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Van Pelt, James

Entry updated 2 June 2020. Tagged: Author.

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(1954-    ) US teacher and author who began to publish work of genre interest with "No Small Change" in After Hours for January 1991; his short fiction moves smoothly from supernatural horror and Horror in SF through to sf proper, and frequently illuminates his teaching life through a wide application of generic lenses. In "Nor Lender Be" (February 1999 Analog), one of his more powerful (and prescient) tales, a teacher allows a corporation to implant devices (see Nanotechnology) that record (or data-mine) his pedagogical methods for wider reproduction; but finds that the corporation now owns those methods, which it would be a violation of copyright for him to use himself. Most of his earlier short work has been assembled in Strangers and Beggars (coll 2002), The Last of the O-Forms and Other Stories (coll 2005), The Radio Magician and Other Stories (2009) and Flying in the Heart of the Lafayette Escadrille (coll 2012).

Van Pelt's first novel, Summer of the Apocalypse (2006), alternates two quests undertaken by the same protagonist: as a teenager, Eric engages in a Young Adult coming-of-age trek through Colorado soon after a great Disaster has wiped out most of the world's population (see Post-Holocaust); six decades later, he goes on another, more ambitious search through a Ruined Earth America, encountering a range of survivor societies that translate his wanderings into a genuine Fantastic Voyage. His search for an ancient Technology is a topos from traditional Genre SF, but the resigned resilience of his response to the world strikes a sharper note. More lightly, Pandora's Gun (2015) faces its Young Adult protagonist with ethical dilemmas after he discovers an advanced Alien artefact – the gun of the title, though it is more an enabler of Superpowers than a Weapon in its own right – and finds himself on the run from various factions eager to control Pandora. Van Pelt's use of conventions can seem tedious, but is saved by a transparent good-hearted competence in their evocation. [JC]

James Van Pelt

born Akron, Ohio: 26 June 1954

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