Paxson, Diana L. 1943–
Paxson, Diana L. 1943–
(Diana Lucile Paxson)
PERSONAL: Born February 20, 1943, in Detroit, MI; daughter of Edwin W. Paxson and Mary Paxson; married Donald C. Studebaker (a writer using the pseudonym Jon De Cles), 1968; children: Ian, Robin. Education: Mills College, B.A., 1964; University of California, Berkeley, M.A., 1968. Politics: Green. Religion: Pagan. Hobbies and other interests: Costuming, folkharp, gardening.
ADDRESSES: Home—Box 472, Berkeley, CA 94701. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer of fantasy novels. Community college teacher of English and composition at Chabot College, Hayward, CA, and developer of educational materials for Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development, 1971–81; book illustrator, 1971–72; ordained minister, Fellowship of the Spiral Path, 1982; chair, president, board member, and instructor of "Clergy in Training," Center for Non-Traditional Religions (now Fellowship of the Spiral Path), 1981–86, president, 1986–89; editor of the journal Idunna, 1996–.
MEMBER: Science Fiction Writers of America (western regional director of the board, 1990–96; served on grievance committee, 1992), Aquarian Order of the Restoration, Dark Moon Circle, Equinox (founding member), Hrafnar (founding member), Covenant of the Goddess (first officer, 1987–89; elder), Ring of Troth (elder; elected to High Rede).
Brisingamen, Berkley (New York, NY), 1984.
White Mare, Red Stallion, Berkley (New York, NY), 1986.
The Paradise Tree, Ace (New York, NY), 1987.
The White Raven, Morrow (New York, NY), 1988.
The Serpent's Tooth, Morrow (New York, NY), 1991.
(With Marion Zimmer Bradley) Priestess of Avalon, Viking (New York, NY), 2001.
Marion Zimmer Bradley's Ancestors of Avalon, Viking (New York, NY), 2004.
Lady of Light, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1982, published with Lady of Darkness, New English Library (London, England), 1990.
Lady of Darkness, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1983, published with Lady of Light, New English Library (London, England), 1990.
Silverhair, the Wanderer, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1986.
The Earthstone, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1987.
The Sea Star, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1988.
The Wind Crystal, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1990.
The Mistress of the Jewels (includes Lady of Light and Lady of Darkness), Tor Books (New York, NY), 1991.
The Golden Hills of Westria, Tor Books (New York, NY), 2006.
"FIONN MAC CUMHAL" SERIES; WITH ADRIENNE MARTINE-BARNES
Master of Earth and Water, Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.
The Shield Between the Worlds, Morrow (New York, NY), 1994.
Sword of Fire and Shadow, Morrow (New York, NY), 1995.
"WODAN'S CHILDREN" TRILOGY
The Wolf and the Raven, Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.
The Dragons of the Rhine, Morrow (New York, NY), 1995.
The Lord of Horses, Morrow (New York, NY), 1996.
"HALLOWED ISLE" SERIES
The Book of the Sword (Book One), Avon Eos (New York, NY), 1999.
The Book of the Spear (Book Two), Avon Eos (New York, NY), 1999.
The Book of the Cauldron (Book Three), Avon Eos (New York, NY), 1999.
The Book of the Stone (Book Four), Avon Eos (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Zsuzsanna Emese Budapest) Celestial Wisdom: For Every Year of Your Life: Discover the Hidden Meaning of Your Age, Weiser Books (Boston, MA), 2003.
Taking Up the Rune: A Complete Guide to Using Runes in Spells, Rituals, Divination, and Magic, Weiser Books (Boston, MA), 2005.
Also contributor of columns on goddesses to Sage-woman magazine and to GreenMan; author of fantasy short stories; illustrator of books, including Folk Tales from Persia, A.S. Barnes, 1971, and Folk Tales from Portugal, A.S. Barnes, 1972, both by Alan S. Feinstein.
SIDELIGHTS: Diana L. Paxson is both a prominent neo-pagan figure in the San Francisco area and a prolific fantasy writer. She published her first fantasy novel, Lady of Light, in 1983. This volume, the first of six works known collectively as the "Westria" chronicles, concerns a royal leader, Westria's King Jehan, who endeavors to find himself a bride capable of using powerful jewels that magically maintain his kingdom's stability. In the second Westria volume, Lady of Darkness, King Jehan has died and his widow, Queen Faris, must contend with an ambitious sorcerer as she struggles to master the four jewels essential to the Westrians' well-being. Lady of Light and Lady of Darkness, which were published together as The Mistress of the Jewels, were followed in the "Westria" series by Silver-hair, the Wanderer; The Earthstone; The Sea Star; and, The Wind Crystal, which record the efforts of their son, Julian, to reclaim the jewels and the kingdom.
After completing the "Westria" series, Paxson focused on historical fantasy. In the mid-1980s she produced one of the earliest contemporary urban fantasies, Brisingamen, the story of an academic who restores an ancient necklace that unleashes the power of the Norse Goddess Freyja. He is opposed by the Norse god Loki, who soon begins wreaking havoc at the University of California in Berkeley. Reviewing the novel in the West Coast Review of Books, Neil K. Citrin noted that Paxson "depicts her characters skillfully, tells an entertaining yarn, and handles the mythological materials well."
Paxson turned to the Celtic legend of Tristan and Iseult for The White Raven, which chronicles that couple's doomed love. Among Paxson's other novels from the 1990s are The Serpent's Tooth, a re-telling of the King Lear legend in which an aging king foolishly divides his domain between two conniving daughters while banishing his third daughter, the only one of the three who actually loves him.
