Silverberg, Robert

Tagged: Author | Editor | Fan

(1935-    ) US writer, extremely prolific author of more than one hundred sf books, a large number of nonfiction books (not always under his own name) and a great deal of other work, including an estimated two hundred erotic novels as by Don Elliott [see Checklist for an example] and other undisclosed pseudonyms [these and other books of no sf interest are omitted from the Checklist]; he has also edited or co-edited more than seventy anthologies. He began to write while studying for his BA at Columbia University, where he continued an involvement in sf Fandom; his first professionally published story was "Gorgon Planet" for Nebula in February 1954, though his first actual sale was "The Sacred River" for Lilith Lorraine's little magazine The Avalonian in 1952; his first novel, a Young Adult tale, was Revolt on Alpha C (1955). By 1956 he had begun to publish prolifically – forty-nine sf stories in that year alone, work whose obvious quality immediately won him a Hugo as Most Promising New Author – and continued to specialize in the Genre SF that had shaped him for three more years. He worked for the Ziff-Davis stable, producing wordage at assembly-line speed for Amazing Stories and Fantastic, and was a prolific contributor to such magazines as Science Fiction Adventures and Super-Science Fiction, using many different names. For part of this time Randall Garrett was a partner in this "fiction factory"; they wrote in collaboration as Robert Randall, Gordon Aghill and Ralph Burke (Silverberg also used the Burke pseudonym on solo work). The most important pseudonyms which Silverberg used exclusively were Calvin M Knox and David Osborne; he also wrote sf as Calvin Aaargh (> Science-Fiction Five-Yearly), T D Bethlen, Dirk Clinton, Dan Elliot, Ivar Jorgenson (a variant spelling of the floating pseudonym Ivar Jorgensen), Dan Malcolm, Webber Martin, Alex Merriman, George Osborne, Eric Rodman, Hall Thornton and Richard F Watson. He additionally appeared under such Ziff-Davis House Names as Robert Arnette, Alexander Blade, E K Jarvis, Warren Kastel and S M Tenneshaw; Blade and Tenneshaw were used also on collaborations with Garrett, as were Richard Greer, Clyde Mitchell, Leonard G Spencer and Gerald Vance; some of this material was assembled as A Little Intelligence (coll 2009) with Randall Garrett. Early stories by Silverberg writing solo have appeared in various collections, though he has never allowed the whole of this early material to be gathered together in any of his various retrospective assemblies. Collections focusing on this work include Next Stop the Stars (coll 1962 dos), Godling, Go Home! (coll 1964), To Worlds Beyond: Stories of Science Fiction (coll 1965), Needle in a Timestack (coll 1966; rev 1967), The Calibrated Alligator and Other Science Fiction Stories (coll 1969), Dimension Thirteen (coll 1969) and Valley Beyond Time (coll 1973). These titles were generally allowed to go out of print; later retroactive assemblies include In the Beginning: Tales from the Pulp Era (coll 2006) and various volumes incorporated into either the first or the second of two recent sequences both published under the same series surtitle, The Collected Short Stories of Robert Silverberg [see Checklist for titles and details of their complicated bibliography]. He wrote one story in collaboration with his first wife Barbara. The Mutant Season (in Androids, Time Machines and Blue Giraffes, anth 1973, ed Robert Elwood and Vic Ghidalia; exp 1989), developed from one of his short stories by his second wife (from 1987) Karen Haber, was published as a collaboration. Later volumes in what became the Fire in Winter sequence were by Haber alone.

