The following posts include (1) "footnotes" for The Doris Piserchia Website (link at left), (2) texts-in-process that will eventually appear there, (3) texts from other websites, and (we hope) (4) stimulating discussion threads. The picture to the left is the back cover of The Spinner (book club edition), depicting a citizen of Eastland "hanging out" while Ekler the cop and Rune the idiot-superman look on.
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More new Doris Piserchia related pages on the Internet: a page listing works of hers that were translated into French (mostly short stories or serialized novels in Galaxy and the like--but not Earthchild or Star Rider, which we know were in French because we have covers), and a page on a German feminist sf site [update: this appears to be gone now], which links to our interview and main page here. Also, this isn't new, but there is also a page listing two books translated into Dutch: Jade Van De Sterren (Jade of the Stars?--Star Rider in the US) and Reee (Earthchild). Eventually I'll get the Dutch covers up in the cover gallery.
Another French cover surfaces: Cavalière des étoiles (Star Rider). Go, '70s earth mama! Other news: SF Site is now linking here in its list of author pages - P. Also, a Russian site. Lastly, I added a chapter from Earth in Twilight to the Excerpts page. That page is really critical as far as snaring potential new readers, and it's been weak. This new addition gives a good feel for the rhythm of DP's writing, I think, which is so hard to capture in excerpts.
UPDATE: Added the French Star Rider cover to the first page of the book cover gallery.
Here is the new last paragraph of the Blood County review (still fiddling with this):
Blood County is a ripping yarn that thrills and keeps readers guessing as the author reveals one facet after another of her clever rethinking of the vampire myth. The action is nonstop, with none of the florid passages bogging down Anne Rice novels--as vampire Faulkner it's closer to the lurid pulp of Sanctuary than the lofty experimentalism of The Sound and the Fury--as well as memorably spooky images: the face of a recently dead woman pressed against a screen door, staring into a dark room where the living are sleeping; a five year old vampire nipping at the legs of an old drunk until he's dreened. The book implicitly condemns Appalachian provincialism, and unhealthy political systems the world over, but also carries a hefty emotional tug, since the author is semi-autobiographically revisiting the world of her girlhood. It's a bit sad that she's telling a tale, near the end of her writing career, of a smart man who leaves the sick, hick town of his birth, to start a new life in the big city (as Piserchia did), only be drawn back there till the end of time. Woven in with all the fun and mayhem is a subtle statement, perhaps, on the difficulties of transcending roots and class in America: think It's a Wonderful Life with a bloodsucking George Bailey doomed to make the best of his own hillbilly Bedford Falls.
I'm having some late thoughts on Blood County, specifically about my conclusion:
Strangely, there's almost no subtext (this is true of many of Piserchia's books). Yes, there is an implied condemnation of Appalachian provincialism (and unhealthy political systems the world over), and a certain emotional tug that comes from an author revisiting the world of her girlhood.Big point I missed, considering the semi-autobiographical aspect of the book: how despairing is it that Clint tries to leave the sick, hick town he grew up in, to start a new life as a teacher in the big city, only be drawn back to Blood County till the end of time? What is Piserchia saying about the difficulties of transcending roots and class in America? Or about her own fears and frustrations trying to make the same kind of transition Clint did? It's something many of us can relate to: Clint as a kind of bloodsucking George Bailey, doomed to make the best of his own hillbilly Bedford Falls. I should add something about this to the review.
Thanks to Nathan Shumate for letting me reprint this (see link below).
I don't know how the term "second-rate" developed into a pejorative. After all, everything can't be the best in its class, or the term "best" would lose all meaning.
In this sense, then, Earth in Twilight is a second-rate science fiction novel. Its premise and execution is inventive and creative, but it cuts corners in the elements of human drama that should rightfully form its core, especially as it flirts so much with the idea of what it means to be human.
In the far-flung future, humanity has abandoned the over-polluted Earth and settled on a dozen other terraformable worlds, rarely giving the ancestral homeland a second thought. Finally, though, a mission is put together to exfoliate the huge flora and fauna that have grown up over the millennia, making the Earth itself a candidate for custom terraforming at some later point. A two-man expedition is sent to rubber-stamp what the historical record and long-range scans show, i.e., that there's no human life left on Earth.
Except there is.
One astronaut bites it immediately (more on that later); the survivor, Burgoyne, discovers a world overflowing with life, and some of it is recognizably human, or at least human-ish. The inhabitants who discover Burgoyne are green-tinted and absorb water through their skins; they droop when the sun goes down. They are plant people, the likely result of careless tampering with nature in the last days of normative humanity's residence on Earth. Burgoyne simply doesn't want to accept them as human, because that would mean that he would be honor-bound to do his best to scuttle Project Deep Green; and since he knows his superiors intended his mission to be more of a formality than an honest fact-finding mission, he knows he won't be able to stop the destruction.
Such a storyline, while possessing some novelty, isn't overwhelmingly original, nor is it given the depth that it could reasonably accomodate. Burgoyne simply remains in denial while encountering all of the novelties of the planet, and when his change of heart comes, it gets such little mention on the page that it practically happens off-stage.
What raises the novel up from the levels of incipient mediocrity is the novelty with which Piserchia has populated this new Earth. The spaceship first lands on one of the great towers which sticks out from the surface clear into empty space (there are so many of them that the planet is described as a ball of yarn with knitting needles stuck through it), constructed so that once-common spacecraft could dispense with all the added resources necessary in being re-entry-worthy, and instead just disgorge their passengers at the top of the tower, where spacious elevators would trundle them to the surface over the course of a couple of days. Unfortunately, the tower has evolved its own inhabitants, and one of them eats Burgoyne's partner as soon as he leaves the ship. The creature in question, though, is not merely a mindless monster. He's named Whing, and not only is his species moderately intelligent (enough so to argue matters of adultery with his mate), but thanks to a freak accident in one of the abandoned medical labs of the tower, he got a piece of freeze-dried human brain tissue lodged in his head and thinks he's a human. This leads to his insistence that his mate produce a live child for him instead of the eggs she keeps churning out, and his disappointment when the spaceship apparently has no "humans" aboard, but only these little worms of which he ate one. I think Whing may be my favorite character here.
In fact, there are several semi-intelligent species in evidence here (and as usual, the evidence is in the form of discussions and arguments about marital faithfulness), as well as a couple of different social arrangements among the human tribes, from a group of woman-haters (who all have secret wives and children hidden out in the woods away from the village) to a tribe which believes that any acknowledgement of gender, even in the animal kingdom, is terriby gauche and offensive.
There's also Peru, a three million-year-old bit of bacterial disease which achieved sentience somewhere along the way and, after finally figuring out how to travel with an ambulatory host, has made it his mission to use his powers of instant infection and putrefaction to wipe out all other life on Earth -- and, when he meets Burgoyne, he extends that mission to the inhabited planets out there.
It's an inventive little novel, which could have benefited from an extra fifty pages delving deeper into the substance under the novelty. But it gets high marks for imagination and intelligent humor.
--Nathan Shumate, 2003, from Disposable Lit. Reviews.