M(ary) J(ane) Engh

Arslan

Warner, 1976 (paper); Arbor House, 1987 (hardcover); Tor, 1988 (paper); Grafton, 1989, as A Wind from Bukhara (paper); Tor (Orb series trade paperback), 2001. Also available in electronic format from E-reads.

I was reading ecology books for fun back when ecology was a dull, obscure field, characterized by one of its practitioners as “the science that calls a spade a geotome.” It took me eight years to write Arslan (I kept stopping because I thought it was bigger than I could handle) and another four years to sell it. By that time (1976) ecology was a popular buzzword, and I was afraid of being accused of just jumping on the ecological bandwagon – but not many people seemed to notice the ecology. So I was just as thrilled by The New York Times calling it “the ecological novel to end all ecological novels” as by Orson Scott Card later labeling it “one of the finest works of fiction of our generation” or Samuel R. Delany declaring it “certainly the best political novel I have read in more than a decade.” Arslan survives, being currently in its fifth print edition, as well as electronic format. (Note that the British edition was published under the title A Wind from Bukhara.)
A lot of people have found Arslan “too violent,” and some can’t get through the first chapter. This is ironic, considering that Arslan’s scenes of sex and/​or violence are few, far between, and nowhere near as "explicit" as is customary in modern fiction – and especially considering that science fiction readers habitually take the slaughter of a few billion humans or other sentient beings without batting an eyelash. I’ve decided, however, to accept the horrified readers’ reaction as a compliment. If I’ve managed to give somebody a clue to what violence and pain are really like (not fun!) that in itself is worth doing. But mostly Arslan is a novel about people and their interrelationships. Power politics, ecology, good and evil – all that stuff is just side effects. So skip the violent scenes if you can’t take them, and read the rest.

Selected Works

Current Affairs
An e-book by Justin Ferguson and Mary Jane Engh, available through Amazon. Historical basis, present status, and possible futures of the human population explosion.
History
The first English-language general history of religious persecution worldwide, from ancient Egypt through 1900.
A Biographical Dictionary of Active Women in the Ancient Roman World from Earliest Times to 527 CE. Co-authored with Kathryn E. Meyer.
Science Fiction
A third-world dictator sets out to save the planet in his own way. "One of the finest works of fiction of our generation."
A woman starshipper settles on an idyllic planet and discovers the road to hell. "A chilling depiction of reason in the service of unreason."
An epic of planetary circumnavigation. "Excellent validation for the idea that Engh is a major writer."
Children's Fantasy
Nine boys face 20 vicious robbers, in the mysterious House where no one is ever seen going in or out.

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