Return Home

The Novels of Michael Shea: In Yana, The Touch of Undying

Friday, March 7th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

In Yana-smallAround Christmas in 1985, I walked into The House of Speculative Fiction in Ottawa, Ontario, and after browsing the shelves for a while, selected a volume. The man behind the counter that Saturday was Rodger Turner, who years later would head up the Hugo and World Fantasy Award-nominated SF Site. But back then, Rodger was a humble bookseller — and a very good one.

I asked Rodger what he thought of my selection. He shrugged. “It won’t change your life,” he said. That was one of the marvelous things about Rodger: he always gave his honest opinion. And his taste was excellent.

“You know what will change your life?” he asked. And without another word, he handed me a copy of In Yana, The Touch of Undying. That was my first exposure to the magical worlds of Michael Shea, but it was by no means my last. Today, In Yana is considered a classic of darkly humorous fantasy; it is well worth seeking out.

Bramt Hex is a student of ancient lore until a chance meeting at an inn opens infinite pathways of possibility and, touched by destiny, Bramt abandons his ivory tower for the greater world, hoping to become a maker of legends in his own right.

But the world is a fearful place peopled by cunning nobles and wily wizards, demons and ogres, vampires and vengeful ghosts, sword-wielding warriors and flesh-craving giants. And soon, Bramt’s quest for fame and wealth becomes a battle for survival — and a desperate, magic-led search for a treasure far greater than gold… the secret of immortality which can only be found in the dangerous, illusive realm called Yana…

In Yana was published by DAW Books in December 1985. It is 318 pages, priced at $3.50. The cover is by Terry Oakes. It has never been reprinted.

We lost Michael Shea last month, but the gifts he left us remain, and we’ve been surveying them here.

So far we’ve covered:

Nifft the Lean (1982)
The Color Out Of Time (1984)
In Yana, the Touch of Undying (1985)
The Mines of Behemoth (1997)
The A’rak (2000)
The Extra (2010)
Assault on Sunrise (2013)

See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.

27 Comments »

  1. […] Color Out Of Time, the sequel to Lovecraft’s 1927 story “The Colour Out of Space;” In Yana, the Touch of Undying (1985); and The Extra (2010) and its recent sequel Assault on Sunrise (2013). His highly acclaimed […]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » Michael Shea, July 3, 1946 – February 16, 2014 - March 7, 2014 1:07 pm

  2. Some here may remember the eighties fanzine Cheap Truth, whose author, under the name of Vincent Omniveritas, was mostly Bruce Sterling. A wonderful review of Shea’s masterpiece from thirty years ago:

    NIFFT THE LEAN by Michael Shea. DAW, $2.95. Jack Vance’s acolyte, author of the apprentice work QUEST FOR SIMBILIS, Shea has suddenly and fearsomely come into his own. This astonishing work shows a furious imaginative concentration that is impressive and even appalling. The legitimate heir of Vance, Leiber, and Clark Ashton Smith, Shea rips aside the polite, smirking ironies of these polished writers and shows us a crawling, boiling vision of the demonic. He is a Fender Stratocaster to Vance’s Stradivarius.

    For those familiar with Vance’s work, the effect is odd and disquieting, like seeing a favorite uncle stumble in, blasted on bad acid and mumbling cosmis obscenities. There are supernatural horrors here that make Cthulhu and his boys look as tame as pinstriped bankers. Hell itself, its denizens and environs, are captured with a revolting nicety of detail and expression that makes you wonder for the author’s sanity.

    Shea is doing for the outworn tradition of heroic fantasy what Swinburne did for the tradition of romantic poetry: namely, piling it up in a heap and setting it on fire. And, like Swinburne, he does it with so much insight that he renders the tradition obsolete. Heroic fantasy is already moribund; Shea’s book is, strictly speaking, a work of decadence, even of necromancy. This is an important, even crucial book, with the lurid brilliance and craftsmanlike discipline of a Bosch canvas. Not to be missed.

    Comment by Tulkinghorn - March 7, 2014 2:36 pm

  3. Tulkinghorn,

    Wow!

    I’ve never read that review (or heard of CHEAP TRUTH, to be honest), but it is an absolute delight. Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by John ONeill - March 7, 2014 3:16 pm

  4. I just tried “seeking it out” on abebooks – very few copies available. If you come across one, grab it quick!

    Comment by emcgargle - March 7, 2014 4:14 pm

  5. I just managed to get ahold of both Nifft and Yana on eBay for a reasonable price, though somebody nabbed The Colour Out of Time from under me at the last second. Im really looking forward to checking Shea out- not sure how I missed his story here on BG, but I intend to fix there right now!!

