Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Anthony, Piers

Working name of US writer Piers Anthony Dillingham Jacob (1934-    ) for all his published work, most of it sf in the first years of his career, when he released what remain his two most highly respected novels, Chthon (1967) and Macroscope (1969; cut 1972 UK). He began publishing work of genre interest with "Possible to Rue" for Fantastic in 1963, and assembled most of his nonseries short fiction as Anthonology (coll 1985) and Alien Plot (coll 1992). Since the mid-1970s PA has become exceedingly popular for his fantasy series.

The first and longest of these, the ongoing Xanth sequence, comprises A Spell for Chameleon (1977), which won the 1978 British Fantasy Award, The Source of Magic (1979) and Castle Roogna (1979) – all assembled as The Magic of Xanth (omni 1981; vt Three Complete Xanth Novels 1994) – Centaur Isle (1982), Ogre, Ogre (1982), Night Mare (1982), Dragon on a Pedestal (1983), Crewel Lye: A Caustic Yarn (1984), Golem in the Gears (1986), Vale of the Vole (1987), Heaven Cent (1988), Man from Mundania (1989), Isle of View (1990), Question Quest (1991), The Color of her Panties (1992), Demons Don't Dream (1993), Harpy Thyme (1993), Geis of the Gargoyle (1994) and Roc and a Hard Place (1995). Surrounded by sea and by the nonfantasy lands collectively called Mundania, Xanth itself, a vast Polder much resembling Florida (where PA lives), is a land permeated by ecologically balanced Magic, whose laws can be worked out pragmatically (> Rationalized Fantasy), and where Time moves independently of the outside world (> Time in Faerie); words and puns (hence the titles of individual volumes) can operate in a literal fashion (> True Name), so that (for instance) cherry bombs grow on cherry trees and shoes on shoe trees. Most (if not all) of the Xanth books are constructed as Quest tales, and the earlier titles in particular tend to engage young men and women in Rite-of-Passage storylines leading to a modest maturity and marriage with a suitable partner; some early protagonists, Bink in particular, have struck some critics as unattractively sexist (> Gender; Sex), but later figures are subtler in their choices. Very few characters or Motifs common to Genre Fantasy have failed to appear in the Xanth books, which in their playfulness, escapism, geography and dependence on word-play are strongly reminiscent of the Oz books by L Frank Baum and his successors. Piers Anthony's Visual Guide to Xanth (1989) with Jody Lynn Nye (whom see for Crossroads Adventure ties set in the Xanth universe) is a nonfiction survey of the series.

PA's second large sequence, the Apprentice Adept series – Split Infinity (1980), Blue Adept (1981) and Juxtaposition (1982), all assembled as Double Exposure (omni 1982), plus Out of Phaze (1987), Robot Adept (1988), Unicorn Point (1989) and Phaze Doubt (1990) – juxtaposes fantasy and sf worlds whose interactions and conflicts constantly threaten an ecological balance between magic and science; the tales are lightly told, and late volumes are comparatively flimsy.

His third long sequence, the Incarnations of Immortality series – On a Pale Horse (1983), Bearing an Hourglass (1984), With a Tangled Skein (1985), Wielding a Red Sword (1986), Being a Green Mother (1987), For Love of Evil (1988) and And Eternity (1990) – more ambitiously presents an Alternate World in which mortal humans are selected to become incarnations (> Avatars) of figures like Death, Nature, Time, God and so forth, and to wage battle on humanity's behalf against Satan. If there is an imbalance between the sweep of the concept and the intermittent flippancy of the telling, it is an imbalance clearly of PA's choice.

The Dragon series, with Robert Margroff (1930-    ) – Dragon's Gold (1987), Serpent's Silver (1988) and Chaera's Copper (1990), all three assembled as The Adventures of Kelvin of Rud: Across the Frames (omni 1992; vt Three Complete Novels 1994), plus Orc's Opal (1990) and Mouvar's Magic (1992), both assembled as The Adventures of Kelvin of Rud: Final Magic (omni 1992) – is of less interest. The ongoing Mode sequence – Virtual Mode (1991), Fractal Mode (1992) and Chaos Mode (1993) – is a love story involving parallel worlds. Fantasy singletons include: Hasan (1969 Fantastic; 1977), an Arabian Fantasy; Pretender (1979) with Frances Hall (1914-    ); Shade of the Tree (1986), a tale of paranormal Horror in which, typically of PA's work, various Realities intersect; Ghost (1966 If as "The Ghost Galaxies"; exp 1986), in which the world is haunted by the Seven Deadly Sins; Pornucopia (1989), which tells of a man's search through fantasy environments for his lost penis, aided by an adaptive prosthetic tool; Firefly (1990), horror; and The Tatham Mound (1991), an ambitious Rite-of-Passage tale whose Native American protagonist must not only work out his own mature being but attempt to save his people.

Even more than in his sf, the fantasy work of PA constantly enthrals with its scope and frustrates through the pun-ridden, excessive facility of its telling. It sometimes seems difficult for PA to find worlds of the imagination that are sufficiently gritty to engage his full attention. When his imagination is properly involved, however, his work is explosive. [JC]

other works: Tales from the Great Turtle (anth 1994) with Richard Gilliam (1950-    ).

Piers Anthony Dillingham Jacob


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.