Steele, Allen 1958- (Alan M. Steele)
Steele, Allen 1958- (Alan M. Steele)
Born January 19, 1958, in Nashville, TN; son of Allen M., Sr. (an attorney) and Damaris Steele; married Linda Jacobs (a radio announcer), August 16, 1987. Education: New England College, B.A., 1982; University of Missouri, Columbia, M.A., 1985. Politics: "Postmodern liberal." Religion: "Nonobserving Presbyterian."
Writer and journalist. Worcester, Worcester, MA, staff reporter, 1985-87; freelance writer, 1987—. Business Worcester, staff reporter, 1986.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (board of advisors), National Space Society, Space Studies Institute, Space Frontier Foundation (board of advisors).
Honorary degree, International Space University, 1987; John W. Campbell Award nomination, 1990; Phillip K. Dick Award nomination, 1990, for Clarke County, Space; Hugo Award for Best Novella and Nebula Award nomination for Best Novella, 1996, both for The Death of Captain Future; Hugo Award nomination for Best Novelette, for The Good Rat; Nebula Award nomination for Best Novella, 1997, and Hugo Award for Best Novella, 1998, both for Where Angels Fear to Tread; Hugo Award nomination for Best Novelette, 1999, for Zwarte Piet's Tale; Hugo Award nomination and Nebula Award nomination for Best Novelette, 2002, both for The Days Between; Hugo Award nomination for Best Novella, 2002, for Stealing Alabama.
"NEAR SPACE" SCIENCE FICTION SERIES
Orbital Decay, Ace (New York, NY), 1989.
Clarke County, Space, Ace (New York, NY), 1990.
Lunar Descent, Ace (New York, NY), 1991.
Labyrinth of Night, Ace (New York, NY), 1992.
A King of Infinite Space, HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1997.
"COYOTE" SCIENCE FICTION SERIES
Coyote: A Novel of Interstellar Exploration, Ace (New York, NY), 2002.
Coyote Rising: A Novel of Interstellar Revolution, Ace (New York, NY), 2004.
Coyote Frontier, Ace (New York, NY), 2005.
Spindrift, Ace (New York, NY), 2007.
SCIENCE FICTION; NOVELS, EXCEPT WHERE NOTED
The Jericho Iteration, Ace (New York, NY), 1994.
The Weight, Arrow (New York, NY), 1995.
The Tranquillity Alternative, Ace (New York, NY), 1996.
Oceanspace, Ace (New York, NY), 2000.
Chronospace, Ace (New York, NY), 2001.
Rude Astronauts: Real and Imagined Stories (short story collection), Old Earth Books (Baltimore, MD), 1993.
Sex and Violence In Zero-G: The Complete "Near Space" Collection, Meisha Merlin (Decatur, GA), 1999.
American Beauty (short stories), Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2003.
Primary Ignition: Essays, 1997-2001, Wildside (Rockville, MD), 2003.
Also author of novellas The Death of Captain Future, 1996; Where Angels Fear to Tread, 1997; and Stealing Alabama, 2002. Author of novelettes The Good Rat, 1996; Zwarte Piet's Tale, 1999; and The Days Between, 2002.
Contributor of short fiction to periodicals, including Asimov's, Worcester Monthly, SF Age, F&SF, Omni, Absolute Magnitute, Analog, and Pirate Writings. Contributor of short fiction to anthologies, including Inside the Funhouse: 17 SF Stories about SF, 1992; Aliens and UFO's: Extraterrestrial Tales from Asimov's Science Fiction and Analog Science Fiction and Fact, 1993; Alien Pregnant by Elvis, 1994; Dinosaurs II, 1995; Tales in Space, 1995; War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches, 1996; The Year's Best Science Fiction Thirteenth Annual Collection, 1996; Isaac Asimov's Moons, 1997; Year's Best SF 2, 1997; Future War, 1999; Star Colonies, 2000; The Year's Best Science Fiction, Nineteenth Annual Collection, 2002; The Hard SF Renaissance, 2002; Year's Best SF 9, 2004; and The Space Opera Renaissance, 2006. Contributor of articles and columns to periodicals, including New York Review of Science Fiction, Science Fiction Age, SFWA Bulletin, Contact Newsletter, and Absolute Magnitude SF Magazine.
