The first issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction I bought was August 1974, and it had some fine work, perhaps most notably John Varley’s first published story, “Picnic on Nearside.” But… the second issue had, as the cover story, “Cathadonian Odyssey,” by Michael Bishop. At that time, I had no idea who Michael Bishop was. But that story fair blew me away. I was awed. Overwhelmed. I thought it a sure Hugo winner and it was on my first ever Hugo nomination ballot (and it was a finalist, losing to a good but not great Larry Niven story, “The Hole Man.”)
Shortly later I read his story “Death and Designation Among the Asadi” in Donald Wollheim’s Best of the Year collection, and was again wowed. And I continued reading his work with great enjoyment — short fiction such as “The Samurai and the Willows,” “Saving Face,” “The Quickening,” “Dogs’ Lives,” “Apartheid, Superstrings, and Mordecai Thubana,” “Cri de Coeur,” and “Twenty Lights to the Land of Snow” being particular favorites.
[Click the images for bigger versions.]
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, September 1974 (containing
“Cathadonian Odyssey”) and February 1976 (“The Samurai and the Willows”),
and Asimov’s Science Fiction, September 1994 (with “Cri de Coeur”).
Covers by Jeannine Guertin, Ron Walotsky, and Ron Fleming
I eagerly snapped up his first novel, A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire, and most of his subsequent books. If there is a consensus as to his best novel (though all have their advocates) is is probably Brittle Innings, and I have been told that was Bishop’s own favorite.
However, my favorite among his novels is Count Geiger’s Blues, and I retain affection for And Strange at Ecbatan the Trees — those who follow my blog know that the poem from which Bishop took the title, Archibald MacLeish’s “You, Andrew Marvell”, is one of my favorite poems, and I took my blog title from the same line Bishop used. (To be sure, I first read the novel in the DAW edition, which was entitled Beneath the Shattered Moons, because Don Wollheim.)
A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire (Ballantine Books, February 1975), Brittle Innings
(Bantam Books, February 1995), and No Enemy But Time (Timescape,
April 1982). Covers by Gene Szafran, Tim Jacobus, and Vincent DiFate
No Enemy But Time is also particularly well-regarded. It’s worth noting that many of his books have been reissued in recent years by the estimable Fairwood Press, often with revisions by the author.
Michael Bishop died on Monday, having just turned 78, after an agonizing years-long battle with sarcoma, which he faced somewhat publicly with remarkable grace. Most people know that he lost his son some years ago in the most horrifying of circumstances, and also dealt with this tragedy with grace.
I never met him, but he seemed the most decent of men. He was also one of the very best writers our field has ever produced (though his work was by no means all SF/F), a writer of great range and power, an excellent writer of prose and of character, with an intriguing (and sometimes impish) imagination.
He seemed to me to have done his best to leave the world a better place.