MORRIS, Janet E(llen)

MORRIS, Janet E(llen)
   US writer who gained some note as bass player 1972-5 in the band named after her husband, Chris MORRIS; he subsequently collaborated with JEM on several sf novels, always as Chris Morris. She herself beganwriting with the ambitious Silistra sequence, comprising High Couch of Silistra (1977; rev vt Returning Creation 1984), The Golden Sword (1977),Wind from the Abyss (1978) and The Carnelian Throne (1979). Toughly told and intellectually extremist, the sequence (prematurely) proclaimed an ambition on her part to write at the highest possible level; it cannot be said that she has quite fulfilled this ambition. Silistra intriguingly presents a society complexly conceived in terms of patterns (some literal) of cultural and biological bondage. Already, a sense of historical analogies pervades the texts, and in the Dream Dancer trilogy - Dream Dancer (1980 UK), Cruiser Dreams (1981) and Earth Dreams (1982) - thisbecomes explicit; wafted away from Earth, the young protagonist of the series climbs into the upper echelons of a culture whose assumptions about behaviour reflect the world of Hellenistic Greece. The main sf instrument deployed in these books - starships run by AIs which establish symbiotic relationships with humans - prefigures JEM's growing interest in the combat side of history, and the sequence itself becomes nightmarishly complicated in its traversal of implied analogies from the past. In the Tempus fantasies, based on the Thieves' World SHARED-WORLD enterprise -Beyond Sanctuary * (1985), Beyond the Veil * (1985), Beyond Wizardwall * (1986), Tempus * (coll of linked stories 1987), City at the Edge of Time * (1988) with Chris Morris, Tempus Unbound * (1989) with Chris Morris, and Storm Seed * (1990) with Chris Morris - the traversals of historical material become even more hectic. In the Heroes in Hell shared-world enterprise, which JEM co-created with C.J. CHERRYH - Heroes in Hell * (anth 1986) with Cherryh, Rebels in Hell * (anth 1986) with Cherryh, TheGates of Hell * (fixup 1986) with Cherryh, Masters in Hell * (anth 1987), Kings in Hell * (1987) with Cherryh, Angels in Hell * (anth 1987), War in Hell * (anth 1988), The Little Helliad * (1988) with Chris Morris, Explorers in Hell * (1989) with David A. DRAKE and Prophets in Hell * (anth 1989) - the result is something like chaos. In these works, which occupy much of JEM's bibliography, the sharp cognitive focus has softened, and the use of female protagonists whose sexual natures are controversially foregrounded has also become somewhat routinized.More interesting are some of the singletons, almost always written in collaboration; they are deeply engaged in military matters, violent, often extremely bloody, and profoundly cynical about all governments and their agencies. The 40-Minute War (1984) with Chris Morris presents an utterly disastrous nuclear HOLOCAUST brought about by stupidity; only by changing history through a commandeered TIME-TRAVEL device is the world saved. Active Measures (1985) with David A. Drake involves spying activities inthe NEAR FUTURE. M*E*D*U*S*A (1986) with Chris Morris describes Sky War activities in a similar venue. Outpassage (1988) with Chris Morris is ableak military adventure, and the Threshold Terminal sequence -Threshold (1990),Trust Territory (1992) and The Stalk (1994), all with Chris Morris- generates a similarly bleak vision of a Solar System engaging in agonistic conflicts and interstellar diplomacy within the confines of the eponymous space artifact. Throughout her career, JEM has consistently worked to strip her language and plots of ornateness and idiosyncracy, and her collaborative works are, at times, vividly efficient. At other times, however, little sense of JEM's individual gifts as a writer with strong convictions survives the impersonality.
   Other works: I, the Sun (1983), historical novel; Afterwar (anth 1985); Warlord! (1987); Kill Ratio (1987) with David A. Drake; Target (1989) with Drake; the two Hawkeye novels: Hawkeye (1991) and Cobra (1991), both as by Daniel Stryker.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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