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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Piers Anthony

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Piers Anthony

Piers Anthony



Cover by Michael Whelan

Cover by Michael Whelan

DeepSouthCon has presented the Phoenix Award annually since 1970. The first Rebel Award was presented to Richard C. Meredith. The 1980 award was presented on August 23 at DeepSouthCon 18/ASFICon in Atlanta, Georgia, which was chaired by Cliff Biggers.

While Piers Anthony may currently be best known for his series of Xanth novels, in 1980, when he was presented with the Phoenix Award, the series was just getting started. A Spell for Chameleon had appeared in 1977 and been awarded the British Fantasy Award and nominated for the Balrog Award. Castle Roogna followed it in 1978 and The Source of Magic appeared in 1979, and that was all: a trilogy.

Anthony had published numerous successful series up to that point, including the Omnivore/Orn/OX series between 1968 and 1976, the first four volumes of the Cluster series and the Tarot trilogy. His Battle Circle trilogy had appeared between 1968 and 1975 and the Chthon duology was published in 1967 and 1975. In 1980, he had just published Split Infinity, the first novel in his Apprentice Adept series.

Anthony was born in the United Kingdom with the name Piers Anthony Dilligham Jacobs. He became a US citizen when he was 24 years old after coming to the US for his education and in 1963, he published his first short story, “Possible to Rue” in the April 1963 issue of Fantastic. Anthony wrote both science fiction and fantasy, frequently blurring the lines between the two forms and his first novel, Chthon was science fiction, while his second was Sos the Rope, a post-apocalyptic fantasy. Even after the advent of the popularity of the Xanth series, Anthony continued to switch back and forth between the genres.

One of the features of the Xanth novels is Anthony’s love and reliance on puns, which often find their way into other works. He recycled the pun of the title Isle of View from the Xanth series for his stand-alone novel Isle of Women, which began his five volume Geodyssey series which explored the history of the world through the eyes of individuals who are reborn at various points in humanity’s history.



Cover by Jack Gaughan

Cover by Jack Gaughan

God of Tarot

God of Tarot

While Anthony is known for series, he has also written numerous stand-alone novels and has collaborated with other authors. His realization that his books, especially the Xanth novels, made a difference in people’s lives has caused him to write about those people who he has touched as well as reach out to help other aspiring authors.

Anthony’s own work seems to waver between light entertainment to more philosophical musings on the nature of humanity and its mythologies. This variance can often take place within the span of a single series, especially when he series stretches beyond the originally planned length.

DeepSouthCon does not release a list of the names of authors who were considered for the Phoenix Award.


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, NESFA Press, and ZNB. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Webinar: Web Sites” in The Tangled Web. His most recent anthology, Alternate Peace was published in June. 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.


  1. My one and only attempt to read Anthony failed when I gave up after five or six pages of A Spell for Chameleon; the coyness was suffocating me. I get the feeling that he’s one of those once hugely popular writers whose moment has completely passed.

    Comment by Thomas Parker - August 6, 2019 12:11 pm

  2. Thomas Parker, I read that whole book. You didn’t miss out on much. And yes, back in the day people loved Piers Anthony. I remember his books were everywhere, but I didn’t like them either.

    The strangest thing I can remember about Piers Anthony is that I thought he was dead for years. I remember hearing he died in the early 2000s from stomach cancer. Then one day, a few years ago, someone made a post about him on Blackgate, and there he was, alive and well.

    I guess that’s my own little personal Mandella effect.

    Comment by CMR - August 6, 2019 10:04 pm

  3. I know that even mentioning misogyny may exist will get you tarred as an SJW on the internet these days but I read A Spell For Chameleon for the first time a few years ago and I was honestly shocked. The main kid decides he likes his hotness/smartness shifting girlfriend better as dumb and hot than ugly and smart, there’s a girl who is raped and the rapist gets off because “It’s just he said she said”. I know life has grey areas but these are the ones he CHOSE to write about. Was super disappointed.

    Comment by boatie - August 7, 2019 5:36 am

  4. ^^^boatie, the craziest thing was that the majority of his fans and readers were women.

    Comment by CMR - August 7, 2019 7:43 pm

  5. I was very uninterested in him years ago, didn’t like my glances at his prose in Xanth. But I’ve also heard that his Xanth series has overshadowed much more ambitious and interesting work. Now I’m very eager to read him. Hope to tackle Macroscope, Tarot and Chthon someday soon, I’m led to believe they are his best.

    Comment by Robert Adam Gilmour - August 11, 2019 12:53 pm

  6. Piers Anthony is kinda messed up about sex. Pops up in more than a few of his books.

    That said, he’s put together some terrifically creative series, even if he also has a habit of going to the well too often on some of those same series instead of letting it end gracefully. But the early books of Incarnations of Immortality, the first Apprentice Adept series…there’s some great stuff.

    Comment by jmlease1 - August 13, 2019 7:34 pm

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