Pseudonym of US author Rebecca Bard Brown (1948- ), who began publishing sf with "Projectile Weapons and Wild Alien Water" for Amazing in May 1986; many of her stories, which are strong and varied, appear in Alien Bootlegger and Other Stories (coll 1993), though she probably remains best known for the Becoming Alien Trilogy, Becoming Alien (1988), Being Alien (1989) and Human to Human (1990). With a deceptive air of leisureliness, the sequence uproots a young rural Virginian named Tom from the provincial backwaters of xenophobic Earth to another planet where, as the solitary human among a multitude of other races, he is trained to join, on behalf of Earth, the Federation of Space Traveling Systems (see Galactic Empires) A very wide range of Aliens is introduced in a concise but seemingly disorganized cataloguing style which has reminded critics of Stanley G Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" (July 1934 Wonder Stories); but, as the sequence progresses, the momentum of the tale builds, and Ore's apparently scattershot concisions turn out to have been carefully meditated. The end sense, as Tom grows into knowledge of himself and of his prejudice-stricken fellow humans, is one of complexities experienced.
More immediately impressive, perhaps, is a singleton, The Illegal Rebirth of Billy the Kid (1991), in which a CIA specialist in DNA-recombinant engineering (see Genetic Engineering) creates a Clone – or chimera – of Billy the Kid whose "memories" of the nineteenth century have been programmed into his blank brain, and whose Perceptions are controlled by a "nineteenth-century visual matrix" that causes him to read the twenty-first-century world (see Virtual Reality) in terms of Billy's own experiences. He is then rented out as a Sex toy, afterwards being subject to Memory Edits to keep him fresh for new clients. The story of this chimera's slow and anguished climb into self-awareness – from a state of recursion that the original William Bonney, who collaborated with a Dime Novel writer to create his own persona, also inhabited – and of his escape to a rural Appalachian theme-parked reservation, is swift and urgently dense in the telling, fragilely hopeful in its implications. As of 1991, Ore herself lived in Appalachia, and the sustained ironies available to the inhabitant of a contrived sanctuary enrich an already rich text, which is also of interest for its insertion of Western Icons into a Near Future New York setting, a dynamic conveyed visually only in the hardback issue of this tale [see Checklist below].
Slow Funeral (1994) is a contemporary fantasy which evocatively crosshatches supernatural material into the American scene, envisioned here as darkly as in her sf, which continues with what may be her finest individual work, Gaia's Toys (1995), set in a distant Near Future America, a devastated, environmentally degraded, authoritarian Dystopia organized so as to oppress and humiliate the unprivileged, who comprise the vast majority of a world where Technology has begun to fail and scarcity once again to reign (see Ecology; Politics). As in Billy the Kid, the protagonist's Identity is split and threatened and mocked; she is raped more than once (see Sex), and is involuntarily seconded – after being subjected to savage interrogations perhaps crueller than those found in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) (see Crime and Punishment) – into working as a government agent in a war against terrorism. The terrorists in this instance are convinced that through Genetic Engineering killer creatures can be shaped into defenders of a supine Gaia. There is a modestly uplifting ending, not entirely convincing.
In her later work, Ore has replicated the concerns of her best early novels, though with some sense that her energies – or her sense of the possibility of a hopeful outcome for the planet – have somewhat slackened. Outlaw School (2000) is set in an even more defective world-system than Gaia's Toys, where a universal Stasi-like spy network has infiltrated private lives, and the Girl Guides, who have been renamed the Judicious Girls, report all deviant behaviour to the government. Time's Child (2007) steps sideways from some of the darker implications of the Near Future, though at the cost of importing some over-complicated Time Travel tropes into her tale. The two protagonists – one who knew Leonardo da Vinci, the other on good terms with Loki – are yanked by Time Machine into the maelstrom of Near Future America, where they thrive. The plot thickens, with Changewar contortions, as agents from different potential futures attempt to ensure their world's survival. But even this tale demonstrates its author's constant command of story and high intelligence. Ore is not writing at the moment, however, for a market that relishes the news she brings. [JC]
Rebecca Bard Brown
born Louisville, Kentucky: 1948
Becoming Alien Trilogy
- Becoming Alien (New York: Tor, 1988) [in the Ben Bova's Discoveries sequence: Becoming Alien Trilogy: pb/Doug Beekman]
- Being Alien (New York: Tor, 1989) [in the Ben Bova Presents sequence: Becoming Alien Trilogy: pb/Wayne Barlowe]
- Human to Human (New York: Tor, 1990) [in the Ben Bova Presents sequence: Becoming Alien Trilogy: pb/Wayne Barlowe]
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