|Genre||Science fiction, poetry, non-fiction|
Bruce McAllister (born in 1946) is an American author of fantasy, science fiction, poetry and non-fiction. He is known primarily for his short fiction. Over the years his short stories have appeared in the major fantasy and science fiction magazines, theme anthologies, college readers and "year's best" anthologies, including Best American Short Stories 2007, guest-edited by Stephen King.
McAllister was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1946. The son of a "peripatetic Navy family": his career-Navy-officer "Pearl-Harbor-survivor father and an underdog-championing anthropologist mother" raised Bruce and his younger brother, Jack, in Washington, D.C., Florida, California and Italy. McAllister wrote, "the theme of the Outsider, the Other, the Alien in the larger sense, runs through almost all of my fiction. That came from being in a military family, from having a sense of being an outsider..."
He wrote to Dublin-based interviewer Bob Neilson, "When I was 4½ I shook hands with natty-dresser US President Harry Truman on a laid-back avenue in Key West, Florida. I had no idea who the guy was, but my momma raised me right. I wanted to be courteous, and he offered, so I shook his hand. ...[A] week after the hand-shake we dropped over to see Mrs. Hemingway, who lived in a little beach house with palms and banana trees and who, though we didn't know her, was hospitable."
He told Neilson that as a child he had a sea-shell collection of over 2000 specimens. This interest appeared in his fiction, notably in two 2010 stories, "Heart of Hearts" and "The Courtship of the Queen."
McAllister also told Neilson that "One of my ancestors was a guy named John Tompson. Immigrated from Scotland to Ireland, then the US in the 1700s. Wore his kilt till the day he died, outlived five wives, had fifteen children. Maybe the right stuff for a frontier, a New World, but I've always been horrified by the thought of having to live with someone like him. The domestic, family side of BRAVEHEART?" The family story was that their lineage on his father's side went "back to Robert the Bruce, supposedly, and laterally to Ben Franklin, or so they said...along with a Captain McAllister of the Confederate Army." McAllister also thought that his mother "was probably 1/8th Chickasaw."
Another influential childhood memory was this: "As far as our father's world went, we had, on the Navy base where we lived in San Diego, the TRIESTE bathyscaph submersible in our back yard (literally we would have played on it if we could have gotten a decent grip); a year later it would make the deepest dive in the Pacific ever made, with Jacques Piccard and a Navy diver and a civilian scientist—all of them diving legends if not then, then later)." (Neilson commented in his essay about McAllister, "You can see where the themes of 'the alien' and 'the natural world'—the behavioral sciences and the biological sciences—came from in this guy's fiction.")
Literary archivist and agent Sarah Funke Butler describes an enterprise McAllister undertook when he was 16:
Bruce McAllister sent a four-question mimeographed survey to 150 well-known authors of literary, commercial, and science fiction. Did they consciously plant symbols in their work? he asked. Who noticed symbols appearing from their subconscious, and who saw them arrive in their text, unbidden, created in the minds of their readers? When this happened, did the authors mind? ... Confident, if not downright cocky, he thought the surveys could settle a conflict with his English teacher by proving that symbols weren't lying beneath the texts they read like buried treasure awaiting discovery.
His project involved substantial labor—this before the Internet, before e-mail—but was not impossible: many authors and their representatives were listed in the Twentieth-Century American Literature series found in the local library. More impressive is that seventy-five writers replied—most of them, in earnest. Sixty-five of those responses survive (McAllister lost ten to "a kleptomaniacal friend"). Answers ranged from the secretarial blow off to a thick packet of single-spaced typescript in reply.
In her online document, in facsimile, Butler presents some of the answers McAllister received; the writers who responded include Isaac Asimov, Jack Kerouac, Ayn Rand, Ralph Ellison, Ray Bradbury, John Updike, Saul Bellow, and Norman Mailer. Answers ranged from "I'm awfully sorry, but I simply don't have the time to answer your question" (Mailer) to "No, I would never consciously place symbolism in my writing" (Bradbury, signing his letter "Guy Fawkes Day, 1963") to "your questions do not make sense" (Rand). Butler notes, "Science-fiction writers—most notably Fritz Leiber, Lloyd Biggle Jr., Judith Merril, and A. J. Budrys—were the most expansive. Biggle sent a lengthy letter and then, nearly a year later, sent further thoughts." When Butler interviewed McAllister decades later, he remarked, "The conclusion I came to was that nobody had asked them. New Criticism was about the scholars and the text; writers were cut out of the equation. Scholars would talk about symbolism in writing, but no one had asked the writers."
