Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Bull, Emma

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(1954-    ) US writer, married to Will Shetterly, and with him among the founders of the Scribblies. She began publishing with "Rending Dark" in Sword and Sorceress (anth 1984) ed Marion Zimmer Bradley, and much of her infrequent short fiction has been assembled as Double Feature (coll 1994) with Shetterly. Her first novel, War for the Oaks (1987), is an important and shaping contribution to the Contemporary-Fantasy subgenre, and has done much to establish Minneapolis as a minor but thriving venue for Urban Fantasy. A young female rock musician becomes suddenly aware that Minneapolis is crosshatched with Faerie, and that a grave conflict between the Seelie and the Unseelie factions within Faerie has begun. Contacted by a phouka – who manifests either as a man or as a dog – she reluctantly accepts her central role in the upcoming war. At points, an Elf aristo who rather resembles David Bowie (1947-2016) makes appearances; elf rockers have since become a central feature of Genre Fantasies with Crosshatch venues.

EB's second full fantasy, Finder: A Novel of the Borderlands * (1994), set in the Borderland Shared-World sequence created by Terri Windling and Mark Arnold, exhibits few of the flaws common to such enterprises. The tone is dark; the plot and writing are tight and identifiably akin to EB's other work. Bordertown, which exists along the boundary between this world and Faerie and is home to individuals estranged from either or both, is a venue of crosshatch and a Threshold. Within this venue a man named Orient – he is the eponymous Finder (see Talents) – becomes involved in a murder investigation whose noir tone conflates with a growing sense that thresholds not only are escape hatches but can also ship contagion across the border. In The Princess and the Lord of Night (1994), an illustrated Fairytale for children, a princess must Quibble with a Curse in order to save her parents from death. It is neatly told, with a tinge of the darkness typical of EB's work.

EB is as well known for sf as for fantasy; both Falcon (1988) and Bone Dance: A Fantasy for Technophiles (1991) – which is sf – are of considerable interest. With Shetterly she created and edited the Liavek shared world, a Fantasyland in which the eponymous city of thieves serves as a convenient venue for Adventurer Fantasy: Liavek * (anth 1985), The Players of Luck * (anth 1986), Wizard's Row * (anth 1987), Spells of Binding * (anth 1988) and Festival Week * (anth 1990).

EB is not prolific, and the inherent darkness of her vision sometimes wars with an occasionally feelgood surface manner; but a sharp intelligence is constantly evident. [JC]

Emma Bull


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.