Simmons, Dan 1948- (Richard Simmons)
Simmons, Dan 1948- (Richard Simmons)
Born April 4, 1948, in Peoria, IL; son of Robert Simmons (a business manager); married; wife's name Karen; children: Jane Kathryn. Education: Wabash College, B.A., 1970; Washington University, M.A., 1971.
Home—CO. Agent—Richard Curtis Associates Inc., 171 E. 74th St., 2nd Fl., New York, NY, 10021.
Fulbright scholarship, 1977; Rod Serling Memorial Award, Twilight Zone magazine, 1982, for short story "The River Styx Runs Upstream"; World Fantasy Award for Best First Novel, 1985, for Song of Kali; Hugo Award, 1989, for Hyperion; Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, 1989, for Hyperion, 1990, for The Fall of Hyperion; Locus Award for Best Horror/Dark Fantasy Novel, 1991, for Summer of Night; Nebula Award nomination, 1990, for The Fall of Hyperion; Bram Stoker Awards, Horror Writers Association, for Best Horror Novel, 1990, for Carrion Comfort, for Best Horror Collection, 1991, for Prayers to Broken Stones: A Collection, and for Best Novelette, 1994, for Dying in Bangkok; British Science Fiction Association award, 1990; August Derleth Award, British Fantasy Society, 1990; honorary Ph.D., Wabash College, 1995; Best Bet citation, San Francisco Chronicle, 1997, for Rise of Endymion; Colorado Book Award for Best Novel, 2000, for Darwin's Blade; award for teaching from Colorado Education Association; nominated for Hugo Award for Best Novel, 2004, for Ilium.
Banished Dreams (short stories), Roadkill Press (Arvada, CO), 1990.
Prayers to Broken Stones: A Collection (short stories; includes "Vanni Fucci Is Alive and Well and Living in Hell" and "The Death of the Centaur"), Dark Harvest (Arlington Heights, IL), 1990.
Entropy's Bed at Midnight (short-story chapbook), Lord John Press (Northridge, CA), 1990.
Lovedeath: Five Tales of Love and Death, Warner (New York, NY), 1993.
Worlds Enough and Time: Five Tales of Speculative Fiction (novellas; contains "Looking for Kelly Dahl," "On K2 with Kanakaredes," "The Ninth of Av," "Orphans of the Helix," and "The End of Gravity"), Eos (New York, NY), 2002.
Hyperion (science-fiction novel; also see below), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1989.
The Fall of Hyperion (science-fiction novel; also see below), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1990.
Hyperion Cantos (science fiction; contains Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion), Guild America (New York, NY), 1990.
Endymion (science-fiction novel; sequel to The Fall of Hyperion), Bantam (New York, NY), 1996.
The Rise of Endymion (science-fiction novel; sequel to Endymion), Bantam (New York, NY), 1997.
Song of Kali (horror novel), Tor Books (New York, NY), 1985.
Phases of Gravity, Bantam (New York, NY), 1989.
Carrion Comfort (horror novel), Warner Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Summer of Night (horror novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 1991.
Going after the Rubber Chicken, Lord John Press (Northridge, CA), 1991.
Children of the Night (horror novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 1992.
The Hollow Man, Bantam (New York, NY), 1992.
Summer Sketches, Lord John Press (Northridge, CA), 1992.
Pele's Fire, Putnam (New York, NY), 1994.
Fires of Eden (horror novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 1994.
The Crook Factory, Avon (New York, NY), 1999.
Darwin's Blade, Morrow (New York, NY), 2000.
Phases of Gravity, Olmstead Press (Chicago, IL), 2001.
Hard Case (crime novel; "Joe Kurtz" series), St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2001.
Hard Freeze (crime novel; "Joe Kurtz" series), St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2002.
A Winter Haunting (horror novel; sequel to Summer of Night), Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.
Hard as Nails, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2003.
Ilium (science-fiction novel), Eos (New York, NY), 2003.
Olympos, Eos (New York, NY), 2005.
The Terror, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2007.