He taught literature and writing at the University of Redlands in southern California for twenty-four years. There, he helped establish and direct the Creative Writing Program, directed both the Professional Writing track of that program and its Communications Internship program, received various teaching and service awards, and was Edith R. White Distinguished Professor of Literature and Writing from 1990 to 1995. Later, he founded McAllister Coaching, helping writers of books and screenplays shape their manuscripts.
Novels and collections
- Humanity Prime (Ace Books, 1971; Wildside Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1-4344-0163-2) ("When Man's emerging star-empire met that of the savage Cromanths, the alien hordes began a war of extinction against humankind"—from Publisher's description) (Ace SF Special, Series 1)
- Dream Baby (Tor/St. Martin's, 1989, ISBN 0-312-93197-2) ("The acclaimed visionary chronicle of the nightmare that was Vietnam. Army nurse Mary Damico can see the future. She knows which soldiers will die on the battlefields. Col. John Bucannon, commander of the CIA's secret psychic warfare project, wants to exploit her dark gift, regardless of the apocalyptic carnage his experiment will unleash."—from Publisher's description)
- The Girl Who Loved Animals and Other Stories (Golden Gryphon Press, 2007; ISBN 978-1-930846-49-4). Introduction by Harry Harrison; afterword by Barry N. Malzberg. McAllister included mini-essays for each story.
Selected short fiction
- "The Faces Outside" (1963) - McAllister's first short story, published when he was a sixteen-year-old San Diego high school student, was originally published in If, July 1963, having been selected by Frederik Pohl. His debut story impressed many; it was selected for The 9th Annual of the Year's Best SF, 1964, by Judith Merril, and Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 25 (1963), edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg (ISBN 0-88677-518-3).
- "And So Say All of Us" (1969) - originally published in If, September 1969. Subsequently chosen for World's Best Science Fiction: 1970, ed. Terry Carr, Donald A. Wollheim, ISBN 0-575-00590-4.
- "World of the Wars" (1971) - originally published in Mars, We Love You: Tales of Mars, Men and Martians, ed. Jane Hipolito, Willis E. McNelly, ISBN 0-515-03086-4.
- "Ecce Femina!" (1972) - originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 1972. Subsequently anthologized in Above the Human Landscape: A Social Science Fiction Anthology, 1972, ed. Willis E. McNelly, Leon Stover, ISBN 0-87620-003-X.
- "When the Fathers Go" (1982) - originally published in Universe 12, 1982, ed. Terry Carr, ISBN 0-385-17923-5. Subsequently anthologized, as in The Best Science Fiction of the Year 12, 1983, ed. Terry Carr, ISBN 0-671-46680-1 and Alien Sex, 1990, ed. Ellen Datlow, ISBN 0-525-24863-3.
- "Dream Baby" (1987) - originally published in In the Field of Fire, 1987, ed. Jack Dann, Jeanne Van Buren Dann, ISBN 0-312-93008-9. Subsequently in Asimov's Science Fiction, October, 1987. Frequently anthologized, as in To Sleep, Perchance to Dream... Nightmare, 1993, ed. Martin H. Greenberg, Robert Weinberg, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, ISBN 0-88029-903-7. Nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novelette and Nebula Award for Best Novelette; recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship.
- "The Girl Who Loved Animals" (1988) - originally published in Omni, May 1988. Subsequently anthologized, as in American Gothic Tales.
- "Cottage" (1993) - originally published in Christmas Forever, 1993, ed. David G. Hartwell, ISBN 0-312-85576-1. Subsequently in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Seventh Annual Collection, 1994, ed. Ellen Datlow, Terri Windling, ISBN 0-312-11103-7.
- "Southpaw" (1993) - originally published in Asimov's Science Fiction, August 1993. Subsequently in Roads Not Taken: Tales of Alternate History, 1998, ed. Gardner Dozois, Stanley Schmidt, ISBN 0-345-42194-9.
