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Skillingstead, Jack

Entry updated 6 November 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1955-    ) US author, married to Nancy Kress from 2011; he began to publish work of genre interest with "The Apprentice" in Whispers from the Shattered Forum for June 2003. With other short work it was assembled in Are You There and Other Stories (coll 2009; exp 2014); the cumulative propulsive energy of his short work, much of it not sf, is very considerable. An sf tale like "Bean There" (April 2005 Asimov's), which is included in the collection, deals with the arrival of an Alien on Earth as a problem in Perception, in empathy, with Time Travel to a more innocent time ambivalently rewarding the human protagonists. The Whole Mess and Other Stories (coll 2023) contains further tales of sf interest, such as "The Whole Mess" (September 2016 Asimov's) itself, an intense exploration of the unintended consequences of calculating a Mathematical equation which "solves" the nature of the Multiverse.

Skillingstead's first novel, Harbinger (2009), perhaps overcomplicatedly imposes on its mysteriously Immortal young protagonist a doomed love affair with a mortal, long service to trillionaires who use his regenerative powers (see Regeneration) to justify their using him as an organ bank, and tragedy-shadowed escape in a Generation Starship. There are Satirical touches throughout, and a savage wryness that has generated comparisons between this novel and the work of Kurt Vonnegut. Life on the Preservation (2013) is set within a domed Seattle (see Keep) which in fact serves as an enclosure within which a Time Loop traps the unknowing inhabitants in an eternal 5 October; they are at least safe from the Zombie-ridden Ruined Earth beyond the dome, though the motives of the Alien "Curators" who enforce this precarious version of reality are unclear. The protagonists' Paranoia – they are unable to decide if the world in which they are trapped is a Virtual Reality perhaps inhabited by Avatars of their unknown masters – is entirely justified. Skillingstead's presentation of the humans trapped beyond fathoming in his intricate sf artefacts is both tightly told and emotionally generous. The Chaos Function (2019) is an sf thriller whose female protagonist gains access to Time Police device capable of modifying Jonbar Points; she unwisely uses this for personal reasons, an intervention that diverts history towards world Disaster and must somehow be undone. Skillingstead's work so far augurs a major career. [JC]

Jack Skillingstead

born Seattle, Washington: 24 October 1955




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