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Lucius Shepard R.I.P.

(9 posts)

  1. SHamm
    Member

    Jack Dann reports that Lucius Shepard, a brilliant writer and a longtime F&SF contributor, has died. What an unbelievably awful couple of months it's been.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  2. Mark Pontin
    Member

    About four months back there was a report that Lucius Shepard had had a massive stroke over in Europe. Not a total surprise because, despite being relatively young, he'd always been a hard-liver. But I had hopes he might work his way back.

    It's a great, great loss in a couple of ways.

    It's hard to over-emphasize how superior Shepard's command of imagery and of certain kinds of prose musicality was -- and not just compared to other SF writers but to every kind of writer. (The only other SF writer who could sling metaphors around with anything like Shepard's facility was J.G. Ballard, now also gone.)

    Shepard talked about having his writerly skills literally beaten into him as a boy by a father who was an aspiring -- and failed -- Southern poet. It sounded like a frankly appalling childhood (for that matter, you wouldn't want Ballard's childhood in Lunghua concentration camp, either), and so Shepard's wasn't a talent built in a planned, systematic way. This had its pros and cons: he never really learned to plot and do subtext in any reliable way, it seemed to me.

    But when everything came together in his short stories and novelettes he didn't need to: he achieved deeply moving, beautiful effects far beyond those that mere craftsmanship could deliver. I commend to the attention of anybody who hasn't read them Shepard stories like "The Jaguar Hunter," "Life of Buddha," "R&R," and some others. The very best Shepard short stories -- and those are some of them -- could be put beside the greats of world lit, it seems to me. They're that good, so that people could read them a century or two from now, as we still read Babel, Kipling or Hemingway.

    So, firstly, there's the loss of the possibility of any more Shepard short fiction of that caliber.

    Then, secondly, I always nourished the hope that he'd get it together on the craftsman-mechanics side of things and finally deliver a novel that was as brilliant as the best of his short fiction. That will never happen now.

    Just a great loss.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  3. iamnothing
    Member

    I really liked _A Handbook of American Prayer_.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  4. Gordon Van Gelder
    Editor/Publisher

    Just for the record, Lucius was actually in an Oregon hospital when he had a stroke last August. He had been battling back and thought he'd be able to write film reviews again by the summer, but this week he was dealing with a blood infection and, according to his son, "slipped away."

    Here's Katherine Dunn's great "Introduction to Lucius Shepard" from our March 2001 issue:

    http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/2001/dunn0103.htm

    Posted 4 years ago #
  5. Mark Pontin
    Member

    @ iamnothing

    Yeah. As regards A HANDBOOK OF AMERICAN PRAYER, I liked it myself and IIRC the last third or quarter of the book doesn't crash too badly. I still think the novel's ending is a thing of lesser quality and scope than the beginning potentially promises it'll build into.

    Generally, Shepard's novels seemed to me -- and this is only my opinion and everybody has one of those, etc. -- to finish in, say, Stephen King-like arbitrary mystic hugger-mugger and (sometimes) climactic violence that came off as relatively hurriedly written. I cite GREEN EYES, LIFE DURING WARTIME, THE GOLDEN, and KALIMANTAN.

    Whereas I wanted Denis Johnson-level endings, I guess. Shepard was that brilliant in some of the stories and (sometimes) the first halves of his novels.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment. I will go re-read HANDBOOK OF AMERICAN PRAYER in honor of Lucius's passing.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  6. Ron
    Member

    Lucius Shepard made a fine contribution to fantastic literature.

    In honor of his passing I will read his _Five Autobiographies and A Fiction_, a colletion of novellas. It might be his last published book.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  7. Mark Pontin
    Member

    Michael Swanwick on Lucius Shepard, w. drive-by comments including E. Datlow and at least one other editor who published him ---

    http://floggingbabel.blogspot.com/2014/03/lucius.html

    Posted 4 years ago #
  8. oblomov
    Member

    jesus. that's terrible. sorry to hear this. my thoughts are with all those who knew him.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  9. Marian
    Member

    I'm sorry to hear of his passing. His was a unique voice that will be missed.

    Posted 4 years ago #

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