Michael Bishop (1945-2023) OBITUARY
Michael Bishop (1945-2023)
The Fantasy Hive was saddened to hear of the passing of Michael Bishop earlier this month. Bishop was an intelligent and skilled writer of science fiction and fantasy, whose works combined the literary experimentation of the New Wave with a profound interest in the social sciences, particularly anthropology. He is perhaps best known for his SF novels No Enemy But Time (1982), which won the Nebula, and Transfigurations (1979), which was nominated for the BSFA Award, along with Brittle Innings (1994), a work of slipstream fantasy which combines Frankenstein’s monster and baseball to talk eloquently about the US, and the bonkers meta-alternate history Philip K. Dick Is Dead, Alas (1989). A friendly and encouraging figure in the genre, he will be greatly missed by friends, family and fans alike.
Bishop began writing and publishing science fiction in the early 1970s, and early novels like debut A Funeral For Eyes Of Fire (1975) and Stolen Faces (1977) demonstrated his talent for stories that, like Ursula Le Guin’s, seriously used anthropology and post-colonialism as a way of imagining human interactions with alien cultures, often with tragic consequences. Transfigurations is perhaps his most powerful novel exploring these ideas. His novel No Enemy But Time was to be his most popular, a moving exploration of anthropology thrown back onto ourselves – the time traveling protagonist goes back in time to study our ancestors Homo habilis, and finds himself becoming part of their tribe and forming profound relationships. Philip K. Dick Is Dead, Alas sends the iconic science fiction author into an alternate dystopian America where only he can save the world from the tyrannical rule of Richard Nixon. The elegiac fantasy Unicorn Mountain (1988) transposes the extinction of magical creatures onto the AIDS crisis. Throughout his life he continued to write inventive and thoughtful novels and short fiction, crossing genre boundaries at will.
Bishop’s contribution to the genre was his ever-present humanism; his warmth and regard for humanity and what it means to be human, regardless of whether one is human, alien, or monster, runs through even his most pessimistic stories. No Enemy But Time and Transfigurations have been reprinted in Gollancz’s SF Masterworks series, bringing his two most iconic novels to a new audience. The Fantasy Hive’s thoughts are with Bishop’s friends and family at this difficult time.