KELLY, James Patrick
(1951-)
   US writer who began to publish after attending his first CLARION SCIENCE FICTION WRITERS' WORKSHOP in 1974. With "Dea Ex Machina" for Gal in 1975, the first of about 40 tales to 1992, he began very quickly to establish himself as an author whose work contained, within a sometimes sober demeanour, considerable pyrotechnical charge. In the selfconscious 1980s controversy between CYBERPUNK and "Humanist" modes of sf discourse,he was located with the latter, but like most "Humanists" he has disavowed the distinction - and indeed published a story, "Solstice" (1985), in Bruce STERLING's Mirrorshades (anth 1986). Some of his short work iscollected in Heroines (coll 1990). He is perhaps best known for Freedom Beach (fixup 1985) with John KESSEL - an author with whom he has alsocollaborated on separate stories. In the book several characters find themselves in an interzone in which "reality" and dreamwork wed surreally, and must make sense of their surroundings. The control they exercise can be seen as allegorical of the creative act.Of greater interest are JPK's solo novels, Planet of Whispers (1984) and Look into the Sun (1989), which start the open-ended Messengers Chronicles. Whatever message is carried by the various species who link the Galaxy into a communications network has not been revealed so far. The first tale, set on the planet Aseneshesh, explores in voluminous detail the native race of near-immortal bearlike beings whose mental workings are derived from the attractive hypotheses developed by Julian Jaynes in The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1976). In Jaynes's book, and in JPK's novel, pre-conscious sentients - i.e., preliterate humans, including Homer - "hear" right-brain "whispers" which they understand to be the voices ofthe gods, and in this fashion hallucinate normative diktats which shape their culture. No humans appear in the novel. In the second volume, set partly on a depleted Earth, a young architect is recruited by Messengers to travel to Aseneshesh, being engineered en route into the semblance of an Asenesheshian, with a computer-implant substituting for the right-brain voice of God. Aseneshesh is vividly depicted in the two books, in a PLANETARY-ROMANCE style reminiscent at times of Jack VANCE; but theplotting has a slow rigour typical of all JPK's work, an incremental power which transcends the FIXUP structure of Wildlife (1991 IASFM as "Mr. Boy"; fixup 1994), a complex and - at points - singularly cruel analysis of the relationship between a child artificially re-engineered each time he nears puberty and his extraordinary mother. JPK stands at the verge of recognition as a major writer.
   JC

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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