SHEPARD, Lucius
(1947-)
   US writer about whose first appearances in print there has been some confusion, due to the fact that he is credited with 4 stories and 4 articles in Collins Magazine (various retitled Collins, the Magazine to Grow Up With and Collins Young Elizabethan) between 1952 and 1955, thefirst short story thus credited being "Camp Greenville" in 1953; it is understood that a family member may have placed these stories under LS's name (he would otherwise need to be described as an author of noticeably competent short stories from the age of 6). LS's first acknowledged work was POETRY, and his first book was a poem, Cantata of Death, Weakmind \& Generation (1967 chap); he began to publish adult prose fictions of genreinterest only with "The Taylorsville Reconstruction" for Universe 13 (anth 1983) ed Terry CARR. Between the mid-1960s and the beginning of the 1980s,LS lived in various parts of the world, travelled widely, became - according to his own testimony - marginally and incompetently involved in the fringes of the international drug trade, and in about 1972 started a rock band which went through various incarnations over the following years. Some of the experiences of this long apprenticeship are directly reflected in stories like "A Spanish Lesson" (1985); but the abiding sense of authority generated by all his best work depends upon the born exile's passionate fixation on place. It is no accident that - aside from the Latin American MAGIC-REALIST tradition whose influence upon him is oftensuggested - the writer whom LS seems at times most to resemble is Joseph CONRAD, for both authors respond to the places of the world withimaginative avarice and a hallucinated intensity of portrayal; both create deeply alienated protagonists whose displacement from the venues in which they live generates constant ironies and regrets; and both tend to subordinate mundane resolutions of plot to moments of terminal, deathly transcendence. None of this constitutes a necessary or sufficient description of an sf writer; and certainly, despite his aesthetic influence on the genre in the years since his explosive debut (for which he received a JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD in 1985), LS is not at heart an sf writer.His first novel, however, is as much sf as horror. In Green Eyes (1984) a research organization in the US Deep South has successfullycreated zombies by injecting cadavers with bacteria from a graveyard. As an sf premise, this is unconvincing; but LS presents the transformation of dead bodies into representative human archetypes, and the escape of one of them into bayou country, with a gripping closeness of touch; the transcendental epiphany at the end, already characteristic of his work, also tests true. His second novel, Life during Wartime (fixup 1987), similarly embeds sf elements - a 21st-century setting, advanced forms of drug manipulation - into a Latin American venue which, essentially, absorbs these elements in a horrified, dense presentation of a Vietnam WAR conducted, this time, in the Western Hemisphere. "R \& R" (1986), which won a NEBULA, shapes the first part of the book; and a hallucinated, obsessed journey into the heart of darkness in search of underlying transcendence dominates its last sections. Kallimantan (1990 UK) evokes, with extreme vividness, Conrad himself as well as Graham Greene (1904-1991) in another transcendental heart-of-darkness tale, set this time in Borneo and featuring at its centre a not altogether convincing transference to an sf ALTERNATE WORLD.LS continues to be most successful at novelette/novellalength, and several of the longer tales assembled in THE JAGUAR HUNTER (coll 1987; with 1 story cut and 3 added, rev 1988 UK; cut 1989 US) andThe Ends of the Earth (coll 1991) are among the finest FABULATIONS composed by a US writer in recent years; he won a 1993 HUGO Best Novella Award for"Barnacle Bill the Spacer" (1992). A story sequence - "The Manwho Painted the Dragon Griaule" (1984) plus 2 novellas, The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daughter (1988) and The Father of Stones (1988) - makes the sameuse of the devices of high fantasy that the full-length novels made of sf: as material to massage into thematic compost, in the heart of which dark epiphanies may be viewed and embraced, perhaps at the cost of death. LS has clearly felt comfortable with sf, as he uses it; and the genre has benefited from the publication of a dozen tales which assimilate sf into a wider imaginative world. At the time of writing, however, there is some sense that two ships may have passed in the night.
   JC
   About the author: A Checklist of Lucius Shepard (1991 chap) by Tom Joyce and Christopher P. STEPHENS.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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