Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Kushner, Ellen

(1955-    ) US writer and editor. She first appeared in print as editor of Basilisk (anth 1980). Its mixture of original stories and reprints, poems and stories, each with a full-page illustration by Terri Windling, served as a model for the three Elsewhere volumes ed Windling, in the initial volume of which appeared EK's first work of fiction, "The Unicorn Masque". With its (bizarre and slightly clumsy) Gender Disguise, its obsession with Masks, its reliance on witty dialogue, its focus on the court newcomer making his way to the centre of the society and its demonstration of the dangers of intimacy, this was a harbinger of the Fantasy of Manners.

EK quit editing in 1981 to write full-time. The first result was Swordspoint (1987), which received considerable praise. The novel is essentially a Dynastic Fantasy set in a Ruritanian 18th-century City; its total lack of supernatural paraphernalia might seem to blur its generic identity, but in a sense the structure of the depicted society, which has no exact historical analogue, is itself the fantastic element. Swordspoint is flamboyant but controlled; the manipulation of viewpoint is impressive. A pendant, "The Swordsman whose Name was not Death" (1991), centres on a complex gender disguise and an exploration of Gender roles in its society. Despite a climactic sword duel, it is the aftermath verbal duel that generates the devastating conclusion.

Where Swordspoint is a display-piece like a jig or a reel, Thomas the Rhymer (1990) is a lovely slow air of a book. EK sets this retelling of the classic ballad of a harpist taken to Faerie by its queen in what she calls Ballad-Land. The portion of the book set in Elfland uses the ballad "Famous Flower of Serving Men" as a tightly woven subplot in EK's strongest manner; throughout, its theme of the Minstrel whose gift is to speak only the truth conveys EK's burning conviction that the purpose of fantasy is to do just that. This won the Mythopoeic Award and tied for the World Fantasy Award. [DK]

other works: Outlaws of Sherwood Forest * (1985), The Enchanted Kingdom * (1986), Statue of Liberty Adventure * (1986), The Mystery of the Secret Room * (1986), Knights of the Round Table * (1988), all in the Choose Your Own Adventure gamebook series.

Ellen Kushner


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.