Michalson, Karen 1960-
MICHALSON, Karen 1960-
Born 1960; married Bill Michalson (a professor of electrical engineering), May 27, 1983. Education: Framingham State College, B.A.; Boston College, M.A. (English); University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Ph.D. (English); attended Western New England College School of Law.
Writer and musician. Founder, lyricist, lead singer, keyboardist, and bass guitarist for the rock band Point of Ares; founder and head of record label Arula Records. University of Connecticut, Storrs, assistant professor of English, 1991-93.
Prometheus Award finalist for best novel, 2002, for Enemy Glory; William L. Crawford Award finalist for best new fantasy writer, International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, 2002.
Victorian Fantasy Literature: Literary Battles with Church and Empire (nonfiction), Edwin Mellen Press (Lewiston, NY), 1990.
Enemy Glory (fantasy novel), Tor Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Hecate's Glory (fantasy novel), Tor Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Also author of the short story "Of No Importance," released as a spoken-word album, Arula Records.
SONG LYRICS; SOUND RECORDINGS
Enemy Glory, Arula Records (Southbridge, MA), 1996.
The Sorrows of Young Apollo, Arula Records (Southbridge, MA), 1999.
Enemy Glory Darkly Blessed, Arula Records (Southbridge, MA), 2001.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
The Maenad's God (novel), and an untitled fantasy novel.
If there is such a thing as an ordinary path to becoming a fantasy writer, Karen Michalson did not take it. She earned her Ph.D. in English with a dissertation on the conflict between British imperial aspirations and fantasy literature, and planned to become an English professor. She eventually took a job at the University of Connecticut, but in the meantime she developed two secondary careers that hardly comported with her chosen primary one.
The first was as bassist and lead vocalist for a rock trio, Point of Ares, and the second was as a fantasy writer. Though some forms of fiction-writing can and do coalesce well with the role of English professor, the writing of fantasy—as Michalson herself discussed in her dissertation, later published as Victorian Fantasy Literature: Literary Battles with Church and Empire— was long ago banished from the academy. Having completed Enemy Glory, Michalson left her job at the university to dedicate herself full time to writing fiction and music.
Michalson has said that her greatest influences as a child came from rock and roll and classic literature—including the few works of fantasy literature acknowledged as classics, such as Oscar Wilde's fantasy tales, Lord Dunsany's novels, and J. R. R. Tolkein's "Middle Earth" series. Studying under Charlotte Spivack, who, as Michalson later told the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, was "one of the very few legitimate scholars looking at fantasy as serious literature," she "became interested in finding out why fantasy became excluded from the literary canon and went in the direction of popular culture." The reasons, as she demonstrated in her dissertation, were political, governed by the fact that the British Empire sought to distinguish itself from the people it conquered, in India and elsewhere, by maintaining that whereas the natives believed in fairy tales, Englishmen subscribed only to hard, cold reality.
During the mid-1990s, Michalson taught herself how to play bass guitar and formed Point of Ares, which released three albums. The songs included on the first and third of these, Enemy Glory (1996) and Enemy Glory, Darkly Blessed (2001), explore the themes of her fantasy writing.
The writing itself began one Sunday afternoon when, as Michalson recalled for the Telegram and Gazette, "I was sitting in front of my computer, and I was just writing. And this voice seemed to come out, and this line: 'The first time I saw the old fisherman, I thought he was a compost heap.' And I wasn't even thinking about anything like this. I wondered what it could mean, but I just kept writing. When I was done, I looked at what I had [and] said, 'Oh my God, this is the first chapter of a novel. This isn't [literary] criticism.'"
The result was Enemy Glory, which Jackie Cassada in Library Journal described as a "grand-scale fantasy." As the story begins, the wizard Llewelyn has fallen ill as the result of a spell cast on him. He is revived by an old friend, the duke of Walworth, but clearly their relationship has changed: as soon as Llewelyn gains consciousness, Walworth draws his sword and accuses him of treason. This provides a frame for Llewelyn's life story, the subject of the trilogy that begins with the story of his early years.
A devotee of the evil goddess Hecate, Llewelyn spends his early years studying at a school of magic in the city of Sunnashiven. After escaping from Sunnashiven as it falls to outside forces, Llewelyn is led to another country, Threle, where he meets up with a group of rebels that includes Walworth and Walworth's sister, Caethne, as well as the scholar Mirand, who becomes Llewelyn's mentor. Believing that his new friends have betrayed him, Llewelyn then enters monastic training in the service of evil, vowing vengeance on his former comrades. Referring to the extremely popular fantasy series by J. K. Rowling, a reviewer in Publishers Weekly called Enemy Glory "a sort of Harry Potter on downers." The Publishers Weekly critic called Enemy Glory a "well-crafted first novel."
Michalson's literary career did not launch until several years after she left her position at the University of Connecticut. After publishing two successful novels, Michalson began dividing her time between writing, music, and studying law part time at Western New England College. Michalson told CA that her "interest in law was sparked by the legal themes in [my] novels." Before entering school, she completed Hecate's Glory, which continues the chronicle of Llewelyn's life. Leaving Threle, he winds up in the land of Gondal, where he has an opportunity to become king. He runs afoul of Hecate, however, who forces him to choose between destroying the beauteous kingdom or travelling north, where he will be captured and tried for treason. "Graceful story telling and a unique premise render this fantasy a good addition to most libraries," wrote Cassada in Library Journal.
Michason told CA: "In the worst moments of my life, books have been an oasis, a comfort to turn to when nobody else was there. I don't know who originally said that it's impossible to be lonely so long as you have a good book. I would like my books to make it impossible for readers to be lonely for a little while, to provide both an escape and intellectual stimulation. I would like my books to become part of my readers' mental landscapes."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Association of Libertarian Feminist News, winter, 1996, Joan Kennedy Taylor, interview with Michalson.
Library Journal, January 1, 2001, Jackie Cassada, review of Enemy Glory, p. 163; February 15, 2003, Jackie Cassada, review of Hecate's Glory, p. 173.
Publishers Weekly, January 8, 2001, review of Enemy Glory; January 20, 2003, Peter Cannon, review of Hecate's Glory, p. 62.
Telegram and Gazette (Worcester, MA), February 21, 2003, Nancy Sheehan, "Fantasy League: Fiction Author a Real Defender of Underappreciated Genre," p. C1.
Arula Records Web site,http://www.arularecords.com/ (September 17, 2003).
FantasticaDaily.com,http://www.fantasticadaily.com/ (February 2, 2001), Eva Wojcik-Obert, review of Enemy Glory; (February 5, 2001) Eva Wojcik-Obert, interview with Michalson; (December 14, 2001) Eva Wojcik-Obert, review of Victorian Fantasy Literature: Literary Battles with Church and Empire; (January 10, 2003) Eva Wojcik-Obert, review of Hecate's Glory.