Goldstein, Lisa

Tagged: Author

(1953-    ) US writer who began writing work of genre interest with The Red Magician (1982), a fantasy based on Hungarian motifs and venues and set during the Holocaust; it won the American Book Award for that year. With considerable intensity, and in a style which treats sf and fantasy material through a Magic-Realist looking-glass, Goldstein has since then consistently submitted her protagonists – who are in any case generally alienated from mainstream life – to deeply alienating venues which are themselves threatened with radical transformation. The Dream Years (1985) – alternating sequences of which are set in a 1920s Paris succumbing to the tenets of Surrealism, and at the crisis point of the Events of 1968 – is a Timeslip romance which conflates the artistic movement for a transformed reality with the later moment in history when it seemed, for an instant, that the world might shift. A Mask for the General (1987), set in a Dystopian twenty-first-century USA, depicts an opposition between the General who rules the land and the mask-makers who tap tribal depths, who create totem visages for their friends and enemies, and who wish to transform the General into one of them, human again, no longer alienated. The alienation suffered by the protagonists of Tourists (1989; rev 1994) – which is unconnected to an early short story, "Tourists" (February 1985 Asimov's) – is superficially more conventional, for the land of Amaz in which they find themselves caught – as emissaries of a USA which represents a version of reality no longer valid in this new world – seems at first glance no more than a typical Middle Eastern backdrop. But the US family's search for a 1000-year-old document of seeming archaeological interest swerves dizzyingly into an attempt to trace a course between two converging topologies of reality, and to survive the clash. Though readable in sf terms, Tourists displays much of the same feel for the labyrinth of the Orient that found more fantastic expression in The Arabian Nightmare (1983) by Robert Irwin (1946-    ). Some of Goldstein's relatively few short sf stories were assembled in Daily Voices (coll 1989), and her short fantasy stories were assembled in Travelers in Magic (coll 1994).

Since the early 1990s Goldstein has concentrated on fantasy. Strange Devices of the Sun and Moon (1993) is a Fantasy of Manners [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] set in Elizabethan times, but she is perhaps stronger when she admixes fantasy and horror tropes with some of the luminousness of Magic Realism in contemporary venues. Walking the Labyrinth (1996) and Dark Cities Underground (1999) both incorporate family romance, magic, British venues, and inspissated London setpieces. The Alchemist's Door (2002) places John Dee in Prague, where he meets Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel (1512-1609), the Maharal of Prague, and together they work on creating a Golem. A tendency to frustrate genre expectations in complicated but anecdotal plotting is partially corrected in the Daughter of Exile sequence of high fantasies as by Isabel Glass, Daughter of Exile (2004) and The Divided Crown (2005), especially in the latter. Goldstein's return to the contemporary world would, all the same, be welcome. Her Alternate History story "Paradise Is a Walled Garden" (August 2011 Asimov's) won a Sidewise Award. [JC]

see also: Arts; Time Travel.

Lisa Goldstein

born Los Angeles, California: 21 November 1953

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