Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Shwartz, Susan M

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(1949-    ) US writer and businesswoman, known as much for sf as for fantasy. Her first story of genre interest, "The Fires of her Vengeance" in The Keeper's Price (anth 1979) ed Marion Zimmer Bradley, is fantasy. Her first novel, White Wing (1985) with S N Lewitt, together as Gordon Kendall, is sf. The Heirs to Byzantium sequence – Byzantium's Crown (1987), The Woman of Flowers (1987) and Queensblade (1988) – begins as an Alternate-Worlds tale in which Antony and Cleopatra shifted the capital of the Roman Empire to Byzantium. In medieval times, Byzantium remains the centre of the world, which gradually evolves into a Land-of-Fable Europe. Magic is introduced to the Dynastic-Fantasy storyline, which involves heirs to the throne, a power-mad wicked Stepmother, druids with magic nous, and (in the final volume, which takes place after a savage Thinning of the world) the sacrifice of a brave woman to bring in the Healing. There are some Arthurian echoes (see Arthur). Two unconnected stories – "Seven from Caer Sidi" (in Invitation to Camelot anth 1988 ed Parke Godwin) and "The Count of the Saxon Shore" (in Alternatives anth 1989 ed Robert Adams and Pamela Crippen Adams) – also make use of the Matter of Britain. Silk Roads and Shadows (1988), set in something closely resembling the historical Byzantium, is a Rite-of-Passage tale featuring the trials of a young woman (the Emperor's sister) who goes to China to steal the silkworms necessary to revitalize the Byzantine silk industry; some of the trials involve magic.

Imperial Lady: A Fantasy of Han China (1989) with Andre Norton is a Supernatural Fiction set in a China whose land-of-fable elements are subdued, and sets its upright Chinese maiden forthright tasks of survival among the Huns to whom she has been sent by an unwilling Emperor (the tale is based on fact).

The Grail of Hearts (1992) returns to the Arthurian cycle, telling the Grail story from the viewpoint of Kundry, who is rather maligned by Richard Wagner in Parsifal (1883), and who is revealed by SMS to be a version of the Wandering Jew; here she is a kind of Temporal Adventuress, having timeslipped (see Timeslip) backwards into the arms of the Fisher King, and having a complex, dark, spirited response to the events into whose heart she has been thrust. This is SMS's most interesting novel: it gives her a chance to exploit her extensive knowledge of history (she has a doctorate in medieval English literature) and to utilize to the full her usual narrative technique – allowing complexities and information to sidle inconspicuously into seemingly routinized venues. Empire of the Eagle (1993) with Norton is another historical fantasy, set at the edges of the pre-Christian Roman Empire and beyond, where magic still exists, as does a Pariah Elite of immortal sorcerers (see Sorcery). At her best, SMS's fantasy premises illuminate genuine arguments about the nature of history; there is an interestingness about her work. [JC]

other works (sf): Heritage of Flight (fixup 1989).

as editor: Hecate's Children (anth 1982); Habitats (anth 1984); Moonsinger's Friends (anth 1985), in honour of Andre Norton; Arabesques: More Tales of the Arabian Nights (anth 1988) and Arabesques II (anth 1989) (see Arabian Fantasy); Sisters in Fantasy (anth 1995) with Martin H Greenberg.

Susan Martha Shwartz


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.