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Sullivan, Tricia

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1968-    ) US-born author, in UK from 1995, who has also written as by Valery Leith; married during the 1990s (dates unknown) to Todd Wiggins. She began to publish work of genre interest with "Morpheus" in Discoveries (anth 1995) edited by Alan Lothian; most of her work since that point has been in long forms. Her first novel, Lethe (1995), is partly set in the distant Near Future on Earth, a period when a further century or so of Climate Change has rendered the planet difficult to survive on, and when Genetic Engineering has generated factions of warring versions of Homo sapiens. The discovery of an Alien Macrostructure containing Matter Transmission gateways complexifies a long tale of world-changing conspiracies unmasked, a tale in which sentient Telepathic dolphins play a part. Someone to Watch Over Me (1997) reduces the cosmic adventurousness of the first novel, though the atmospherically oppressive Cyberpunk world it depicts – and the games of Identity played between the lead characters and a hirer/owner/inner watcher who pays to ride others' minds – unpack into a discourse on the mind/body perplex, leading to a sense that consciousness, of some sort, may make the world.

Sullivan's third sf novel, Dreaming in Smoke (1999), which won the Arthur C Clarke Award, returns to the refined Space Opera toolkit deployed in her first book; human colonists attempt to cope with the mysterious dynamics of an Alien planet, under the control of an AI itself in occluded contact with the Gaia-like networked entity (or plant) that seems complicit (or not) with a Mad Scientist's plans to transform the world utterly. The protagonist's task, which is to mediate and explore this world via dreams, leads to a complex resolution, perhaps slightly underpowered in the telling. The Everien trilogy [see Checklist below] as by Valery Leith is fantasy. Maul (2003) juxtaposes two lines of story, set in different eras: a Near Future Satire of lives dominated by shopping malls and gang warfare among teenage girl gangs; and, very much deeper into the future, a world where men have almost disappeared. There is no easy Feminist Thought-Experiment contrast here, however, between the Dystopia of the mall (which in any case turns out to be a Virtual Reality enactment) and the Utopia of sisters being together. Double Vision (2005) shows some structural similarity between the young female protagonist on something like a contemporary version of Earth, and the Living World she visits via Psi Powers, where she inhabits the mind of a flying creature in the midst of a war in which human soldiers, all women, suffer savagely. The same character features in the thematically linked Sound Mind (2007), though not as chief protagonist; here the Cyberspace-like "Grid" of Double Vision, a region beyond the television screen where cognition and reality intersect, has become a major existential threat; indeed the mere concept that true reality can be comprehended proves to be dangerous in itself, a notion worthy of Philip K Dick.

Lightborn (2010) – the title might better be spelled "lightborne", as the AI-generated infection which transforms humans into Zombies is carried by light – again portrays a complex Near Future world much like America. The zombies are confined with a Keep, where they construct a viable culture, while the complex world outside continues to morph future-wards. Sullivan's tendency to overfill her worlds with not quite tellable stories is here evident; but also her main strength: an ability to use the tools of sf to create genuinely intriguing speculations about the nature of reality, the possible supremacy of thought in any universe fully defined. Shadowboxer (2014) is a venture into Young Adult Fantasy. Sweet Dreams (2017) introduces thriller motifs into a tale featuring a professional dream hacker (see Dream Hacking). [JC]

Tricia Anne Sullivan

born Englewood, New Jersey: 7 July 1968




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