Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Goldstein, Lisa

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(1953-    ) US writer of fantasy and sf. Her first work of genre interest was fantasy. The Red Magician (1982) is set in a Land-of-Fable Eastern Europe, in a Jewish village whose location might be described as occupying a shifting Borderland between Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Russia; the time is some point before World War II, and the story concerns a conflict between two Wizards, one of whom is intent on maintaining his village as a Polder, the other haunted by previsions of what is to come. It won the American Book Award for 1982. In her second novel, The Dream Years (1985), a 1920s student in Paris, deeply involved in Surrealism, becomes obsessed with a young woman, whom he follows via Timeslip into 1960s Paris, at the verge of its failed flower-child "revolution". The two Parises soon begin to Crosshatch together, and the novel closes in a fairly lighthearted excursion, on the part of most of the cast, into the 21st century, where hope dawns – maybe.

A Mask for the General (1987), set in an oppressed 21st-century USA, though centred on San Francisco, is LG's most sf-like fiction, though even here there can be discerned the pattern of doubling (see As Above, So Below; Doubles) which runs throughout her work. Here this doubling pits the authoritarian general who rules the USA against the West Coast tribal Mask-makers and artists who, by tapping tribal depths, are able to create Totems to transfigure their friends (and enemies). Their attempts to get the general to wear his crow mask – and thus to open his being to a more fitting and profound Reality – lie at the heart of the plot. Tourists (1989; rev 1994) – which is unconnected to an early short story, "Tourists" (1984) – is an Arabian-Nightmare tale, set in a land of fable called Amaz, which in this case is located in the Middle East (though the location shifts in other tales, like "Tourists", which are set in the same Amaz); here a family representative of a standard-kit USA searches for a 1000-year-old document, which may guide them to the reality-shifting Sword of the Jewel King. This becomes a nightmarish exploration of two conflicting versions of Amaz, which crosshatch. The unnerving topology is doubled by the internal collapse of the family.

LG's relatively few short stories are assembled in Daily Voices (coll 1989) and Travelers in Magic (coll 1994). Many of them are fantasy, and the best include reworked material similar to that given full play in the novels; an example is "Breadcrumbs and Stones", a Twice-Told version of Hansel and Gretel set after the Holocaust.

In the 1990s, LG has published two further fantasy tales, each of strong interest. Strange Devices of the Sun and Moon (1993) is set in a London that much resembles the London of 1590 (though the date of Christopher Marlowe's death has been rejigged to fit the story), but which is crosshatched by Faerie. As in most Fantasies of History, the elder folk are in the process of departing the mundane world and an acceleration of Thinning is in the offing. The story is concerned with the attempts of the Fairy Queen to find her son – whose name is Arthur, and who was exchanged with a human baby at birth (see Changelings) to safeguard him from the Red King – and, with Arthur's help, to win a final fairy battle. But Arthur is not easy to discover; one human character, trailing him into a series of fairylands, finds "that the Land itself was a sort of door" for the vagrant, icy-souled elf. In the end all is sorted, and the thinning proceeds.

Summer King, Winter Fool (1994) is LG's only novel to be set in a full Secondary World. The land is dominated by god-doubles: the god of summer and the god of winter. We meet neither god until late in the text, which is mainly devoted to the intersecting adventures of two young men (they themselves double one another) whose fortunes rise and fall with great speed. The novel reads a little like a compressed Dynastic-Fantasy trilogy, an intensification which – along with the constant theatricals involved, the habit protagonists have of wearing Masks and changing roles, and a sense that the tale being told may be as twice-told and indefinitely retellable as any fable of the Seasons – generates a powerful Commedia dell'Arte atmosphere.

LG is a deceptively quiet writer. [JC]

Lisa Goldstein


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.