Godwin, Parke 1929-
GODWIN, Parke 1929-
PERSONAL: Born January 28, 1929, in New York, NY; son of Harold P. and Consuelo (Hawks) Godwin. Ethnicity: "Anglo-Irish." Education: Attended American University for one year. Politics: Democrat.
ADDRESSES: Home and offıce—736 Auburn Ravine Terr., No. 535, Auburn, CA 95603; fax: 530-823-9510. Agent—Writers House, 21 West 26th St., New York, NY 10010.
CAREER: Writer. Military service: U.S. Army; served for six years; became staff sergeant.
AWARDS, HONORS: World Fantasy Award, 1982, for novella "The Fire When It Comes."
(With Marvin Kaye) The Masters of Solitude (novel; first volume of "Solitude" trilogy), Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1978.
Firelord (novel; first volume of "Arthurian" series), Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1980.
(With Marvin Kaye) Wintermind (novel; second volume of "Solitude" trilogy), Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1982.
A Memory of Lions (novel), Penguin (New York, NY), 1983.
(With Marvin Kaye) A Cold Blue Light (novel; first volume of "Cold Blue Light" series), Charter Books (New York, NY), 1983.
Beloved Exile (novel; second volume of "Arthurian" series), Bantam (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1984.
The Fire When It Comes (novella and short stories), Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1984.
The Last Rainbow (novel; third volume of "Arthurian" series), Bantam (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1985.
A Truce with Time (A Love Story with Occasional Ghosts) (novel), Bantam (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1988.
(Editor) Invitation to Camelot: An Arthurian Anthology of Short Stories, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Waiting for the Galactic Bus (novel; first volume in "Snake Oil Wars" series), Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1988.
The Snake Oil Wars; or, Scheherazade Ginsberg Strikes Again (novel; second volume in "Snake Oil Wars" series), Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1989.
Sherwood (novel; first volume in "Robin Hood" series), William Morrow (New York, NY), 1991.
Robin and the King (novel; second volume in "Robin Hood" series), William Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.
Limbo Search (novel), Avo-Nova Books (New York, NY), 1995.
The Tower of Beowulf (novel), William Morrow (New York, NY), 1995.
Lord of Sunset (novel), Avon Books (New York, NY), 1998.
(Under pseudonym Kate Hawks) The Lovers, Avon Books (New York, NY), 1999.
(Under pseudonym Kate Hawks) Watch by Moonlight, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2001.
Author of short stories.
ADAPTATIONS: The novel Sherwood was adapted as a sound recording by Audio Partners (Auburn, CA), 1991; Watch by Moonlight was adapted as a sound recording, Blackstone Audio, 2002. A story, "Time and Teresa Golowitz" was adapted as an episode of the television series The Twilight Zone, 1987.
SIDELIGHTS: Fantasy and science fiction author Parke Godwin did not publish his first novel until he was almost forty-five years old but has become, according to an essayist in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, "a figure whose relative obscurity is fully undeserved." That first novel, written with Marvin Kaye, was The Masters of Solitude, the beginning of a projected "Solitude" trilogy. The novel postulates a post-apocalyptic future America divided into two societies at odds: a rural portion believing in an altered form of Christianity, and a science-oriented "urbanopolis." In the second volume of the series, Wintermind, the scale is narrowed to that of the novel's protagonist, a half-breed between the two societies. (A third volume was not issued.) One year later, with Kaye, Godwin produced a novel about ghosts, A Cold Blue Light, again the first volume in a projected series. The second volume was written by Kaye alone.