Also author of unproduced screenplay The End of Gravity, a screenplay adaptation of his Children of the Night, and two teleplays broadcast on the series Monsters. Work represented in anthologies, including Night Visions V, edited by Stephen King, Dark Harvest, 1988; The Further Adventures of the Joker, 1990; Prayers to Broken Stones, 1990; Obsessions, 1991; The Ultimate Dracula, 1991; Masques IV, 1991; Still Dead, 1992; Freak Show, 1992; Omni Best Science Fiction _2, 1992; and Destination: 3001, 2000. Contributor to periodicals, including Galaxy, Omni, Isaac Asimov's SF Magazine, Playboy, New York Review of Science Fiction, Gauntlet, and Twilight Zone.
Several of Simmons's books have been optioned for film.
Dan Simmons is an award-winning author who has written stories in a wide variety of genres, from fantasy and science fiction to horror and suspense to crime stories and mainstream novels. His works have been especially noted by critics for their accurate research and intellectual sophistication. In Booklist, Elliott Swanson described Simmons as "one of the most gifted writers in the psychological horror field," adding that the author's themes "touch on the private fears that can erode the lives of individuals, as well as the public engines of fear that numb the humanity of entire cultures." Although Simmons started his career as an elementary school teacher, an occupation in which he remained for eighteen years while writing in his spare time, he proved his talent from the outset, winning the World Fantasy Award in 1986 for his first novel, Song of Kali.
"Ever since Harlan Ellison raved about ‘The River Styx Runs Upstream’ at a 1981 writers' workshop, everyone has agreed that Dan Simmons is a writer of remarkable talents," declared Gary Westfahl in the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers. "Yet this in itself does not ensure success as a horror writer. At least at times, horror fiction must be visceral and explicit, not allusive and subtle, and a writer primarily focused on displaying his own literary sophistication may enervate his story and alienate his readers. This is a problem that Simmons faced and, fortunately, eventually conquered."
For his first forays into fiction, Simmons explored the horror genre. Song of Kali relates the gruesome action that ensues when the daughter of an American journalist is kidnapped in Calcutta, India, by deranged, bloodthirsty worshipers of the Hindu goddess Kali. Faren Miller, writing in Locus, described Song of Kali as "harrowing and ghoulish," adding that it "makes the stuff of nightmare very real indeed." In Carrion Comfort a Holocaust survivor attempts to track down a group of deadly "mind vampires" who control people through telepathy, and Summer of Night tells of a group of Midwestern children who pursue an evil force at work in their small town. Westfahl criticized Simmons's early novels for an "irritating tendency to show off his knowledge," resulting in works that "would have been equally powerful at half the length." The critic's complaints notwithstanding, it is these novels—and the early segments of the "Hyperion" saga—that have won Simmons many of his literary awards.
Simmons's next works to receive substantial critical attention, Hyperion and its sequels The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and The Rise of Endymion, together constitute a lengthy chronicle of the Hegemony, a galactic civilization of humans who have promised their souls to the machine-based Technocore in exchange for advanced cosmological knowledge. Redemption for the Hegemony seems likely only on the planet Hyperion, an organic world—similar to Earth—with ties to the inscrutable, fearful Shrike. Appropriating the structure of Geoffrey Chaucer's medieval classic, The Canterbury Tales, Simmons's first two novels in the series concern seven Hegemony pilgrims who journey to Hyperion hoping to realize salvation by confronting the Shrike. As in Chaucer's work, the pilgrims of Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion pass time by relating stories. The Hegemony, meanwhile, are at war with the Ousters, a band of space wanderers. The pilgrims are thus compelled to accelerate their trek to the Time Tombs, mysterious lands dominated by the Shrike. Gerald Jonas, in his assessment for the New York Times Book Review, noted that Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion are "generously conceived and stylistically sure-handed books." The reviewer added that each of the pilgrims' stories "would make a superb novella on its own."
The story is carried forward in Endymion and The Rise of Endymion, books in which Technocore has allied itself with a resurgent Catholic Church that can literally resurrect people from the dead. This powerful alliance is threatened by the heroine, Aenea, and her protector, Endymion, who seek spiritual bonds through empathy and shared consciousness. A Kirkus Reviews critic noted that in The Rise of Endymion, "Simmons's scope is truly staggering, his inventiveness continues to impress, and the narrative offers something for everyone."
Westfahl found Simmons's novels of the later 1990s "leaner, less pretentious, and more impressive." Notable among the author's later works are Children of the Night, a tale of Romanian vampires and their offspring, and Fires of Eden, a multilayered horror tale about the destruction of the earth's resources. A Kirkus Reviews writer called Fires of Eden "the flip side of a Don Ho single, short on poi and ukuleles but long on elemental carnage, vengeful immortals, and nimble plotting." Westfahl concluded that in Fires of Eden, "Simmons displays a healthy sense of humor regarding his own work that augurs well for his future fiction."