Allen Steele once told CA: "Since my professional training has been in journalism, I am trying to use journalistic techniques in my science fiction. This is coupled with an ongoing effort to re-invent the near-future space novel, bringing it away from ‘space opera’ and closer to the realm of realism, while also concentrating on the viewpoint of working-class characters." Indeed, Allen Steele's science fiction novels set in the near future are noted for their scientists and blue-collar workers who fight an ongoing battle with government and corporate bureaucrats whose rules and money-mongering would impinge the pristine freedom of space. Steele is also credited with creating an intriguing alternate history of the U.S. space program, one in which the first moon landing occurred ten years earlier than it did in actuality, and includes the infusion of capital from corporations to fund the construction of large space stations by the year 2000.
Steele's first novel, Orbital Decay, was "a great debut" in the opinion of a Locus contributor, who described the author as one who "boldly and successfully strides the turf that was once the exclusive domain of the legendary Robert A. Heinlein." Though not all of Steele's subsequent science fiction novels were received quite so enthusiastically, he is nonetheless considered by some a master of hard sf, that branch of writing about a fictional future in which technical details abound, and a worthy successor to Heinlein. Orbital Decay takes place in the near future and focuses on a group of free spirits, workers building a system of satellites that will provide the Earth with abundant, nonpolluting power. A Locus contributor acknowledged the book's claim to realism in the sense that science fiction enthusiasts use that term, but added that Orbital Decay is "also one of the most unabashedly romantic novels of space exploration written since the '40s."
In his second novel, Clarke County, Space, Steele returns to the territory of space stations orbiting Earth in an imagined near future when the American space program is run as a commercial enterprise. In this story, a young woman tries to escape a violent boyfriend by joining the community of Clarke County, Space, where she is pursued by her former lover for an item she stole from him. "Steele's second effort does not quite sustain the excitement that he roused the first time around," A Locus contributor warned. Similarly, another Locus contributor found Steele's Lunar Descent, a tale of corporate reorganization and threatened Japanese takeover of the American lunar manufacturing facility, "not nearly as good as it could be."
Steele's next effort, Labyrinth of Night, reintroduces what had by then become a signature central conflict between blue-collar types and the bureaucrats in charge. Here, the setting is Mars, and the plot concerns a mysterious construction, in the shape of a human face, on the surface of the planet that draws people to a labyrinth beneath a cluster of pyramids. The labyrinth is a puzzle created long before by an alien culture to test the intelligence of those who enter. A subplot concerns the efforts of politicians from both sides of the former Cold War to claim whatever might be found at the heart of the labyrinth. A Locus contributor dubbed Steele's Cold War subplot an "unnecessary sideshow," but concluded that Steele's "writing shows the energy and enthusiasm that will attract readers and carry him into entirely new territory." Another Locus contributor commented that "on the whole this is Steele's strongest and most satisfying book."
The Jericho Iteration, Steele's next novel, features a journalist protagonist who stumbles onto evidence of a conspiracy to take over the United States. It begins with the apparent imposition of martial law in St. Louis by the Emergency Relief Agency, which came to help the city recover from an earthquake the year before, in 2012, and stayed on to run the city. "The plot's not exactly revolutionary, but it's an ever-serviceable version of the sort of storytelling dynamic Alfred Hitchcock used expertly," observed a reviewer writing in Locus. In The Tranquillity Alternative, which Washington Post Book World contributor Tim Sullivan dubbed "hard sf at its best," Commander Gene Parnell, a veteran of the American space program of the 1960s, has been hired to oversee the last landing on the moon, when ICBMs are to be destroyed by launching them into the sun. As with some of his earlier works, Steele was faulted for spending too much time on plot background in The Tranquillity Alternative, though reviewers noted that once the story gets going, the novel provides plenty of excitement.