The most notable full-length fictions from Silverberg's early period are Master of Life and Death (1957 dos), a novel dealing with institutionalized measures to combat Overpopulation, Invaders from Earth (1958 dos), a drama of political corruption involved with the Colonization of Ganymede, and Recalled to Life (June-August 1958 Infinity; 1962; rev 1972), which investigates the social response to a method of reviving the newly dead. The Nidor series, which he wrote with Garrett as Robert RandallThe Shrouded Planet (stories June-December 1956 Astounding; fixup 1957) and The Dawning Light (March-May 1957 Astounding; 1959) – interestingly depicts an Invasion of Aliens planning Uplift activities from the view of the affected Nidorians: the aliens turn out to be us. Tales like Stepsons of Terra (April 1958 Science Fiction Adventures as "Shadow on the Stars"; 1958 dos) or Invaders from Earth (February 1958 Science Fiction Quarterly as "We, the Marauders"; exp 1958 dos) or The Seed of Earth (September 1957 Venture as "The Winds of Siros"; exp June 1962 Galaxy; further exp 1962 dos) or The Silent Invaders (October 1958 Infinity as by Calvin M Knox; exp 1963 dos; exp as coll 1985) or The Planet Killers (August 1957 Science Fiction Adventures as "This World Must Die!" as by Ivar Jorgenson; exp 1958 dos) are demonstrably competent, but just as demonstrably routine; and the bibliographical maze – created through title changes, revisions and repackagings, and pseudonym switches – seems at times almost deliberately confusing. In any case, as the magazine market began to shrink, in 1959 Silverberg virtually abandoned sf for some years. The majority of the sf books he published 1960-1966 were rewritten from work originally done in 1957-1959, though the World's Fair 1992 sequence comprising Regan's Planet (1964) and World's Fair, 1992 (1970) was original work; the eponymous exposition planned in the first volume and explored in the second is interestingly located on a vast Space Station. Despite the occasional exceptions, however, Silverberg virtually abandoned sf for some years after as the magazine market began to shrink in 1959. His output had been prodigious to this point, but somewhat mechanical, except for a handful of nonfiction books – notably The Golden Dream (1967) and Mound-Builders of Ancient America (1968) – which were painstakingly researched and carefully written. He would never write fiction again at this rate.

A new phase of Silverberg's career, in which for the first time he brought the full range of his skills and intellect to bear on sf, began around 1967 and ended in the mid-1970s. Along with the sixty or so stories written during this period, the twenty-three novels published in these years comprise (with a few routine exceptions) the creative and career summa of perhaps the most concentratedly intelligent and controlled writer the field had yet seen. There is no easy default Silverberg story from this period to point to as exemplary, as his story-types are so various and superficially dissimilar: perhaps the closest it is possible to come is to suggest that that default story – "Schwartz Between the Galaxies" (in Stellar #1, anth 1974, ed Judy-Lynn del Rey) is representative – depicts a man of flattened affect and solitary soul who is enmeshed in a world of great present complexity but whose sense of that world is fatally retrospective, vitiating his sense of Identity. With only occasional exceptions, whatever happens in a tale or novel of Silverberg's great years happens too late (> Entropy).

Titles of significance from the late 1960s include Thorns (1967), a stylized novel of alienation and psychic Vampirism, and Hawksbill Station (August 1967 Galaxy; exp 1968; vt The Anvil of Time 1969), in which political exiles are sent back in time to a Cambrian Prison camp (> Crime and Punishment). This full-length version differs significantly from the original novelette, Hawksbill Station (August 1967 Galaxy; 1990 chap dos); both appear together, with auctorial notes, as Hawksbill Times Two (coll 2002 pod). The Masks of Time (1968; vt Vornan-19 1970) describes a visit by an enigmatic time traveller (> Time Travel) to the world of 1999. The Man in the Maze (April-May 1968 If; 1969) is a dramatization of the problems of alienation, based on the Greek myth of Philoctetes, the hero who is needed for his skill with the bow, but whose festering wound makes him repulsive; both wound and bow are here represented by an involuntary Telepathic broadcast which, though repellent, offers the key to a First Contact problem. Nightwings (September 1968 Galaxy; fixup 1969) is a lyrical account of the conquest of a senescent Earth by Aliens, which culminates with the rebirth of its hero; it should not be confused with the Hugo-winning novella which contributed to the fixup, Nightwings (September 1968 Galaxy; 1989 chap dos). Up the Line (early version July 1969 Amazing; 1969) is a clever Time-Travel and Time-Paradox story, a flamboyant Time Opera featuring a "Time Courier" at odds with the Time Police authorities who monitor his behaviour. With Hawksbill Station (cited above) and Project Pendulum (1987), this tale was assembled as Times Three (omni 2011), with a new introduction by the author.

