Piers Anthony

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Piers Anthony
BornPiers Anthony Dillingham Jacob
(1934-08-06) 6 August 1934 (age 89)
Oxford, England
Pen namePiers Anthony
OccupationNovelist, short story writer
EducationGoddard College
GenreScience fiction, fantasy
Carol Marble
(m. 1956; died 2019)
MaryLee Boyance
(m. 2020)

Piers Anthony Dillingham Jacob (born 6 August 1934)[1] is an American author in the science fiction and fantasy genres, publishing under the name Piers Anthony. He is best known for his long-running novel series set in the fictional realm of Xanth.

Many of his books have appeared on The New York Times Best Seller list, and he claims one of his greatest achievements has been to publish a book beginning with every letter of the alphabet, from Anthonology to Zombie Lover.

Early life[edit]

Anthony's parents, Alfred and Norma Jacob, were Quaker pacifists studying at Oxford University who interrupted their studies in 1936 to undertake relief work on behalf of the Quakers during the Spanish Civil War, establishing a food kitchen for children in Barcelona.[2][3] Piers and his sister were left in England in the care of their maternal grandparents and a nanny.[4] Alfred Jacob, although a British citizen, had been born in America near Philadelphia, and in 1940, after being forced out of Spain and with the situation in Britain deteriorating, the family sailed to the United States. In 1941 the family settled in a rustic "back to the land" utopian community near Winhall, Vermont, where a young Piers made the acquaintance of radical author Scott Nearing, a neighbor.[5] Both parents resumed their academic studies, and Alfred eventually became a professor of Romance languages, teaching at a number of colleges in the Philadelphia area.

Piers was moved around to a number of schools, eventually enrolling in Goddard College in Vermont where he graduated in 1956.[6] On This American Life on 27 July 2012, Anthony revealed that his parents had divorced, he was bullied, and he had poor grades in school. Anthony referred to his high school as a "very fancy private school", and refuses to donate money to it. He recalls being part of "the lower crust", and that no one paid attention to, or cared about him. He said, "I didn't like being a member of the underclass, of the peons like that".[7]

Marriage and early career[edit]

Anthony met his future wife, Carol Marble, while both were attending college. They were married in 1956, the same year he graduated from Goddard College, and he worked in a series of odd jobs. In 1957, Anthony decided to join the United States Army, as his wife was now pregnant, and they needed both medical coverage and a steady source of income. During his two-year enlistment, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1958 [8] and became an editor and cartoonist for his battalion's newspaper.

After completing military service, he briefly taught school at Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg, Florida before deciding to try to become a full-time writer.[9]

Anthony and his wife made a deal: if he could sell a piece of writing within one year, she would continue to work to support him. But if he could not sell anything in that year, then he would forever give up his dream of being a writer. At the end of the year, he managed to get a short story published. He credits his wife as the person who made his writing career possible, and he advises aspiring writers that they need to have a source of income other than their writing in order to get through the early years of a writing career.[10]


On multiple occasions Anthony has moved from one publisher to another (taking a popular series with him) when he says he felt the editors were unduly tampering with his work. He has sued publishers for accounting malfeasance and won judgments in his favor.[11] Anthony maintains an Internet Publishers Survey in the interest of helping aspiring writers.[12] For this service, he won the 2003 "Friend of EPIC" award for service to the electronic publishing community.[13] His website won the Special Recognition for Service to Writers award from Preditors and Editors, an author's guide to publishers and writing services.[14]

His popular novel series Xanth has been optioned for movies.[15] It inspired the DOS video game Companions of Xanth, by Legend Entertainment. The same series also spawned the board game Xanth by Mayfair Games.[16]

Anthony's novels usually end with a chapter-long Author's Note, in which he talks about himself, his life, and his experiences as they related to the process of writing the novel. He often discusses correspondence with readers and any real-world issues that influenced the novel.

Since about 2000, Anthony has written his novels in a Linux environment.[17]

Anthony's Xanth series was ranked No. 99 in a 2011 NPR readers' poll of best science fiction and fantasy books.[18]

In other media[edit]

Act One of episode 470 of the radio program This American Life is an account of boyhood obsessions with Piers Anthony. The act is written and narrated by writer Logan Hill who, as a 12-year-old, was consumed with reading Anthony's novels. For a decade he felt he must have been Anthony's number one fan, until, when he was 22, he met "Andy" at a wedding and discovered their mutual interest in the writer. Andy is interviewed for the story and explains that, as a teenager, he had used escapist novels in order to cope with his alienating school and home life in Buffalo, New York. In 1987, at age 15, he decided to run away to Florida in order to try to live with Piers Anthony. The story includes Anthony's reflections on these events.[7]

Naomi King, the daughter of writer Stephen King, enjoyed reading books by Piers Anthony, which included things like pixies, imps and fairies. After she told her father she had, "very little interest in my vampires, Ghoulies and slushy crawling things", he wrote The Eyes of the Dragon which was originally published in 1984 and later in 1987 by Viking Press.[19]

But What of Earth?[edit]

Early in Anthony's literary career, there was a dispute surrounding the original publication (1976) of But What of Earth?. Editor Roger Elwood commissioned the novel for his nascent science-fiction line Laser Books. According to Anthony, he completed But What of Earth?, and Elwood accepted and purchased it. Elwood then told Anthony that he wished to make several minor changes, and in order not to waste Anthony's time, he had hired copy editor (and author) Robert Coulson to retype the manuscript with the changes. Anthony described Coulson as a friend and was initially open to his contribution.

