Michael D(iamond) Resnick (1942-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1942, in Chicago, IL; Education: Attended University of Chicago, 1959-61, and Roosevelt University, 1962-63. Politics: Independent. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, reading, Africana, breeding and exhibiting purebred collies.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Spectrum Literary Agency, 320 Central Park W., Suite 1-D, New York, NY 10025.
Full-time freelance writer, 1966—. Santa Fe Railroad, Chicago, IL, file clerk, 1962-65; National Features Syndicate, Chicago, editor of National Tattler, 1965-66, and National Insider, 1966-69; Oligarch Publishing, Libertyville, IL, editor and publisher, 1969-70; Collie Cues Magazine, Hayward, CA, columnist, 1969-80; Briarwood Pet Motel, Cincinnati, OH, co-owner with wife, 1976-93. Speculations, columnist, 1975—; Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, columnist, 1997-98, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Bulletin, columnist, 1998—; BenBella Books, Dallas, TX, editor of science-fiction line.
Science Fiction Writers of America.
Best Short Fiction award, American Dog Writers Association, 1978, for "The Last Dog," and 1979, for "Blue"; Browning Award finalist for Best SF Humorist, 1993 and 1994; Hugo Award nominations for best editor, 1994 and 1995; Hugo Awards for best short story, for "Kirinyaga," "The Manamouki," "Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge," and "The 43 Antarean Dynasties"; Hugo Award nominations for "For I Have Touched the Sky," Bully!, "Winter Solstice," "One Perfect Morning, with Jackals," "The Lotus and the Spear," "Mwalimu in the Squared Circle," "Barnaby in Exile," "A Little Knowledge," "Bibi," "When the Old Gods Die," "The Land of Nod," "Hothouse Flowers," "Hunting the Snark," Putting It Together: Turning Sows Ear Drafts into Silk Purse Stories, "The Elephants on Neptune," "Redchapel," I Have This Nifty Idea … Now What Do I Do with It?, "Old Macdonald Had a Farm," "Robots Don't Cry," "Travels with My Cats," and "A Princess of Earth"; Nebula Award for "Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge"; Nebula Award nominations for "Kirinyaga," "For I Have Touched the Sky," Ivory, "The Manamouki," Bully!, "Bibi," "When the Old Gods Die," "Hunting the Snark," "The Elephants on Neptune," and "Travels with My Cats"; Skylark Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science Fiction, 2001; HOMer Awards for "The Manamouki," "Song of a Dry River," "Mwalimu in the Squared Circle," "Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge," "Bibi" "When the Old Gods Die", Kirinyaga, "Hothouse Flowers," "Hunting the Snark," and "The Elephants on Neptune"; HOMer nominations for Bully!, "Bwana," "How I Wrote the New Testament, Brought Forth the Renaissance, and Birdied the 17th Hole at Pebble Beach," Oracle, "The Lotus and the Spear," Purgatory, "The Pale Thin God," "Birdie," "Barnaby in Exile," A Miracle of Rare Design, and "A Little Knowledge"; SF Chronicle Poll awards for "Kirinyaga," "For I Have Touched the Sky," Bully!, "The Manamouki," "Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge," "Bibi," and "When the Old Gods Die"; Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya Novella Contest winner for "Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge"; Hayakawa SF award (Japan), for "For I Have Touched the Sky", and finalist, for "Song of a Dry River," "Posttime in Pink," and "Kirinyaga"; Alexander Award, AT&T, for "Winter Solstice"; Golden Pagoda Award for "The Manamouki"; Clarke nomination (England) for Ivory; Ignotus Award (Spain), and Futura poll winner (Croatia), both for "Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge"; Nowa Fantastyka poll winner (Poland) for "Kirinyaga"; SFinks Award (Poland) for "For I Have Touched the Sky" and "When the Old Gods Die"; Seiun-Sho nomination (Japan) for "For I Have Touched the Sky," "Bwana," Ivory, "Posttime in Pink," and Santiago; Locus poll winner for "When the Old Gods Die"; Science Fiction Weekly poll winner for "When the Old Gods Die," "The 43 Antarean Dynasties," and "Hothouse Flowers"; Asimov's Readers poll winner for "The 43 Antarean Dynasties," "Hunting the Snark," "The Elephants on Neptune," and "Old MacDonald Had a Farm"; Year's Best SF Anthology awards for "Kirinyaga," "For I Have Touched the Sky," "Mwalimu in the Squared Circle," "Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge," "The Land of Nod," "Hothouse Flowers," and "One Perfect Morning, with Jackals"; Tour Eiffel Award for The Dark Lady; Seiun-sho Award for Kirinyaga; Prix Ozone (France), for "Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge" and "How I Wrote the New Testament, Ushered in the Renaissance, and Birdied the 17th Hole at Pebble Beach"; El Melocoton Mechanico, for "Old MacDonald Had a Farm."
