Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Attanasio, A A

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(1951-    ) US writer, most noted for his sf, which he began to publish with "Once More, the Dream" for New Worlds Quarterly #7 (anth 1974) ed Hilary Bailey and Charles Platt, though his first published story was "Loup Garou" (1973) in Tales of Terror and the Macabre: The Haunt of Horror.. His novels are generally sf – he is best-known for the Radix Tetrad sequence beginning with Radix (1981) – but the exorbitant intensity of his rendering of the visible world brings them at times close to Magic Realism. Set mostly in the South Pacific in the early 17th century, Wyvern (1988), which is fantasy, follows the Rite of Passage into adulthood of a blond Tarzan-like enfant sauvage whom the "natives" of Borneo think is a Demon and who is raised by a soul-catcher sorcerer to fulfil prophecies; in the event he becomes a Pirate, shifting en passant from the realm of fantasy to the realm of historical romance. Hunting the Ghost Dancer (1991) is a Prehistoric Fantasy. Kingdom of the Grail (1992) treats the Matter of Britain. The Moon's Wife: A Hystery (1993), a heavily crosshatched Contemporary Fantasy (see Crosshatch) in which the masculine Moon woos a young woman, examines Sex, Gender roles, and other preconceptions; her inability to determine whether or not she is hallucinating (see Hallucination) her Perception of the Moon's courtship neatly exemplifies any definition of Fantasy which concentrates upon the Uncanny. With The Dragon and the Unicorn (1994 UK) and Arthor (1995) AAA began an ambitious Arthurian sequence (see Arthur), not visibly connected to Kingdom of the Grail. The first volume presents a complex cosmogony in which the Unicorn – a noncorporeal creature of the Sun – takes on bodily form only when caught in Bondage to the Earth. The figure of Merlin gradually emerges as an Avatar of a spirit or demon immemorially appalled (see Time Abyss) by matter. The second volume, which focuses on "Arthor", is bound more explicitly to traditional Arthurian material, though Arthor himself is an unusually brutal figure. Morgeu (i.e., Morgan Le Fay) enters the picture, and there is much adversarial Magic, with Merlin opposing her.

A florid Quest-like urgency permeates all of AAA's work; indeed, most of his protagonists are themselves driven by quest imperatives, usually the need to discover their own identities. The wide range of his work may have kept him from wide fame within the field, as may an erratic style (eloquence and bathos frequently abut within single paragraphs); there remains, however, a sense that this rich variousness will, sooner or later, become fully recognized; The Dark Shore (1996), set in a full-scale Secondary World which rather resembles that of E R Eddison's Zimiamvia books, is a move towards that recognition. [JC]

Alfred Angelo Attanasio


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.