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Longyear, Barry B

(1942-    ) US author and editor who ran a printing company with his wife before beginning to write in 1977. He soon published his first sf story, "The Tryouts" for Asimov's in November/December 1978. Before his 1981 hospitalization for alcoholism and addiction to prescription drugs – an experience which formed the basis of his non-sf novel Saint Mary Blue (1988) – he had already published prolifically, sometimes as by Frederick Longbeard. Most of the short fiction for which he remains best known was released early in his career, most notably the stories assembled in Manifest Destiny (coll 1980), which explore a shared universe – in which a ruthlessly expanding Earth battles Dracon, an Alien Galactic Empire – with considerable intensity; and most of the contents of It Came from Schenectady (coll 1984). Enemy Mine (September 1979 Asimov's; 1989 chap dos), which appeared in Manifest Destiny, won Hugo, Nebula and Locus Awards, was filmed as Enemy Mine (1985); with the collaboration of David Gerrold, Longyear novelized the film version as Enemy Mine (1985). In both versions of the Enemy Mine sequence, a human and Dracon soldier, caught in the bitter conflict occasioned by human expansion (see Colonization of Other Worlds), are isolated together on a primitive planet and must cooperate or die. The Tomorrow Testament (1983) is a loose sequel to the tale, reiterating its lessons in a competently extended form. Much of this material is revised in The Enemy Papers (coll 1998), which incorporates a new novel as well. In this early period Longyear also initiated his Circus sequence – comprising, in order of internal chronology, City of Baraboo (coll of linked stories 1980), Elephant Song (1982) and Circus World (coll of linked stories 1981) – about the escape of a circus troop from Earth, its misadventures, its colonizing of the planet Momus, and the final triumph of its representatives as an interstellar act, all within a universe loosely shared with the Enemy Mine tales. In 1980 he won the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

After the gap caused by his hospital experience, Longyear returned to active work with a sharp Dystopia about Overpopulation, Sea of Glass (1987), told from the viewpoint of a child whose birth was illegal but who is allowed to survive by the governing Computer which struggles coldly to deal with the huge excess of humans on the planet by creating an artificial War. Later novels like Naked Came the Robot (1988), The God Box (1989), Infinity Hold (1989) and The Homecoming (1989) are variously of interest, but exhibit some intermittent sense of fatigue. His two Alien Nation television Ties: The Change (1994), which novelizes an unproduced script, and Slag Like Me (1994), which novelizes material from a cancelled season, are competent but routine. At the same time, the alert clarity and genre cunning of Longyear's best work seemed potentially available to him.

A twenty-first century venture of note is The War Whisperer series of seven books, beginning with Geronimo (2019) and ending with Changes (2020); this is written as the autobiography of a disillusioned outcast in a Ruined Earth in search of revenge and freedom. The fifth in the series, The Hook (2020), won the Prometheus Award in 2021 for its Libertarian SF depiction of a seceded Mexican state that becomes a kind of Utopia. [JC]

see also: Asimov's Science Fiction.

Barry Brookes Longyear

born Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: 12 May 1942



Enemy Mine (not listed in order of publication)


Alien Nation

Infinity Hold

The War Whisperer

individual titles




Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 10:24 am on 3 October 2022.