SCIENCE FICTION; AS MIKE RESNICK
The Forgotten Sea of Mars, (novella), Camille E. Cazedessus, Jr. (Baton Rouge, LA), 1965.
The Goddess of Ganymede, illustrated by Neal MacDonald, Jr., Grant (West Kingston, RI), 1967.
Pursuit of Ganymede, Paperback Library (New York, NY), 1968.
Redbeard, Lancer (New York, NY), 1969.
(With Glen A. Larson) Galactica Discovers Earth ("Battlestar Galactica" series), Berkley (New York, NY), 1980.
The Soul Eater, Signet (New York, NY), 1981.
Birthright: The Book of Man, Signet (New York, NY), 1982.
Walpurgis III, Signet (New York, NY), 1982.
The Branch, Signet (New York, NY), 1984.
Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future, Tor (New York, NY), 1986.
Stalking the Unicorn: A Fable of Tonight, Tor (New York, NY), 1987.
The Dark Lady: A Romance of the Far Future, Tor (New York, NY), 1987.
Ivory: A Legend of Past and Future, Tor (New York, NY), 1988.
Second Contact, Tor (New York, NY), 1990.
Bully! (also see below), illustration by George Barr, Axolotl Press (Eugene, OR), 1990.
(With Jack L. Chalker and George Alec Effinger) The Red Tape War, Tor (New York, NY), 1991.
Bwana, and Bully! (two novellas), Tor (New York, NY), 1991.
A Miracle of Rare Design: A Tragedy of Transcendence, Tor (New York, NY), 1994.
Return of the Dinosaurs, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Kirinyaga: A Fable of Utopia, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1998.
A Hunger in the Soul, Tor (New York, NY), 1998.
The Outpost, Tor (New York, NY), 2001.
The Return of Santiago, Tor (New York, NY), 2003.
Legends of Santiago, SFBC, 2003.
Lara Croft: The Amulet of Power, Del Rey (New York, NY), 2003.
Lady with an Alien, Watson-Guptill (New York, NY), 2005.
Dragon America, Phobos Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Starship: Mutiny, Pyr Books (New York, NY), 2005.
SHORT-STORY COLLECTIONS; AS MIKE RESNICK
Unauthorized Autobiographies and Other Curiosities, Misfit Press (Detroit, MI), 1984.
The Inn of the Hairy Toad, Delta Con (New Orleans, LA), 1985.
Through Darkest Resnick with Gun and Camera, Washington Science Fiction Association (Washington, DC), 1990.
The Alien Heart, Pulphouse, 1991.
Stalking the Wild Resnick, NESFA (Framingham, MA), 1991.
Pink Elephants and Hairy Toads, Wildside Press (Holicong, PA), 1991.
Will the Last Person to Leave the Planet Please Shut off the Sun?, Tor (New York, NY), 1992.
A Safari of the Mind, Wildside Press (Holicong, PA), 1995.
Solo Flights through Shared Worlds, Dark Regions Press, 1996.
An Alien Land, Dark Regions Press, 1998.
In Space No One Can Hear You Laugh, Farthest Star (Alexander, NC), 2000.
(With Nick DiChario) Magic Feathers: The Mike and Nick Show, Obscura Press (Ames, IA), 2000.
Hunting the Snark and Other Short Novels, Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2002.
(With others) With a Little Help from My Friends (anthology of collaborative works), Farthest Star (Alexander, NC), 2002.
"TALES OF THE GALACTIC MIDWAY" SCIENCE-FICTION SERIES; AS MIKE RESNICK
Sideshow, Signet (New York, NY), 1982.
The Three-legged Hootch Dancer, Signet (New York, NY), 1983.
The Wild Alien Tamer, Signet (New York, NY), 1983.
The Best Rootin' Tootin' Shootin' Gunslinger in the Whole Damned Galaxy, Signet (New York, NY), 1983.
Tales of the Galactic Midway (contains all four books), Farthest Star (Alexander, NC), 1998, published as The Complete Tales of the Galactic Midway, 2001.
"TALES OF THE VELVET COMET" SCIENCE-FICTION SERIES; AS MIKE RESNICK
Eros Ascending, Phantasia Press (West Bloomfield, MI), 1984.
Eros at Zenith, Phantasia Press (West Bloomfield, MI), 1984.
Eros Descending, Signet (New York, NY), 1985.
Eros at Nadir, Signet (New York, NY), 1986.
