Spencer, Wen 1963–
Spencer, Wen 1963–
Born 1963; married; children: son. Education: Graduated from the University of Pittsburgh.
Home—Outside Boston, MA. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer; worked various jobs including in aluminum expediting, as a medical researcher, and in museum renovation.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Memorial Award, for Alien Taste, 2001; John Campbell Award, 2003; Sapphire Award, for Tinker, 2003.
Alien Taste, Roc (New York, NY), 2001.
Tainted Trail, Roc (New York, NY), 2002.
Bitter Waters, Roc (New York, NY), 2003.
Tinker, Baen Books (Riverdale, NY), 2003.
Dog Warrior, Roc (New York, NY), 2004.
A Brother's Price, Roc (New York, NY), 2005.
Wolf Who Rules, Baen Books (Riverdale, NY), 2006.
Endless Blue, Baen Books (Riverdale, NY), 2007.
Contributor to various anthologies, including Triangulation 2003: A Confluence of Speculative Fiction, edited by Diane Turnshek, PARSEC Publishing, 2003; Faire Tales, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Russel Davis, DAW Books, 2004; Turn the Other Chick, edited by Esther Friesner, Baen Books, 2004; Adventures in Sol System, edited by T.K.F. Weisskopf, Baen Books, 2004; Triangulation 2004: A Confluence of Speculative Fiction, edited by Barbara Carlson, PARSEC Publishing, 2004; and Fantastic Companions, edited by Julie E. Czerneda, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2005.
Science fiction and fantasy writer Wen Spencer was born in 1963, and grew up in Evans City, Pennsylvania. She became fascinated with the science fiction and fantasy genres when she was just a child, and by the time she reached high school she was submitting short stories for publication at a number of the prestigious magazines of the day, including Omni and Analog. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, she has worked a broad range of jobs in order to pay her bills while pursuing her dream to become a writer, including in aluminum expediting, as a medical researcher, and in museum renovation. Although she has since moved to the Boston area, where she lives with her husband and her son, Spencer was very affected by the Pittsburgh region, and the city serves as the setting for many of her stories. However, her first professional sale did not come until many years after leaving that area, long after she had married and given birth to her son. Since selling her first novel, Alien Taste, when she was thirty-seven years old, Spencer has written a number of books, including Tainted Trail, Bitter Waters, Tinker, Dog Warrior, A Brother's Price, Wolf Who Rules, and Endless Blue. In addition, she has contributed her short stories to several anthologies.
Tinker takes place in the city of Pittsburgh sometime in the near future. Tinker, a brilliant mechanic and also the owner of a junkyard, lives in a mysterious corner of the city that exists in an alternate dimension that has been drawn into the world of elves. But once a month, the portion of the elves' world within which Tinker's home exists mysteriously loses power, and as a result, manages to return to Earth, albeit temporarily. During these monthly events, known as the Shutdown, Tinker cleaves tightly to her home within Elfland, as she dislikes Earth in general and has no desire to find herself stranded. During a Shutdown one month, while Tinker remains safely in the junkyard, an elven lord by the name of Windwolf, who saved Tinker once from an attack of wargs, goes running past. This time the wargs are after him, so Tinker takes off to offer her assistance and hopefully return the favor that the lord once did her. Although she is successful in saving him from the attack, his injuries require immediate care, and with the Shutdown in full swing, there is no ac- cess to any electricity to power medical treatment. Tinker must therefore see that Windwolf makes it safely to Earth where he can be healed. Dionne Galace, writing for her own Web site, commented that Tinker appears too well regarded by the various characters in the book, despite her childish behavior, but overall she concluded that "Spencer creates an alternate reality that is very believable and weaves a mythology that is rich and fascinating." Frieda Murray, writing for Booklist, commented that "Spencer's intertwining of current Earth technology and otherworldly elven magic is quite ingenious." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly opined that "furious action, including a memorable car chase … and well-developed folklore all help lift this well above the fantasy average."
Dog Warrior is one of a number of Spencer's novels featuring Ukiah Oregon, who is part alien. In Spencer's earlier books, it is established that Ukiah was raised by wolves initially, then adopted by lesbian mothers who rescued him from the feral life he was leading, taught him to live as a human being, and introduced him to society. This installment introduces the character Atticus Steele, who is of the same alien race as Ukiah and therefore considered his brother, and Atticus's lover, Hikaru Takahashi. Both are federal drug enforcement agents. Lawrence Schimel, writing for Lambda Book Report, remarked that "these are not innovative speculations of possible futures to expand the genre's boundaries, but they are enjoyable reads and are addictively compelling."