A King of Infinite Space begins in 1995, when a wealthy, dissolute young man meets an untimely end in a car accident, only to wake up a hundred years later in a body cloned from his head, which had survived the crash and been preserved. Alec has been brought back to life, along with others, in order to be a slave, however, and he must devise a means of escape in order to look for his lover, in the hope that she has also, somehow, made it to the future. Steele relies on a clichéd ending, according to Janice M. Eisen in the Washington Post Book World. Nevertheless, Eisen wrote: "Steele is an engaging writer, his vision of the future feels solid and detailed, and much of the book is enjoyable."
Steele is also the author of collections, including Rude Astronauts: Real and Imagined Stories, which contains both short stories and nonfiction pieces of science fiction interest from his days as a reporter, and All-American Alien Boy: The United States as Science Fiction; Science Fiction as a Journey, which consists of eleven short stories. Some critics made much of Steele's placement of fiction and nonfiction pieces side by side in Rude Astronauts. Tom Easton wrote in Analog: Science Fiction and Fact: "The overall effect of the fiction-nonfiction combo is … that of a portrait of a writer who lives and breathes the dreams of science fiction, of a future in which we reach out to the universe, embracing novelty and strangeness. Just the thing for Analog readers."
Steele has continued his high output of science fiction short stories and novels. Oceanspace is a novel featuring the inhabitants of a research lab beneath the Atlantic ocean who confront a strange and mysterious creature. Jackie Cassada, writing in the Library Journal, referred to the novel as a "taut, suspenseful sf adventure." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that Oceanspace is "a yarn that entertains modestly but very well." The short-story collection American Beauty features ten science fiction tales, which Roland Green, writing in Booklist, called a "solid set, with not a mediocre, let alone dumb, piece in it."
In his "Coyote" series of science fiction novels, which began as several short stories, Steele tells the tale of Earth's first starship and interstellar colony, which is made up of political outcasts who cannot return to Earth. "Well, as often happens when I'm writing a book, it wasn't until I was about halfway through Coyote [the first book in the series] when it dawned on me that what I was doing was sort of a shadow-text for the history of America," Steele told Alasdair Stuart in an interview on the Zone Web site. "It wasn't the opening of the American west that inspired me so much as it was the establishment of the original colonies and the exploration of the south."
The first book in the series, Coyote: A Novel of Interstellar Exploration, features a group of rebels who oppose the right-wing group that has overthrown the Constitution of the United States. The rebels hijack one of the spaceships that is supposed to be manned by a crew and colonizers handpicked by the government. As they journey through space, one of those onboard wakes up accidentally from the 200-year hibernation that the rest of the colonizers are under and must struggle from going mad from loneliness and the realization that he will die before they reach their destination. The final part of the book features the ship finally reaching its destination and then follows a group of teenagers as they set out to make a life on their New World called Coyote. Gerald Jonas, writing in the New York Times Book Review, commented that "each page of this novel bears evidence of fresh thought about the opportunities inherent in science fiction to take the familiar and make it new." Booklist contributor Roland Green referred to Coyote as "Steele's most ambitious novel yet."
Coyote Rising: A Novel of Interstellar Revolution features the rebellious colonizers in opposition to the U.S. government's handpicked colonizers and their repressive regime. Led by the mysterious Rigil Kent, the rebels make plans to make their New World free. Jackie Cassada, writing in the Library Journal, noted: "Steele's sequel … gives voice to numerous characters." Booklist reviewer Roland Green noted the author's "good and even vivid writing."