The Complete Tales of the Velvet Comet (contains all four books), Farthest Star (Alexander, NC), 2002.
"LUCIFER JONES" SCIENCE-FICTION SERIES; AS MIKE RESNICK
Adventures, Signet (New York, NY), 1985.
Lucifer Jones, Warner/Questar (New York, NY), 1992.
Exploits, Wildside Press (Holicong, PA), 1993.
Encounters, Wildside Press (Holicong, PA), 1994.
"THE ORACLE" TRILOGY; AS MIKE RESNICK
Soothsayer, Ace (New York, NY), 1991.
Oracle, Ace (New York, NY), 1992.
Prophet, Ace (New York, NY), 1993.
"GALACTIC COMEDY" TRILOGY; SCIENCE FICTION; AS MIKE RESNICK
Paradise: A Chronicle of a Distant World, Tor (New York, NY), 1989.
Purgatory: A Chronicle of a Distant World, Tor (New York, NY), 1993.
Inferno: A Chronicle of a Distant World, Tor (New York, NY), 1993.
The Galactic Comedy (complete trilogy), Farthest Star (Alexander, NC), 2003.
"WIDOWMAKER" SERIES; AS MIKE RESNICK
The Widowmaker, Bantam (New York, NY), 1996.
The Widowmaker Reborn, Bantam (New York, NY), 1997.
The Widowmaker Unleashed, Bantam (New York, NY), 1998.
Widowmakers, SFBC, 1998.
A Gathering of Widowmakers, Meisha Merlin (Decatur, GA), 2005.
MYSTERY NOVELS; AS MIKE RESNICK
Dog in the Manger, Alexander Books (Alexander, NC), 1995.
Also editor of mystery The Compleat Chance Perdue, by Ross Spencer, Alexander Books.
EDITOR; FICTION; AS MIKE RESNICK
Shaggy B.E.M. Stories, Nolacon Press (New Orleans, LA), 1988.
Alternate Kennedys, Tor (New York, NY), 1992.
Whatdunnits, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1992.
(With Martin H. Greenberg) Aladdin: Master of the Lamp, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1992.
Alternate Presidents, Tor (New York, NY), 1992.
Inside the Funhouse, Avon (New York, NY), 1992.
More Whatdunnits, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Alternate Warriors, Tor (New York, NY), 1993.
(With Martin H. Greenberg) Christmas Ghosts, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1993.
(With Gardner Dozois) Future Earths: Under African Suns, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1993.
(With Gardner Dozois) Future Earths: Under South American Suns, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1993.
(With Martin H. Greenberg) Dinosaur Fantastic, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1993.
(With Martin H. Greenberg) By Any Other Fame, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1994.
(With Loren D. Estleman and Martin H. Greenberg) Deals with the Devil, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Alternate Outlaws, Tor (New York, NY), 1994.
Arthur H. Neumann, Elephant Hunting in East Equatorial Africa, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1994.
(With Anthony R. Lewis) The Passage of the Light: The Recursive Science Fiction of Barry N. Malzberg, NESFA (Framingham, MA), 1994.
Alternate Worldcons, Axolotl Press (Eugene, OR), 1994.
Witch Fantastic, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1995.
(With Martin H. Greenberg) Sherlock Holmes in Orbit, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Again, Alternate Worldcons, WC Press, 1996.
Alternate Tyrants, Tor (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Patrick Nielsen Hayden) Alternate Skiffy, Wildside Press (Holicong, PA), 1997.
(With Martin H. Greenberg) Return of the Dinosaurs, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Girls for the Slime God, Obscura Press (Ames, IA), 1997.
Dimensions of Sheckley, NESFA (Framingham, MA), 2002.
Women Writing Science Fiction as Men, DAW Books (New York, NY), 2003.
New Voices in Science Fiction, DAW Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Men Writing Science Fiction as Women, DAW Books (New York, NY), 2003.
(With Janis Ian) Stars: Original Stories Based on the Songs of Janis Ian, DAW Books (New York, NY), 2003.
I, Alien, DAW Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Down These Dark Space Hallways, Science Fiction Book Club, 2005.
This Is My Funniest, BenBella (Dallas, TX), 2006.
Series editor for "Library of African Adventure," St. Martin's Press; "The Resnick Library of African Adventure," Alexander Books, (with Carol Resnick) "The Resnick Library of Worldwide Adventure," Alexander Books, and (with Carol Resnick) "The Resnick Library of Travelers' Tales," Alexander Books.
OTHER; AS MIKE RESNICK
Official Guide to Fantastic Literature, photographs by Larry Reynolds, House of Collectibles (Florence, AL), 1976.
