Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Friesner, Esther M

Working name of US writer Esther Mona Friesner-Stutzman (1951-    ), who began publishing stories of genre interest with "The Stuff of Heroes" for IASFM in 1982, and almost all of whose work has been fantasy, the main exception being a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine tie, Warchild * (1994). She has published some 100 short stories but only one collection, It's Been Fun (coll 1991); her career really begins with her first series, the Chronicles of the Twelve Kingdoms, set in an Arabian-Fantasy venue: Mustapha and His Wise Dog (1985), Spells of Mortal Weaving (1986) – the first written – The Witchwood Cradle (1987) and The Water King's Laughter (1989). Each volume features a Quest plot, a sense of the serpentine immensities of power and lore (specifically that attaching to Magic), and an intensely invoked Landscape. Though there is a tendency for her plots to sink into Genre-Fantasy cliché, the flowing graveness of the Twelve Kingdoms books redeems the haste of some of the plotting, though the last – featuring a comic Ugly Duckling destined to reveal himself as having been a Hidden Monarch – rather breaks the storytelling mood. The sequence was clearly intended to extend to 12 volumes, one per kingdom.

Most of EMF's work has been in the realm of comedy (> Humour). Three Contemporary FantasiesNew York by Knight (1986), Elf Defence (1988) and Sphynxes Wild (1989) – use City settings as an effective backdrop for plots in which creatures of Faerie intersect clashingly with our world, though rarely with sufficient intensity to generate a sense that full-scale Urban Fantasy is being attempted. The first, in which a Dragon and a Knight war against the New York skyline, is the most effective; the others are funnier. The Demons sequence – Here Be Demons (1988), Demon Blues (1989) and Hooray for Hellywood (1990) – is mostly humorous Supernatural Fiction, though the Recursive second volume, in which members of the Society for Creative Anachronism become Companions of an Immortal Richard the Lionheart, is of broad fantasy interest. The Gnome sequence – Gnome Man's Land (1991), Harpy High (1991) and Unicorn U (1992) – engages its protagonist with a welter of Crosshatch creatures, all of whom interfere with his education and who engage him on tours of the Underworld. The Majyk series – Majyk by Accident (1993), Majyk by Hook or Crook (1994) and Majyk by Design (1994) – involves a Sorcerer's-Apprentice protagonist and various other figures in dealings with majyk, a "substance" necessary to any workings in magic. The Psalms of Herod (1995) initiates a new series, set in a fundamentalist-Christian post-Holocaust world in which women are treated as pariahs, and all life is deemed sacred until the moment of birth, when the "defective" are killed off.

Her singletons are various. Harlot's Ruse (1986) plays rather persistent jokes on its sexual content; but Druid's Blood (1988) is a sharply and amusingly told Gaslight Romance set in an Alternate-World Victorian England, with Recursive references galore, and a plot centring on investigations by analogues of Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Yesterday We Saw Mermaids (1991) is a tale of Thinning set in 1492; a ship – separate from those under Columbus, and full of figures from the backstory of Western civilization – travels west, finds Prester John and witnesses the Church's frustration of the birth of a second Messiah and the departure of the magic folk from our ken.

There is a sense of excessive and hasty fertility to much of EMF's work, but again and again a sharp poetic density of image alerts the reader to the fact that a high intelligence waits in the wings. [JC]

other works: The Silver Mountain (1986); Ecce Hominid (1991 chap); Split Heirs (1993) with Lawrence Watt-Evans; Wishing Season (1993), YA Arabian Fantasy; Alien Pregnant by Elvis (anth 1994) with Martin H Greenberg, comprising original stories; The Sherwood Game (1995); Chicks in Chain Mail (anth 1995).

Esther Mona Friesner-Stutzman

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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.