In the early 1990s, Paxson teamed with Adrienne Martine-Barnes to produce three volumes relating the escapades of Irish folk hero Fionn Mac Cumhal. This series is comprised of Master of Earth and Water, The Shield between the Worlds, and Sword of Fire and Shadow. These volumes were derived by Paxson and Martine-Barnes from actual Irish legends. At the same time she was writing the "Wodan's Children" trilogy, dealing with the Germanic Nibelungen legend. The Wolf and the Raven is a re-telling of Norse mythology's saga of Siegfried and Brunhilde (here called Siegfrid and Brunahild), two courageous figures who become lovers. The Dragons of the Rhine continues the tale of Siegfrid and Brunahild by recounting Siegfrid's unwitting betrayal of Brunahild and the destruction that ensues. In the conclusion, The Lord of Horses, Siegfrid's widow is married to Attila the Hun and all the characters find both justice and redemption.
With the "Hallowed Isle" series, Paxson attempted a new version of the Arthurian legends, this time as told from the perspective of the tribal cultures who were fighting for control of the British isles during the sixth century. At that time, the conquering Romans had more or less abandoned England, leaving the tribes in turmoil and Christianity at odds with the paganism that had been predominant for centuries. King Arthur is said to have united these warring factions, and Arthurian legends are usually related from the viewpoint of members of his court or culture. In Paxson's series, the native tribes are presented more fully, as people having dreams and agendas of their own.
The first book in the series, The Book of the Sword, begins before Arthur's birth and tells the story of Merlin. The powerful magician is the child of a high priestess's sister and the wild man who kidnapped her. After he reaches manhood and masters magic, he manipulates events to aid in the conception of Arthur (called Artor in this series)—the one who will save England in the future. Reviewing the book for Suite101, Debbie Ledesma remarked: "Paxson incorporates the historical details of a Britain after the Roman Empire abandoned it, giving the book a grim reality." The story continues in The Book of the Spear, which relates Artor's young life, the first years of his reign, and his struggles with the Saxons. The Book of the Cauldron is told from the point of view of Guendivar, Artor's queen, and the other women in his life, who are struggling to protect and possess a magic cauldron with power to heal. Ledesma commented that the book "adds an interesting touch to the legend of the Holy Grail." The Book of the Stone concludes with the final years of Artor's life. Ledesma praised the series as a whole for its "realistic, mystical story" full of "vivid images, memorable characters and strong themes." She concluded that "The Hallowed Isle" could some day be considered "a classic in Arthurian literature."
In The Golden Hills of Westria, set twenty-five years after The Jewel of the Fire, Paxson continues her successful series with the story of King Julian and his heir, Prince Phoenix. The alternate-reality California dynasty is imperiled when the prince embarks on a vision quest and is kidnapped, sold into slavery, and eventually trained as a gladiator. Almost everyone except the prince's friend Sombra believes the prince is dead. He is not, but his personality has split into several beings, which allows him to conquer his oppressors. King Julian sets out to rescue his son and along the way must deal with Mother Mahaliel, head of a powerful religious cult intent on taking over the kingdom. As with Paxson's previous Westria books, this one received positive reviews. Roland Green of Booklist called Paxson "a hardy perennial on the fantasy scene," and a reviewer for Publishers Weekly called the book "an easy entry point" into Paxson's "Westria" series.
Following the death of bestselling author Marion Zimmer Bradley in 1999, Paxson completed Bradley's Priestess of Avalon and wrote Marion Zimmer Bradley's Ancestors of Avalon, a prequel to the late author's The Mists of Avalon, which creates a bridge between the mythology of the lost continent of Atlantis and Avalon through the story of Atlantan refugees who find themselves starting life anew in ancient Britain after the destruction of their island paradise by a volcano. Micail, a priest, is separated from his beloved wife, the priestess Tiriki, and they both create their own respective colonies, with Micail's veering toward a traditional male-centered power hierarchy and Tiriki's relying more on a more peaceful goddess-worshipping principles. Writing in Booklist, Jennifer Mattson said that "like Bradley, [Paxsonr] excels at bringing the vast sweep of imagined history to an accessible level" and a reviewer for Publishers Weekly complimented Paxson's "understated supernaturalism."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Religious Leaders of America, 2nd edition, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Booklist, June 1, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Ancestors of Avalon, p. 1671; February 1, 2006, Roland Green, review of The Golden Hills of Westria, p. 38.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2001, review of Priestess of Avalon, p. 456; July 1, 2004, review of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Ancestors of Avalon, p. 608; January 1, 2006, review of The Golden Hills of Westria, p. 21.
Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide, May, 1999, review of The Hallowed Isle, p. 28; September, 1999, review of The Book of the Spear, p. 28.
Publishers Weekly, February 22, 1993, review of The Wolf and the Raven, p. 82; July 24, 1995, review of The Sword of Fire and Shadow, p. 52; February 5, 1996, review of The Lord of Horses, p. 80; May 24, 2004, review of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Ancestors of Avalon, p. 49; December 12, 2005, review of The Golden Hills of Westria, p. 43.
School Library Journal, June, 1999, review of The Book of the Sword, p. 156; August, 1999, review of The Book of the Spear, p. 188.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April 1985, review of Brisingamen, p. 56; February 1992, review of Mistress of the Jewels, p. 386.
West Coast Review of Books, May-June, 1985, Neil K. Citrin, review of Brisingamen, p. 51.
BookBrowser, http://www.bookbrowser.com/ (August 2, 2001), Harriet Klausner, review of The Book of the Sword.
Crescent Blues Book Views, http://www.crescentblues.com/ (August 2, 2001), reviews of The Book of the Sword and The Book of the Spear.
Suite101, http://www.i5ive.com/ (March 10, 2000), Debbie Ledesma, review of The Hallowed Isle.