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Shiner, Lewis

Entry updated 22 January 2024. Tagged: Author.

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(1950-    ) US musician and author who began publishing sf with "Tinker's Damn" for Galileo #5 in October 1977, and who wrote a substantial number of tales before beginning to assemble them in Nine Hard Questions about the Nature of the Universe (coll 1990), The Edges of Things (coll 1991) and Love in Vain (coll 2001). His Collected Stories (coll 2010) conveniently assembles more than half of his short work, which is various, tending at its best to a clear-edged intensity that gives his venues, whether or not sf, a glow of humane seriousness; at its less impressive, in earlier stories, there is a sense of overindustrious journeyman plundering of recent sf writers for models, Cyberpunk in particular. But increasingly an engaged and sophisticated mind could be seen extracting hard kernels of import out of those models, as can be seen in his several Shared World tales for the Wild Cards universe, beginning with "The Long, Dark Night of Fortunato" (in Wild Cards, anth 1987, edited by George R R Martin).

Shiner's first novel, Frontera (1984), in which a team is sent to Mars by a large corporation to investigate an abandoned colony, ostensibly obeys the sf-adventure rules governing tales of that sort, but insinuates throughout a bleaker, denser view of humanity's life in space. Deserted Cities of the Heart (1988), set in a Magic-Realist Mexico, features a complexity of plots, involving imagined Time Travel back to the age of the Mayas, heated sexual and political intertwinings, and moments of not entirely convinced Transcendence; but the style of the tale is shining and faceted, and its various protagonists are vividly realized as they hover closer and closer to a long-predicted Holocaust. Slam (1990), a non-sf tale about a reformed tax-evader paroled from prison (or "slam"), competently and copiously evokes a sense of Texas not dissimilar to that imparted by fellow Texans like Neal Barrett Jr and Howard Waldrop; the ambitious Glimpses (1993), which won the World Fantasy Award, is fantasy. It was sf's loss that Shiner's focus as a writer shifted away from the genre. Recent, well-received novels like Black and White (2008) and Dark Tangos (2011) are nonfantastic, as is the enormous Outside the Gates of Eden (2019), which memorializes his musical experiences of the 1960s and 1870s.

Heroes and Villains: Three Short Novels and a Fable(coll 2017), on the other hand, contains tales of the fantastic. In the longest of these, "The Black Sun" (August 2014 Subterranean), an Alternate History unfolds in which a group of magicians concoct a successful sting to expose Hitler's vulnerability to occult nonsense; the humiliated tyrant is bundled off to a mental home, and the radical politician and playwright Ernest Toller (1893-1939), in reality briefly president of the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic, is slated to become Chancellor of Germany, and the world is saved. [JC]

see also: Gothic SF.

Lewis Gordon Shiner

born Eugene, Oregon: 30 December 1950

works (selected)

collections and stories

works as editor


previous versions of this entry

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