Back to entry: tidhar_lavie | Show links black

Tidhar, Lavie

(1976-    ) Israeli-born author, in the UK from 2013, most of whose work can perhaps be most easily described in terms of Equipoisal Fantastika and Postmodernism, as his frequent use of Genre SF topoi is deliberately estranged. As a teenager he moved with his family to South Africa where he began to read and write in English, later adopting it as his major creative language, though he made his literary debut as a poet with a volume of verse in Hebrew She'eriot Me'elohim ["Remnants of God"] (coll 1998).

Beginning with his first professional short fiction sale, "Alienation and Love in the Hebrew Alphabet" in ChiZine (see Online Magazines) for April 2005, his narratives frequently juxtapose various literary traditions and in the postmodern manner hybridize genres, conventions, tropes and characters to arrive at early twenty-first-century Fantastika of both an entertaining and transgressive nature. Tidhar's literary strategy repeatedly relies on the recycling of stereotypes and Clichés drawn from classical Pulp sf and detective fiction, traditional Mythologies and contemporary popular culture. This for example can be observed in his collection of linked short stories HebrewPunk (coll 2007), which translates Hebrew mythology into the idiom of Western popular genre fiction; while his Bookman sequence, comprising The Bookman (2010), Camera Obscura (2011) and The Great Game (2012), heavily exploits Steampunk tropes to provide a vivid and at times overwhelming mosaic of literary characters and references within an Alternate-History version of Victorian London controlled by Aliens.

Perhaps the most comprehensive demonstration of this strategy, and the work of a considerably more ambitious scope, is his World Fantasy Award winning novel Osama (2011), whose underlying aspiration seems to be the definition of the early twenty-first century human condition in terms of the consumption of fabricated, oversimplified narratives as the only possible form of apprehending the complexities of the contemporary world. The text can be analysed as a structurally noirish Alternate History utilizing most stereotypes of pulp detective fiction and certain components of Philip K Dick's The Man in the High Castle (1962), such as Timeslip, and the manifestation of an alternate reality through pages of novels and through their mysterious author. A Jonbar Point seems to exist – it is probably the British failure to partition Iraq in 1920 – though it is adhered to very loosely: the early 2000s in which the tale is set is presented, without argument, in terms of 1940s or 1950s Technology; there are no personal computers or other modern electronic devices, contemporary-style terrorism never developed, and the 9/11 attacks did not take place. But a series of pulp novels entitled Osama Bin Laden: Vigilante by the remarkably evasive Mike Longshott describes – with the documentary accuracy of reportage – a world of terror and violence in which buildings are blown up and people die. Joe, a private detective, is hired to find this enigmatic figure. He discovers that the brutal reality of Longshott's novels peculiarly permeates the world around him, infiltrating a horrific narrative involving global terrorism, climaxing in September 2001. Surprisingly, the novel's finale may also allow an alternative psychological Psychology interpretation eliminating the necessity of any fantastic elements and estrangement since Joe and Longshott can be decoded as two sides of the same coin: but this alternative can be read Equipoisally without any vitiation of the main narrative.

Written around the same time as Osama, Martian Sands (2013) also evokes many characteristic genre conventions, including Colonization of Other Worlds, Future History, Planetary Romance and Time Travel; it also contains numerous references both to Philip K Dick's and to Edgar Rice Burroughs's Mars, discussing Holocaust and raising questions of postcolonial nature by presenting other worlds colonized not by greedy corporation or capitalists, but by the poor and dispossessed of Earth. The Violent Century (2013) intensifies the scrutiny of our war-torn twentieth century that characterized Osama, again through a contrast (in this case inferred) between our world and the Alternate History version of the century where the action is set. In the case the Jonbar Point is specific and consequential: the Invention and application in 1932 by Professor Vomacht of a machine capable of generating a "probability wave" which changes the entire world at a quantum level. Individuals peculiarly prone to this subnuclear transformation become Superheroes whose powers exploit (and deflect) their childhood traumas. Tragically, however, the history of this transformed world is in most details identical to that of the real world; the tale is mostly set in World War Two, with long sequences concerning the Shoah (see Holocaust Fiction). In this history, a plethora of superheroes, on both sides of every conflict, cancels each other out; the alternate world of The Violent Century, conspicuously greyer than the real world, offers no genuine escape. Much of the power of the tale lies in that refusal.

