Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
McKillip, Patricia A

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(1948-    ) US writer whose early works were for children. The House on Parchment Street (1973) features Ghosts from the English Civil War and The Throme of the Erril of Sherill (1973 chap; reissued with "The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath" [1982] coll 1984) is comic fantasy in the manner of James Thurber. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld (1974), a stylish moralistic fantasy about the sentimental education of an Enchantress, was again marketed as a juvenile, but won the first World Fantasy Award (1975) as Best Novel. The Riddle-Master trilogy – The Riddle-Master of Hed (1976), Heir of Sea and Fire (1977) and Harpist in the Wind (1979), assembled as Riddle of Stars (omni 1979; vt The Chronicles of Morgon, Prince of Hed 1981 UK) – a more orthodox Heroic Fantasy, is similarly well wrought. The intellectual and emotional maturation of its mild-mannered hero and independent-minded heroine are handled with scrupulous delicacy. Stepping from the Shadows (1982) is an interesting naturalistic novel about the making of a fantasy writer, which presumably draws on PAM's own experiences.

PAM then digressed into sf for some years before returning to fantasy. The Changeling Sea (1988) was aimed at younger readers, but The Sorceress and the Cygnet (1991) is a complex and thoughtful Quest fantasy for adults. It compares and contrasts the intellectual odysseys of a stigmatized boy, an assiduous but reckless female scholar and a pragmatic swordswoman in a strange world whose constellations embody a series of tutelary deities; PAM's customary lyricism is here delicately leavened with Humour. The adventures and philosophical inquiries begun in this volume are continued in The Cygnet and the Firebird (1993), in which the harmony established at the end of its predecessor is assaulted by surreal distortions of Perception which must be tracked to their magical source. The fine novella Something Rich and Strange (1994) was issued as part of Brian Froud's Faerielands illustrated by Brian Froud; a romance in which a female artist and her half-hearted lover are separately seduced by sea-spirits which turn out to be more powerful and more sinister than they had imagined, it won the 1995 Mythopoeic Award. The narrative is exquisitely detailed, adding several wry convolutions to the kind of plot traditionally deployed in tales of Mermaids.

PAM is one of the most accomplished prose stylists working in the fantasy genre; she always brings a keen and refreshingly idiosyncratic intelligence to her employment of its motifs. [BS]

other works: The Night Gift (1976), marginal; Moon-Flash (1984), sf; The Moon and the Face (1985), sf; Fool's Run (1987), sf; The Book of Atrix Wolfe (1995).

Patricia Anne McKillip


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.