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Shea, Michael [2]

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1946-2014) US author, mostly of Fantasy; most of his few sf stories focus on Horror in SF motifs extracted directly from the work of H P Lovecraft, as in The Color Out of Time (1984), a sequel to Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space (September 1927 Amazing; 1982 chap) (see Sequels by Other Hands), Fat Face (1987 chap), a Cthulhu Mythos narrative, and other stories included with it in Copping Squid and Other Mythos Tales (coll 2009). Much of his witty and disquietingly sophisticated work in fact comprises takes from and homages to previous authors, the most important of these being Jack Vance; Shea's first novels, A Quest for Simbilis (1974), is a direct a Sequel by Other Hands to the Dying Earth saga The Eyes of the Overworld (coll of linked stories 1966), continuing the adventures of Cugel the Clever and written with Vance's permission. Shea's only series – the Nifft the Lean sequence comprising Nifft the Lean (coll of linked stories 1982), The Mines of Behemoth (1997), both assembled as The Incompleat Nifft (omni 2000), plus The A'rak (2000) – depicts escapades and quests with a strong Vancian flavour, mostly but not all featuring the moderately ruthless scamp adventurer Nifft, in a venue that shifts between Planetary Romance and outright fantasy; the first volume, which includes descents into two differently lurid hells, was a World Fantasy Award winner. The final volume, typically, involves a soul-snatching Alien from outer space. In Yana, the Touch of Undying (1985), an episodic fantasy singleton whose central quest for Immortality is beset by many distractions and horrors, is also Vancian in tone.

Further works by Shea include Polyphemus (coll 1987), which contains several deft sf tales, including the title story and the horrific "The Autopsy" (December 1980 F&SF) about possession by an alien parasite; along with The Color Out of Time, revisions of other tales from Polyphemus and the World Fantasy Award-winning novella "The Growlimb" (January 2004 F&SF), this story also appears in The Autopsy and Other Tales (omni 2008). Shea's recent sequence, the Live Death series comprising The Extra (May 1987 F&SF; exp 2010) and Assault on Sunrise (2013), is set in a Near Future Los Angeles (see California) where the rich live in Keeps and the poor in flatlands known collectively as the Zoo; Disaster movies are now being made in the form of snuff films (see Cinema), with extras literally risking their lives to gain fees for killing fake Aliens in a reality City even more dangerous to traverse than the Zoo; in the second volume, the town of Sunrise must submit to a filmed live-weapons assault in recompense (see Crime and Punishment) for previously being the site where some police officers have died violently. Shea should not be confused with the Scottish author Michael Shea. [JC]

Michael Shea

born Los Angeles, California: 3 July 1946

died San Francisco, California: 16 February 2014



Nifft the Lean

Live Death

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collections and stories


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