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tom moody

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Joanna Pataki and I recently launched a web site devoted to the writer Doris Piserchia. She (Doris) labored in the salt mines of science fiction from 1966-1983 (although her work was actually too quirky and fascinating to be so easily pigeonholed) and then dropped out of sight after a family tragedy. She denies it, but several of her books were aimed squarely at precocious teenagers (girls in particular), and she acquired some lifetime fans as they grew up to become teachers, software writers, and--judging by some of the writing I've found--feminist book critics. Other of her novels might be described as sociological or biological horror, addressing issues of urbanization, dehumanization, and science-run-amok in a droll, "black comedy" style. As an artist, I was drawn to her writing because of her incredible visual imagination: if Bosch were a writer rather than a painter, this is what he might produce.

Toward the end of her string of 13 novels, she published two books under a man's name (Curt Selby). One website we link to (Strange Words) makes a big deal of this fact, like she had to conform to the male standards of the Science Fiction Publishing Conspiracy or else get kneecapped, or something. In the interview we conducted with her, Piserchia refuses to play the victim--she says "Don Wollheim [of DAW Books] published four of my books that year. He wanted another name." According to Piserchia, she was on a roll in '82, scouting for new markets; she chose the name "Curt Selby" (an ancestor), and the books she wrote under it are just as eccentric and uncompromising as the rest of her production. With 20/20 hindsight, it might look like she was caving in to an adolescent-male-driven market, but if she had continued writing under her own name (as she apparently had every intention of doing) and eventually pushed through to broader recognition (with a movie deal or whatever), who's to say how history might have viewed the Selby decision?

In any event, the site is a work-in-progress; we'll be adding to it, to give a better, fuller picture of the writer than what's there now. We welcome all feedback. With the advent of online bookselling, used copies of Piserchia's books aren't that hard to come by: I recommend Doomtime, The Spinner, Earth in Twilight, and Selby's I, Zombie for starters.

Once again, here's the link to the website.

- Tom Moody 2-21-2001 8:06 pm [link] [6 comments]