Godwin's solo ventures have made him known for fantasy rather than science fiction, and the fantasy has often been centered in traditional British lore. First came Firelord, a novel about King Arthur. Although it contains fantasy elements, Firelord is based on current historical and archaeological research; it attempts to lend realism to the Arthurian legend by presenting Artos (Godwin's name for Arthur) as a fifth-century tribal leader of the Celts, battling against the Saxons. Politics is a focus of the plot, and magic is demythologized, for the Faerie, Arthur's allies, are shown to be diminutive Stone Age nomads. Shelly Cox, writing in Library Journal, approved of Godwin's balance of romance and realism, calling the historical aspects of the novel "psychologically believable and genuinely tragic." Praise was also offered by Craig Shaw Gardner in the Washington Post Book World. In a review of Beloved Exile, he recalled its predecessor Firelord as "a wonderful book, fit to stand alongside [Frederik Pohl's] Gateway, John Crowley's Little, Big and Gene Wolfe's The Shadow of the Torturer as one of the most fully realized fantasy novels written in the last decade."
Beloved Exile is in fact a Guenevere novel: the text comprises the queen's memoir, beginning the day Arthur dies. According to fantasy writer Colin Greenland, reviewing the book for the New Statesman, Beloved Exile is "even more striking than Firelord for its rigorous eschewal of mysticism and glamour," and Godwin's Guenevere is "a thoroughly explored and wholly compelling character." A Publishers Weekly reviewer commended Godwin for departing imaginatively from Sir Thomas Malory's vision of Guenevere. Instead of retiring to a convent as Malory's Guenevere does, Godwin's heroine fights to regain Arthur's lands, is defeated and sold into slavery, and mellows into maturity during her captivity. The Publishers Weekly commentator called Beloved Exile "a compelling character study," in which "Guenevere fascinates the reader as she betrays herself in every phrase of Godwin's supple, sensual yarn." Reviewer Michael M. Levy, in Fantasy Review, offered similar praise but found the last sixteen pages of the novel faulty for their "black comedy."
The next major work by Godwin was a short story collection, The Fire When It Comes, the title novella of which won a World Fantasy Award in 1982. "The Fire When It Comes" is a ghost story told from the point of view of the ghost: a deceased actress haunting New York's Upper West Side. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly called it "a cheery, life-and love-affirming tale." Also singled out within the collection were "Stroke of Mercy," a "stunning and provocative" (in the words of the Publishers Weekly reviewer) story that spans a number of European and American wars, and "The Last Rainbow," a comic look at the legend of the Holy Grail. Godwin, in an afterword, said that the story inspired him to write Firelord.
Godwin's third Arthurian novel, also titled The Last Rainbow (though its material is different from that of the short story), concentrates on the Faerie, the nomads whose folkways are misunderstand as sorcery by the Celtic farmers. The protagonist is a Romanized priest named Patricius, who later is to become St. Patrick. Tortured and left to die by enemies, he is rescued by Dorelei, a queen of the Faerie; he becomes one of the nomads, and the teachings of two faiths are exchanged in the process. Colby Rodowsky, in the Washington Post Book World, called The Last Rainbow "well-paced" and "a moving love story"; a Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "as in his other books, Godwin's strength is his vibrant portrayal of human nature in a rich, witty, sensual prose that captures some of the rhythm and the pungency of older forms of English." Frances Deutsch Louis, writing in the Christian Science Monitor, called the novel "a moving and loving tribute to our lost and imaginary innocence, and a painful, often illuminating examination of what faith means."
Godwin changed pace with A Truce with Time (A Love Story with Occasional Ghosts). This novel is "perhaps only by courtesy fantasy," according to Tom Easton in Analog. It presents Pat Landry, a fiftyish fantasy novelist who wishes to escape his genre and who is haunted—perhaps literally, perhaps only in his imagination—by the ghosts of dead relatives. Easton, expressing pleasant surprise, termed it "a marvelous book, warm and witty and soul-illuminating." Harry Baldwin, in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, found weaknesses in the sections of the novel that deal with the New York publishing world. But with regard to Landry and his "ghost" relatives, Baldwin wrote, "By telling a traditional tale in an untraditional way, Godwin has created an often funny, occasionally moving drama of what it really means to be haunted by a family's past."
