Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Eisenstein, Phyllis

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(1946-2020) US writer. Her first story, "The Trouble with the Past" with Alex Eisenstein for New Dimensions 1 (anth 1971) ed Robert Silverberg, was sf. Her first fantasy series, the Alaric the Minstrel sequence – Born to Exile (1971-1974 F&SF; fixup 1978) and In the Red Lord's Reach (1989) – depicts the slow coming of age of Alaric, an orphan with a Talent (teleportation) whose experiences verge on cliché but escape by dint of PE's emphasis on the complexities of the process of growing up, and on a sense that the worlds he comes across – like the nomadic Water-Margin world of the Red Lord in the second volume – have in a way been chosen by him because they Mirror his own condition. (The second volume also interestingly portrays an alternative science of strange but consistent quasi-magnetic effects.) Her second series, the Cray Ormoru sequence – Sorcerer's Son (1979) and The Crystal Palace (1988) – is again devoted to a young man's coming of age, though in this case more complexly, as Cray is the son of a Witch and a Succubus-cum-Incubus (actually a Demon disguised as a Knight) bearing the sperm of a paranoid sorcerer. His search for his father, who is a destructive Knight of the Doleful Countenance, is fraught with risks, even in a world of rationalized Magic. When he discovers the truth, Cray responds by granting freedom to the demon, a freedom which serves to emancipate his mother and to demonstrate his maturity. In the second volume the adult Cray embarks on a Quest to save a maiden he has scried in a magic Mirror; their relationship is engagingly spiky.

Her short fiction, which is uncollected, includes the fantasies "Subworld" (1983) – an intriguing Urban Fantasy set in a New York whose subways support a Wainscot society – "The Demon Queen" (1984) and "The Amethyst Phial" (1984). Each of PE's stories is singular, densely but deftly composed. The infrequency of her publications has often been regretted. [JC]

Phyllis Leah Kleinstein Eisenstein


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.