Birthday Reviews: Jeff Duntemann’s “Guardian”

Birthday Reviews: Jeff Duntemann’s “Guardian”

Cover by Alex Schomburg
Cover by Alex Schomburg

Jeff Duntemann was born on June 29, 1952.

Duntemann began publishing in 1974 with “Our Lady of the Endless Sky,” and has mostly published short fiction. In 1981 Duntemann appeared on the Hugo Award for Short Story ballot twice, for “Cold Hands” and “Guardian,” losing to Clifford Simak’s “Grotto of the Dancing Deer.” In 2005 ISFiC Press published his first novel, The Cunning Blood. He collaborated with Nancy Kress on the story “Borovsky’s Hollow Woman” in 1983.

“Guardian” appeared in the September 1980 issue of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, edited by George H. Scithers. It was translated for its appearance in the German edition of the magazine, Isaac Asimovs Science Fiction Magazin 13 Folge and was included by Herbert W. Franke in the anthology Kontinuum 4 in 1987.

Duntemann’s “Guardian” is an interesting mix of futuristic and historic. The Guardian in question has been tasked with protecting Princess Divin Rea Hol Wervig, even beyond death. When the princess’s skull is taken from the swamp where she was interred, the Guardian seeks its return and vengeance. He makes his way into the nearby village where he finds himself confronting Abbot Gorman Izak.

In the millennia since the princess died and the Guardian, which is clearly robotic in nature, has come into contact with human civilization, society has changed, as has the technology level. Abbott Izak is clearly a religious in the Christian tradition who is able to have an intelligent conversation with the Guardian and manages to delay its vengeance by a week, during which time the Abbot promises to find the culprit who stole the skull.

The story focuses most of its attention on the steps Abbot Izak takes to protect his flock while at the same time he tries to not only sideline the Guardian, but also to get the information the Guardian seeks. As Duntemann relates the Abbot’s attempts, more of the Guardian’s history and goals are revealed and the conflict between two different times can be seen as he describes the far distant future the Abbot lives in.

Reviewed in its original publication in the magazine Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, edited by George H. Scithers, September 1980.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a sixteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Doing Business at Hodputt’s Emporium” in Galaxy’s Edge. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 6 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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Rich Horton

Duntemann (as you know, having published his novel) did some pretty interesting work, and it’s a shame that the controversy over his Hugo nominations may have affected his career. (Or maybe not — maybe he stopped writing for other reasons.) But he seemed to all but disappear for a while. Still published some strong work after coming back to the field, particularly “Drumlin Boiler”. I see that he published another story set in that world, and another novel, from a small press. I’ll have to take a look at those.

Rich Horton

Kind of a dead spot these past few days for Ace Double writers, alas!

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