Calder, Richard 1956-
Calder, Richard 1956-
Born 1956, in London, England. Education: Attended university in Brighton, England.
Writer. Previously taught English at the University of Sussex, Brighton, East Sussex, England, and ran a general store in Thailand.
"DEAD GIRLS" SERIES
Dead Girls, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1995.
Dead Boys, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Dead Things, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Dead Girls; Dead Boys; Dead Things (omnibus), St. Martin's Griffin (New York, NY), 1998.
Cythera, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Frenzetta, Orbit (London, England), 1998.
Malignos, Earthlight (London, England), 2000.
Impakto, Earthlight (London, England), 2001.
Lord Soho: A Time Opera, Earthlight (London, England), 2002.
The Twist, Four Walls Eight Windows (New York, NY), 2003.
Also author of Babylon, 2006; author of numerous essays and short stories.
Dead Girls has been optioned by an Australian film company.
Science fiction writer Richard Calder was born in 1956 in London, England, and attended university in Brighton. His early career was unremarkable, as he taught English at the University of Sussex. However, his fiction writing has consistently broken new ground, pushing the science fiction genre to new places and incorporating radical concepts and structure with startling regularity. Michael Lohr, writing for Science Fiction magazine, remarked: "Calder is a literary maverick…. being born in the same place as the Ratcliffe Highway murders and the infamous Jack the Ripper murders, Whitechapel, London, something dark and loathe like the ghost of Egyptian outcast god Setesh or Johnny Rotten crept into his psyche at an impressionable age."
Calder's influences stretch far beyond the confines of the Whitechapel district of London. He has traveled extensively, spending time in Asia in particular, including both Thailand and the Philippines, where he lived for a number of years each. A distinct sense of the alien proliferates his writing, even taking into account the genre in which he writes. By infusing his stories with the strange, the unpredictable, and the unexpected, he keeps his readers constantly on edge and avoids falling into bland or repetitive patterns. Calder's first serious publications were his cyberpunk novels beginning with Dead Girls, released in 1992, the first volume in his series of the same name. The book takes place in a future where artificial life is a reality, and this jump forward in technology has revealed all of the darkest recesses of humanity. Artificial humans can be created for the most nefarious purposes, including to serve as sex toys that can be put through all of the scenarios that would be considered too painful or too dangerous for a real human, including violent beatings, torture, and the reenactment of Jack the Ripper's brutal assaults and killings. However, when a virus is passed from the artificial to the actual humans, an insidious new alteration begins to affect human DNA. Girls affected by this virus from birth suffer a strange transformation upon puberty, becoming actual Dolls. The Doll Plague, as it is dubbed, causes political and social upheaval, an overthrowing of the government, and the isolation of infected families into regions that resemble the Ghettos of Eastern Europe prior to World War II. Ian Kaplan, in a review for Bearcave.com, opined that "despite its dark nature, Dead Girls is a brilliant work and stands far above most popular fiction," noting that "as with all great literature, the best works of science fiction show humanity in all its complexity and some times the picture is dark." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly praised Calder for his use of "dense, highly imaginative prose."
Dead Boys, Calder's follow up to Dead Girls, illustrates what happens when the Doll Plague virus mutates and begins to affect male DNA as well, with Ignatz Zwakh, the narrator of the first book, falling as the first victim. Carl Hays, writing for Booklist, noted that the book takes numerous untraditional turns that might discourage some readers. He concluded, however, that "Calder's exceptional talent is hard to ignore." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted that the book is ultimately "a critique of Western capitalism and sexual politics, of how they dehumanize and homogenize all they touch," but found that Calder's prose often obscured this vision.
With Frenzetta, Calder shifts away from his "Dead Girls" series and offers readers something new. The book depicts a postapocalyptic world, in which the planet has been divided into several factions: Cathay—comprised of modern-day Asia—Afric, Europa, and Atlantis—or America. Humanity has mutated, and so there are girls who are part rat, some part cat, men who are part wolves, and so on. Frenzetta of the title is a rat girl of amazing strength and cunning, a killer who enjoys the act for sport as much as for self-preservation. Her lover is Duane, a zombie of sorts who has been reanimated and must now eat fresh brains to remain functional. Frenzetta, naturally, takes it upon herself to keep Duane supplied. Noel K. Hannan, in a review for the Infinity Plus Web site, remarked that "Calder holds it all together with skill, and my only complaint is the density of his prose, which can sometimes jar and hold up the pace of the story."
Malignos takes place in the same universe as Frenzetta, though several thousand years later, at a time when the mutation that altered the human population so drastically has appeared to settle. The result is that humans who have changed have all taken on a similar, somewhat demonic form, and they are called malignos. These have been driven below ground by the normal humans, the two factions war constantly for many years, and it is only recently they have declared a sort of uneasy peace. The book tells the story of Ritchie Pike, a veteran of the wars who has been cast out of his home because his lover, Gala, is a malignos. The pair struggle to survive, each doing what they must to earn a living, and their relationship is unconventional and somewhat unstable given what they have risked to be together. Rich Horton, writing for SF Site, found the book "an entertaining and baroque work…. It is full of action, full of weird landscapes, full of unusual characters, and it is fast-moving to boot."
The Twist combines the Wild West with science fiction, inhabiting Tombstone with transplants from Venus. The narrator, a nine-year-old girl called Nicola E. Newton, comes to town with her parents by stagecoach, along with a gunslinger, John Twist, who failed to die when he was hanged. The third pivotal character is the Venusian Viva Venera, who is the embodiment of the gunslinger's death and must remain with him until he fulfills his destiny and dies. At that moment, Viva will swallow his soul and return to her home world, taking this vital part of Twist with him. Nathan Brazil, writing for the Green Man Review Web site, observed that "Nicola, Twist and Viva become embroiled in a B-movie end of the world plot, which nevertheless has a smidgeon of the charm found in old pulp fiction. There's sarcastic humor, pistol packing action, a flying saucer, and strange love. The Twist may suit those who want to try something unusual, and prefer escapist chaos over clarity."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Analog Science Fiction & Fact, October 1, 1995, Tom Easton, review of Dead Girls, p. 162.
Booklist, April 15, 1995, Carl Hays, review of Dead Girls, p. 1484; March 15, 1996, Carl Hays, review of Dead Boys, p. 1245.
Library Journal, April 15, 1995, Jackie Cassada, review of Dead Girls, p. 119; February 15, 1997, Susan Hamburger, review of Dead Things, p. 165; March 15, 1998, Jackie Cassada, review of Cythera, p. 99.
Publishers Weekly, May 15, 1995, review of Dead Girls, p. 59; February 12, 1996, review of Dead Boys, p. 63; January 27, 1997, review of Dead Things, p. 81; February 9, 1998, review of Cythera, p. 78.
Bearcave.com,http://www.bearcave.com/ (February 1, 1996), review of Dead Girls.
Green Man Review,http://www.greenmanreview.com/ (June 17, 2008), review of The Twist.
Infinity Plus,http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/ (June 17, 2008), Noel K. Hannan, review of Frenzetta; Claude Lalumière, review of Impakto.
Internet Speculative Fiction Database,http://www.isfdb.org/ (June 17, 2008), author profile.
January Magazine,http://januarymag.com/ (June 1, 2000), Claude Lalumière, "Perversely Malignant."
Science Fiction,http://www.sfmag.net/ (June 17, 2008), Michael Lohr, "A Spark in the Background Noise, The Rebel with a Clue."
SF Site,http://www.sfsite.com/ (June 17, 2008), author profile; Rich Horton, review of Malignos; Nathan Brazil, review of The Twist.