Working name of US author Howard Allen Frances O'Brien Rice (1941- ), whose career as a prominent and esteemed producer of fantasy and horror fiction began with the first volume of the Vampire Chronicles sequence, Interview with the Vampire (1976), whose depiction of Vampire culture, and of individual vampire Antiheroes, proved very significant for that literature. Through complex veils of romanticism and eros (see Sex), her vampires soon came to be understood as representative existential icons of sexual and cultural alienation, despite enjoying Immortality and a good clothes sense, readings much strengthened in some subsequent volumes in the long series like The Vampire Lestat (1985) and The Queen of the Damned (1988), which are among the strongest works Rice has created. Later volumes varied in quality and intensity, providing little of sustained sf or even Science Fantasy interest, and lacking in sufficient edge or extroversion to register upon readers in terms of Fantastika. In Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis (2016), however, various inchoate threads laid down in previous instalments are assembled into a Myth of Origin [for this term and for Twice-Told below see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]: aeons earlier, Earth has been visited by Aliens known as Bravennans, who abduct Amel, a human, and modify him, through what may be something like Genetic Engineering, or perhaps simple cross-breeding; Amel eventually is responsible for the vampire strain of Homo sapiens. Much of the associated action takes place in Atlantis, a high-Technology enclave which the aliens have founded but do not inhabit. The doomed Island suffers its usual fate: it is blown up, sinks, and becomes a Lost World. The aliens, meanwhile, continue to feast off the anguish of mortal men and women (see Arrested Development): suffering being a nectar to which – James Tiptree Jr's Brightness Falls from the Air (1985) being perhaps the most famous previous example of the topos – they are addicted.
Little of Rice's other work has any sf interest. The Beauty sequence begins with The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty (1983) as by A N Roquelaure, which is described as "an erotic novel of tenderness and cruelty for the enjoyment of men and women"; after her 100 year sleep, Beauty is awakened by the Prince, who takes her to a vast spanking school, where princes and princesses have their buttocks reddened (though blood is not shed) in preparation for high office. Any elements of Twice-Told revisionism are taught, in the end, a sharp lesson. The Mayfair Witches Saga beginning with The Witching Hour (1990) – a Locus Award winner in the horror/dark fantasy novel category – focuses on a dynasty of witches, a strain whose contemporary embodiment, a famous neurosurgeon, finds herself via Timeslip and other occult connectivities involved in profound conflicts between good and evil principles as manifested familially. Rice no longer writes Christian fantasies (see Religion), through disagreements with the Catholic Church on social issues [none of them dealt with here, nor are they listed below].
The best of the individual novels, none of which are easily readable as sf, is probably The Mummy; Or, Ramses the Damned (1989), whose ancient Egyptian protagonist is aroused from Suspended Animation; this turns out not to have been his first Reincarnation; complications ensue after he falls desperately in love with an heiress while continuing to suffer from his involvement with Cleopatra and his despair at her suicide. Finding her mummy in Cairo, he overdoses the corpse with his elixir of Immortality, which transforms her into a grotesque Monster. Sex and revenge ensue, relatively compactly in this case, so that The Mummy very effectively concentrates and articulates Rice's eros-driven, intermittently transgressive universe. [JC]
see also: Music.
Howard Allen Frances O'Brien Rice
born New Orleans, Louisiana: 4 October 1941
- Interview with the Vampire (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1976) [Vampire Chronicles: hb/R D Scuellari]
- The Vampire Lestat: The Second Book in the Chronicles of the Vampires (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1985) [Vampire Chronicles: hb/Sara Eisenman from the Book of Hours]
- The Queen of the Damned: The Third Book in the Chronicles of the Vampires (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1988) [Vampire Chronicles: hb/Carol Devine Carson]
- The Tale of the Body Thief (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1992) [Vampire Chronicles: hb/Chip Kidd]
- Memnoch the Devil (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1995) [Vampire Chronicles: hb/Giovanni Busi Cariani]
- The Vampire Armand (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1998) [Vampire Chronicles: hb/from Sandro Botticelli]
- Merrick (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2000) [Vampire Chronicles: hb/from Henri Rousseau]
- Blood and Gold; Or, the Story of Marius (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2001) [Vampire Chronicles: hb/from Sandro Botticelli]
- Blackwood Farm (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2002) [Vampire Chronicles: hb/]
- Blood Canticle (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2003) [Vampire Chronicles: hb/from Domenichino]
- Prince Lestat (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2014) [Vampire Chronicles: hb/]
- Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2016) [Vampire Chronicles: hb/]
Mayfair Witches Saga
individual titles (selected)
about the author
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