Even grimmer in its final implications, though at time comic in tone, A Man Lies Dreaming (2014) combines two narratives: Shomer, a Jewish writer of pulp fiction, awaits death in Auschwitz in 1944, conversing at one point with Primo Levi, and dreaming a subversive tale; in the Alternate History of his dream, Adolf Hitler has become a noir private eye after the triumph of the Communist party in 1932 Germany, and is forced to escape an increasingly fascist London disguised as a Jew. Two pendants to the first Hitler tale have been released: A Man Named Wolf (graph 2014), illustrated by Neil Struthers, provides a set of images from Hitler's life as Wolf (a name he used in the 1920s), and Lust of the Swastika (2015 chap) embroils the real Hitler in a sadomasochistic episode, and the protagonist of the tale in a savage matriarchal Steampunk world in South America, ruled by Amazons who fuel their great Machines through the energies generated by orgasms brought on by unwilling male slaves.

The tales assembled into fixup form in Central Station (fixup 2016), and narrated as though from a distant future diaspora among the stars by a man who has returned from Mars, generate a sustained portrait of Near Future Tel Aviv, with Cyborgs abundant; Central Station itself is a space port. This book won the John W Campbell Memorial Award. Unholy Land (2018; exp 2018), whose Jonbar Point is the Zionist Congress's continued advocacy of a Jewish "homeland" near Uganda, is an Alternate History in which the history of Palestina reflects the history of Israel in our world; various time-lines increasingly interact, conveying an insect-eye perspective on intersecting worlds, but without providing any excessive hope for any reality. Candy (2018) is a comic tale for the young end of the Young Adult market; The Big Blind (2020), in which a young nun wins a high-stakes poker match in order to support the Church, is improbable but nonfantastic. The Anti-Matter of Britain Quartet begins with By Force Alone (2020), an ostensibly rollicking Satire of Arthur and the Matter of Britain, but darkened by a sense of requiem, and premonitions of dread; Tidhar's take on Robin Hood, in The Hood (2021), is if anything more savage [for Arthur, Matter or Britain and Robin Hood see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. The Escapement (2021), whose central figure is a solitary shootist known as The Stranger questing through Parallel Worlds to find a cure for his son's fatal disease, is an exercise in the juxtaposition of modes, including the Italian Western and Steampunk (see Fantastika; Westworld [2016-current]); in each of the worlds he visits (though not in the terrifying hospital where his son lies dying) he can be defined as a Mysterious Stranger.

In 2000, early in his career, Tidhar founded an effective continuation of World SF (which see for details) in the online The World SF Blog [see under links below], which won the British Science Fiction Association Award for best nonfiction in 2012. Before ceasing his personal involvement in 2013 he edited solo three connected Anthologies: The Apex Book of World SF (anth 2009), The Apex Book of World SF 2 (anth 2012) and The Apex Book of World SF 3 (anth 2014); further volumes with other editors followed, crediting Tidhar as series editor [see Checklist]. Thematically associated but in no other way connected, The Best of World SF (anth 2021) is an ambitious and useful large-scale conspectus.

Though he is a dazzling omnivore of genres, Tidhar must be read at the same time as entirely serious: as an author who uses the tools of fantastika to ascertain where we live now. [KW/JC]

Lavie Tidhar

born Afula, Israel: 16 November 1976

works

series

Bookman

Gorel

Hitler

Judge Dee

The Anti-Matter of Britain Quartet

individual titles

collections and stories

poetry

graphic

nonfiction

works as editor

series

Apex

Jews Versus

individual titles as editor

links

Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 03:32 am on 21 January 2022.
<https://sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/tidhar_lavie>