Official Guide to Comic Books and Big Little Books, House of Collectibles (Florence, AL), 1977.
Gymnastics and You: The Whole Story of the Sport, Rand McNally (Skokie, IL), 1977.
Official Guide to Comic and Science Fiction Books, House of Collectibles (Florence, AL), 1979.
(Author of introduction) Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Land That Time Forgot, University of Nebraska Press, 1999.
Putting It Together: Turning Sow's Ear Drafts into Silk Purse Stories, Wildside Press (Holicong, PA), 2000.
(Editor) I Have This Nifty Idea … Now What Do I Do with It?, Wildside Press (Holicong, PA), 2001.
Once a Fan (collection), Wildside Press (Holicong, PA), 2002.
The Science Fiction Professional (collection), Farthest Star (Alexander, NC), 2002.
Resnick at Large, Wildside Press (Holicong, PA), 2003.
Resnick Abroad, Wildside Press (Holicong, PA), 2005.
(With Barry Malzberg) The Resnick/Malzberg Dialogues, NESFA Press (Framingham, MA), 2005.
Author of screenplay adaptations, with wife, Carol Resnick, of Santiago and The Widowmaker. Resnick's "Ask Bwana" columns were collected in The Science Fiction Professional, Farthest Star SF. Contributor to The Gods of War, Baen Books (Riverdale, NY), 1992. Author of other novels and stories under various pseudonyms; contributor of reviews to periodicals.
Resnick's works have been published in Germany, Japan, Italy, Poland, Bulgaria, Russia, Czech Republic, Spain, Holland, England, Sweden, France, Hungary, Romania, and Lithuania.
The short story "Robots Don't Cry" was made into a film by Jake Bradbury, 2004. Several of Resnick's books have been optioned for movies, including Eros Ascending, Santiago, Stalking the Unicorn, Kirinyaga, Ivory, Second Contact, Soothsayer, Oracle, Prophet, The Widowmaker, The Widowmaker Reborn, The Widowmaker Unleashed, The Outpost, and Dog in the Manger. A number of his stories have been recorded on audiocassette. Gaming rights to Santiago were sold to Editions DeNoel, Paris, France.
Work in Progress
As editor, the anthologies Down These Dark Spaceways, Dirty Rotten Aliens, This Is My Funniest, and (with Robert Silverberg) It Could' a Been a Contender, for Wildside Press; New Dreams for Old, a short-story collection; the novels Dragon America, for Phobos, Starship: Mutiny, for Pyr, and A Club in Monmartre and The Moebius Trip, both for Watson-Guptill; (with Carol Resnick) the screenplays Santiago, for Grand Illusions, and The Widowmaker, for Miramax.
Writing under the name Mike Resnick, Michael D. Resnick has had a long and prolific career as an author—mostly of science fiction—that dates back to the 1960s. However, it was not until the 1980s that he began to come into his own as a writer. His science-fiction stories since then have varied from comical adventures to tales of alternate universes to Westernesque sagas of rough and rugged gunslingers, sometimes even combining all these elements. Resnick is most noted for his futuristic stories that have themes relevant to the continent and people of Africa. Of these, his utopian short story "Kirinyaga" has become one of the most awarded works in science fiction history. "I've been writing science fiction most of my life," Resnick once told Something about the Author (SATA). "The short story is still very much alive and well in science fiction, and I like writing short stories. Humor is still marketable in science fiction, and I write a lot of humor. Twice-told tales are frowned upon at the highest levels of science fiction, and creativity and imagination are rewarded. I find that artistically both challenging and satisfying."
Resnick earned a comfortable living early on with his writing. He worked for newspapers and periodicals, as well as churning out literally hundreds of books under a variety of pseudonyms. He wrote so quickly that his output was not of the highest quality, the author confesses. "For dozens of years, from 1964 until 1976, I was—I freely admit—a pseudonymous hack writer," he once said. "I wrote every word of seven monthly newspapers—that's about 175,000 words a month—in addition to the never-ending stream of more than two hundred junk books. Finally, the stream did end.… In late 1976 I took my ill-gotten literary gains (and they were munificent) and invested them in the largest and most luxurious boarding and grooming kennel then extant. I stopped writing almost completely for about four years while turning the business around, and then, totally secure financially for the rest of my life, I returned to my typewriter, albeit at a far slower pace, to see what I could do now that my writing didn't have to put bread on the table."
"All those books which have appeared since mid-1981 have been written during this period, and it is on these that I would like to be judged. I am still getting used to the luxury of rewriting and polishing, of not having to churn out fifty pages a day, of occasionally not completing even one page a day. I feel guilty about it—old habits die hard—but I suspect my books are about three thousand percent better for it, and for their author being completely free from the demands of the marketplace."
