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Winters, Ben H

Entry updated 4 March 2024. Tagged: Author.

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(1976-    ) US playwright, journalist and author whose first books – including The Jewish Comedy Thesaurus: 3,102 Quips, Quotes, and Kvetches (2007) and the Worst-Case Scenario series of spoofs with David Borgenicht and Robin Epstein – were comic nonfiction. He is of sf interest for two series. His contributions to his publisher's Quirk Classics sequence are Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (2009) with Jane Austen and Android Karenina (2010) with Leo Tolstoy; in each case, through a process of copying and paraphrasing and introducing entirely new sections, he has adapted a novel by his "collaborator" into an sf spoof, though in each case the Parody (or travesty) carries a burden of genuine story, and in each case Winters clearly respects his original (see Equipoise). In the first, the characters of Sense and Sensibility (1811) encounter sea Monsters in the English Channel, and also a Lost World Under the Sea; in the second, the tortured protagonists of Anna Karenina (1877) are interfused with a Steampunk world characterized by the presence of Androids, Robots and Space Flight. Though it would perhaps overstress the conceit to think of Android Karenina as a serious examination of Gender issues, the tale does in fact allow some deeper emotions to surface.

This is also the case in Winters's second sequence, the Hank Palace series comprising The Last Policeman (2012), Countdown City (2013) and World of Trouble (2014), set in a very Near Future Earth threatened with the near certainty of a terminal Disaster when an Asteroid hits the planet in a few months' time. The protagonist, Hank Palace, is a police officer engaged in his duties as the social fabric begins to disintegrate; the noir tone of the telling contrasts neatly with his downright decency, which Winters does not mock. He has the essential gift of any genuine comic artist: that of taking his creations seriously. Countdown City won the Philip K Dick Award.

A much darker note is struck in Underground Airlines (2016), set in an Alternate History America whose Jonbar Point is the early assassination of Abraham Lincoln, after which, in the absence of a Civil War which ends slavery, a Dystopian compromise is hatched between North and South. A century or so later, a hard core of Southern states retains slavery, ruthlessly corporately monetized and made sanitary (complicit companies boast names like Garments of the Greater South). The plot involves a kind of double agent named Victor: half expediter of escape attempts, half a traitor under the governance of an embedded Computer. This novel won a Sidewise Award. Golden State (2019), set in a Dystopian Near Future California, shares an understanding of the extremism of the Americas to come: in this case, government surveillance of Communications results in a world where nothing but "truth" – defined as descriptive utterances which can pass as fungibly not false – can be spoken. As always, however, political truth is what is spoken by winners. The Quiet Boy (2021) is a thriller involving two complex trials (see Crime and Punishment) that revolve around a young man who seems to have been transformed into a manufactured Golem-like entity cut off from the passage of time. [JC]

Benjamin Allen H Winters

born Maryland: 14 June 1976

works (selected)

Quirk Classics

  • Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Quirk Books, 2009) with Jane Austen [in the publisher's Quirk Classics series: illus/Eugene Smith: hb/Lars Leetaru]
  • Android Karenina (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Quirk Books, 2010) with Leo Tolstoy [in the publisher's Quirk Classics series: illus/Eugene Smith: hb/Lars Leetaru]

Hank Palace

  • The Last Policeman (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Quirk Books, 2012) [Hank Palace: pb/Jonathan Pushnik]
  • Countdown City (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Quirk Books, 2013) [Hank Palace: pb/Jonathan Pushnik]
  • World of Trouble (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Quirk Books, 2014) [Hank Palace: pb/Jonathan Pushnik]

individual titles

  • Bedbugs (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Quirk Books, 2011) [pb/Jonathan Pushnik]
  • Underground Airlines (New York: Little, Brown/Mulholland Books, 2016) [hb/Oliver Munday]
  • Golden State (New York: Little, Brown/Mulholland Books, 2019) [hb/]
  • The Quiet Boy (New York: Little, Brown/Mulholland Books, 2021) [hb/]
  • The Bonus Room (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Quirk Books, 2023) [pb/]
  • Big Time (New York: Little, Brown/Mulholland Books, 2024) [hb/Will Staehle]

collections and stories


Literally Disturbed


previous versions of this entry

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