BENFORD, Gregory


BENFORD, Gregory
(1941-)
   US physicist and writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma 1963 and gained his PhD from the University of California, San Diego, 1967; in 1971 he was appointed an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of California, Irvine, rising to full Professor in 1979. One of a pair of identical twins, he has written some stories in collaboration with his brother James. He edited a notable FANZINE, Void, with various co-editors including Ted WHITE and Terry CARR. His first published story was "Stand-In" (1965), which won second place in a contest organized by The MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION . He wrote regular articles on The Science in SF for AMAZING STORIES in collaboration with David Book 1969-72, continuing the series solo, somewhat less regularly, until 1976. GB has also written fiction as Sterling Blake.GB early established himself as a leading writer of HARD SF, although much of his writing also has a lyrical aspect reminiscent of the work of Poul ANDERSON. Some of his early work was with Gordon EKLUND, including the stories combined in If The Stars are Gods (fixup 1977), the title-piece of which won a NEBULA in 1975, and the less impressive Find the Changeling (1980). His DISASTER novel Shiva Descending (1980) with William ROTSLER also fails to convey the imaginative and cognitive energy of his solo work. However, Heart of the Comet (1986) with David BRIN has moments of shared power. He also undertook a curious "collaboration" with Arthur C. CLARKE: Beyond the Fall of Night * (omni 1990; vt Against the Fall of Night and Beyond the Fall of Night 1991 UK), an "authorised sequel" by GB alone to Clarke's Against the Fall of Night (1948; 1953); both versions of the tie include reprints of the earlier story. GB's sequel ignores Clarke's own subsequent revision of his novel as The City and the Stars (1956).GB's first solo novel was Deeper than the Darkness (1970; rev vt The Stars in Shroud 1978), one of many stories in which humanity's confrontation with ALIENS proves deeply disturbing. Another patchwork novel, IN THE OCEAN OF NIGHT (fixup 1977), became the foundation-stone of an extending series of novels, the Ocean sequence, whose titles all contain metaphorical references to water. The central character of IN THE OCEAN OF NIGHT, astronaut Nigel Walmsley, reappears in Across the Sea of Suns (1984; rev 1987), which introduces the theme of a Universe-wide struggle between organic and inorganic "lifeforms" in which self-replicating MACHINES appear to have the upper hand; this scenario is further developed in the Family Bishop sequence - comprising Great Sky River (1987),Tides of Light (1989) and Furious Gulf (1994) - and centring upon the forced flight of human Families towards a form of sanctuary in the heart of the galaxy, harassed all the while by the inorganic mech. Throughout the sequence, GB interestingly develops the concept of the Aspect, voluble though partial versions of human ancestors electronically stored within the minds of the living.GB achieved something of a breakthrough with TIMESCAPE (1980), which won both the Nebula and the JOHN W. CAMPBELL MEMORIAL AWARD. In its description of an attempt to change history by transmitting a tachyonic message across time it offers one of the best ever fictional descriptions of scientists at work. Another NEAR FUTURE, almost MAINSTREAM novel is Artifact (1985), in which archaeologists discover evidence of an alien visitation with almost catastrophic consequences. Against Infinity (1983) is pure sf in terms of its plot, which involves the search for an enigmatic alien on Ganymede, but its structure is strongly reminiscent of William Faulkner's novella "The Bear"; and the novella "To the Storming Gulf" (1985) contains strong echoes of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. Comments on these parallels by critic Gary K. WOLFE caused some controversy. Chiller (1993) as by Sterling Blake is again a near future tale, in this case involving CRYONICSand a fanatic serial killer whose mission it is to prevent people from preserving their minds.The best of GB's short fiction is collected in In Alien Flesh (coll 1986) and Matter's End (coll 1994). He has co-edited a number of anthologies with Martin Harry GREENBERG: Hitler Victorious (anth 1986) (HITLER WINS), Nuclear War (anth 1988), What Might Have Been? Vol I: Alternate Empires (anth 1989), Vol II: Alternate Heroes (anth 1989) - these two assembled as What Might Have Been, Volumes I and II (omni 1990) -and Vol III: Alternate Wars (anth 1991). All but the second feature stories of ALTERNATE WORLDS.
   BS
   Other works: Jupiter Project (1975; rev vt The Jupiter Project 1980), an intelligent Robert A. HEINLEIN-esque juvenile; Time's Rub (1984 chap); Of Space/Time and the River (1985 chap); At the Double Solstice (1986 chap); We Could Do Worse (1988 chap); Iceborn (1989 Synergy 3 as "Proserpina's Daughter" by GB alone; 1989 chap dos) with Paul A. CARTER; Centigrade 233 (1990 chap); Matter's End (1991 chap).

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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