"Most of my recent output has been labeled science fiction, though I sometimes wonder if 'moral parable' isn't a more proper category. I am not concerned with aliens (I have never met one), telepaths (ditto), invading extra-terrestrial armadas (still ditto). I am concerned, to borrow from Mr. Faulkner, with the human heart in conflict with itself—and far from proving a hindrance to such a quest, science fiction, with all of time and space to draw from, seems especially fitting for it."
Resnick's early 1980s sci-fi works are adventure tales that nevertheless often have serious undertones. A number of these works have a distinctive Western flavor, such as Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future and his "Tales of the Galactic Midway" series, which includes Sideshow, The Three-legged Hootch Dancer, The Wild Alien Tamer, and The Best Rootin' Tootin' Shootin' Gunslinger in the Whole Damned Galaxy. The "Galactic Midway" stories all involve characters who work at a circus called the Ahasuerus and Flint Traveling Carnival and Sideshow. The books can be quite violent, as in The Wild Alien Tamer, in which an animal tamer named Jupiter Monk takes turns playing a wild beast or a bat-like alien, depending on which world the circus is performing on that day. But the pact between human and alien deteriorates into a contest of who can stand being tortured the most without giving in.
In The Best Rootin' Tootin' Shootin' Gunslinger in the Whole Damned Galaxy, Billybuck Dancer proves himself to be an unbeatable shot, facing down and beating any opponent—human or alien—that challenges him at the circus. While his performances are extremely profitable, Billybuck is depressed because he has met no one who poses a true challenge to his skills. Then circus boss Thaddeus Flint comes up with a brainstorm: he gets an android to play Doc Holliday, Billybuck's idol, thus managing to satisfy both the gunslinger and his entertainment-hungry audiences.
In what a Publishers Weekly critic called a "pleasing adaptation of the Wild West to outer space," Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future pits a legendary criminal named Santiago against several colorful bounty hunters who are out to get him for reasons ranging from money to fame to art to personal redemption. Critics applauded Resnick's ending, calling it both surprising and satisfying. "Highly recommended for all readers," concluded David Snider in a Voice of Youth Advocates review.
Resnick returns readers to Santiago's world in The Return of Santiago, which was published seventeen years after the original. The book is technically a sequel, but as Resnick described it to Science Fiction Weekly interviewer Kathie Huddleston, it has "the same flavor" as Santiago "but a totally different story." Resnick picks up the action over one hundred years after the conclusion of Santiago. The criminal is long gone but still legendary, and some of the stories even hold that Santiago still lives and will one day return to save the world again. Danny Briggs, a modest criminal, discovers the original manuscript of the poet who wrote Santiago's legend. After reading it, he finds his calling as an epic poet himself. He renames himself Dante Alighieri after the Italian Renaissance poet who wrote the Divine Comedy, and sets out to add to Santiago's poetic life story by writing about current larger-than-life bandits, hoping in the process to discover a new Santiago.
Like the original volume, The Return of Santiago was praised by many critics. It showcases "Resnick's storytelling expertise and his gift for creating colorful and memorable characters," Jackie Cassada wrote in Library Journal. A Publishers Weekly contributor concluded that "seekers of spage-age sagebrush need look no farther" than this book, while Booklist critic Regina Schroeder dubbed it "an eminently satisfying space western."
Resnick's Prophet—part of the "Oracle" trilogy—is also replete with Westernesque elements. A hired gun called "Gravedancer" is after the dangerous Penelope Bailey, known as "the Prophet." The Prophet, who has the ability to change the future just by moving her body in certain ways, is also being hunted by a cult leader with designs on ruling the universe. Despite the existence of laser weapons and spaceships, the feel of Resnick's novel is highly reminiscent of classic Westerns, with gunfighters pacing down dusty streets toward frontier saloons and other similar scenes. "If you librarians … have patrons who enjoy both science fiction and westerns," wrote Vicky Burkholder in the Voice of Youth Advocates, "this is definitely the book for them."
What distinguishes Resnick's space-age Westerns from other similar adventure tales, according to Don D'Ammassa in Twentieth-Century Science Fiction Writers, is that the author pays more attention to characterization than many other authors in the genre, thus "providing a greater depth to the stories." In considering such books as The Branch, Birthright, and Walpurgis III, D'Ammassa remarked that, "Although primarily adventure stories, there was an underlying seriousness missing in many similar books, concerns about the future of humanity, and the nature of power and government."
