Broderick, Damien

Tagged: Author | Editor | Critic

(1944-    ) Australian writer, editor and critic; he has a PhD in the semiotics of fiction, science and sf with special reference to the work of Samuel R Delany. He has edited four anthologies of Australian sf: The Zeitgeist Machine (anth 1977), Strange Attractors (anth 1985), Matilda at the Speed of Light (anth 1988) and Centaurus: The Best of Australian Science Fiction (anth 1999) with David G Hartwell. As a critic deeply involved in Postmodernism and SF and in attempts to reconcile academic understandings of the field with his own transparent love of the works themselves, he is well known for Transrealist Fiction: Writing in the Slipstream of Science (2000) and x, y, z, t: dimensions of science fiction (2004 pod), which can be read together as a kind of diptych of informed critical takes and thrusts. His most widely influential study, however, may be Reading by Starlight: Post-Modern Science Fiction (1995), where he introduced the term SF Megatext, taken over from fantasy criticism, to designate the pool – it might be described as a kind of global index – of story forms, terms, associations, turns of phrase, references, tropes and Memes that marks or stains almost every sf story written. The very rare story that may have been written with no conscious knowledge of this intricate conversation will probably reflect unconscious influences, and/or reinvent the wheel: that is, repeat sf situations and solutions already laid down, perhaps frequently (> Adam and Eve; Clichés). More recently, Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010 (2012) with Paul Di Filippo was written as a deliberate continuation of David Pringle's Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels: 1949-1984 (1985); some omissions and eccentric inclusions are justified by its authors' intelligent presentation of the texts selected. Their conviction that sf as literature continues to flourish shines throughout.

Broderick's first professionally published sf, "The Sea's Furthest End" (in New Writings in SF 1, anth 1964 ed John Carnell), much later formed the basis for his novel The Sea's Furthest End (1993). He has written short stories intermittently ever since, some to be found in A Man Returned (coll 1965) and The Dark Between the Stars: Speculative Fiction (coll 1991). His first novel was Sorcerer's World (1970); however, he hit his stride only with his second, The Dreaming Dragons: A Time Opera (1980), followed by The Judas Mandala (1982; rev 1990). Both books are crammed with ideas, and like The Black Grail (1986) – a far more complex and sophisticated rewrite of Sorcerer's World – depend upon elaborate plotting involving alternative timelines and temporal paradoxes (> Time Paradoxes). His work is indebted to structural Linguistics, and Noam Chomsky – apparently venerated by Broderick as a political radical and a universal grammarian – is offered explicit homage when Broderick names a future language in The Judas Mandala and a planet in Valencies (1983, with Rory Barnes) after him. The Judas Mandala is more explicitly influenced by French structuralism.

In his doctoral dissertation, Broderick subsequently critiqued some aspects of literary deconstruction, which he clearly saw as bizarre, championing in its stead what he described as a critical realism based on "the insistence of the empirical". His interested in postmodernism shapes his one mainstream novel, Transmitters (1984), a formidable but surprisingly funny book about sf fans (> Recursive SF); an entirely recast version of this tale, Quipu (2009), relocates the mise-en scène to a society obsessed with IQ measurements. Striped Holes (1988) reads like a comic version of The Dreaming Dragons or The Judas Mandala, with familiar temporal paradoxes and embedded plotting, but the style is classic sf comedy in the vein of Robert Sheckley or, perhaps, Kurt Vonnegut Jr in a good mood. His 1993 novel The Sea's Furthest End completed his Faustus Hexagram sequence, comprising also The Dreaming Dragons (a Ditmar Award winner), The Judas Mandala, Transmitters, The Black Grail and Striped Holes (also a Ditmar Award winner). Uncle Bones (coll 2009) assembles novellas, mostly early, and The Qualia Engine (coll 2011 pod) comprises mostly recent fiction. His nonfiction The Spike: Accelerating into the Unimaginable Future (1997) is a notable study of the hypothetical Singularity; further nonfiction includes Theory and Its Discontents (1997) and Ferocious Minds: Polymathy and the New Enlightenment (2005 pod).

The displaced, ironic, post-modernist cast of vision typical of Broderick's varied and sophisticated nonfiction also arguably informs his stories and novels, especially those – like the Faustus Hexagram books – gathered together, sometimes after the fact of publication, under quizzical metaphysical rubrics. And as in the Godplayers sequence – comprising Godplayers (2005) and K-Machines (2006) – the self-reflexivity of such work is sometimes signalled by the presence of at least one protagonist who may in some sense write, or have already written, the large story he musingly inhabits. Godplayers also exhibits, more fully than before, a propensity of critic-writers of the twenty-first century to embed their narratives in webs of association to previous works in the field; in this case, Roger Zelazny's Amber sequence is an obvious and clearly acknowledged source for Broderick's tale in which a vast net of siblings squabbles over a plethora of worlds bequeathed them by a not necessarily-absent father (> Godgame). Savingly, the implied author of Broderick's work, both fiction and nonfiction, tends to aspire not to the role of God the Father but Loki. In the most meritorious possible meaning of the appellation, Broderick is a prankster. [RuB/JC]

see also: Computers; Generation Starships; Intelligence; Time Opera; Virtual Reality.

Damien Francis Broderick

born Melbourne, Australia: 22 April 1944

died

works

series

Faustus Hexagram

Jack and the Aliens

  • Jack and the Aliens (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Word Weavers Press, 2002) [chap: Jack and the Aliens: pb/Ben Redich]
  • Jack and the Skyhook (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Word Weavers Press, 2003) [chap: Jack and the Aliens: pb/Ben Redich]

Godplayers

  • Godplayers (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2005) [Godplayers: pb/David Riedy]
  • K-Machines (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2006) [Godplayers: pb/David Riedy]

individual titles

nonfiction

works as editor

about the author

links

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