Shepard, Lucius 1947–
Shepard, Lucius 1947–
Born August 21, 1947, in Lynchburg, VA; son of William (a writer) and Lucy (a teacher) Shepard; married; wife's name Joyce (an anthropologist), 1966 (divorced); children: Gullivar. Politics: "Radical." Hobbies and other interests: Rock music, world music.
Self-employed as a musician during the 1970s and early 1980s; writer.
Science Fiction Writers of America.
Campbell Award for best new writer, World Science Fiction Society, 1985, for Green Eyes; Science Fiction Chronicle Reader Award, 1986, for story "Salvador"; Nebula Award for best novella, Science Fiction Writers of America, 1987, for R & R; World Fantasy Award for best story collection, Locus, 1988, and New York Times notable book citation, 1992, both for The Jaguar Hunter; World Fantasy Award for best story collection, 1992, for The Ends of the Earth; Hugo Award for best novella, World Science Fiction Society, 1993, for Barnacle Bill the Spacer; Hugo Award nomination for best novella, World Science Fiction Society, 2001, and Locus Award, both for Radiant Green Star.
NOVELS AND NOVELLAS
Green Eyes, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1984.
Life during Wartime, Bantam (New York, NY), 1987.
The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daughter, Mark V. Ziesing (Willimantic, CT), 1988.
The Father of Stones, Washington Science Fiction (Baltimore, MD), 1989.
Kalimantan, Legend (London, England), 1990, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1992.
The Golden, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1993, Golden Gryphon Press (Urbana, IL), 2006.
The Last Time, A.S.A.P. (Mission Viejo, CA), 1995.
A Handbook of American Prayer, Mark V. Ziesing (Shingletown, CA), 1996.
Valentine: A Novel, Four Walls Eight Windows (New York, NY), 2002.
Colonel Rutherford's Colt (e-book), ElectricStory.com, 2002, Subterranean Press (Burton, MI), 2003.
Aztechs, Subterranean Press (Burton, MI), 2003.
Louisiana Breakdown, Golden Gryphon Press (Urbana, IL), 2003.
Floater, PS Publishing (Harrowgate, England), 2003.
Liar's House, Subterranean Press (Burton, MI), 2004.
Viator, Night Shade Books (Portland, OR), 2004.
Softspoken, Night Shade Books (Portland, OR), 2007.
SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS
The Jaguar Hunter, Arkham House (Sauk City, WI), 1987.
(With Robert Frazier) Nantucket Slayrides: Three Short Novels, Eel Grass Press (Nantucket, MA), 1989.
The Ends of the Earth, illustrated by Jeffrey K. Potter, Arkham House (Sauk City, WI), 1991.
Sports and Music, M.V. Ziesing Books (Shingletown, CA), 1993.
Barnacle Bill the Spacer, and Other Stories, Millennium (London, England), 1998, published as Beast of the Heartland, and Other Stories, Four Walls Eight Windows (New York, NY), 1999.
Two Trains Running, Golden Gryphon Press (Urbana, IL), 2004.
Trujillo and Other Stories, PS Publishing (Harrowgate, England), 2004.
Eternity and Other Stories, Thunder's Mouth Press (New York, NY), 2005.
The Best of Lucius Shepard, Subterranean Press (Burton, MI), 2008.
Cantata of Death, Weakmind & Generation (poems), Lillabulero Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1967.
Vermillion (comic book series), DC Comics (New York, NY), 1996-97.
Contributor of stories to anthologies, including Universe 13, Universe 14, The Clarion Awards, and Night Visions; contributor of introductions and essays to works by others; contributor of stories to periodicals, including Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Twilight Zone, Playboy, and Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction; contributor of essays and articles to periodicals, including Event Horizons and Journal Wired; contributor of verse to periodicals, including Omni and Night Cry. Author of screenplays. Also author of novella R & R.