The less pretentious nature of Simmons's more recent books is also evident in 2002's A Winter Haunting, a sequel to Summer of Night that picks up the story of Dale forty years after the tragic death of his friend Duane in the first book. Dale is now a professor whose marriage has failed, so he goes back to his friend's nowempty home to write a book and clear his head. However, Duane's spirit, still in the house, joins with other eerie happenings to conspire against Dale in a story that audiences from teen to adult can appreciate. For example, Carole DeAngelo, writing in School Library Journal, pointed out that Winter Haunting is appropriate reading for teens who will find it "good spooky fun." A Publishers Weekly contributor further commented that "Simmons orchestrates his story's weird events craftily, introducing them as unremarkable details that only gradually show their dark side."
Simmons returns to science fiction for another series, which begins in the 2003 novel Ilium. Inspired by Homer's Iliad, the book was characterized by a Publishers Weekly critic as an "elegant monster of a novel." Here Simmons draws readers into a future Earth where the population lives unchallenging lives. In a parallel story, Simmons recounts the ongoing Trojan War and brings to life the Homeric exploits of Achilles and the gods. Layering the action, Simmons also introduces classics professor Thomas Hockenberry, who is restored to life by the Gods and sent back into the past to follow and report on the progress at Troy; meanwhile, from the moons of Jupiter come the Moravecs, who have detected problems in the solar system and travel to the planet Mars to check things out. These diverse threads weave together into a novel that the Publishers Weekly contributor described as "chock full of literary references, grand scenery, and fascinating characters," in short, "Simmons at his best." While admitting that the novel is "as unwieldy and pretentious as it sounds," a Kirkus Reviews contributor commended the author, noting that Simmons "never lets the story get away from him, using copious amounts of wit to keep the action grounded—and utterly addictive."
Simmons has also explored the crime thriller and mystery genres, although the author's unwillingness to be pegged down to a specific genre makes his books somewhat difficult to categorize. The Crook Factory, for example, is part spy story, part mystery, and part historical novel. It is based on the true story of Ernest Hemingway's efforts after World War II to organize a league of spies in Cuba. The main character in the story, Joe Lucas, is based on a real FBI agent who is sent to keep tabs on the famous author's activities. Lucas soon finds himself in a kind of coterie of spies, actors, and authors—among them Ingrid Bergman and Marlene Dietrich—who surround Hemingway at dinner parties and are impressed by his incisive mind. However, Lucas knows that despite the novelist's earnestness, Hemingway is still a rank amateur at the spy game. "This fabulously compelling and humorous rendering of littleknown war operations and secret agent skullduggery in the Caribbean in the summer of 1942 will surely charm readers who love history, suspense, and intrigue," asserted Booklist contributor Vanessa Bush. The story, however, is fascinating not only for its spy intrigue but for Simmons's characterization of Hemingway. As Michael Rogers noted in Library Journal, "Simmons offers one of the best fictional portraits of Hemingway available."
Simmons does not categorize The Crook Factory as a spy thriller, he told Dorman T. Shindler in a Publishers Weekly interview, because it does not fit the accepted formula. "That subgenre has demands, protocols and formulae of its own," he said, adding that "The Crook Factory might be called a ‘biographical literary mystery’ in the sense that at the heart of it is the question ‘Just who the hell was Ernest Hemingway?’ but its pace and pulse are all wrong for a thriller." The same is true, said the author, for his novel Darwin's Blade, the story of physicist Dr. Darwin Minor, who investigates automobile crashes for an insurance company. Many of these crashes are bizarre, and Darwin has made a reputation for himself as someone who can uncover cases of fraud and just plain stupidity, saving his company millions of dollars. Things become more dicey when he finds himself targeted by what one Publishers Weekly reviewer described as "a Russian mafia-type group that specializes in staging accidents to perpetrate insurance fraud."
