Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Somtow, S P

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Working name of Somtow Papinian Sucharitkul (1952-    ), Thai writer, composer and filmmaker. Much of SPS's early work, signed with his surname, was sf, including Starship and Haiku (1981), a post-Holocaust novel; The Chronicles of the High Inquest sequence, and the Aquiliad sequence, set in a western hemisphere under Roman influence. The SPS name has been used – although not exclusively – since 1985. In recent years, SPS has split his time between Thailand and the USA.

Perhaps the most vital of SPS's fantasies are Riverrun (1991) and Forest of the Night (1992; vt Armorica 1994 UK), the first two volumes of a projected trilogy, an ambitious exploration of Reality in which SPS presents characters and viewpoints so fluid as to border on the chaotic. Theo Etchison and his family are travelling to Mexico when they are drawn into a reality-spanning war being fought by the Dragon-children of the Darkling King, Strang, who effect changes on the Etchisons throughout the books. Different characters narrate sections, reflecting both varying perspectives and the shifting realities. What could have been a formless mess is – through unwavering auctorial control – a triumph, and one of the more original and overlooked series of the 1990s. The third volume Yestern (formerly announced as «Music of Madness») finally appeared in Riverrun Trilogy (omni 1996).

Also dealing with identity is The Wizard's Apprentice (1993), an excellently rendered but minor juvenile in which a teenager, under a Wizard's tutelage, reconciles his absentee parents' divorce and discovers a sense of self-worth. SPS has written two further juveniles: The Fallen Country (1986) as by Sucharitkul and Forgetting Places (1987) as by SPS.

SPS has also become a Horror writer of some note. The first novel of his Vampire trilogy, Vampire Junction (1984), is often said to have prefigured the splatterpunk movement, while Moon Dance (1989), an epic historical/Werewolf novel set in both the 1880s and 1960s, strays refreshingly from the conventional. SPS has become active as a moviemaker in recent years, as screenwriter, director and composer of the score for The Laughing Dead (1989), a horror movie, and Ill Met by Moonlight (completed 1994; unreleased by late 1996), based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The latter movie featured some genre writers in roles, including Edward Bryant and Tim Sullivan.

Of associational interest is Jasmine Nights (1994), a highly episodic coming-of-age novel set in 1963 Thailand. This first appeared in serial form in a Thai newspaper. [WKS/BM]

other works: Mallworld (coll of linked stories 1981); The Chronicles of the High Inquest, being Light on the Sound (1982; rev vt The Dawning Shadow #1: Light on the Sound 1986), The Throne of Madness (1983; rev vt The Dawning Shadow #2: The Throne of Madness 1986), Utopia Hunters (coll of linked stories 1984) and The Darkling Wind (1985); the Aquiliad sequence, being The Aquiliad (1983; vt The Aquiliad: Aquila in the New World 1988), #2: Aquila and the Iron Horse (1988) and #3: Aquila and the Sphinx (1988); The Shattered Horse (1986), an Alternate-World Trojan-horse novel; The Alien Swordmaster * (1985) and Symphony of Terror * (1988), both "V" novelizations; the Vampire trilogy, being Vampire Junction (see above), Valentine (1992) and Vanitas (1995); I Wake from a Dream of a Drowned Star City (1992 chap), sf novella.

Both the Chronicles of the High Inquest series and the Aquiliad series are of greater fantasy interest than is implied here.

Somtow Papinian Sucharitkul


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.