17 June 2004

Lloyd Biggle, Jr.

One of the first science fiction novels I ever read was The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets by Lloyd Biggle, Jr.. It was loaned to me by my mother's boss, the person who insisted I become a reader of science fiction (because, he said, it was what intelligent people read). I thought Biggle's novel was fascinating -- an adventure story about culture, music, and aesthetics, written by a man with a Ph.D. in musicology. The book was out of print at the time (and had been for years), and searching for it led me to discover the (now sadly departed) Avenue Victor Hugo Bookshop in Boston, where I bought the first of a few copies I was to own. It became a book I loaned out a few times, but one that was never returned.

(It also led to a title I've always wanted to use somehow -- when writing a note to someone once, my mother, quickly recommending a book, typed the title as The Still Small Vice of Strumpets.)

Not having read The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets in many years, I decided to look for a used copy and discovered that Wildside Press has reprinted a bunch of Biggle over the past five years. Suddenly I remembered other old favorites: Silence is Deadly, Monument, The World Menders, as well as a few I hadn't encountered before.

Wildside has also reprinted two of Biggle's short story collections, The Rule of the Door and A Galaxy of Strangers, though not The Metallic Muse, which contains Biggle's most famous short story, "The Tunesmith", a satire positing a world where the television commercial is the only remaining form of art (Orson Scott Card, a tireless proponent of the story, has included it in his recent Masterpieces anthology).

Biggle died in 2002, and what I didn't know until today is that he founded The Science Fiction Oral History Association, which is currently offering -- until the end of the month -- "a CD copy of a selection from the SFOHA archives prepared by Lloyd BIggle, Jr." for the cost of a $5 membership. It sounds like the association needs funds to begin transferring their reel-to-reel recordings to less fragile media, and their archives could be a tremendous resource, so if you're looking for a worthy project to support, this may be it.

In an appreciation for Locus after Biggle's death, Michael A. Banks wrote:
I recall many conversations with Lloyd Biggle, more often than not about words and writing. He would talk about how ideas could be held and shaped and turned around into something wonderful. He showed me how he sometimes created stories simply by looking at a situation from a new, and different angle -- or perhaps just backwards.
I can't necessarily recommend Biggle, not having read his books since I was an adolescent, but I'm going to read some of them again, because what I remember intrigues me: a writer who conveyed a passion for the arts through pulpy sci-fi adventure plots. There are moments when I think that's the recipe for sheer bliss.

2 comments:

  1. Jordan L. Hyde5/03/2005 4:31 PM

    Matthew,

    I can highly recommend Biggle. He is one of the finest writers in any genre that I have come across. His emphasis on character, culture and story as opposed to science, technology and style makes him one of the best.

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  2. I quite agree!
    I first discovered all of his works in hardcover, Westchester County NY, while tracking down books by a different author. It happens that the ones concerning Jan Darzek, and the one you mentioned plus another are all related in fashion or another.

    I found it interesting that one of his books contained a photo of the author and his family, taken by another author/critic Damon Knight, who also owns, (or is owned) the cat.

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