Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Scarborough, Elizabeth Ann

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(1947-    ) US writer whose work has long been read as fantasy, though some of her more recent novels are Crosshatches. She began with the Argonia sequence: Song of Sorcery (1982) and The Unicorn Creed (1983), both assembled as Songs from the Seashell Archives #1 (omni 1987), and Bronwyn's Bane (1983) and The Christening Quest (1985), both assembled as Songs from the Seashell Archives #2 (omni 1988). Each pair of tales, though set in the same amiable Fantasyland, features different protagonists. The first is a young Witch who sets out on a Quest to find her sister, encountering en route various figures from the repertory of Genre Fantasy; eventually she succeeds, with the aid of various Companions, including a querulous Unicorn. The second, a princess under a Curse (she cannot tell the truth), has similar adventures. Further comedies followed: The Harem of Aman Akbar, or The Djinn Decanted (1984), EAS's first singleton, is set in a Land-of-Fable venue full of supernatural creatures from Arabian Fantasy; The Drastic Dragon of Draco, Texas (1986) invokes Native American material, the eponymous Dragon being in fact a winged Serpent who causes havoc; The Goldcamp Vampire, or The Sanguinary Sourdough (1987) is a Supernatural Fiction.

EAS finally turned – in The Healer's War (1988), which won the Nebula Award – to a theme which demanded a straight face. The protagonist of the book, a nurse in Vietnam, has some experiences which reflect EAS's own, and her depiction of the conflict combines Magic Realism and reportage in a manner also found fitting by Bruce McAllister (1946-    ) and Lucius Shepard in their own Vietnam tales of nightmare – all three translate Southeast Asia into a hellish land of fable. The central action of EAS's book engages the protagonist with a wounded Vietnamese healer who recognizes in her a potential power akin to his own; he signals this by giving her an Amulet, that focuses her own Talents – which include telepathy and the healer's touch.

The female protagonist of Nothing Sacred (1991) and its sequel, Last Refuge (1992), is also haunted by the calamities afflicting this world. About a century hence she is immured in a Tibetan camp, which she discovers to be Shangri-La, a Polder protective of her and of a Buddhist Utopia. She learns that the doctrine of Reincarnation is literally true, and by the second volume is running Quests back into the world, where huge numbers of Ghosts – victims of nuclear Holocaust – await rebirth into flesh.

The Songkiller SagaPhantom Banjo (1991), Picking the Ballad's Bones (1991) and Strum Again? (1992) – represents something of a descent. The forces of Hell decide that "Project Man" is doing moderately well, except that the human race continues to refuse to commit final hara kiri. The reason is folk music, which they set out to destroy. The Godmother (1994) is a partial recuperation: in contemporary Seattle a Fairy Godmother does her best to help out characters whose stories distortingly reflect familiar Fairytales. [JC]

other works: The Powers that Be (1994) with Anne McCaffrey, sf.

Elizabeth Ann Scarborough


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.