Shepard, Lucius 1947-
SHEPARD, Lucius 1947-
PERSONAL: 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; children: Gullivar. Politics: Radical. Hobbies and other interests: Rock music, world music.
ADDRESSES: Home—1010 Taylor Ave. N, No. 2, Seattle, WA 98109. Agent—Ralph Vicinanza, 111 Eighth Ave., New York, NY 10001.
CAREER: Self-employed as a musician during the 1970s and early 1980s; writer.
MEMBER: Science Fiction Writers of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: 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 magazine, 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 the Locus Award, both for Radiant Green Star.
Cantata of Death, Weakmind & Generation (poems), Lillabulero Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1967.
Sports and Music, M. V. Ziesing Books (Shingletown, CA), 1993.
Vermillion (comic book series), DC Comics (New York, NY), 1996-97.
Two Trains Running, Golden Gryphon Press (Urbana, IL), 2004.
Green Eyes, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1984.
Life during Wartime (novel), Bantam (New York, NY), 1987.
Kalimantan, Legend (London, England), 1990, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1992.
The Golden, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1993.
A Handbook of American Prayer, Mark V. Ziesing (Shingletown, CA), 1996.
Valentine: A Novel, Four Walls Eight Windows (New York, NY), 2002.
Louisiana Breakdown, Golden Gryphon Press (Urbana, IL), 2003.
The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daughter, Mark V. Ziesing (Willimantic, CT), 1988.
The Father of Stones, Washington Science Fiction (Baltimore, MD), 1989.
(With Robert Frazier) Nantucket Slayrides: Three Short Novels, Eel Grass Press (Nantucket, MA), 1989.
Colonel Rutherford's Colt (e-book), ElectricStory.com, 2002, Subterranean (Burton, MI), 2003.
Aztechs, Subterranean (Burton, MI), 2003.
SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS
The Jaguar Hunter, Arkham House (Sauk City, WI), 1987.
The Ends of the Earth, illustrated by Jeffrey K. Potter, Arkham House (Sauk City, WI), 1991.
Barnacle Bill the Spacer, and Other Stories, Millennium (London, England), 1998, also published as Beast of the Heartland, and Other Stories, Four Walls Eight Windows (New York, NY), 1999.
Author of award-winning novellas R&R and Radiant Green Star. Contributor of stories to science fiction magazines and anthologies, including Universe 13, Universe 14, The Clarion Awards, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Playboy, and Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. Also author of screenplays.
ADAPTATIONS: Life during Wartime has been optioned for film.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Comic book series "The Bamboo Union," set in contemporary Vietnam.
SIDELIGHTS: 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 Maine 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 overbreeding 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 abookyou shouldn't miss," remarked Gene Deweese in Science Fiction Review.
The surreal also figures prominently in Shepard's second novel, Life during Wartime. The book is set in the jungles of Central America, where United States military forces are engaged in a protracted, Vietnam Warlike 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 contended 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 1991 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 him "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 represents something of a departure for Shepard. In this story, two exlovers 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 of Booklist, however, found the book to be a good balance of passion and "philosophical musings," declaring the novel "haunting and magical."
Shepard has stated that in most of his work the plot is driven by the characters. In an interview with Event Horizon, he said, "I guess that most of the people I write about are people who are trapped by circumstances that are partly of their own making. They are flawed people, and they think they see something better for themselves, but in the end their flaws overwhelm them, and so they are forced to make some kind of rational accommodation with their failure."
Shepard has continued to garner awards and gather a devoted following among science fiction fans, although he occasionally steps outside of the science fiction and fantasy genres. He discussed the evolution of his work in an Omni interview in which he commented, "I think I have to leave it to readers to define how the work has changed, but I feel that my characters in the new stuff are much more idiosyncratic, much more clearly articulated, and that the stories I'm telling are much more peculiar than the old ones, even if they aren't science fiction or fantasy. My appreciation of the world, it seems, has grown more perversely individual."
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, p. 1115; January 1, 2002, p. 814.
Bookwatch, August, 1999, p. 9.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1991, p. 146; November 15, 1991; November 15, 2001, p. 1576.
Library Journal, May 1, 2002, p. 88.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 13, 1987, p. 13.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 1999, p. 33.
New York Times Book Review, June 7, 1987.
Publishers Weekly, November 15, 1991, p. 66; January 9, 1995, p. 24; March 22, 1999, p. 75; November 12, 2001, p. 32.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, spring, 1990, p. 319-320.
Science Fiction Chronicle, July, 1998, p. 46.
Science Fiction Review, May, 1984, p. 23.
Times Literary Supplement, June 20, 1986, p. 683; October 21, 1988, p. 1180; March 31, 1989.
Village Voice, August 18, 1987, p. 52.
Washington Post, February 11, 1988.
Washington Post Book World, April 22, 1984, p. 11; May 24, 1987, p. 6; June 26, 1988; February 23, 1992, p. 10.
ElectricStory.com,www.electricstory.com/ (December 2, 2003).
Four Walls Eight Windows,www.fourwallseightwindows.com/ (December 2, 2003).*