I don’t know about you, but I’ve really been enjoying these little author bios I’ve posted as part of Vintage Month. When it comes to books themselves, I can usually walk the talk, but I’m woefully undereducated about the authors of said books. Well, here’s to less author ignorance! Also, we’re halfway through Vintage month. Are you having as much fun as I am? I’m realizing my chosen novels for Vintage month are more “golden age”, but that’s OK. Props to those of you who are reading the true classics like Wells and Verne!
Today’s “vintage” author is Robert Silverberg. He got his start in the 1950’s, and I feel bad calling him “vintage”, since he is still writing today. Hopefully he won’t be too mad at me. ;)
I’m a sucker for Robert Silverberg. I got lucky, having read some of his award winning fiction first, and these days if a book has his name on it, there’s a good chance I’ll buy it, even if it’s not a gem.
His writing career started early – he sold his first short story at age 19, and his first novel, Revolt on Alpha C when he was only 20 years old. The novel would win him a 1956 Hugo for Best New Writer, and marked his entry into the world of science fiction publishing. For the next four years he wrote steadily for a handful of science fiction and fantasy magazines under the auspices of Frederick Pohl. Silverberg showed an uncanny ability to write what publishers and editors wanted, and this was both a blessing and a curse.
I was introduced to Silverberg’s works through a much later series, his famous Valentine series, written in the 1980’s. A sci-fantasy series following Lord Valentine and his adventures on the futuristic planet of Majipoor, I recall being fairly speechless after reading the first volume, Lord Valentine’s Castle. My other half was concerned that my silence indicated I didn’t care for the story. Quite the opposite in fact, I clearly recall telling him that I wanted to learn how to juggle, and if we were to ever have a son that his first name would be Valentine. I read other books in the Valentine series as I can find them, but I’ve yet to learn how to juggle.
I went on to read Silverberg’s Dying Inside, which was recently republished by Orb books. Part of his earlier oeuvre, Dying Inside is about a telepath whose powers are slowly evaporating. It is a tragic and beautiful story, showing off Silverberg’s formal education in comparative literature. Dying Inside is the opposite of much of the pulp that Silverberg had been putting out en masse throughout the 1950s and 1960s. A few Silverberg titles later, and I was officially hooked.
Over his 50+ years of writing, Silverberg has published in a massive variety of genres: science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, westerns, historical fiction, even adult erotica. There is plenty of pulp (much written under pseudonyms) in there, but plenty of gems as well, and he’s got Nebulas and Hugos to prove it. In 2004 Silverberg was presented with the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the SFWA.
He’s published nearly as much non-fiction as he has fiction, and if you have any history books from the 60’s and 70’s by Lloyd Robinson, Franklin Hamilton, Lee Sebastian or Walker Chapman, you’ve got yourself a Silverberg.
Stay tuned for my review of Silverberg’s Regan’s Planet.
For more information on Robert Silverberg, visit Majipoor.com, the Unofficial Robert Silverberg site, run by the dedicated and talented Jon Davis. Mr. Davis has cataloged everything Silverberg ever wrote under ever pseudonym he ever used, and there were a lot of them along with links to interview and excerpts of his books.
Robert Silverberg currently lives in California.
Have you read any Silverberg? what did you think of him? What Silverberg titles would you recommend to someone looking to start reading his work?