Part of the fun in Darwin's Blade is the series of strange accidents, which Simmons based on actual cases his brother, Wayne Simmons, an insurance investigator, told him about. For example, a man once attached rockets to his car to make it go faster and consequently slammed into a cliff. "The accidents in Darwin's Blade weren't always exact re-creations of real accidents," Simmons admitted to Shindler, "but were often amalgams. … Usually, however, I had to tone down rather than exaggerate the details." The novel was positively received by critics. David Pitt, writing in Booklist, found it to be a "welcome relief from thrillers that offer nothing more than action scenes strung together." And Library Journal reviewer David Keymer called Darwin's Blade "a hair-raising adventure to satisfy the most discriminating reader."
With the creation of character Joe Kurtz, who appears in the crime novels Hard Case, Hard Freeze, and Hard as Nails, Simmons challenges readers by creating a highly disagreeable protagonist as his hero. When the audience is introduced to former private investigator Kurtz, he is being released from an eleven-year sentence at Attica for throwing a man out a window to his death. Violating the terms of his parole, Kurtz accepts a job from a mafia don to look for a missing accountant. He consequently becomes enmeshed in the plottings of various mobsters, drug lords, crooked cops, and assassins. Hard Case met with mixed reviews. A Publishers Weekly critic called it "all sinew and bloody gristle, stripped of the deep reflection and lively character development that usually give … [Simmons's] books a plusher texture." On the other hand, David Keymer praised the book in Library Journal, writing that "there's no letdown from explosive start to hell-forleather finish in this hard-as-nails detective story."
In Hard Freeze, Kurtz learns that the man who killed his partner is still alive; at the same time, he is working on a case to find a serial killer who stalks children. Reviewers of Hard Freeze especially appreciated the moody atmosphere the author creates in the city of Buffalo, and the story's action is touched with "glints of dark humor that sparkle nicely," according to Bob Lunn in Library Journal. Simmons, attested Booklist critic Frank Sennett, "writes action scenes that'll leave your hands clammy on the page" and has created "the least likable protagonist you'll ever find yourself rooting for." Kurtz finds himself confronted by a hill of corpses in Hard as Nails, while he also tries to avoid a gunman out to get him. Romantic interests enter the mix in a novel that Booklist contributor David Wright dubbed a "nice, dark, all-purpose thriller."
Simmons is the author of several story collections, including Prayers to Broken Stones and Lovedeath: Five Tales of Love and Death. Locus contributor Edward Bryant was impressed with the wide range of stories in Prayers to Broken Stones and noted that the book demonstrates "a marvelous range of intellectual concerns, passionate commitments, keenly honed artistic blades—and stretching exercises…. This book is an architectural plan for the construction of a major literary career." Similar praise met the publication of Lovedeath. "Simmons has never been more stylish than here, with the short novel form compressing his effects and squeezing a lurid glow from each page," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor.
Worlds Enough and Time: Five Tales of Speculative Fiction is a collection of five novellas, including "Looking for Kelly Dahl," "On K2 with Kanakaredes," "The Ninth of Av," "Orphans of the Helix," and "The End of Gravity." As with Lovedeath, Simmons varies his genres, including everything from space opera to mainstream fiction. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found "Orphans of the Helix," which is set in the Hyperion universe, to be the weakest of the stories, but commented that "the author's lapidary prose and ambitious ideas more often mesh seamlessly" and offer "literate and illuminating fiction that pushes the envelope." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews called Simmons's effort "an uneven if always readable collection highlighted by his charmingly chatty introductions to each story."
Olympos serves as a sequel to Simmons's earlier book, Ilium. In this volume, Simmons takes his inspiration not only from Homer's Iliad, but from Shakespeare's The Tempest and a variety of nineteenth-century poetry. In this book, Simmons writes about an advanced race, derived from human beings, that lives on Mars and acts out the role of the Ancient Greek gods. As part of their playacting, these beings travel through time and return to Earth, where they begin to alter the outcome of the actual Trojan War. Another race, this one relying on artificial intelligence, watches the action play out between Earth and Mars in an attempt to keep it from escalating into tragic consequences. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book "powerful stuff, rich in both high-tech sense of wonder and literary allusions," adding that "Simmons is in complete control of his material." Matthew L. Moffett, reviewing for School Library Journal, remarked that "fans of epic, action-driven science fiction will talk about this inventive and highly addictive thriller for years." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews felt that Simmons "effectively combines a serious subject, ironic perspective, strong action and believable (if not always sympathetic) characters."