Nebula Award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer Lucius Shepard garnered mainstream recognition and critical acclaim with his 1984 novel, Green Eyes. Since then, Shepard has emerged as an important figure in what one critic called "terror fiction"—short stories and novels that transcend genre by incorporating elements of horror, science fiction, and psychological drama. To quote Paul di Filippo in the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers, Shepard has produced "an astonishing array of demonstrably classic stories," all of which succeed on the "sheer quality of his writing." The critic continued: "Shepard is a consummate stylist, possessing a seemingly limitless ability to spin off sparkling original metaphors and concrete visualizations of the bizarre. With a rich vocabulary that enlists all of the reader's senses, he conjures mind-movies of surpassing vividness. Secondly, Shepard's imagination is as extensive as his experience. Able to spin endless variations on his basic plot scenario, Shepard always offers enough variety to keep readers intrigued."
Shepard left home at the age of fifteen and spent much of the next two decades traveling around the world. He also played in a rock band and experimented with drugs. Di Filippo wrote: "As years passed and Shepard tumbled around the globe, supporting himself both licitly and illicitly, he developed a fascination with those places best characterized as ‘the ends of the earth,’ a touchstone phrase for Shepard, and one he employs consistently…. Like Thoreau in the … woods, Shepard finds these locales—from Borneo to the Caribbean, but most vitally, Latin America—to be places where essentials of evil and good, duty and desire can be examined and confronted without the obscuring smoke of civilization."
Set in Louisiana in the near future, Shepard's first novel, Green Eyes, resurrects the time-honored zombie theme with a contemporary twist. Shepard brings the dead to life in a secret, government-funded lab by infecting genetically modified graveyard bacteria into the brains of the recently deceased. The zombies emerge with occult powers and an awesome capacity for good or evil, but their new lives are cut short by the fatally over-breeding bacteria, which make their eyes glow phosphorescent green.
From this premise, Shepard weaves a gothic adventure story laden with moral and social overtones. The zombie/poet protagonist, Donnell Harrison, escapes from the lab with his female therapist and hides out in decrepit, sinister New Orleans neighborhoods, where he discovers his affinity for voodoo and becomes a faith healer. In reviews of Green Eyes, critics particularly praised Shepard's imaginative narrative and lyrical prose. "The fascinating premise of the story and the superior writing make Green Eyes a book you shouldn't miss," remarked Gene Deweese in Science Fiction Review.
The surreal also figures prominently in Shepard's second novel, Life during Wartime, which grew from his Nebula Award-winning novella R & R. The book is set in the jungles of Central America, where U.S. military forces are engaged in a protracted, Vietnam War-like conflict with shadowy guerrillas. As the story unfolds, the war has long since lost any sense of greater purpose and has assumed its own momentum as the occupying U.S. soldiers fight endlessly in a mindless haze of tropical heat, powerful drugs, and homicidal rapture. As in Green Eyes, political and moral themes underlie this war story. The exotic setting, critics observed, allows Shepard to display his gift for highly imaginative, surreal description. "In literary terms, Life during Wartime is a war between science fiction and magical realism, and Shepard uses both to superb effect," remarked Times Literary Supplement contributor Paul Kincaid. The reviewer added: "Shepard is a writer of startling power and originality, whose prose is as lush and fruitful as the jungles in which he sets his story." Di Filippo wrote of the work: "As a portrait of corruption and redemption, as a phantasmagoric allegory, Life during Wartime has few parallels in modern genre literature."
Shepard also chose exotic locales for the stories in his collections The Jaguar Hunter and The Ends of the Earth and for his novel Kalimantan. Kalimantan, set in Borneo, details how two men attempt to control a miracle drug, developed by a witch doctor, that allows passage to another world. The typical heroes of the tales in The Jaguar Hunter are young Americans who had been disillusioned by the Vietnam War and who are living abroad in such places as Latin America, Katmandu, and the Caribbean. "The stories," commented Richard Gehr in the Village Voice, "are alternately tragic and redemptive, and never dull." Times Literary Supplement contributor Colin Greenland observed that in The Jaguar Hunter Shepard "deploys romance to enlarge and enrich his theme of alienation," and added that "his prose is full, even sumptuous, yet keen." In Review of Contemporary Fiction, Irving Malin deemed The Jaguar Hunter "a remarkable collection." Shepard's writing was also praised in reviews of The Ends of the Earth, with Booklist contributor Roland Green deeming Shepard "one of the leading lights of literary science fiction."