- "Kin" (2006) - originally published in Asimov's Science Fiction, February 2006. Nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story. Subsequently anthologized, as in Alien Contact, 2012, ed. Marty Halpern, ISBN 978-1-59780-281-9.
- "The Seventh Daughter" (2004) - First published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April, 2004. Subsequently chosen for Year's Best Fantasy 5, 2005, ed. David G. Hartwell, Kathryn Cramer, ISBN 0-06-077605-6.
- "Ombra" (2006) - in the magazine Glimmer Train Stories #57, Winter, 2006.
- "The Boy in Zaquitos" (2006) - originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, January 2006. Subsequently anthologized, as in The Best American Short Stories.
- "Poison" (2007) - First published in Asimov's Science Fiction, January 2007. Subsequently chosen for Year's Best Fantasy 8, 2008, ed. David G. Hartwell, Kathryn Cramer, ISBN 1-892391-76-7.
- "Hit" (2008) - originally published in Aeon Thirteen, 2008, ed. Marti McKenna, Bridget McKenna. Subsequently anthologized in By Blood We Live, 2009, ed. John Joseph Adams, ISBN 978-1-59780-156-0, and The Urban Fantasy Anthology, 2011, ed. Peter S. Beagle, Joe R. Lansdale, ISBN 978-1-61696-018-6.
- "Blue Fire" (2010) - The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Mar-April, 2010
- "Heart of Hearts" - Albedo One #38, May, 2010
- "Sun and Stone" (2010) - in Image: A Journal of the Arts & Religion.
- "The Messenger" (2011) - Asimov's Science Fiction, July 2011
- "Stamps" (2012) - Asimov's Science Fiction, August 2012
Stories available online
- "Kin" (2006) - Podcast read by Stephen Eley, http://escapepod.org/2007/05/31/ep108-kin/
- "Game" - Flash Fiction Online, May, 2008 - http://www.flashfictiononline.com/f20080501-game-bruce-mcallister.html
- "The Courtship of the Queen" (2010) - Illustration by Eric Fortune. http://www.tor.com/stories/2010/05/the-courtship-of-the-queen
Publishers Weekly, however, wrote, "McAllister's first novel is a stunning tour de force... Masterful interior monologues that yield eerie, tingling tension make this terrifying novel one of the most memorable chronicles of the Vietnam war." Library Journal's reviewer said, "The training and the mission are suffused with madness, and the physical horrors are matched with mental ones. Throughout the narrative are interspersed transcripts of interviews, memos, etc. The apocalytic ending does strain the willing suspension of disbelief. Still, the story is fascinating, very well told, and likely to appeal to readers of Vietnam War fiction and nonfiction."
In a review of The Year's Best Science Fiction Twenty-Fourth Annual Collection, Ernest Lilley described the famous story "Kin": "a twelve year old boy is in the act... his "partner" is an alien assassin he tries to hire to stop the government from killing his unborn sister. There are a lot of interesting bits in this story, and some nice nuance in the actions and ideas. As Gardner points out in his intro, McAllister may not be prolific in his output, but what he does offer us [is] excellent work."
Bob Blough reviewed the short story "Blue Fire" for Tangent Online, the review magazine for short stories of science fiction and fantasy, saying that it
should be one of the most talked about stories of the year. It is flat-out brilliant. Bruce McAllister has created an entire alternate world in "Blue Fire." The alternate world is one in which vampires are real and fight against the Catholic Church for supremacy... The story takes place in the 1500s and the time of Pope Boniface XII – a child Pope elected at 8 years of age — who is about to die after 70 years of his reign as Pope, but who has one more story to tell. The story he relates is about a visit from "the youngest drinker" while he was still a child, but early in his time as Pope. The alternate universe is dazzling, but what sets this story above so many others is the true, honest, Christ-like character of the young Pope and how he deals with a boy who has been taken by the vampires. An excellent story with honest characters; it's a beautiful work.
SF Site reviewed the story "Heart of Hearts," "another of Bruce McAllister's ongoing series of fantasies about a teenaged American boy in an Italian village." Rich Horton wrote, "It's a bittersweet story, beautifully written, sensitively characterized."
