Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Burroughs, William S

(1914-1997) US writer whose early life as a heroin addict in corners of the Third World is reflected in all his work, beginning with Junky (1953 as by William Lee; rev vt Junkie as by WSB 1977) and Queer (written 1950s; 1985), where his homosexuality is also exposed to light and laceration. His first fully characteristic text, The Naked Lunch (1959 France; vt Naked Lunch 1962 US), like almost all his later work, is far more effective when its phantasmagoric language and imagery is understood within an sf frame. When WSB is treated as an author of fantasy he can be misunderstood as an aesthete of the Dark Side who projects nightmares into fictional form; in truth, his tales are meant to describe this world, and to serve as arguments about its infinitely corroded nature. This sense of his work makes the movie Naked Lunch (1992) a relatively successful presentation of fantasy-like distortions in Perception within an "objective" frame; for WSB, in his writings, the world is a vast Reality-ensnaring conspiracy, and his works are reportage. Other texts of interest include The Soft Machine (1961 France; rev 1966 US), The Ticket that Exploded (1962 France; rev 1967 US), Nova Express (1964), The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead (1971; rev 1979 UK), Exterminator! (1973), Port of Saints (1973 Switzerland; rev 1980 US), Cities of the Red Night (1981), The Place of Dead Roads (1984) and Interzone (coll 1989). [JC]

William Seward Burroughs


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.