    Comment by J.A. Woods - March 7, 2014 4:23 pm

  6. Guess what I’ll be looking for at Windy City Pulp & Paper next month…No, it better not be you John! 😉

    Comment by Jason M 'RBE' Waltz - March 7, 2014 6:39 pm

  7. > If you come across one, grab it quick!

    EMC,

    Yeah, I’m always on the lookout for copies. As I mentioned in the comments on Michaels obit, eBay is still a good place to find copies… a set including both NIFFT THE LEAN and IN YANA in terrific shape recently sold on eBay for a top bid of $9.99 (including shipping):

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Lot-of-2-Daw-by-Michael-Shea-Nifft-the-Lean-In-Yana-Free-Shipping-/151213761500?

    A set including NIFFT, IN YANA, and QUEST FOR SIMBILIS in great shape ended without a single bid at the asking price of 9 bucks ($12.50 with shipping):

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/3-Michael-Shea-fantasy-paperbacks-Nifft-the-Lean-Quest-for-Simbilis-In-Yana-/231161363309?

    You may need to be patient, but copies are certainly available.

    Comment by John ONeill - March 7, 2014 7:03 pm

  8. > I just managed to get ahold of both Nifft and Yana on eBay for a reasonable price

    J.A,

    If that was you who bought them for $9.99, congratulations! (And I’ll give you $12 for them right now!) :)

    Seriously, congrats on acquiring them both. I hope you enjoy them.

    Comment by John ONeill - March 7, 2014 7:06 pm

  9. > Guess what I’ll be looking for at Windy City Pulp & Paper next month…

    Jason,

    Not if I find it first! :)

    Comment by John ONeill - March 7, 2014 7:06 pm

  10. Everybody should know about Cheap Truth. Edited by Sterling and written by Sterling, Lewis Shiner and Rudy Rucker, it was the bible for those of us who loved despaired of the genre.

    Here’s a link to an archive which seems to be partially corrupt.

    http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/~erich/cheaptruth/

    Another cool quote follows Long live the revolution. I wonder if it really succeeded:

    And until SF does reform itself, re-think itself, and re-establish itself as a moving cultural force instead of a backwater anachronism, even the cleverest editors will find their efforts useless. They cannot produce meritorious fiction after the fact; nor can they stitch silk purses from the ears of sows, no matter how fat the sows are or how long they have been munching the same acorns under the same tree. SF must stop recycling the same half-baked traditions about the nature of the human future. And its most formally gifted authors must escape their servant’s mentality and learn to stop aping their former masters in the literary mainstream. Until that happens, SF will continue sliding through obsolescence toward outright necrophilia.

    Comment by Tulkinghorn - March 7, 2014 7:33 pm

  11. Either Nifft or In Yana — I’d be hard-pressed to choose between them.

    (Fortunately, I don’t have to …)

    Comment by Joe H. - March 7, 2014 8:56 pm

  12. Odin’s Beard! How has this book escaped my notice all these years? Gotta get it now…

    Comment by John R. Fultz - March 7, 2014 9:26 pm

  13. I pick upo an autographed copy of Quest foer Simbilis on abebooks a few years ago – it was only about ten dollars, if I remember rightly. It would certainly be more now!

    Comment by emcgargle - March 8, 2014 3:34 pm

  14. Since Shea’s passing, I’ve been looking for his books. Although I’ve discovered belatedly that we shared the same ToC in Weird Tales, I was not familiar with his novel-length work until John’s write-up. Having now read some of the descriptions — add that incredible review quoted by Tulkinghorn above! — I realize this was perhaps a great oversight.

    Anyway, there’s a copy on eBay right now signed by both Shea and (cover artist) Michael Whelan for $40. Unsigned first editions seem to be going for $15 and up right now. (I wish the seller would relist that lot you mentioned that didn’t get any bids, John!) There is a later edition with a pretty generic cover that can be had quite reasonably, and I’ll likely cave and get that edition just so I can read the book.

    There is a lot including Nifft the Lean, In Yana, and Mines of the Behemoth for $29 ($35 with shipping). So far I’ve balked at paying over ten bucks a copy for the three, but I don’t know — does that seem like a reasonable price?

    (I did come upon Michael Resnick’s Redbeard — for 2 bucks! — whilst hunting for Nifft and jumped on it.)

    Comment by Nick Ozment - March 10, 2014 1:37 am

  15. Nick — I’d say $10 each isn’t unreasonable especially since In Yana only ever had the one printing.

    Comment by Joe H. - March 10, 2014 9:05 am

  16. Hey, modern readers think nothing of dropping $12.95-$17.95 on new trade paperbacks that don’t look half as good or read one tenth as well.

