MALZBERG, Barry N(athaniel)

MALZBERG, Barry N(athaniel)
   US writer. For about seven years he was extremely prolific in the sf field, producing some 20 sf novels and over 100 short stories; his output slowed dramatically towards the end of the 1970s, when he became disenchanted with the genre for reasons explained in his collection of essays The Engines of the Night: Science Fiction in the Eighties (coll 1982). He has also written numerous non-sf works, including severalnotable erotic novels, and four excellent thrillers in collaboration with Bill PRONZINI, including Night Screams (1979), which makes use of ESP. Hisearly sf appeared under the name K.M. O'Donnell, apparently derived from the initial letters of the surnames of Henry KUTTNER and C.L. MOORE plus the surname of one of their joint pseudonyms. Other pseudonyms, used on non-sf works, include Mike Barry, Mel Johnson and Gerrold Watkins. His first sf story was "We're Coming through the Window" (1967 Gal), which was quickly followed by the bitter novelette "Final War" (1968 FSF), about an unwilling soldier trapped in a neverending wargame. Books under the O'Donnell name were the short-story collections Final War and OtherFantasies (coll 1969 dos) and In the Pocket and Other Science Fiction Stories (coll 1971 dos), the novels The Empty People (1969) and Universe Day (fixup 1971), and two RECURSIVE farcical SATIRES featuring sf fans and writers in confrontation with ALIENS: Dwellers of the Deep (1970 dos) and Gather in the Hall of the Planets (1971 dos).The first sf novels to appearunder BNM's own name were sceptical commentaries on the Apollo programme: The Falling Astronauts (1971), Revelations (1972) and Beyond Apollo(1972). The third caused some controversy when it won the JOHN W. CAMPBELL MEMORIAL AWARD despite its sarcastic and negative attitude to SPACE FLIGHT. The three novels feature astronauts as archetypes of alienated contemporary humanity, struggling to make sense of an incomprehensible world and unable to account for their failure. All BNM's central characters are caught in such existential traps, and the measure of his versatility is the large number of such situations which he has been able to construct using the vocabularies of ideas typical of sf and erotic fantasy. In Screen (1968) the protagonist can obtain sexual satisfaction only by projecting himself into fantasies evoked by the cinema, while in Confessions of Westchester County (1971) a prolific seducer obtainssatisfaction not from the sexual act but from the confessions of loneliness and desperation which follow it. The situation of the racetrack punter, unable to win against the odds by any conceivable strategy, becomes the model of alienation in Overlay (1972), in which aliens take an actual part in the process of frustration, and in the non-sf novel Underlay (1974). Aliens threaten the Earth, and set absurd tasks to decideits fate, in The Day of the Burning (1974) and Tactics of Conquest (1974). In GALAXIES (1975) the central character is in command of a corpse-ladenship which falls into a BLACK HOLE. The protagonist of Scop (1976) is a time-traveller trying desperately to change the history that has created his intolerable world. Even the situation of the sf writer, struggling to cope with real life and the pressures of the market, becomes in Herovit's World (1973) a metaphor for general alienation. In this novel, GALAXIESand the introductions to some of his collections, BNM offers a scathing critique of the market forces shaping contemporary sf.BNM's writing is unparalleled in its intensity and in its apocalyptic sensibility. His detractors consider him bleakly monotonous and despairing, but he is a master of black HUMOUR, and is one of the few writers to have used sf's vocabulary of ideas extensively as apparatus in psychological landscapes, dramatizing relationships between the human mind and its social environment in an sf theatre of the absurd. The few sf books which he has published since 1976 include three fine novels featuring real historical characters. The hero of the black comedy Chorale (1978) becomes Beethoven, while that of the remarkably intense The Cross of Fire (1982) becomes Jesus; both are in search of a better psychological balance but find theirquests frustrating. THE REMAKING OF SIGMUND FREUD (fixup 1985) has the father of psychoanalysis failing miserably to master his own difficulties while trying to assist Emily Dickinson, and subsequently - following his technological REINCARNATION - coming apart while failing to solve the problems involved in COMMUNICATION with aliens.
   Other works: In the Enclosure (1973); The Men Inside (1973); Phase IV * (1973 UK), a film tie (PHASE IV); The Destruction of the Temple (1974); On a Planet Alien (1974); The Sodom and Gomorrah Business (1974); Conversations (1974); Out from Ganymede (coll 1974); Guernica Night (1975); The Gamesman (1975); The Many Worlds of Barry Malzberg (coll 1975); Down Here in the Dream Quarter(coll 1976); The Best of Barry Malzberg (coll 1976); The Last Transaction (1977); Malzberg at Large (coll 1979); The Man who Loved the Midnight Lady (coll 1980).As Editor: Final Stage (anth 1974; rev 1975), Arena: Sports SF (anth 1976) and Graven Images: Three Original Novellas of Science Fiction (anth 1977), all with Edward L. FERMAN; Dark Sins, Dark Dreams: Crime in Science Fiction (anth 1977), The End of Summer: Science Fiction in the Fifties (anth 1979; vt The Fifties: The End of Summer 1979) and Shared Tomorrows: Science Fiction in Collaboration (anth 1979), all with Bill PRONZINI; Neglected Visions (anth 1980) with Martin H. GREENBERG and Joseph D. OLANDER; The Science Fiction of Mark Clifton (coll 1980) with Greenberg (Mark CLIFTON); Bug-Eyed Monsters (anth 1980) with Pronzini; The Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural (anth 2 vols 1981; cut vt Great Tales of Horror \& the Supernatural 1985; text restored, vt Classic Tales of Horror and the Supernatural 1991) with Pronzini andGreenberg; The Science Fiction of Kris Neville (coll 1984) with Greenberg (Kris NEVILLE).

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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