Downward to the Earth (November 1969-March 1970 Galaxy; 1970) is a story of repentance and rebirth, with calculated echoes of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (February-April 1899 Blackwood's Magazine; in Youth, coll 1902; 1925) and strong religious imagery (> Religion) – Silverberg homaged Conrad again in the much later The Secret Sharer (September 1987 Asimov's; 1988). Tower of Glass (April-June 1970 Galaxy; 1970) also makes use of religious imagery in its study of the obsessional construction of a new "Tower of Babel" and the struggle of an Android race to win emancipation. A Time of Changes (March-May/June 1971 Galaxy; 1971) describes a society in which selfhood is a cardinal sin. Son of Man (1971) is a surreal evolutionary fantasy of the Far Future. The World Inside (fixup 1971), set in a Dystopian Keep known as an Urbmon, is a study of life under conditions of high population density (> Overpopulation). The Second Trip (July-September 1971 Amazing; 1972) is an intense psychological novel describing the predicaments of a telepathic girl and a man whose Identity has been newly created in the body of an "erased" criminal (> Memory Edit). The Book of Skulls (1971) is a painstaking analysis of relationships among four young men on a competitive quest for Immortality. Two of the finest novels from this period are told within a wholly realized New York frame. Dying Inside (July/August-September/October Galaxy; 1972), set almost wholly in Manhattan, is a brilliant study in which a telepath's (> Telepathy) gradual loss of his power works as a telling analogue of his loss of creative joy; given its readily assimilable metaphorical structure, the novel has unsurprisingly gained more widespread attention than some others from this period, and has been better appreciated outside the field than (see below) within. And The Stochastic Man (April-June 1975 F&SF; 1975) is a complementary study, almost as intense, of a man developing the power to foresee the future.

The last novel composed during this extraordinary period, Shadrach in the Furnace (August-October 1976 Analog; 1976), concerns the predicament of the personal physician of a future dictator, who finds his Identity in jeopardy. Silverberg then quit writing for four years, ostensibly because of his disenchantment with the functioning of the sf marketplace, where his books seemed to him to be suffering "assassination" as they were allowed to go out of print after a few months; sheer exhaustion may also have been a factor. In view of the sustained quality of this astonishing burst of creativity, it is perhaps surprising that only one of these full-length works won a major award in America – A Time of Changes (1971), which gained a Nebula. Several better novels, most notably Dying Inside, went unrewarded, perhaps because the voters found them too intense and too uncompromising both in their depictions of anguish and desperation, and in the sense they convey that all stories that might be told are stories that have already been told. In any case, Silverberg's ensuing silence may have had something to do with the field's lack of response to these years of unremitting high-quality creative work.

Silverberg did, however, win awards for several shorter pieces: the novella Nightwings won a Hugo; and Nebulas went to "Passengers" (in Orbit 4, anth 1968, ed Damon Knight), a story about people who temporarily lose control of their bodies to alien invaders, "Good News from the Vatican" (in Universe 1, anth 1971, ed Terry Carr), about the election of the first Robot pope, and the brilliant novella Born with the Dead (April 1974 F&SF; 1988 chap dos), about relationships between the living and the beneficiaries of a scientific technique guaranteeing life after death. The novella "The Feast of St Dionysus" (in An Exaltation of Stars, anth 1973, ed Terry Carr), about the experience of religious ecstasy, won a Jupiter award; it became the lead title of one of his finest collections, The Feast of St Dionysus (coll 1975), which also includes "Schwartz Between the Galaxies" (see above). In addition to his award-winners Silverberg published almost unfailingly excellent stories during this second phase of his career. Particularly notable are "To See the Invisible Man" (April 1963 Worlds of Tomorrow), assembled in Earth's Other Shadow (coll 1973), "Sundance" (June 1969 F&SF), assembled in The Cube Root of Uncertainty (coll 1970), and "In Entropy's Jaws" (in Infinity 2, anth 1971, ed Robert Hoskins), assembled in The Reality Trip and Other Implausibilities (coll 1972). Other collections assembling material from this period include Parsecs and Parables (coll 1970), Moonferns and Starsongs (coll 1971), the extraordinarily intense Unfamiliar Territory (coll 1973), Sundance and Other Science Fiction Stories (coll 1974), Born with the Dead (coll 1974), Sunrise on Mercury (coll 1975), The Best of Robert Silverberg (coll 1976) and The Best of Robert Silverberg, Volume Two (coll 1978), Capricorn Games (coll 1976), The Shores of Tomorrow (coll 1976), The Songs of Summer and Other Stories (coll 1979) and Beyond the Safe Zone: The Collected Short Fiction of Robert Silverberg (coll 1986). The most elaborate presentation of this body of work, accompanied by informative author's notes, appears in The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg: Volume Three: Something Wild is Loose 1969-72 (coll 2008) and The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg: Volume Four: Trips 1972-73 (coll 2009). The thirty tales assembled in these two volumes, plus a few slightly earlier stories from the late 1960s, comprise a summa of the art of the short story in sf: observant of thematic and narrative traditions of the field; open to the innovations of twentieth-century literature in general; inherently innovative; all unmistakably from the same intense pen.