    Do it! The old saw is true– you never regret the books you’ve bought, only the books you failed to buy!

    Comment by John Hocking - March 10, 2014 3:38 pm

  17. […] novels. We started with his Sword & Sorcery classic Nifft the Lean (1983), and his dark fantasy In Yana, the Touch of Undying […]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » New Treasures: The Extra by Michael Shea - March 10, 2014 8:06 pm

  18. Tulkinghorn,

    That’s another great quote. And wow — that seems like a heck of a lot of talent for one small magazine!

    Definitely need to track down more of CHEAP TRUTH. Wikipedia lists an online web-based archive here:

    http://cheap-truth.blogspot.com/

    Comment by John ONeill - March 10, 2014 9:30 pm

  19. > Odin’s Beard! How has this book escaped my notice all these years? Gotta get it now…

    John,

    Sadly, I think those of us who know about the book are the ones in the minority. It was never reprinted, and vanished without much mention at all.

    Well worth seeking it if you have the time.

    Comment by John ONeill - March 10, 2014 9:31 pm

  20. > I pick upo an autographed copy of Quest foer Simbilis on abebooks a few years ago – it was only about ten
    > dollars, if I remember rightly. It would certainly be more now!

    EMC,

    You’re certainly right about that. I never collected autographed editions myself (I have enough obsessions already, thanks), but I understand the appeal.

    Comment by John ONeill - March 10, 2014 9:33 pm

  21. > there’s a copy on eBay right now signed by both Shea and (cover artist) Michael Whelan for $40… There is a later
    > edition with a pretty generic cover that can be had quite reasonably, and I’ll likely cave and get that edition just so I can read the book.

    Nick,

    I would certainly avoid paying $40 for it (at least until you’ve read it, and decide you can’t live without it!) Honestly, as Mr. Hocking points out, we routinely buy trade paperback for $15 these days, so paying that much for a good condition paperback that’s over 30 years old doesn’t seem that unreasonable.

    But realistically, my advice would be to buy the UK edition for around 5 bucks, and see if you enjoy the book. As I mentioned previously, a patient buyer can get almost any paperback for under 10 bucks if you wait long enough.

    Trying to buy Michael Shea’s most popular and acclaimed book the month after his death pretty much guarantees you’re going to pay top dollar.

    > There is a lot including Nifft the Lean, In Yana, and Mines of the Behemoth for $29 ($35 with shipping). So far I’ve balked at paying
    > over ten bucks a copy for the three, but I don’t know — does that seem like a reasonable price?

    It does to me! Especially if you don’t have any of them. If you think about it, if you bought them brand new today, they’d average $7.99 – $8.99 apiece anyway, only about a buck less than he’s asking. That really doesn’t seem like much of a premium. Heck, if you don’t want ’em, maybe I’ll buy them. :)

    Comment by John ONeill - March 10, 2014 9:46 pm

  22. > Do it! The old saw is true– you never regret the books you’ve bought, only the books you failed to buy!

    John,

    So very true — every time!

    Comment by John ONeill - March 10, 2014 9:46 pm

  23. […] the Lean (1982) The Color Out Of Time (1984) In Yana, the Touch of Undying (1985) The Mines of Behemoth (1997) The A’rak (2000) The Extra (2010) Assault on […]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » The Novels of Michael Shea: The A’rak - March 17, 2014 11:00 pm

  24. […] the Lean (1982) The Color Out Of Time (1984) In Yana, the Touch of Undying (1985) The Mines of Behemoth (1997) The A’rak (2000) The Extra (2010) Assault on […]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » The Novels of Michael Shea: The Mines of Behemoth by Michael Shea - March 18, 2014 11:10 am

  25. […] the Lean (1982) The Color Out Of Time (1984) In Yana, the Touch of Undying (1985) The Mines of Behemoth (1997) The Incompleat Nifft (2000) The A’rak (2000) The […]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » The Novels of Michael Shea: The Incompleat Nifft - March 22, 2014 12:47 pm

  26. […] the Lean (1982) The Color Out Of Time (1984) In Yana, the Touch of Undying (1985) The Mines of Behemoth (1997) The Incompleat Nifft (2000) The A’rak (2000) The […]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » The Collections of Michael Shea: Polyphemus - April 14, 2014 2:40 am

  27. […] The Novels of Michael Shea: In Yana, The Touch of Undying […]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in March - April 30, 2014 12:52 am


Comments RSS  |  TrackBack URI

 

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.


Black Gate Home
This site © 2019 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.