Walpurgis III portrays a battle between Conrad Bland, a mass murderer who has literally destroyed the populations of entire planets, and Jericho, an assassin hired by the government to kill him once and for all. But because Jericho is given license to do anything he needs to execute Bland, including killing anyone in his way, the question becomes who is the worse monster, Bland or the unscrupulous government bent on his destruction. "Violent SF, this is graphic but well-written, with an unexpected ending," attested Barb Kerns in Voice of Youth Advocates.
The Outpost is a considerably less serious take on space-westerns; Resnick described it to Science Fiction Weekly contributor Huddleston as "a parody of every science-fiction and space-opera story I could remember," including ones by Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke. "I sat down every night and laughed myself silly writing those things," Resnick continued. However, as John Teehan noted in Strange Horizons, "This is not just a collection of tall tales, but a novel celebrating the fine art of storytelling and the codifying of history. It's about interpretation and misinterpretation and what happens when ugly facts get in the way of a good story." The Outpost is the name of the lone bar on a nearly deserted planet on the fringe of the Inner Frontier.
As the book begins, a group of legendary outlaws are sitting around in the bar telling stories about their own and others' exploits while they try to ignore the war raging in the galaxy outside. These tales, which comprise the first third of the book, introduce Resnick's theme of the fluid nature of what is considered "truth." For example, the tale of one war is told three times, by three different characters, in the stories "The General Who Hated His Private," "The Private Who Hated His General," and "The Sergeant Who Hated Everyone." The stories in the book's middle third are told objectively, as the readers follow the gunslingers when they join in the war. Then, in the book's concluding section, the characters return to The Outpost to write their histories of the conflict, which do not always correspond with the objective descriptions of their actions in the second section. According to a Publishers Weekly contributor, it is "the complexity the characters gain when their actions are described by an impartial narrator.… [that] elevates the book from simple entertainment."
Resnick tackles religious themes with his 1984 work, The Branch, but he does so with a definite twist. The book, set in the year 2047 in Chicago, is about the Second Coming of the Messiah, who takes on the very unexpected form of a gangster. When "Jeremiah the B" starts moving in on crime boss Solomon Moody Moore's territory, Moore tries to off the new competition. This proves impossible when "J the B" shows himself to be impervious even to bullets. Taking a growing crowd of followers with him to Jerusalem, Jeremiah writes a new gospel and thwarts his attackers. The Branch received some mixed reviews. A Publishers Weekly critic felt that Resnick writes "himself into a dead end about halfway through the book," leaving only the first half of the story interesting. However, John M. Landsberg, a reviewer for Kliatt, was impressed that the author has "done his religious homework," creating a believable scenario that "makes the reader think more than the average SF adventure."
A major concern in Resnick's more recent writing began to reveal itself as early as his 1982 book, Birthright: The Book of Man. Birthright is an ambitious collection of stories that traces the story of human civilization over a 17,000-year period. The stories follow humanity's progression from planet colonizer, to empire builder, to decline, and finally destruction. While obviously admiring humanity's ingenuity and determination, Resnick also clearly illuminates mankind's many flaws as humans establish brutal and destructive reigns over the various alien races they conquer. In the end, it is these same alien races that eventually unite to destroy the last of the humans. Voice of Youth Advocates contributor Pat Pearl called Birthright a "cold-eyed, cleverly-conceived, wry view of our potential future," and Dennis A. Hinrichs, writing in Kliatt, described the novel as "an impressive work that will have strong appeal to the mainline SF fan."
The concern Resnick shows for man's cruelty when it comes to colonizing lands already inhabited by other people stems from his interest in Africa, a continent he has visited several times. "It has been noted that almost all of my more famous and popular science fiction deals with Africa," Resnick once told SATA, "or at least with African themes transferred to other times and worlds. The answer to that is really quite simple: I think just about everyone believes that if we can ever reach the stars, we're going to colonize them … and that if we colonize enough of them, sooner or later we're going to come into contact with a sentient alien race. Africa offers fifty-one separate, distinct, and devastating examples of the effects of colonization on both the colonized and the colonizers. And if fiction holds a mirror up to life, then science fiction holds a funhouse mirror up to it. My mirror just happens to be set in Africa more often than not."
Resnick's stories with themes relating to Africa and colonialism include Paradise: A Chronicle of a Distant World, A Hunger in the Soul, the novella Bully!, and his award-winning short story "Kirinyaga." While books such as Paradise illustrate the adverse effects of colonization on native peoples, Resnick shows that the converse is also true in Bully! and A Hunger in the Soul. "Paradise is a barely concealed portrayal of the pillage of the African wilderness by outside powers," wrote D'Ammassa. As the story begins, Planet Peponi is a beautiful paradise, but when human colonists arrive, the land is soon raped of its natural resources and its people oppressed. Eventually, after years of struggle, the native people manage to force the humans to give them back their world, but Peponi's inhabitants have already had their way of life destroyed. "Resnick avoids stock solutions; there is no magical reconciliation in the final chapter," commented D'Ammassa. "Beautifully handled, engrossing, and thought provoking … this is top-notch science fiction," declared a Kirkus Reviews critic. Resnick repeated this performance with Purgatory: A Chronicle of a Distant World, in which the natives of the planet Karimon experience the same fate as those on Peponi.
