John Clute's entry on Doris Piserchia in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is online and has been tweaked slightly from its original wording in print. Besides the addition of distracting links to other tagged content (yes, we know what "Aliens" are) there is a slight harshening of the assessment of Piserchia's later work.

The last sentence now reads:

In her self-consciousness, and in the sense she conveys that landscape drowns action (rather than vice versa), Piserchia seemed for a period very much a member of the US New Wave; but her later works lacked some the bounteous energy of the earlier work, she stopped publishing in 1983, and there was no further development in a career that had flourished, absorbingly, for only a decade.

Whereas it used to read:

In her self-consciousness, and in the sense she conveys that landscape drowns action (rather than vice versa), DP seemed for a period very much a member of the U. S. new wave; but she has not published since 1983, and the course of her further development cannot properly be guessed.

At the time of the original entry Clute didn't know if Piserchia would write again and possibly didn't want to come down too hard on the late work. At the time of re-writing he knew it was over and decided to assess which phase had more "bounteous energy." It's almost as if he counted the cessation of writing against her, though, creating a "flame sputtering to darkness" narrative. I don't agree with that: The Spinner, Doomtime, and the Selby books are among her best, and they all came at the end.

Having recently re-read Doomtime and Earthchild, I see what Clute means about the work's coyness (an adjective he uses in both entries). It's not so much cuteness as a lack of seriousness about telling a real story. Sometimes the narratives lose credibility as say, bickering characters have a conversation that seems more like the author talking to herself because, what the hell, no one is reading this. Philip K Dick did that, too, and when it works it's subversive. At any rate, I recall such passages in all phases of Piserchia's writing (for example, conversations with Sheen in A Billion Days of Earth), not just the late novels.


- tom moody 3-25-2013 2:07 pm




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