Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Shea, Michael

(1946-2014) US writer of exotic fantasy and supernatural horror, not to be confused with the UK thriller writer Michael Shea (1938-    ). While MS's work may appear imitative, he is able to mix and blend styles and content to suit his subject matter. He first appeared in print with A Quest for Simbilis (1974), a continuation of Jack Vance's Cugel tales, which had ended abruptly in The Eyes of the Overworld (coll of linked stories 1966). Many critics believed MS was audacious to attempt this, but grudgingly admitted he had captured much of the style and flair of Vance and also had shown some originality. MS was quiet for a few years but, when he re-emerged with Nifft the Lean (coll of linked stories 1982), he showed he had developed the exotic style of Vance (perhaps influenced by Clark Ashton Smith) plus the ingenuity of Fritz Leiber's Gray Mouser stories to produce an extravagant Quest novel. It received a World Fantasy Award. However, its companion piece, In Yana, the Touch of Undying (1985), about a vain opportunist's search for Immortality in a Land of Fable, while equally inventive, is rather more self-indulgent. These novels are best appreciated in short doses. The Color Out of Time (1984; vt The Colour Out of Time 1986 UK) is MS's sequel to H P Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space" (1927), but here MS only borrows the setting and background, not attempting to pastiche Lovecraft's style. What he was first criticized for doing with Vance, MS was now criticized for not doing with Lovecraft.

MS's best work is his short fiction, especially the stories collected in Polyphemus (coll 1987) where, although they betray the possible stylistic influence of Stephen King, the stories are closer to MS's own voice. [MA]

other works: Fat Face (1987 chap), an addition to the Cthulhu Mythos; I, Said the Fly (1989 The Omni Book of Science Fiction; rev 1993 chap).

Michael Shea

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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.