf or fantasy, though she does not engage in Equipoisal challenges to her readers perceptions. The Petaybee Universe tales, all with Anne McCaffrey and beginning with Powers That Be (1994) are, on the other hand, romantic sf in the McCaffrey mode. [JC]

Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

born Kansas City, Missouri: 23 March 1947

works (selected)


Songs from the Seashell Archives

Drastic Dragon

Nothing Sacred

Songkiller Saga

  • Phantom Banjo (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1991) [Songkiller Saga: pb/Pauline Ellison]
  • Picking the Ballad's Bones (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1991) [Songkiller Saga: pb/Pauline Ellison]
  • Strum Again? (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1992) [Songkiller Saga: pb/Pauline Ellison]


Petaybee: Twins of Petaybee

  • Changelings (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 2005) with Anne McCaffrey [Petaybee: Twins of Petaybee: hb/Terese Nielsen]
  • Maelstrom (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 2006) with Anne McCaffrey [Petaybee: Twins of Petaybee: hb/Chris Spollen]
  • Deluge (London: Bantam Press, 2008) with Anne McCaffrey [Petaybee: Twins of Petaybee: hb/Fred Gambino]


Acorna's Children



Tales of the Barque Cats

individual titles


works as editor


previous versions of this entry

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