Bull, Emma 1954–

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Bull, Emma 1954–


Born December 13, 1954, in Torrance, CA; daughter of Volney R. and Dorothy Bull; married Will Shetterly (a writer and editor), October 17, 1981. Education: Beloit College, B.A. (English), 1976.


Home and office—Tucson, AZ. Agent—Christopher Schelling, Ralph Vicinanza Agency, 303 W. 18th St., New York, NY 10011.


Writer. Performer with Cats Laughing (psychedelic jazz/folk band), and Flash Girls (Celto-Goth acoustic duo); SteelDragon Press. co-owner. Worked variously as an editor of corporate publications, a rubber-stamp maker, a car parker at a summer resort, a security guard, a folksinger, and a car salesman. Presenter at conferences and workshops, including Clarion West and Pima Writers Workshop.

Awards, Honors

Three hundred Best Books for Young Adults listee, New York Public Library, and Best First Novel designation, Locus magazine poll, both 1987, and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, 1988, all for War for the Oaks; Philip K. Dick Award nomination, 1991, and Nebula Award nominations for best novel, World Fantasy Award nomination, and Hugo Award nomination, all 1992, all for Bone Dance; Nebula Award nomination for best novella, 1993, for "Silver or Gold"; Locus Award finalist, 2008, for Territory.



War for the Oaks, Ace/Berkley (New York, NY), 1987, reprinted, Orb (New York, NY), 2001.

Falcon, Ace (New York, NY), 1989.

Bone Dance, Ace (New York, NY), 1991.

(With husband, Will Shetterly) Double Feature (stories), NESFA Press, 1994.

The Princess and the Lord of Night (picture book), illustrated by Susan Gaber, Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1994.

Finder: A Novel of the Borderlands, Tor (New York, NY), 1994.

(With Steven Brust) Freedom and Necessity, Tor (New York, NY), 1997.

War for the Oaks, Orb (New York, NY), 2001.

Territory, Tor (New York, NY), 2007.

(With Elizabeth Bear) Refining Fire, www.shadowunit.org, 2008.

Cocreator and contributor to Shadow Unit Web fiction project, www.shadowunit.org, 2007—.


(Editor with Will Shetterly, and contributor) Liavek, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1985.

(Editor with Will Shetterly, and contributor) Liavek: The Players of Luck, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1986.

(Editor with Will Shetterly) Liavek: Wizard's Row, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1987.

(Editor with Will Shetterly) Liavek: Spells of Binding, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1988.

(Editor with Will Shetterly) Liavek: Festival Week, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1990.

Contributor of poetry and stories to anthologies, including Sword and Sorceress, DAW (New York, NY), 1984; Bordertown, New American Library (New York, NY), 1986; Hidden Turnings: A Collection of Stories through Time and Space, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1990; Life on the Border, Tor (New York, NY), 1991; After the King: Stories in Honor of J.R.R. Tolkien, 1992; The Armless Maiden, and Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors, Tor, 1995; The Green Man, Viking; The Fairie Reel, Viking; Firebirds; and Firebirds Rising, 2006. Author, with Shetterly, of screenplays, including Masters of Earth, Dogland, William Tell, and Nightspeeder.


Since the publication of her first book, War for the Oaks, Emma Bull has won attention from critics for her engaging, imaginative fantasies featuring tough, nontraditional characters. In the words of Booklist critic Carl Hays, Bull has "forged a stellar reputation for sharply original storytelling." While most of Bull's fantasy works, short stories, and novels are written for adult and young-adult audiences, she has also created an original fairy tale, The Princess and the Lord of Night, to appeal to younger readers.

Bull, who has performed in rock and folk bands in Minneapolis, set her first novel in that city. Although War for the Oaks takes place in contemporary Minneapolis, it involves characters who are seemingly invisible to almost everyone but the book's fictional heroine, guitarist Eddi McCandry. The war for the oaks is being fought by fairies, some of whom want Eddi to help them out. Meanwhile, Eddi forms a band which takes part in the story's final duel of magic. In Booklist, Roland Green appreciated the novel's female protagonist, and Barbara Evans wrote in her Voice of Youth Advocates review that the book provides "exciting reading." Dubbing War for the Oaks "a minor fantasy cult classic," a Publishers Weekly contributor concluded that Bull's "prose portrayal of Faerie infringing on the real world remains an imaginative triumph."

A member of a royal family on the fictional planet Cymru is the subject of Falcon. Here Bull's titular hero defies his family to pursue justice for his people. Then, despite attempted assassinations and a coup that destroys his family, he survives to become an exile. As a space pilot, Falcon experiences adventure, romance, and intrigue while discovering more about his family's past. Gerald Jonas, reviewing the novel for the New York Times Book Review, noted Bull's "love of language" and her ability to create "well-formed descriptive sentences," while Green lauded her "world building."

Bone Dance, set in Minnesota years after a nuclear holocaust, features a teenaged video and CD dealer named Sparrow. Sparrow is an androgynous character who has suffered from blackouts for years. Now he enjoys his own secret stock of video and audio equipment and works at a nightclub when he is not dealing. Gradually, however, two warring members of the esoteric Horsemen group appear and change the teen's life. The Horsemen, who have the power to take over the minds of others, worked for the U.S. government before the war. Clones, created as hosts for Horsemen, were stored then, but the nuclear war caused by the Horsemen leads to their neglect. Sparrow is one such clone, and despite his moderate success at building a human self, he becomes an integral part of the Horsemen's feud. Reviewing Bone Dance, a Publishers Weekly critic found that the novel's "off-beat characters draw the reader in," and a School Library Journal contributor called the book "another winner." Writing in Analog, Tom Easton commented that Bull's novel is "worthy of applause."