In works such as A Hunger in the Soul, Bully!, and A Miracle of Rare Design, the author shows the negative effects of colonialism on the colonizers themselves. Adapting the well-known historical tale of H. M. Stanley's search for Dr. David Livingstone after he has disappeared into the jungles of Africa, Resnick reconfigures the story in A Hunger in the Soul as journalist Robert Markham's search for Dr. Michael Drake, who has gone missing on another planet. Markham gathers together a team of humans and a group of aliens—called "Orange-Eyes"—to serve as porters. Markham brutalizes the aliens—both on the planet and on his own team—and leads most of his team's members to their deaths in his single-minded pursuit of the doctor. Finding Drake, he learns the doctor has discovered a cure for a horrible plague, but Drake is unwilling to give it to Markham. Markham decides to kill Drake, and returns home triumphant. Markham's descent into his own brutal nature clearly shows the "civilized" actions of colonialists in a grim light. "With finesse, discernment, and splashes of vitriol," as a Kirkus Reviews contributor put it, "Resnick continues to expose colonialism and its vicious attitudes."
Resnick accomplishes this with more subtlety in his novella Bully!, the main character of which is President Theodore Roosevelt. Set in an alternate history, the story follows Roosevelt after he leaves office and attempts to create a democratic nation in Africa. "Roosevelt is Resnick's most fully realized character," observed D'Ammassa, "earnest and sincere on one hand, flawed by egotism and an inability to recognize the reality of his situation on the other. Although he makes great strides toward his goal, it is ultimately doomed to failure because the historical basis for such a rapid alteration of the social climate doesn't exist."
A Miracle of Rare Design offers a more bizarre twist on colonization's effects on the colonizers. Xavier William Lennox accepts the opportunity to have his body surgically manipulated to resemble that of various aliens, whereupon he is sent to other worlds to persuade the natives to allow various human businesses and other interests to infiltrate their worlds. After a number of these procedures, Xavier begins to lose track of his human identity, and eventually he decides to never go back to his original human form. Resnick uses the overt alteration of the physical appearance of his main character to illustrate the loss of people's humanity through the exploitation of others. A Kirkus Reviews critic called this entry into Resnick's ongoing exploration of a theme "low-key, thoughtful, and absorbing," and Booklist reviewer Carl Hays described the novel as "insightful as well as entertaining."
Among all his stories and novels with African themes, Resnick's "Kirinyaga" stories have garnered the most awards and acclaim, including two Hugo Awards for "Kirinyaga" and "The Manamouki." Originally published separately in science-fiction magazines, the stories were collected in 1998's Kirinyaga: A Fable of Utopia. Resnick got his idea of African people settling a terraformed world from fellow novelist Orson Scott Card. The central figure of these stories is a witch doctor—or mundumugu—named Koriba. Koriba is the spiritual leader of the people who settle Kirinyaga. He is a wise but very strict leader, forbidding his people from emulating European culture in any way and forcing them to live a primitive, traditional lifestyle. While there are many positive sides to this way of life, there are also drawbacks. For example, in one story a young girl with a fervent desire to learn how to read commits suicide after Koriba forbids this education because it is a Western practice. "Koriba is in fact a fanatic," remarked a Publishers Weekly critic. "Yet throughout, as Resnick's superb use of first-person narration makes clear, Koriba remains a man of integrity and vision, and a gifted storyteller." Booklist reviewer John Mort felt that the stories were more effective before they were published in a collection, where they get a bit repetitive, but, overall, Mort proclaimed the book an "extraordinary work."
Besides writing, Resnick has also edited many anthologies of works by other authors. One such volume, Stars: Original Stories Based on the Songs of Janis Ian, was released in 2003. Janis Ian, a singer-songwriter who may be best known for the controversial 1966 song about interracial romance titled "Society's Child," also serves as a co-editor for Stars. Thirty well-known science fiction authors contributed stories to the volume, such as Orson Scott Card's "Inventing Lovers on the Phone," Harry Turtledove's "Joe Steele," and Diane Duane's "Hopper Painting." As a whole, wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor, Stars is a "dazzling, highly original anthology" that "seems to vibrate with the death throes of one world passing away, while far stranger ones struggle to be born."
