Saturday, September 7, 2013

Patricia Anthony (1947-2013)

Patricia Anthony (1947-2013)
This morning a terrible message from Gordon Van Gelder awaited me in my inbox: Locus Online was reporting that Patricia Anthony had died Aug. 2. It's bad enough that she's gone, but for it to take more than a month for her passing to be noticed is unconscionable. She was a writer of immense talent. Unfortunately, she had little interest in continuing to write traditional science fiction, and this did not sit well with her publisher, Ace. Her work grew progressively non-SF, moving into slipstream and what is now popularly known as the "New Weird." Her career, which had started out so strongly in the early 90s with Cold Allies and Brother Termite foundered later in the decade with the publication of God's Fires and Flanders, two books that were more metaphysical historicals than science fiction, but much more sophisticated and engrossing novels than her earlier efforts. Flanders tanked so badly that Anthony actually bought back her next novel, which she'd already delivered to Ace, rather than let the publisher cast it adrift with no support.

By Anthony's own account, Mercy's Children is a real departure, set in a Puritan colony in the New World and narrated by a gossipy guardian angle in faux Elizabethan English. "It is definitely not [science fiction] genre at all," she told me. "It's 843 pages of 'What was I thinking?' It's an outrageous book. I wanted to show that there are always other perspectives."

I'd encouraged her to seek out a publisher for Mercy's Children in 2006, feeling there's been enough editorial turnover at various publishers, along with a general shift in genre publishing that made the market more receptive to her envelope-pushing style, but she wasn't convinced. She indicated she'd been working on another book--along with some screenplay collaborations--but didn't go into details. I sincerely hope her estate pursues publication of her unpublished work, but as she was divorced with no children, I'm not sure who her heirs are.

In the years since, we stayed in contact until recently. When I published "The Makeover Men" on HelixSF back in 2007, she honored me with the following appraisal of the piece: "Oooooooooo. NICE and sick! Good writing, sneaky story." It wasn't until Gordon's letter this morning that I realized it'd been 2011 since I heard from her.

As fiction editor of RevolutionSF, I had the good fortune to publish two of Patricia's thought-provoking short fiction pieces: "Good Neighbor" and "Eating Memories". She was also the second author I ever interviewed. The original interview appeared in Interzone and has since been reprinted at SF Site: A Conversation with Patricia Anthony. I invite you to read them all, and gain a bit of insight on the extraordinary writer Patricia was.

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