In The Terror, Simmons offers readers an historical novel based on the real-life Franklin expedition that was lost in the 1840s while sailing to find the Northwest Passage. Only years later were any remains located, and until then it appeared as if the members of the expedition simply disappeared off the face of the earth. His story centers on Captain Crozier, the captain of one of the two ships that made up the party, and imagines his experiences during the course of the failed expedition, including the horrors of the artic and the state of mind of both captain and crew through sickness, accidents, death, and as it became clear they were lost. New York Times Book Review contributor Terrence Rafferty found the book to be unsuccessful on the whole, and suggested that it "raises the disturbing possibility that this energetic writer's hard-earned self-assurance may be tipping over into something more like hubris." However, a contributor for Kirkus Reviews called the book "one of Simmons's best."
Continuing to write in whatever genre—or mix of genres—he chooses, Simmons continues to defy publishers' efforts to fit his work neatly into one category. While the author understands the business reasons behind such practices, it has forced him to switch publishers several times to get his books printed. Nevertheless, Simmons would rather do this than be forced to confine himself to writing only one type of book. "What I'm drawn to," he explained to Shindler, "are the most interesting tropes and protocols available to the writer. Damn the genre boundaries and let the formula hacks take the hindmost…. All sufficiently ambitious writers are cuckoos in the sense that they'll lay their eggs in whatever nest offers the best chance for artistic survival. The absolute best writers transcend even the need for nests."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 44, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1987, pp. 273-275.
St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998, pp. 535-537.
Booklist, October 15, 1993, Elliott Swanson, review of Lovedeath: Five Tales of Love and Death, p. 419; December 1, 1998, Vanessa Bush, review of TheCrook Factory, p. 620; September 1, 2000, David Pitt, review of Darwin's Blade, p. 8; January 1, 2002, Regina Schroeder, review of A Winter Haunting, p. 825; May 1, 2002, Regina Schroeder, review of Worlds Enough and Time, p. 1514; August, 2002, Frank Sennett, review of Hard Freeze, p. 1933; April 15, 2003, Roland Green, review of Ilium, p. 1428; September 1, 2003, David Wright, review of Hard as Nails, p. 71.
Fantasy Review, October, 1986, review of Song of Kali, pp. 13-14.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1992, review of Children of the Night, p. 564; September 1, 1993, review of Lovedeath, p. 1099; August 15, 1994, review of Fires of Eden, p. 1083; June 15, 1997, review of The Rise of Endymion, p. 917; September 1, 2002, review of Worlds Enough and Time, p. 1272; May 1, 2003, review of Ilium, p. 650; September 1, 2003, review of Hard as Nails, p. 1104; May 15, 2005, review of Olympos, p. 568; November 1, 2006, review of The Terror, p. 1100.
Library Journal, January, 1999, Michael Rogers, review of The Crook Factory, p. 158; October 15, 2000, David Keymer, review of Darwin's Blade, p. 104; June 15, 2001, David Keymer, review of Hard Case, p. 105; August, 2002, Bob Lunn, review of Hard Freeze, p. 151; May 15, 2003, Jackie Cassada, review of Ilium, p. 131.
Locus, February, 1986, Faren Miller, review of Song of Kali, p. 13; October, 1990, Edward Bryant, review of Prayers to Broken Stones, pp. 23-24.
New York Times Book Review, March 25, 1990, Gerald Jonas, review of The Fall of Hyperion, p. 30; March 18, 2007, Terrence Rafferty, "Ice Men" review of The Terror, p. L8.
Publishers Weekly, January 11, 1999, review of The Crook Factory, p. 57; October 23, 2000, review of Darwin's Blade, p. 59; November 6, 2000, Dorman T. Shindler, "Between Two Worlds," p. 65; June 4, 2001, review of Hard Case, p. 61; January 14, 2002, review of A Winter Haunting, p. 45; April 29, 2002, review of Worlds Enough and Time, p. 47; July 29, 2002, review of Hard Freeze, p. 57; May 26, 2003, Michael Levy, "The Iliad as Science Fiction," interview with author, and review of Ilium, p. 53; September 15, 2003, review of Hard as Nails, p. 48; May 30, 2005, review of Olympos, p. 44.
School Library Journal, June, 2002, Carol DeAngelo, review of A Winter Haunting, p. 173; November, 2005, Matthew L. Moffett, review of Olympos, p. 182.
Dan Simmons Home Page,http://www.dansimmons.com (January 15, 2004).