With numerous awards to his credit for both his short and long fiction, Resnick has contributed much to his chosen genre by providing his readers with both entertaining and thought-provoking stories. The author once told SATA, "For years science fiction has been sneered at by the 'literary establishment" as being nothing but trashy pulp literature, teenaged power fantasies in clumsy disguise. But while the litcrits were busy sneering, the science fiction writers were busy working at their craft, to the point where not only isn't science fiction the mainstream's poor relation any longer, but the very best writing around can actually be found in science fiction." Resnick is likely to continue contributing to the growing respectability of science fiction, too. "Many of the writers I know hate writing, but love having written," he said. "Not me. I love the act of writing, of pushing nouns up against verbs, of looking at the day's output and deciding that it was pretty much what I intended to say when I sat down to work." In fact, as Resnick told Science Weekly's Huddleston, "One of the things I live in fear of, and I think a lot of writers do, is the thought that someday they are going to find out that if they didn't pay us for it we'd do it for free. And if we got really desperate, we'd pay them to print it."
Biographical and Critical Sources
D'Ammassa, Don, Twentieth-Century Science Fiction Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1991.
Booklist, April 1, 1990, p. 1532; November 1, 1991, p. 496; July, 1992, p. 1925; February 1, 1993, p. 972; November 1, 1994, Carl Hays, review of A Miracle of Rare Design, p. 482; February 15, 1998, John Mort, review of Kirinyaga: A Fable of Utopia, p. 990; May 15, 1998, John Mort, review of A Hunger in the Soul, p. 1605; February 1, 2003, Regina Schroeder, review of The Return of Santiago, p. 979; August, 2003, Ray Olson, review of Stars, p. 1969.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1989, review of Paradise: A Chronicle of a Distant World, p. 592; June 15, 1992, p. 753; January 1, 1993, p. 29; October 1, 1994, review of A Miracle of Rare Design, p. 1318; January 15, 1998, p. 88; April 15, 1998, review of A Hunger in the Soul, p. 538.
Kliatt, September, 1990, p. 22; April, 1991, p. 21; spring, 1982, Dennis A. Hinrichs, review of Birthright: The Book of Man, p. 20; March, 1993, p. 18; July, 1993, pp. 18, 20; September, 1993, p. 22; spring, 1984, John M. Landsberg, review of The Branch, p. 12; January, 1995, p. 19; September, 2003, Sherry S. Hoy, review of Women Writing Science Fiction as Men, p. 28.
Library Journal, February 15, 1998, Jackie Cassada, review of Kirinyaga: A Fable of Utopia, p. 173; May 15, 1998, Jackie Cassada, review of A Hunger in the Soul, p. 119; May 15, 2001, Jackie Cassada, review of The Outpost, p. 166; November 15, 2001, Lisa J. Cihlar, review of I Have This Nifty Idea … Now What Do I Do with It?, p. 77; March 15, 2002, Jackie Cassada, review of Immersion and Other Short Novels, p. 112; February 15, 2003, Jackie Cassada, review of The Return of Santiago, p. 172.
Publishers Weekly, December 23, 1983, review of The
Branch, pp. 55-56; January 10, 1986, review of Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future, p. 83; July 27, 1992, review of Will the Last Person to Leave the Planet Please Shut off the Sun?, pp. 52-53; January 18, 1993, review of Future Earths: Under African Skies, p. 465; January 26, 1998, review of Kirinyaga, p. 73; April 9, 2001, review of The Outpost, p. 55; January 27, 2003, review of The Return of Santiago, p. 241; July 21, 2003, review of Stars, p. 179.
School Library Journal, August, 1990, p. 177; March, 1993, pp. 234, 236; March, 1999, p. 231.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1982, Pat Pearl, review of Birthright: The Book of Man, p. 40; April, 1983, Barb Kerns, review of Walpurgis III, p. 46; June, 1986, David Snider, review of Santiago, p. 90; February, 1993, p. 357; October, 1993, Vicky Burkholder, review of Prophet, pp. 232, 234; February, 1995, p. 346.
Allscifi.com, http://www.allscifi.com/ (April 18, 2005), Harriet Klausner, reviews of The Return of Santiago and The Outpost.
Official Mike Resnick Web site, http://www.fortunecity.com/tattooine/farmer/2/ (March, 2005).
Science Fiction Weekly Online, http://www.scifi.com/ (April 18, 2005), Kathie Huddleston, interview with Resnick.
Strange Horizons Web site, http://www.strangehorizons.com/ (June 18, 2001), John Teehan, review of The Outpost.