In the third book in the series, titled Coyote Frontier, the space colony of Coyote is struggling to survive due to a lack of technology. When an Earth starship arrives, the colonists believe that help is at hand, only to learn that the Earth itself is in a state of ruin due to an exploited environment and failing society, making the colonizers realize that they are the future of human beings. Soon, however, a battle breaks out between the settlers and the new arrivals who want to exploit Coyote's resources. Booklist contributor Roland Green referred to the novel as "good, old-time science fiction." A Bookseller reviewer wrote that Coyote Frontier is "a rattling good yarn."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Analog: Science Fiction and Fact, June, 1993, Tom Easton, review of Labyrinth of Night, pp. 160-61; December 15, 1993, Tom Easton, review of Rude Astronauts: Real and Imagined Stories, pp. 160-65; April, 1994, review of The Jericho Iteration, p. 163; August, 1996, Tom Easton, review of The Weight, p. 146; September, 1996, Tom Easton, review of The Tranquility Alternative, pp. 145-47; April, 1997, Tom Easton, review of All-American Alien Boy: The United States as Science Fiction; Science Fiction as a Journey, pp. 147-53.
Booklist, January 17, 2000, Roland Green, review of Oceanspace, p. 48; October 15, 2002, Roland Green, review of Coyote: A Novel of Interstellar Exploration, p. 396; June 1, 2003, Roland Green, review of American Beauty, p. 1755; November 15, 2004, Roland Green, review of Coyote Rising: A Novel of Interstellar Revolution, p. 571; December 1, 2005, Roland Green, review of Coyote Frontier, p. 32.
Bookseller, December 9, 2005, review of Coyote Frontier, p. 33.
Library Journal, February 15, 2000, Jackie Cassada, review of Oceanspace, p. 202; December 1, 2004, Jackie Cassada, review of Coyote Rising, p. 104.
Locus, July, 1989, review of Orbital Decay, p. 21; April, 1990, review of Orbital Decay, p. 39; June, 1990, review of Clarke County, Space, p. 25; September, 1990, review of Clarke County, Space, p. 19; January, 1991, review of Clarke County, Space, p. 59; February, 1991, review of Clarke County, Space, pp. 37, 39; July, 1991, review of Lunar Descent, p. 19; September, 1991, review of Lunar Descent, p. 23; November, 1991, review of Lunar Descent, p. 60; July, 1992, review of Labyrinth of Night, pp. 29, 57; November, 1992, review of Labyrinth of Night, pp. 57, 63; April, 1993, review of Rude Astronauts, pp. 27, 52-53; June, 1993, review of Rude Astronauts, p. 56; February, 1994, review of Rude Astronauts, p. 39; October, 1994, review of The Jericho Iteration, p. 25; December, 1994, review of The Jericho Iteration, p. 60; January, 1995, review of The Jericho Iteration, p. 33; February, 1995, review of The Jericho Iteration, p. 38.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March, 1996, review of The Jericho Iteration, p. 54; June, 1996, review of The Tranquility Alternative, p. 32.
New York Times Book Review, January 5, 2003, Gerald Jonas, review of Coyote, p. 18.
Publishers Weekly, October 6, 1989, Penny Kaganoff, review of Oribtal Decay, p. 80; August 30, 1991, review of Lunar Descent, p. 78; November 14, 1994, review of The Jericho Iteration, p. 57; January 17, 2000, review of Oceanspace, p. 48; November 8, 2004, review of Coyote Rising, p. 40; October 3, 2005, review of Coyote Frontier, p. 50.
Science Fiction Chronicle, March, 1990, review of Orbital Decay, p. 34; March, 1991, review of Clarke County, Space, p. 28; November, 1991, review of Rude Descent, p. 32; January, 1993, review of Labyrinth of Night, p. 35; September, 1993, review of Rude Astronauts, p. 34; May, 1996, review of The Tranquility Alternative, p. 57.
Washington Post Book World, April 24, 1994, review of Rude Astronauts, p. 10; May 26, 1996, Tim Sullivan, review of The Tranquility Alternative, p. 6; September 28, 1997, Janice M. Eisen, review of A King of Infinite Space, p. 8.
Locus Online,http://locusmag.com/ (April 17, 2007), interview with the author.
Zone,http://www.zone-sf.com/ (March 15, 2007), Alasdair Stuart, "Mosaic Frontiers: Allen Steele," interview with author.