Blough also reviewed "Stamps" for Tangent, saying it was "one of the very few SF stories I can think of which uses stamp collecting as an integral part of the story (Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith is another one). But if anyone can pull it off it is Bruce McAllister. 'Stamps' is told in a minor key and concerns itself with aliens coming to Earth during the Cuban missile crisis in order to avert nuclear war. The narrator is T'Phu'Bleem, one of ten Arcturians on the planet to save and eventually reveal themselves to the world. He begins collecting postage stamps to understand these earthlings: "These stamps were like a puzzle, one that could explain how human beings actually thought and felt... If he didn't try to figure that puzzle out for the sake of the human race and the Ten Galactic Principles, who would?" It is a pleasant story that lingers in the mind as an unusual way of describing first contact."
After reading "The Messenger," Rena Hawkins wrote, "Tim's father is dying and the question that tears at him the most is whether his wife, Tim's mother, actually loved him. To answer his father's question and hopefully bring him some peace, Tim travels back in time to meet his parents and see for himself. A short, poignant story about whether you can ever be sure where love is concerned."
- "Bruce McAllister — Author Profile". Tor Books. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
- Neilson, Bob (January 30, 2012). "Bruce McAllister – A Masterclass in how to use answers to improve questions". Bob Neilson Org. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
- McAllister, Bruce (2010). "The Courtship of the Queen [full text]". Tor.com. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
- Butler, Sarah Funke (December 5, 2011). "Document: The Symbolism Survey". The Paris Review (New York City: The Paris Review Foundation). ISSN 0031-2037. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
- Newitz, Annalee (December 6, 2011). "In 1963, Ray Bradbury sent this letter to explain symbolism in his work". Retrieved September 1, 2012.
- McAllister, Bruce. "McAllister Coaching: Bio". Retrieved September 1, 2012.
- Mcallister, Bruce (September 21, 2007). Humanity Prime. Wildside Press. ASIN 1434401634. ISBN 978-1-4344-0163-2.
- Mcallister, Bruce (October 1989). Dream Baby. ASIN 0312931972. ISBN 978-0-312-93197-1.
- "The Girl Who Loved Animals: And Other Stories". Retrieved 2010-08-26.
- Hugo Award for Best Novelette
- "American Gothic Tales (William Abrahams) (9780452274891): Joyce Carol Oates: Books". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2010-08-26.
- "Golden Gryphon Press — The Girl Who Loved Animals and Other Stories". Goldengryphon.com. Retrieved 2010-08-26.
- "Glimmer Train Stories, Winter 2006 #57 (9781595530066): Randy F. Nelson & Bruce". Amazon.com. 2009-09-09. Retrieved 2010-08-26.
- The Best American Short Stories 2007
- "Image ◊ Journal ◊ Back Issues ◊ Issue 59". Imagejournal.org. Retrieved 2010-08-26.
- "Dream Baby". Publishers Weekly. 1989. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
- Lilley, Ernest (2007). "The Year's Best Science Fiction Twenty-Fourth Annual Collection by Gardner Dozois". SF Revu. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
- Blough, Bob (5 March 2010). "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction - Mar/Apr 2010". Tangent Online. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
- Horton, Rich (2010). "The SF Site Featured Review: Albedo One, Issue 38". SF Site. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
- Blough, Bob (1 August 2012). "Asimov's, August 2012". Tangent Online. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
- Hawkins, Rena (2011). "Asimov's, July 2011". Tangent Online. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
- Bourquin, David Ray. The Work Of Bruce Mcallister: An Annotated Bibliography & Guide. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1985. (ISBN 089370489X (pbk.); ISBN 0893703893 (hardcover))
- Lohr, Michael. "California Daydreaming: An Interview With Bruce McAllister." Aeon Seven, May, 2006 (Scorpius Digital Publishing, ISBN 1-931386-77-3).
- The Official Site of Bruce McAllister - Full Biography, Publications, Writing Coaching & Consulting
- Golden Gryphon Press official site - About The Girl Who Loved Animals and Other Stories
- Escape Pod Official Site - For Podcast of Hugo Award-nominated Story "Kin"