Godwin also published a pair of broad satires about religion: Waiting for the Galactic Bus and The Snake Oil Wars: or, Scheherazade Ginsberg Strikes Again. The premise of the sequence is that life on earth was created as the result of a prank by two drunken intergalactic college students, Barion and Coyul, who eventually became God and the Devil. That myth is recounted in the first volume, while the second depicts an afterlife containing debunked versions of Abraham Lincoln, Dorothy Parker, and various contemporary evangelists. Some critics found these novels hard to take, but Easton, writing again in Analog, assured the reader of Waiting for the Galactic Bus, "You'll have fun."
Godwin returned to medieval Britain for the setting of his novel Sherwood, a retelling of the Robin Hood legend that a Publishers Weekly reviewer called "highly satisfying" and commended for its "carefully etched characterizations of Normans and Saxons." Although keeping many of the traditional Robin Hood trappings, Godwin set the legend not in the time of Richard I but a century earlier, in the time of William the Conqueror. This worked toward demythologizing the legend—an intention on the author's part that Sue Martin, in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, both lauded for realism and regretted for the loss of magic. Martin called Sherwood "a hefty, thoughtful novel that puts you squarely into the muck and smoke of eleventh-century villages and sieges." A sequel, Robin and the King, depicts Robin and Marian settled into marriage with two children and on friendly terms with the Sheriff of Nottingham. Robin gets into trouble at court when he tries to save Sherwood Forest from conversion into a royal hunting preserve; after a struggle, he not only regains favor, but alters British history through his powers of persuasion. A Publishers Weekly commentator called Robin and the King "not just a first-rate adventure," but "also a fascinating account of everyday life in the eleventh century"; the reviewer drew attention to "deft characterizations, superb battle scenes and more than a little wit." Locus contributor Faren Miller wrote, "As a historical novel, Robin and the King merits my strongest possible recommendation."
Although he published a space opera, Limbo Search, in 1995, Godwin's major effort that year was the retelling of still a third medieval British legend: that of Beowulf's defeat of the monster Grendel. A Publishers Weekly contributor found The Tower of Beowulf "greatly refreshing" for its insights into spirituality and the nature of the hero, and for "vivid and heart-wrenching" characterizations. Roland Green, writing in Booklist, found similar virtues, saying, "Both Beowulf and his world are magnificently realized, fully comprehensible, and absorbing." This echoes the many other critics who, throughout Godwin's career, have found his historical fantasies to be triumphs of imagination well-grounded in research.
Godwin told CA: "My theater background helps me to block every scene as notes, and to find the shape and action for each. After blocking (often revised), I make a first and second draft. I can't understand writers who start writing without knowing the arc of the book from start to finish. Who are the characters? Where are they going? What do they want or need? What obstacles are there? And, so what? The 'so what' is vital. It is what makes the book worth writing (and hopefully worth reading).
"The major influences on my work are John Steinbeck, Dylan Thomas. I admire writers who can put music into language without being pretentious, who take time to find the right words. I dislike writers who take 5,000 words to say what could have been expressed more succinctly in 1,000; writers who have no idea of what a scene should do."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Clute, John, and Peter Nicholls, editors, Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, St. Martin's Press (London, England), 1993, p. 503.
Godwin, Parke, The Fire When It Comes, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1984.
Reginald, Robert, Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, 1975-1991, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992, p. 377.
Analog, November, 1988, Tom Easton, review of A Truce with Time (A Love Story with Occasional Ghosts), pp. 134-135; February, 1989, Tom Easton, review of Waiting for the Galactic Bus, pp. 179-180.
Booklist, May 15, 1984, review of Beloved Exile, p. 1273, review of The Fire When It Comes, p. 1293; April 15, 1985, review of The Last Rainbow, p. 1138; June 1, 1988, review of Waiting for the Galactic Bus, p. 1643; September 1, 1989, review of The Snake Oil Wars; or, Scheherazade Ginsberg Strikes Again, p. 42; June 1, 1991, review of Sherwood, p. 1842; September 1, 1995, Roland Green, review of The Tower of Beowulf, p. 39; May 15, 1998, review of Lord of Sunset, p. 1595.
Book Report, January, 1991, review of Firelord and Beloved Exile, p. 37.