At first glance, The Golden seems to be a standard gothic tale of vampires and their prey, but Shepard molds his tale of the bizarre goings-on at Castle Banat into a treatment of vampires as aliens seeking an especially nutritious kind of blood. "With its portrayal of power-mad immortals … engaged in feuds and schemes more bloody and recondite than those found in Roger Zelazny's ‘Amber’ books, and with its focus on the historical past, The Golden stakes out new territory for Shepard," Di Filippo observed. The critic concluded that Shepard "is an outsider at home nowhere and everywhere, one whose sad, wise gaze is turned not without compassion on every person he depicts—and on himself most unsparingly of all."
The 2002 romantic novel Valentine: A Novel, represents something of a departure for Shepard. In this story, two ex-lovers find themselves reunited under intense circumstances. Taking shelter together from a hurricane, Russell and Kay (who is now married), are afforded enough privacy to discover that there is much more to their connection than past and present lust. Critics deemed the book readable, but a bit flat in terms of substance. A Kirkus Reviews contributor concluded that the book is "heavily erotic, lightly plotted: a lover's confection, with a certain sweetness but little sustenance." Similarly, a critic for Publishers Weekly commented that although Shepard succeeds in creating exciting love scenes, "he fails to flesh out the plot with anything other than the constant coupling of his two lovers." Bonnie Johnston, writing in Booklist found the book to be a good balance of passion and "philosophical musings," declaring the novel "haunting and magical."
Aztechs is a novella set in the near future along the border of the United States and Mexico. Eddie Poe lives in El Rayo, where he hires AWOL U.S. soldiers as security guards for his company. They are called "Sammys" for Samurai, the strength-enhancing drug that they use. As the story develops Eddie and his Sammys become involved with a high hi-tech firm called Aztech, led by a military AI (artificial intelligence) named Montezuma.
The weapon in Colonel Rutherford's Colt passes from the widow of a slain white supremacist to Jimmy and Rita, gun dealers who promise that they will not sell it to the dead man's disciple. It is Jimmy, however, who becomes obsessed with the gun, whose history of the weapon may either be true or a product of his imagination. "The question is moot, since Shepard shows all the other characters in some way living with delusions about their identities and ambitions no less fantastic than Jimmy's tale" commented a Publishers Weekly contributor.
In Louisiana Breakdown, Los Angeles musician Jack Mustaine stumbles into Grail, a bayou town where voodoo and passion draw him into the dark world where his newfound love, Vida Dumar, is about to give up her title of Midsummer Queen and where townspeople warn Jack to get her out of town before the festivities begin.
A Handbook of American Prayer, reprinted by Thunder's Mouth Press eight years after it was first published, was widely reviewed at that time. While the narrator, Wardlin Stuart, is serving a ten-year sentence for manslaughter, he is knifed by another inmate. Because his survival is described as being a miracle, he begins writing prayers, eventually for other prisoners who pay for them with whatever they have. The prayers work, and with his newfound power, he finds a soulmate. They marry, and when his prison term ends, they move to Therese's home in Arizona, where he tries to retreat from the fame he has garnered with the publication of his book of prayers, the title of this novel. His life becomes more complex, however, and in this satire on evangelism, he comes face-to-face with a powerful preacher on a well-known television talk show.
A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded by writing that with this novel, Shepard is "at the height of his powers: poetic and pugnacious; metaphysical, yet down and dirty as a back-alley brawl."
In Softspoken Shepard reveals the South through the eyes of Northerner Sanie Bullard, a writer who, with her lawyer husband Jackson, moves into his family home in South Carolina to share the old mansion with other family members while he studies for his bar exams. Soon Sanie begins to hear a voice and observe otherworldly apparitions, including mutilated bodies that present a bloody revelation of the true family history. The vortex, or energy field, that surrounds the house becomes visible to Sanie when she uses hallucinogenic drugs, and the strange environment only adds to her discomfort with her marriage, causing her to consider finding solace elsewhere.
Reviewing the novel for Strange Horizons, Richard Larson wrote: "Engaged with a mystery that grows more complex as the novel progresses, Sanie is the ultimate outsider, a guest at her husband's family's house and a foreigner to their small southern town. But even with this familiar situation—young woman stranded in creepy old mansion—the novel avoids being just a stock ghost story, becoming instead a thoughtful investigation of genre expectations." "Softspoken is both a taut psychological thriller and a beautifully rendered portrait of the New American South, told with unflinching honesty, humor, insight and compassion," concluded Dorman T. Shindler, whose review appears on Subterranean Press Online.
