Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Emshwiller, Carol

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(1921-2019) US writer who began to publish work of genre interest with "This Thing Called Love" for Future in 1955. Her work can be divided into three periods: (a) her literary apprenticeship, during which she published primarily sf; (b) from 1960 to perhaps 1985, during which she developed her reputation for witty and highly inventive Fabulations, which often partook of sufficient Fantastic coloration to appear in such genre venues as Damon Knight's Orbit and Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions (anth 1967); and (c) her later work, most containing much sharper (though not more conventional) fantasy elements while developing stronger – and longer – narratives than before. Such distinctions, however, belie the unity of her mature work, which is marked by a dogged but sunny Feminism, considerable verbal playfulness, and – what marks her work as fantastic more essentially than the occasional offworld or supernatural elements – a fluid sense of identity, in which the narrative voice may dissolve and reform between the first persons singular, plural and archetypal.

The titles of CE's most characteristic stories – e.g., "Maybe Another Long March Across China 80,000 Strong", "Biography of an Uncircumcised Man (Including Interview)" and "Expecting Sunshine and Getting It" – suggest both her playfulness and her longtime indifference to conventional narrative. Her two collections of the 1990s, Verging on the Pertinent (coll 1989) and The Start of the End of It All (coll 1990 UK; vt with 4 stories cut and 4 added The Start of the End of It All and Other Stories 1991 US) are nominally divided into nongenre and genre work respectively, but the distinction is largely arbitrary.

Carmen Dog (1988 UK), a feminist fantasy, draws on both Ovid and David Garnett in its witty depiction of women turning into animals and animals into women, with bemusing result to the male establishment. Venus Rising (1992 chap), avowedly based on the anthropological speculations of Elaine Morgan, dramatizes recent hypotheses concerning the development of Homo sapiens (see Apes). Ledoyt (1995), set in the US West in the first decade of this century, is not fantasy. CE's most recent short fiction, also set in the US West, suggests she has, at least for the moment, turned away from fantasy. [GF]

Carol Fries Emshwiller


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.