Christian Science Monitor, May 16, 1986, Frances Deutsch Louis, review of The Last Rainbow, p. 24.
Fantasy Review, September, 1984, Michael M. Levy, review of Beloved Exile, p. 29.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1980, review of Firelord, p. 1101; February 1, 1984, review of The Fire When It Comes, p. 114; April 15, 1984, review of Beloved Exile, p. 367; June 1, 1985, review of The Last Rainbow, p. 505; April 15, 1987, review of A Truce with Time (A Love Story with Occasional Ghosts), p. 579; April 15, 1988, review of Waiting for the Galactic Bus, p. 582; July 1, 1989, review of The Snake Oil Wars, p. 959; June 15, 1991, review of Sherwood, p. 748; April 15, 1993, review of Robin and the King, p. 476; July 1, 1995, review of The Tower of Beowulf, p. 904; June 1, 1998, review of Lord of Sunset, p. 771.
Library Journal, October 1, 1980, Shelly Cox, review of Firelord, p. 2106; April 15, 1984, review of The Fire When It Comes, p. 826; June 15, 1984, review of Beloved Exile, p. 1253; June 15, 1985, review of The Last Rainbow, p. 74; August, 1987, review of A Truce with Time (A Love Story with Occasional Ghosts), p. 141; August, 1989, review of The Snake Oil Wars, p. 167; July, 1991, review of Sherwood, p. 134; May 15, 1993, review of Robin and the King, p. 99; September 1, 1994, review of Robin and the King, p. 244; August, 1995, review of The Tower of Beowulf, p. 122.
Locus, February, 1989, review of Waiting for the Galactic Bus, p. 48; January, 1990, review of The Snake Oil Wars, p. 51; July, 1991, review of Sherwood, p. 15; September, 1991, review of Sherwood, p. 59; August, 1993, Faren Miller, review of Robin and the King, pp. 17, 49.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 31, 1988, Harry Baldwin, review of A Truce with Time (A Love Story with Occasional Ghosts), p. 8; August 4, 1991, Sue Martin, review of Sherwood, pp. 2-3, 8.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June, 1988, review of A Truce with Time (A Love Story with Occasional Ghosts), p. 28; December, 1995, review of The Tower of Beowulf, p. 36; April, 1996, review of The Tower of Beowulf, p. 30.
New Statesman, October 10, 1986, Colin Greenland, review of Beloved Exile, pp. 28-29.
Publishers Weekly, March 9, 1984, review of The Fire When It Comes, p. 101; May 25, 1984, review of Beloved Exile, p. 57; June 14, 1985, review of The Last Rainbow, p. 70; May, 1987, review of A Truce with Time (A Love Story with Occasional Ghosts), p. 267; April 22, 1988, review of Waiting for the Galactic Bus, p. 68; July 21, 1989, review of The Snake Oil Wars, p. 54; June 7, 1991, review of
Sherwood, p. 58; May 24, 1993, review of Robin and the King, p. 71; July 24, 1995, review of Limbo Search and The Tower of Beowulf, p. 51; June 22, 1998, review of Lord of Sunset, p. 86.
School Library Journal, November, 1984, review of Beloved Exile, p. 145; February, 1996, review of The Tower of Beowulf, p. 131.
Science Fiction Chronicle, February, 1989, review of Waiting for the Galactic Bus, p. 41; April, 1989, review of Invitation to Camelot: An Arthurian Anthology of Short Stories, p. 41; October, 1995, review of Limbo Search, p. 45; June, 1997, review of The Tower of Beowulf, p. 44.
Science Fiction Review, February, 1985, review of Beloved Exile, p. 50; May, 1985, review of Beloved Exile, p. 32.
Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 1984, review of The Fire When It Comes, p. 206; December, 1985, review of The Last Rainbow, p. 320.
Washington Post Book World, June 24, 1984, Craig Shaw Gardner, review of Beloved Exile and The Fire When It Comes, p. 6; July 14, 1985, Colby Rodowsky, review of The Last Rainbow, p. 9.
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