(1952- ) US writer, editor and critic, best-known in the latter category, especially in the Small-Press field, to which he has been a prolific contributor since 1970. He has also been an editorial assistant on Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine 1977-1982, Amazing Stories 1982-1986, and joint (later sole) editor on Weird Tales from 1987. He is currently editor of WT's spiritual successor, Worlds of Fantasy and Horror.
DS works in many modes, but the overriding mood is of Dark Fantasy. His stories have echoes from writers like Lord Dunsany and Clark Ashton Smith. This was evident from his first professional sale "The Story of Obbok" (1973 Whispers). All of DS's work shows a delight in the use of language and creation of mood, sometimes at the expense of Story. This melancholy is evident in the Sir Julian stories – about a medieval Knight who is an Accursed Wanderer – collected as We Are All Legends (coll of linked stories 1981). The White Isle (1975 Weirdbook; exp 1980 Fantastic; rev dated 1989 but 1990) is about a prince who, like Orpheus, tries to bring his wife back from the Land of the Dead.
DS's first main body of work, the Goddess sequence, begins with "The Story of a Dadar" (1982 Amazing Stories) and includes The Shattered Goddess (1982). It is set on a Dying Earth after the death of the Goddess, whose remains are kept as a holy relic. The story plots the rise of a Witch who takes Possession of a series of bodies in order to attain ultimately the body of the Goddess. She can be defeated only through the heroic Sacrifice of one of her own creations. The novel has immense power in its climax and again sustains the forlorn mood of loss.
DS's other main series are the Great River stories, begun with "The Last of the Shadow Titans" (1985 Amazing Stories) and including the novel The Mask of the Sorcerer (as "To Become a Sorcerer" 1991 WT; exp 1995 UK). The setting is the dawn of the world, when the Gods still interact with humankind. Evoking the mood of ancient Egypt, the novel tells of a son's Quest for his lost sister and his travels among the Landscapes of death and legend. As before, DS explores the growing power of individuals and the inevitable sacrifice that leads to transcendence and loss of mortality.
DS's work does not lend itself well to Humour, though his best attempts, the Tom O'Bedlam stories – begun with "Tom O'Bedlam's Night Out" (1977 Fantastic) are of note; some are collected in Tom O'Bedlam's Night Out and Other Strange Excursions (coll 1985), which also includes selections from the Goddess and Great River series. Transients and Other Disquieting Stories (coll 1993) contains generally more disturbing fantasies, including some of DS's modern horror tales. Most of DS's short fiction remains uncollected. [MA]
other works: The Meaning of Life and Other Awesome Cosmic Revelations (coll 1988 chap); Non Compost Mentis: An Affrontery of Limericks and Other Eldritch Metrical Terrors (coll 1995 chap) verse.
Nonfiction: Lovecraft in the Cinema (1975 chap); The Dream-Quest of H.P. Lovecraft (1978 chap); Conan's World and Robert E. Howard (1978 chap); On Writing Science Fiction: The Editors Strike Back (anth 1981) with George Scithers and John M Ford; Constructing Scientifiction & Fantasy (1982 chap) with George Scithers and John Ashmead; Pathways to Elfland: The Writings of Lord Dunsany (1989); Lord Dunsany: A Bibliography (1993) with S T Joshi.
Interviews: SF Voices (coll 1976); Science Fiction Voices #1 (coll 1979 chap); Science Fiction Voices #5 (coll 1981 chap); Speaking of Horror (coll 1994).
as editor: Essays Lovecraftian (anth 1976; rev vt Discovering H.P. Lovecraft anth 1987); The Ghosts of the Heaviside Layer (coll 1980 US) by Lord Dunsany; Exploring Fantasy Worlds (anth 1985); Discovering Modern Horror Fiction (anth 1985); Discovering Stephen King (anth 1985); Discovering Modern Horror Fiction II (anth 1988); Tales from the Spaceport Bar (anth 1987) and Another Round at the Spaceport Bar (anth 1989) both with George Scithers (> Tall Tales); Discovering Classic Horror I (anth 1992).
Darrell Charles Schweitzer