However, Elwood told Coulson he was to be a full collaborator, free to make revisions to Anthony's text in line with suggestions made by other copy editors. Elwood promised Coulson a 50–50 split with Anthony on all future royalties. According to Anthony, the published novel was very different from his version, with changes to characters and dialog, and with scenes added and removed. Anthony felt the changes worsened the novel. Laser's ultimate publication of But What of Earth? listed Anthony and Coulson together as collaborators. Publication rights were reverted to Anthony under threat of legal action. In 1989, Anthony (re)published his original But What of Earth? in an annotated edition through Tor Books. This edition contains an introduction and conclusion setting out the story of the novel's permutations and roughly 60 pages of notes by Anthony giving examples of changes to plot and characters, and describing some of the comments made by copy editors on his manuscript.[20]


Some critics have described Anthony's portrayal of women characters as stereotypical and misogynist, particularly in the early parts of the Xanth series, and have taken issue with themes of underage sexuality and eroticism within Anthony's work.[21][22][23] Anthony has argued in interviews that these critiques do not accurately reflect his work, and states that he gets more fan mail from female readers than male readers.[24][25]

Personal life[edit]

He and his first wife, Carol Ann Marble Jacob, had two daughters, Penelope "Penny" Carolyn and Cheryl. Penny had one child, and died in 2009, due to complications from skin cancer. Carol Ann died at home on 3 October 2019 due to what is believed to have been heart related complications due to a 15-year-long battle with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP).[26]

Anthony lived on his tree farm in Florida until March 2023.[27]

On 22 April 2020, he married MaryLee Boyance[28] and they relocated to an apartment in California in late March 2023.

In March 2023, he sold his property in Florida and retired to California.

Religious beliefs[edit]

Regarding his religious beliefs, Anthony wrote in the October 2004 entry of his personal website, "I'm agnostic, which means I regard the case as unproven, but I'm much closer to the atheist position than to the theist one."[29] In 2017 he stated, "I am more certain about God and the Afterlife: they don't exist."[30]



  1. ^ Anthony, Piers. Bio of an Ogre, Ace Books, 1988. p 5
  2. ^ Mendlesohn, Farah (1997). Practicing Peace: Quaker Relief work in the Spanish Civil War (DPhil). University of York. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  3. ^ Maul, Daniel (2 January 2016). "The politics of neutrality: the American Friends Service Committee and the Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939". European Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire. 23 (1–2): 82–100. doi:10.1080/13507486.2015.1121972.
  4. ^ Anthony, Piers. How Precious Was That While: An Autobiography, Tor Books (2001), p.12
  5. ^ Joly, Greg and Rebecca Lepkoff. Almost Utopia, Vermont Historical Society, 2008.
  6. ^ Anthony, Piers. Bio of an Ogre, Ace Books, 1988. p. 87
  7. ^ a b "470: Show Me The Way". This American Life. 27 July 2012. Transcript. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  8. ^ Denney, Jim (2003). Quit Your Day Job!: How to Sleep Late, Do What You Enjoy, and Make a Ton of Money as a Writer!. Quill Driver Books. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-884956-04-1.
  9. ^ Anthony, Piers. Bio of an Ogre, Ace Books, 1988. p. 284
  10. ^ Anthony, Piers (1985). "Introduction to the story "Possible to Rue"". Anthonology (Hardcover) (1st ed.). New York, NY: Tom Doherty Associates. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-312-93027-1.
  11. ^ "Book Series in Order Profiles: Piers Anthony". 21 February 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  12. ^ "Piers Anthony's Internet Publishing". Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 31 October 2005.
  13. ^ "EPIC - Electronically Published Internet Connection". www.epicauthors.org. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  14. ^ Gogolewski, Kathe. "An Interview With Piers Anthony for the 2006 Muse Online Writers Conference." Archived 17 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  15. ^ "Film News".
  16. ^ "MFG 459 Xanth Boardgame". 1991.
  17. ^ Howell, Dean. (10.11.2011) "Piers Anthony: An Ogre and a Penguin – candid interview with Piers Anthony" The Power Base: The Internet's Finest Source for Open Source. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  18. ^ "Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books". NPR. 11 August 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  19. ^ "The Two Princes by Bev Vincent". Stephen King Revisited. 25 May 2016. Retrieved 16 April 2023.
  20. ^ Anthony, Piers (15 July 1989). But What of Earth?. Tor Books. ISBN 978-0812530988.
  21. ^ Chaplinsky, Joshua. "Themes of Pedophilia in the Works of Piers Anthony". litreactor.com. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  22. ^ "Anthony, Piers 1934-". Children's Literature Review. encyclopedia.com. 30 December 2021. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  23. ^ "Anthony, Piers". Encyclopedia of Fantasy. 1997. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  24. ^ "Piers Anthony Unbound". Slashdot. 15 July 2002. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  25. ^ "Xanthmaker: Interview With Piers Anthony". Moongadget. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  26. ^ Anthony, Piers (1 November 2019). "NoRemember 2019". HiPiers. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  27. ^ Anthony, Piers (April 2009). "Apull 2009".
  28. ^ Anthony, Piers (1 May 2020). "Mayhem 2020". HiPiers. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  29. ^ Anthony, Piers (October 2004). "Ogre's Den: From the Desk of Piers Anthony, OctOgre 2004". Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  30. ^ Anthony, Piers (May 2017). "Ogre's Den: From the Desk of Piers Anthony, Mayhem 2017". Archived from the original on 26 March 2023. Retrieved 26 May 2016.

External links[edit]