At the end of the 1970s Silverberg returned to writing with the first of the Majipoor sequence, Lord Valentine's Castle (November 1979-February 1980 F&SF; 1980), a – significantly marking the new phase – luxuriantly expansive if at points rather leisurely Science Fantasy which won a Locus Award for best fantasy novel; it is set on the world of Majipoor, where he also set the shorter pieces – including The Desert of Stolen Dreams (1981 chap) – collected in Majipoor Chronicles (coll of linked stories 1982). Later titles include Valentine Pontifex (1983), a sequel to the first tale, plus The Mountains of Majipoor (1995), Sorcerers of Majipoor (1997), Lord Prestimion (1999), The King of Dreams (2001) and Tales of Majipoor (coll 2013). Almost all of Silverberg's work of the 1980s was in the same relaxed vein: the psychological intensity of his mid-period work was toned down, and much of his sf was evidently pitched towards what he considered to be the demands of the market. His work of this period was commercially successful, but the full-length sf sometimes seemed rather mechanical, though the historical fantasies Lord of Darkness (1983) and Gilgamesh the King (1984) appear to have been projects dearer to his heart. The gypsy king in Star of Gypsies (1986), waiting in self-imposed exile for his one-time followers to realize how badly they need him, might be reckoned an ironic self-portrait. Some of the best works of this third phase of Silverberg's career are novellas, most notably Sailing to Byzantium (February 1985 Asimov's; 1985), winner of a 1985 Nebula and The Secret Sharer (September 1987 Asimov's; 1988) (see above). Silverberg also won Hugo awards in this period for the novella "Gilgamesh in the Outback" (July 1986 Asimov's), which was a sequel to Gilgamesh the King and was integrated into To the Land of the Living (fixup 1989), and the novelette "Enter a Soldier. Later, Enter Another" (June 1989 Asimov's), which became the lead story in his Shared World anthology, Time Gate (anth 1989) with Bill Fawcett.

More recent work includes the New Springtime trilogy about the repopulation of Earth by various races (not including humans) after a future ice age, comprising At Winter's End (1988; vt Winter's End 1990) and The Queen of Springtime (1989; vt The New Springtime 1990). Singletons of interest include The Face of the Waters (1991), a novel about diasporan humans living as exiles on a watery world after the destruction of Earth; Hot Sky at Midnight (fixup 1994), a tale which, set in the early years of the twenty-first century, is told in a tone of searingly bleak pessimism that was increasingly to be encountered in sf writers in their late prime as the millennium approached; and Roma Eterna (coll of linked stories 2003), an Alternate History in which the Roman empire has endured, seemingly endlessly. Much of his short fiction of this period is assembled in The Conglomeroid Cocktail Party (coll 1984) and in various volumes of the two sequences of collected stories identically surtitled The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg [some titles cited above; see Checklist for details]; but some significant later fiction – like the novella "Hot Times in Magma City" (May 1995 Omni Online), in which Los Angeles (> California) has been transformed by geological Disasters – remain uncollected.