Bull's fourth novel is a contribution to author/anthologist Terri Windling's "Borderland" series, which includes anthologies as well as two novels written by Bull's husband, Will Shetterly. Finder: A Novel of the Borderlands, a mix of detective, science fiction, and fantasy fiction, is set in the fictional city of Bordertown. In this magical city where young elves and humans mingle, a new drug called Passport is rumored to allow humans to turn into elves and cross into the land of the elves. Instead, the drug kills its users. Sunny Rico, a female police officer, enlists Orient in her attempt to find the Passport drug dealer. Orient, a "finder" who is pulled to anything or anyone one wants to find, helps Rico only because she threatens to reveal his criminal past if he does not. Together, Sunny and Orient work to stop the dissemination of Passport and the new virus that is affecting elves—including Orient's best friend, a female elf motorcycle mechanic.

A Kirkus Reviews critic described Finder as "refreshing" and "ingenious," and noted its "splendid ideas and beguilingly life-like characters." In her Voice of Youth Advocates review, Paula Lewis recommended Bull's novel as an "excellent choice for sophisticated YA readers." School Library Journal contributor Cathy Chauvette praised the story's "genre crossover" theme, and Faren Miller concluded in Locus that Finder "brings new maturity" to the "Borderlands" series.

The novel Freedom and Necessity, a fictional collaboration between Bull and fantasy writer Steven Brust, is set in Victorian England and opens as a young Englishman appears to die in a boating accident. However, when the supposedly deceased man's cousin receives a letter from him, the story, according to Green, "becomes an exceptional page-turner." Referring to Freedom and Necessity as a "romantic mystery-adventure," a Publishers Weekly critic lauded the novel's "engaging characters and surprises."

A curse threatens an entire kingdom in The Princess and the Lord of Night, Bull's first picture book. When the Lord of Night deems that a newborn princess must be given everything she wants, or else the king and queen will die and the kingdom will be ruined, the princess tries to live a life devoid of greed. She takes great pleasure in what she already has: beloved pets and a magical cloak. Yet, on her thirteenth birthday, the princess feels that she wants something new and goes out in search of it. On her journey, the generous princess gives away her possessions. The story concludes when the girl's good deeds and good motives—along with a magical ring she has been given—release her from the curse. A Publishers Weekly critic described the heroine of Bull's "enchanting" and "lyrical fairy tale" as "spunky and intelligent." Lauralyn Persson, appraising the picture book for School Library Journal, described the "formal language" in The Princess and the Lord of Night as both "elegant and vivid."

In a change of pace for the fantasy writer, Bull takes readers back to the Wild West in Territory, setting her story in Tombstone, Arizona, in the days leading up to the historic shootout that made a legend of such characters as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. In the story, the magic-tinged murder of a Chinese prostitute is linked to a claim to a silver mine, and sorting out the crime are feisty female reporter Mildred Benjamin and her friend, horse tamer and amateur sorcerer Jesse Fox. Bull "takes huge chances and achieves something distinctively wonderful with this subtle reworking of a western legend," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor in a review of Territory. In Library Journal, Jackie Cassada praised in particular the author's "elegant storytelling" and her novel's "strong characters," recommending Bull's novel as "a good selection for most adult and YA fantasy collections."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Analog, November, 1991, Tom Easton, review of Bone Dance, p. 164.

Booklist, September 15, 1987, Roland Green, review of War for the Oaks, p. 112; October 1, 1989, Roland Green, review of Falcon, p. 265; February 15, 1994, Carl Hays, review of Finder: A Novel of the Borderlands, p. 1064; March 15, 1997, Roland Green, review of Freedom and Necessity, p. 1231; July 1, 2007, Ian Chipman, review of Territory, p. 43.

Horn Book, fall, 1994, review of Finder, p. 299.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1993, review of Finder, p. 1555; June 1, 2007, review of Territory.

Kliatt, September, 1995, review of Finder, p. 18.

Library Journal, May 15, 1991, Jackie Cassada, review of Bone Dance, p. 111; February 15, 1994, Jackie Cassada, review of Finder, p. 188; January, 1997, Georgia Panos, review of Freedom of Necessity, p. 143; July 1, 2007, Jackie Cassada, review of Territory, p. 80.

Locus, February, 1994, Faren Miller, review of Finder, p. 19.

New York Times Book Review, October 1, 1989, Gerald Jonas, review of Falcon, p. 40.

Publishers Weekly, April 12, 1991, review of Bone Dance, p. 54; February 28, 1994, review of The Princess and the Lord of Night, p. 87; January 27, 1997, review of Freedom and Necessity, p. 77; May 28, 2007, review of Territory, p. 41.

School Library Journal, December, 1991, review of Bone Dance, p. 152; May, 1994, Lauralyn Persson, review of The Princess and the Lord of Night, p. 89; June, 1995, Cathy Chauvette, review of Finder, p. 143.

Science Fiction Chronicle, June, 1994, review of Finder, p. 42.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1988, Barbara Evans, review of War for the Oaks, p. 286; June, 1994, Paula Lewis, review of Finder, pp. 96-98.


Emma Bull Web log,http://coffeeem.livejournal.com/ (June 20, 2008).