Other Shepard collections include Beast of the Heartland, and Other Stories, titled in England for one of the seven stories it contains, and his Nebula Award-winning novella Barnacle Bill the Spacer, and Other Stories. Shepard wrote the stories of Two Trains Running after riding the rails while fulfilling a contract with Spin magazine. The book consists of an essay in which Shepard writes of his experiences sharing boxcars with other nomads and the two stories that evolved from his travels. Eternity and Other Stories includes tales set worldwide, including in Iraq, Africa, and the site of the World Trade Center bombings in New York City. "Shepard's mastery of technique, surrealism and sheer spectacle blazes forth," concluded a Kirkus Reviews contributor.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998, pp. 527-529.
Booklist, February 1, 1991, Roland Green, review of The Ends of the Earth, p. 1115; January 1, 2002, Bonnie Johnston, review of Valentine: A Novel, p. 814; May 1, 2002, Mark T. Bay, review of Colonel Rutherford's Colt, p. 88; June 1, 2002, Regina Schroeder, review of Aztechs, p. 1699; April 1, 2003, Ray Olson, review of Louisiana Breakdown, p. 1384; March 1, 2004, Ray Olson, review of Two Trains Running, p. 1147; November 1, 2004, Whitney Scott, review of A Handbook of American Prayer, p. 465.
Bookwatch, August, 1999, review of Beast of the Heartland, and Other Stories, p. 9.
Chronicle, April, 2004, Don D'Amassa, review of Two Trains Running, p. 35.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 1991, review of Kalimantan, p. 1441; November 15, 2001, review of Valentine, p. 1576; September 15, 2004, review of A Handbook of American Prayer, p. 889; June 15, 2005, review of Eternity and Other Stories, p. 662.
Library Journal, May 1, 2002, Mark T. Bay, review of Colonel Rutherford's Colt, p. 88; November 1, 2004, Edward B. St. John, review of A Handbook of American Prayer, p. 77.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December, 1999, James Sallis, review of Beast of the Heartland, and Other Stories, p. 33; March, 2001, Katherine Dunn, "An Introduction to Lucius Shepard," p. 4; May, 2005, Elizabeth Hand, review of A Handbook of American Prayer, p. 29.
New York Times Book Review, June 7, 1987, review of The Jaguar Hunter, p. 19.
Publishers Weekly, November 15, 1991, review of Kalimantan, p. 66; March 10, 1997, "Another Peek Ahead," p. 23; March 22, 1999, review of Beast of the Heartland, and Other Stories, p. 75; November 12, 2001, review of Valentine, p. 32; May 27, 2002, review of Aztechs, p. 43; January 27, 2003, review of Colonel Rutherford's Colt, p. 241; March 17, 2003, review of Louisiana Breakdown, p. 58; February 23, 2004, review of Two Trains Running, p. 56; November 1, 2004, review of A Handbook of American Prayer, p. 43, Dorman Shindler, "Prison, Prayerstyle and Celebrity," interview, 45; August 8, 2005, review of Eternity and Other Stories, p. 217; March 26, 2007, review of Softspoken, p. 71.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, spring, 1990, Irving Malin, review of The Jaguar Hunter, pp. 319-320.
Science Fiction Review, May, 1984, Gene Deweese, review of Green Eyes, p. 23.
Times Literary Supplement, June 20, 1986, review of Green Eyes, p. 683; October 21, 1988, Paul Kincaid, review of Life during Wartime, p. 1180; March 31, 1989, Colin Greenland, review of The Jaguar Hunter.
Village Voice, August 18, 1987, Richard Gehr, review of The Jaguar Hunter, p. 52.
Bookslut,http://www.bookslut.com/ (November 12, 2007), "An Interview with Lucius Shepard."
Lucius Shepard Home Page,http://www.lucius-shepard.com (September 12, 2008).
Strange Horizons Online,http://www.strangehorizons.com/ (June 5, 2007), Richard Larson, review of Softspoken.
Subterranean Press Web site,http://subterraneanpress.com/ (November 12, 2007), Dorman T. Shindler, review of Softspoken.