As an editor, Silverberg was responsible for New Dimensions an excellent series of original Anthologies, New Dimensions [see Checklist]. In collaboration with Haber he took over the Universe series once edited by Terry Carr, relaunching the title with Universe 1 (anth 1990) [see Checklist for further titles]. He has also been a prolific compiler of Original Anthologies, like The Day the Sun Stood Still: Three Original Novellas of Science Fiction (anth 1972), almost always containing three novellas each (the volumes are otherwise unconnected), and has edited many reprint anthologies, recently doing much of this kind of work in collaboration with Martin H Greenberg. The first volume of the Legends sequence, containing all-original work [see Checklist for details], won a 1999 Locus Award for best anthology; and Far Horizons: All New Tales from the Greatest Worlds of Science Fiction (anth 1999) won a 2000 Hugo award. Silverberg was president of Science Fiction Writers of America 1967-1968. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction published a special issue devoted to him in April 1974. An autobiographical essay appeared in Hell's Cartographers (anth 1975) edited by Brian W Aldiss and Harry Harrison. For more than half a century, his productivity has seemed almost superhuman, and his abrupt metamorphosis from a writer of standardized pulp fiction into a prose artist was an accomplishment unparalleled within the field. He was elected to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1999, and in 2004 received the SFWA Grand Master Award. In the early twenty-first century, he remains one of the most imaginative and versatile writers ever to have been involved with Genre SF, which he was instrumental in transforming after about 1970. His relegation to the sidelines by the American literary establishment is scandalous. [BS/JC]

see also: Ace Books; Anthropology; Apes as Human; Arts; Black Holes; Children's SF; Cities; Comics; Computers; Conceptual Breakthrough; Critical and Historical Works About SF; DC Comics; End of the World; Eschatology; Evolution; Fantastic Voyages; Galactic Empires; Gamebook; Gods and Demons; Hive Minds; Intelligence; Invisibility; John W Campbell Memorial Award; Jupiter; Mathematics; Matter Transmission; Media Landscape; Messiahs; Metaphysics; Milford Science Fiction Writers' Conference; Monsters; Music; Mythology; New Wave; Parallel Worlds; Parasitism and Symbiosis; Pastoral; Perception; Planetary Romance; Politics; Precognition; Psychology; Reincarnation; Robert Hale Limited; Seiun Award; SETI; Sex; Skylark Award; Sociology; Space Opera; Sun; Superman; Transportation; Under the Sea; Women SF Writers; Writers of the Future Contest.

Robert Silverberg

born New York: 15 January 1935

died

works (selected: non-fantastic works and nonfiction have generally been excluded)

series

Nidor

World's Fair 1992

Majipoor

Gilgamesh

New Springtime

The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg

There are two entirely distinct series with the identical surtitle.

first series

second series

individual titles

collections and stories

works as editor

series

Alpha

  • Alpha One (New York: Ballantine Books, 1970) [anth: Alpha: pb/John Lindner]
  • Alpha Two (New York: Ballantine Books, 1971) [anth: Alpha: pb/Larry Kresek]
  • Alpha Three (New York: Ballantine Books, 1972) [anth: Alpha: pb/uncredited]
  • Alpha 4 (New York: Ballantine Books, 1973) [anth: Alpha: pb/Bruce Pennington]
  • Alpha 5 (New York: Ballantine Books, 1974) [anth: Alpha: pb/Bruce Pennington]
  • Alpha Six (New York: Berkley Medallion, 1976) [anth: Alpha: pb/Richard Powers]
  • Alpha 7 (New York: Berkley Medallion, 1977) [anth: Alpha: pb/Randy Weidner]
  • Alpha 8 (New York: Berkley Medallion, 1977) [anth: Alpha: pb/uncredited]
  • Alpha 9 (New York: Berkley Medallion, 1978) [anth: Alpha: pb/Vincent Segrelles]

New Dimensions

Arbor

Nebula Awards

See also Nebula Anthologies.

Time Gate

Universe

  • Universe 1 (New York: Doubleday/Foundation, 1990) with Karen Haber [anth: Universe: pb/Richard Kriegler]
  • Universe 2 (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1992) with Karen Haber [anth: Universe: pb/Jean-Francois Podevin]
  • Universe 3 (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1994) with Karen Haber [anth: Universe: pb/Michael David Ward]

Legends

Century

Fantasy: Best

First two volumes only; for the remaining volumes see Karen Haber.

Science Fiction: Best

First two volumes only; for the remaining volumes see Karen Haber.

individual titles

nonfiction

about the author

links

Previous versions of this entry

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