Anthony, Patricia

Tagged: Author

(1947-2013) US teacher and author who began publishing sf with "Blood Brothers" for Aboriginal, February/March 1987. Her first published – though fourth completed – novel, Cold Allies (1993), aroused considerable interest for its fast and sophisticated plotting; its hard-nosed liberal take on the moral quagmires that complicate human actions during a Near Future Lebensraum war – between the Old West and the seemingly ascendant land-hungry Moslem world – that serves as its setting and ostensible subject; and for its subtly ambiguous presentation of the eponymous Aliens, who may be feeders on the sufferings of other species, or who may simply be tourists, or who may be potential friends-in-need for a human race that has come near the end of its – and its planet's – tether. Under the last reading, Anthony's cold allies fit with remarkable neatness into any analysis of late-century sf as evolving from the triumphalism of "First SF" into a sobered set of ruminations on the human race's need to marry out if it is to survive the next century. It may be for this reason that some of her tales evoke something of the atmosphere of the UFO meta-narrative, which has long incorporated – in terms very difficult for sf writers and readers to accept – broad hints that forced Exogamy may be in store for the race. Perhaps even more impressive in its cold, enclosed vision of humanity, is Brother Termite (1993), which again uses alien visitors (see also Hive Minds) as complex mirrors that reflect behaviours – genetic exigencies have forced them into a ruthlessly manipulative treatment of humans as expendable "partners", rather like women – to suggest a variety of surmises about the nature of human actions. The story itself – which involves some glancing satire on contemporary life and politics, and on human obsession with UFOs and other True-Believer diseases of the psyche – is both complex and neat.

Conscience of the Beagle (1993) – third published but first written – is a less impressive tale set on a planet inhabited by fundamentalist Christians and infested by terrorism; but Happy Policeman (1994) continues impressively Anthony's scrutiny of human beings and human cultures through interactions with various visiting Alien beings and cultures (all her novels take place on some version or other of Earth). In this case, a Parallel World reality is created for a small Texas town, and within this enclave aliens study human society, here much intensified through isolation (see Pocket Universe), through fundamentalist Christian chicaneries, and through Anthony's use of a murder-mystery plot to upset the nest of folk. Anthony's final two novels to date continue and intensify her efforts to dramatize focus; indeed, all her work can be said to constitute a series of explorations of focus. God's Fires (1997), a First Contact tale set in a Portugal on the cusp of Reformation, savagely depicts the effects of the Inquisition upon a small community which has (the reader is aware) been visited by Aliens whose ship has crash-landed. Nearly every being in the novel, except those wielding theocratic power, is Tortured, usually to death. Flanders (1998) is set in the trenches in World War One, though the anguish is lightened marginally by the flickering presence of a ghost. That this novel, which fruitfully inhabits more than one mode simultaneously (see Equipoise; Slipstream), would be Anthony's last published book seems to point to the difficulty many late-twentieth-century authors had in making mature use of the vast armamentarium of the fantastic in a publishing environment inimical to the difficulty and dangerousness of equipoisal tales about a very rapidly changing world.

A significant selection of Anthony's short fiction, which is generally less intense than her full-length works, is assembled as Eating Memories (coll 1997). [JC]

Patricia Marie Anthony

born San Antonio, Texas: 29 March 1947

died reported 2 August 2013

works

  • Cold Allies (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993) [hb/Craig Stuart Rosenberg]
  • Brother Termite (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1993) [hb/Craig Stuart Rosenberg]
  • Conscience of the Beagle (Woburn, Wisconsin and Newark, New Jersey: First Books, 1993) [hb/Cortney Skinner]
  • Happy Policeman (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1994) [hb/Stephen Cooley]
  • Cradle of Splendor (New York: Ace Books, 1996) [hb/Mark Smollin]
  • God's Fires (New York: Ace Books, 1997) [hb/Maureen Troy]
  • Eating Memories (Baltimore, Maryland: Old Earth Books, 1997) [coll: hb/Lissane Lake]
  • Flanders (New York: Ace Books, 1998) [hb/Diane Fenster]

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