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(1951- ) US author who has also published as Adam Lee. His rich educational background – BA (biochemistry), MFA (creative writing), MA (linguistics) – was early evident from his first relevant nonfiction, the essay "Beowulf and the Supernatural" (1971 Tamlacht #10), Tamlacht being a Fanzine he co-edited. He began to publish work of genre interest with "Spice Trails by Dr Joseph-Beyrd Markham" in Mount to the Stars for March 1971, though his first story to attract attention was "Once More, the Dream" as aa Attanasio in New Worlds 7 (anth 1974; vt New Worlds #6 1975), edited by Hilary Bailey and Charles Platt. This tale, in its experimental heat and dark erudite extravagance, proved typical of his short fiction in general. Not particularly attractive to the magazine markets, most of his shorter works appeared for the first time in Beastmarks (coll 1985). Attanasio came to much wider notice with the publication of his first novel, Radix (1981), the first volume of the Radix Tetrad sequence, which continues with In Other Worlds (1984), Arc of the Dream (1986) and The Last Legends of Earth (1989). As a whole, the sequence works as a complex meditation on metamorphosis elaborated within a Space-Opera frame, so that densely ambitious moments of poetic aspiration alternate with episodes out of the rag-and-bone shop of Pulp-magazine fiction; this early use of space opera as frame or arena for baroque exfoliations of story immediately prefigures the similarly exorbitant work of Iain M Banks and Dan Simmons. After losing her radiation shield, which guards her against the full nakedness of the Universe, Earth begins to mutate savagely, a transformation articulated clearly in Radix itself through the story of a mutant Superman, who undergoes the same transcendental jumpstart that jolts his planet through terrors and Dimensions. By the time The Last Legends of Earth has come to a close, long after Earth itself has become an inordinately complicated memory, human beings are strange creatures, resurrected out of dream, half-persona, half-godling. At the same time, however, a protagonist engages in a revenge fight with spiderlike Aliens. Two further sequences have followed – the Arthor Cycle and The Dominions of Irth – which are both fantasy [see Checklist below]. Much of Attanasio's later work has been fantasy, like Wyvern (1988), a pirate-punk historical (see Steampunk), with little fantasy content; or Hunting the Ghost Dancer (1991), an extremely late, and rather heated, example of prehistoric sf (see Anthropology) in which a last Neanderthal is pitted against several of us.
Attanasio's later sf, though infrequent, has been notable. Solis (1994) is a singleton whose plot and pacing initially remind one of an early Keith Laumer adventure, but which expands upon and darkens its origins in space opera; the protagonist, after a millennium of Cryonic sleep, awakens into an extremely complex and cruel world run by AIs, where he is used for pornography and enslaved before his eventual rescue. Far more ambitiously, Centuries (1997) iterates a Cosmology ultimately devastating to the consensual universe creatures like humans occupy, a "Judas Kiss" vacuum too thin for thought, which is due to be re-imploded – by the "metasapients" who have replaced humanity – into a primordial pre-Big Bang heaven known as "the compact" where creatures who are like us unto gods will be able to breathe properly again. It could not be said that Attanasio is a tempered writer; but the splurge and dance of his prose can be, when he is gripped by an idea, enormously enlivening. [JC]
see also: Mutants.
born Newark, New Jersey: 20 September 1951
The Dominions of Irth
Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 20:22 pm on 25 January 2022.