Spencer's Wolf Who Rules is a sequel to Tinker and picks up as Tinker herself has been genetically transformed into an elf and married to Wolf the elven lord, whom readers met in the earlier volume. Wolf now rules the land that occupies a tiny portion of Earth through an alternate dimension, but both humans and elves are intent on overthrowing him, and Tinker finds that much of their honeymoon is spent defending their kingdom. In addition, Japanese demons called oni are trying to invade the realm, and Tinker and Wolf must combat them as well. Booklist reviewer Frieda Murray declared that "all of that keeps them busy and the reader turning pages." Meanwhile, Tinker is having trouble assimilating, both into her marriage and into the new culture that she is now a part of but from which she feels disconnected. Spencer solves this issue by opening the door for Tinker to take lovers, making it a custom of the elven people. Some reviewers found these additional issues distracting. A reviewer for the Dear Author Web site declared that "if the story had focused around the plot, it would been a much better book."
In Endless Blue, a space thriller, the characters live in a world in which the residents of Earth are being persecuted by the Nefrim, a race that is intent on driving the Earthlings out of space entirely. Spaceships appear to be the territory over which their feud is being fought, with each race blaming the other whenever one of their own ships goes missing, as they assume the ship has been captured. However, the Fenrir is a unique ship, as its warp drive mysteriously appears on the Plymouth Station for no apparent reason. Captain Mikhail Volkov leads the investigation to determine what caused its jump through space. In order to commence his investigation at the beginning, Volkov manages to make his own space jump, traveling to the point of origin for the Fenrir's trip. This proves to be a potentially deadly mistake, however, as Volkov and the rest of his team find themselves transported to the Sargasso sector, an area from which supposedly no one has ever returned. Harriet Klausner, writing for the Genre Go Round Review Blog, remarked that "Spencer makes the Sargasso sector seem genuine as stranded humans and aliens live in discord."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Analog Science Fiction & Fact, December 1, 2002, Tom Easton, review of Tainted Trail, p. 133.
Booklist, June 1, 2002, Roland Green, review of Tainted Trail, p. 1699; May 15, 2003, Roland Green, review of Bitter Waters, p. 1652; November 15, 2003, Frieda Murray, review of Tinker, p. 589; April 15, 2006, Frieda Murray, review of Wolf Who Rules, p. 34.
California Bookwatch, March 1, 2008, review of Endless Blue.
Chronicle, September 1, 2005, Don D'Ammassa, review of A Brother's Price, p. 36.
Kliatt, July 1, 2003, Janet Julian, review of Bitter Waters, p. 35; May 1, 2005, Sherry Hoy, review of Tinker, p. 36.
Lambda Book Report, January 1, 2005, Lawrence Schimel, "Queer Positive," p. 46.
Library Journal, November 15, 2003, Jackie Cassada, review of Tinker, p. 102.
Publishers Weekly, November 3, 2003, review of Tinker, p. 58.
Voice of Youth Advocates, December 1, 2002, review of Tainted Trail, p. 402; October 1, 2003, review of Bitter Waters, p. 328; August 1, 2004, review of Tinker, p. 234.
Baen Books Web site,http://www.baen.com/ (March 1, 2006), Toni Weisskopf, author interview.
Dear Author,http://dearauthor.com/ (June 25, 2008), reviews of Wolf Who Rules and Tinker.
Dionne Galace Web site,http://dionnegalace.com/ (April 3, 2006), review of Tinker.
Genre Go Round Reviews,http://genregoroundreviews.blogspot.com/ (November 14, 2007), Harriet Klausner, review of Endless Blue.
RF Book Reviews,http://www.rfbookreviews.com/ (July 14, 2005), review of A Brother's Price.
SF Site,http://www.sfsite.com/ (June 25, 2008), author profile; Peter D. Tillman, review of Tinker.
Strange Horizons,http://www.strangehorizons.com/ (May 31, 2004), Tee Morris, "Two Great Tastes that Taste Great Together: Tinker by Wen Spencer."
Vision,http://www.fmwriters.com/ (June 25, 2008), Lazette Gifford, "Alien Views: An Interview with Wen Spencer."
Wen Spencer Home Page,http://www.wenspencer.com (June 25, 2008).
What Marian Reads,http://whatmarianreads.blogspot.com/ (June 28, 2006), review of A Brother's Price.