PANSHIN, Alexei (A.)


PANSHIN, Alexei (A.)
   Working name of US writer Alexis Adams Panshin (1940-), initially most active as an sf fan, in this role doing considerable writing and editing, for which he won a HUGO in 1967. He began publishing sf stories in 1963 with "Down to the Worlds of Men" for If, and soon became an active author of both fiction and criticism. The story "Dark Conception" (1964), as by Louis J.A. Adams, was written in collaboration with Joe L. HENSLEY. AP'sshort work has been assembled as Farewell to Yesterday's Tomorrow (coll 1975; with "Lady Sunshine and the Magoon of Beatus" added, rev 1976) andTransmutations: A Book of Personal Alchemy (coll 1982). His first novel, RITE OF PASSAGE (1963 If as "Down to the Worlds of Men"; exp 1968), which won a 1968 NEBULA, remains his only significant singleton. It is a complex and expertly told novel, making adroit use of the basic rite-of-passage structure (POCKET UNIVERSE) that underlies almost all tales set in GENERATION STARSHIPS; the fact that in this instance the asteroid-ship iscapable of FASTER-THAN-LIGHT speeds may modify the consciousness of the protagonists-they have not been travelling long enough to forget their origins - but does not make the venue itself seem any less constrictive. The heroine must progress from childhood into questioning adulthood via adangerous trial conducted on the colony planet which her ship - one of eight containing the survivors of the destruction of Earth 150 years earlier - is currently monitoring. Surviving her ordeal, she not only comes into her own as a person, but validly (as in the classic model) comes to question the stratified "adult" quasidemocracy of the ship. AP then wrote the Anthony Villiers series of SPACE OPERAS about a lordly adventurer and his alien companion Torve the Trog: Star Well (1968), The Thurb Revolution (1968) and Masque World (1969). The spoofing of sf'sPULP-MAGAZINE conventions was amusing and without malice and the echoes of Leslie CHARTERIS's Saint were enjoyable, but the series lacked the energy of its predecessor. As a writer of sf, AP then fell relatively quiet.Heinlein in Dimension: A Critical Analysis (1968), a comprehensive study of the works of Robert A. HEINLEIN, was perhaps the most thorough and literate book on a US sf writer written to that date. It breaks its subject's career into the 3 phases (1940-42; 1947-58; after 1958) that every subsequent critic has utilized, arguing the superior merit of the later juveniles, and presenting a case for thinking of his later work as inferior. In the introduction to his first collection, AP credited his wife, Cory PANSHIN (married 1969), as his collaborator on some of his stories, and announced that from 1975 all future work would be jointly signed. Much of the Panshins' joint criticism first appeared in Fantastic, and some of these pieces, along with others, appeared in SF in Dimension (coll 1976; exp 1980) as by both authors, as did Mondi interiori("Interior Worlds") (1978 Italy) which, it is understood, containedmaterial later developed by the Panshins into their Hugo-winning magnum opus, The World Beyond the Hill: Science Fiction and the Quest for Transcendence (1989), a massive and coherent history of sf whosesustaining argument - that sf answered the world's need for a transcendent domain through the creation of galactic venues and concerns beyond the "village" of Earth - made inevitable its narrative halt at the year 1945,just at the end of the GOLDEN AGE chaired by John W. CAMPBELL Jr. So clear a cognitive strategy may have engendered a too-ruthless clarity of view - and an all too simple acceptance of the notion of Progress - but the detailed exegeses of critically neglected writers like E.E. "Doc" SMITH and A.E. VAN VOGT are very much worth examining. In its close modelling of GENRE SF's view of its own development, the book was exemplary; by virtueof writing it the Panshins became US sf's house historians.
   JC

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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