- OLIVER, Chad
- Working name of US writer and anthropologist Symmes Chadwick Oliver (1928-1993) for his sf. CO was born in Ohio but spent most of his life in Texas, where he took his MA at the University of Texas (his 1952 thesis, "They Builded a Tower", being an early academic study of sf). He took a PhD in ANTHROPOLOGY from the University of California, Los Angeles, and became professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin; his sf work consistently reflected both his professional training and his place of residence: much of it is set in the outdoors of the US Southwest, and most of his characters are deeply involved in outdoor activities. CO was always concerned with the depiction of Native American life and concerns: The Wolf is My Brother (1967), which is not sf, features a sympathetically characterized Native American protagonist. Most of CO's sf, too, could be thought of as Westerns of the sort that eulogize the land and the people who survive in it. The sf plots that drive his stories - like, in The Winds of Time (1957), the awakening of ALIENS held inSUSPENDED ANIMATION for hundreds of centuries - tend to be resolved in terms that reward a deeply felt longing for a non-urban life closely involved with Nature, though the effect of this is somewhat dissipated by his characteristic inability to prepare for his favourite scenes by adequate plotting, and a tendency (in his earlier works) to pad novelettes to novel length.His first published story, "The Land of Lost Content", appeared in Super Science Stories in 1950; his short work has been collected in Another Kind (coll 1955) and The Edge of Forever (coll 1971), the latter containing biographical material and a checklist compiled by William F. NOLAN. CO's first novel, a juvenile, was Mists of Dawn (1952).Shadows in the Sun (1954), set in Texas, describes with some vividness its protagonist's discovery that all the inhabitants of a small town are aliens, that it may be possible for Earth to gain galactic citizenship, and that he can work for that goal by living an exemplary life on his home planet; Unearthly Neighbors (1960; rev 1984) depicts human attempts to communicate with alien visitors; The Shores of Another Sea (1971) is set in Africa, and articulates CO's concern with the natural world, specifically in terms of ECOLOGY; Giants in the Dust (1976) argues the thesis that mankind's fundamental nature is that of a hunting animal, and that our progress from that condition has fundamentally deracinated us.CO was a pioneer in the application of competent anthropological thought to sf themes, and, though awkward construction sometimes stifled the warmth of his earlier stories, he is a careful author whose speculative thought deserves to be more widely known and appreciated.JCOther works: Broken Eagle (1989) and The Cannibal Owl (1994), both Westerns.About the author: Chad Oliver: An Annotated Bibliography \& Guide (last rev 1989 chap) by Hal W. HALL.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. Academic. 2011.