Chapman, Stepan 1951- (Steven Chapman)
Chapman, Stepan 1951- (Steven Chapman)
Born August 19, 1951, in Chicago, IL; son of Earl Marshall and Margery Chapman; married November 18, 1985; wife's name Kia. Ethnicity: "Caucasian."
Home—Cottonwood, AZ; and Kalispell, MT. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer and cartoonist. Performed in plays in the United States and England.
Philip K. Dick Memorial Award, 1997, for The Troika.
(Under name Steven Chapman) How Many? How Much? A Funny Numbers Book, illustrated by Sal Murdocca, Follett Publishing (Chicago, IL), 1972.
Danger Music (short stories), Ministry of Whimsy Press (Tallahassee, FL), 1996.
The Troika (novel), Ministry of Whimsy Press (Tallahassee, FL), 1997.
Invertebrates of North Aphasia, Hellp! Press (Farmingdale, NJ), 1999.
Dossier: A Collection of Short Stories, Creative Arts Book Co. (Berkeley, CA), 2000.
Common Ectoids of Arizona (cartoons), Lockout Press (Friendship, IN), 2001.
Life on Earth (cartoons), Four-Sep Publications (Friendship, IN), 2003.
Author of children's plays produced at Edinburgh Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. Work represented in anthologies, including Analog 8, edited by John W. Campbell, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1971; Year's Best Horror Stories #2, edited by Richard Davis, Sphere (London, England), 1973; Orbit 17, Harper (New York, NY), 1975; Leviathan I, edited by Jeff VanderMeer, Ministry of Whimsy Press (Tallahassee, FL), 1996; and Album Zutique: No. 1, edited by Jeff VanderMeer, Ministry of Whimsy Press (Tallahassee, FL), 2003. Contributor of speculative fiction, articles, drawings, and cartoons to periodicals, including Sandbox, Artisan, Analog, Fantastic Worlds, New Pathways in SF, Chicago Review, Hawaii Review, Maverick Press, Mississippi Mud, and Lynx Eye.
Stepan Chapman has been publishing cross-genre speculative fiction since the late 1960s and is known for his surreal creations that blend fantasy, horror, and science fiction. A tenacious author, Chapman worked on his novel The Troika for nearly a quarter of a century. Portions of The Troika had been published as short stories—some of them even anthologized—but Chapman had found it difficult to place the novel with a publisher. His patience was rewarded when Ministry of Whimsy Press released the work to positive reviews and recognition from the science fiction community.
In The Troika, under the glare of three purple suns, three travelers journey through an unending desert. Through dream sequence, memory, and present-time experiences, the three characters transform into one another, fight, entertain each other, and ultimately reveal themselves to be a family of ghosts in thrall to an insane guardian angel. "In The Troika, we have three unreliable narrators in an unreliable world, each taking turns to tell us their unreliable histories," observed a reviewer for Infinity Plus. "And Chapman's great achievement with this novel is that not only does he deliver a strange and surreal melange of imagery [but] … he does it without ever really losing touch with the kind of narrative momentum more familiar to thriller readers."
In an online interview for Cyberhaven.com, Chapman stated that The Troika "is very much about dynamics within the nuclear family, in the United States of America, in the late 20th century." He explained that the work reveals his fears about industrialism's reduction of family ties in order to isolate individuals and make them more pliant, obedient workers. In response to questions about the work's shape and tone, he said that he felt The Troika belongs "in the tradition of gothic fantasy," harking back to such classics as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. Chapman noted that his novel "is about a family trapped by a tyrannical old man who is mad. The only thing that's unusual about The Troika is the structure, and even that is somewhat in the tradition, because gothic fantasies do tend to have embedded narratives."
In the Newsletter of the Council for the Literature of the Fantastic, Jeff VanderMeer wrote that The Troika is "a tour de force of surrealism," later adding that the work "is uniquely ‘Chapmanesque’ in its fusion of mythology, psychology, and the afterlife." Rain Taxi correspondent Rudi Dornemann commented, "Surreal by the chapter, science fictional over the full arc of the novel, The Troika's connecting thread is that traditional literary standby: character." Dornemann added, "Through all the chaos around and within themselves, The Troika's characters maintain their identities, and Chapman maintains a consistent warmth of humanity in depicting them." A Publishers Weekly reviewer observed that the novel "abounds with savage imagery reminiscent of William S. Burroughs, and, sentence for sentence, the writing is brilliant, lucid and poetic."
In an interview for the Newsletter of the Council for the Literature of the Fantastic, Chapman stated that he was kidnapped by a swarm of giant cicadas as a five-year-old, and that he grew up under the Antarctic ice cap, where he was educated by "ancient trilobites." His writing, drawing, and cartooning are informed by a highly imaginative distrust of rampant technology and an anxiety about the human capacity to tinker with nature. In response to a question about his aims as an artist, he said: "What I'm striving for are stories that partake of the same depth and resonance as folktales and myths. But to be modern, they necessarily include the imagery of science fiction. Tolkien chose to write about elves and wizards, but I prefer robots and angels. To medieval audiences, a mountain of glass was miraculous and unthinkable. Modern audiences live inside mountains of glass. Times change."
Chapman once told CA: "My fiction is mostly fantasy. Sometimes the narrative structures are avant garde, but they're generally built on ancient traditions such as the parable, the wonder tale, or the quest saga. Why do I gravitate so strongly to fantasies? One reason is that, for me, only fantasy stories can suitably describe the extreme mutability of the human species. Human nature, far from being fixed for eternity, is subject to radical rearrangements. We can imagine nearly anything—angels or monsters. And what we imagine, we tend to become. Another reason: Outsider material is best presently at one remove from the world of common sense. If I tell you that all humans are insane, you may dismiss my assertion immediately. But when the Cheshire Cat tells Alice that everyone in Wonderland is mad, you must, at least, consider the proposition."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Newsletter of the Council for the Literature of the Fantastic, winter, 1996, Jeff VanderMeer, review of The Troika and interview with Chapman.
Publishers Weekly, September 8, 1997, review of The Troika, p. 62.
Cyberhaven.com,http://www.cyberhaven.com/ (October 18, 2000), Bonnie Bouman, interview with Stepan Chapman.
Infinity Plus,http://www.users.zetnet.co.uk/ (April 11, 1998), review of The Troika.
Rain Taxi,http://www.raintaxi.com/ (April 7, 2001), Rudi Dornemann, review of The Troika.
Stepan Chapman Home Page,http://www.stepanchapman.com (March 14, 2008).
SF Site,http://www.sfsite.com/ (September 15, 2003), Rich Horton, review of Dossier: A Collection of Short Stories.