(1939-2020) US author, former data-systems analyst and sequentially a Russian linguist and ICBM launch-crew commander to the US Air Force; he was also a semiprofessional photographer. After some poetry, released privately as Shards from Byzantium (coll 1969 chap) and The Vaseline Dreams of Hundifer Jones (coll 1970 chap), he began to publish sf with the ambitious Ler trilogy about a race of Supermen created by Genetic Engineering whose social structure is built around a form of line marriage here called a braid. The Gameplayers of Zan (1977), a very long novel formally constructed on the model of an Elizabethan tragedy, describes a period of climactic tension between the ler and the rest of humanity, and is set on Earth. The Warriors of Dawn (1975), published first but set later, is a more conventional Space Opera in which a human male and a ler female are forced to team up to try to solve a complexly ramifying problem of interstellar piracy. The Day of the Klesh (1979) brings the ler and the eponymous race of humans together on a planet where they must solve their differences. The books – later assembled as The Book of the Ler (omni 2006) – are slow in the telling, but impressively detailed in their construction of ler culture and language. The Morphodite/Transformer sequence which followed comprises The Morphodite (1981), Transformer (1983) and Preserver (1985), all three assembled as The Transformer Trilogy (omni 2006), and similarly uses forms of meditative Shapeshifting to buttress complex plots, though in this case the alternately male or female, revolution-fomenting, protagonist dominates the tale as assassin, trickster and Superman. The narrative diction is intermittently reminiscent of Jack Vance.
Waves (1980) rather sluggishly recalls Stanisław Lem's Solaris (1961) in a tale of political intrigue on a planet whose ocean is intelligent. The four novellas collected in Owl Time (coll 1985) are told in challengingly various modes, and derive strength from their mutual contrast. For his decade of activity, Foster seemed constantly at the verge of breaking through into a major career; but although his existing work remained of considerable interest, he fell silent after 1985. [JC]
see also: Living Worlds; Planetary Romance.
Michael Anthony Foster
born Greensboro, North Carolina: 2 July 1939
died 14 November 2020
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