M(ary) J(ane) Engh

My Works

In the Name of Heaven: 3000 Years of Religious Persecution
In this country, the assumption has always been that religion is good for people, making them kinder and more virtuous. But look around. In Uganda, The Lord's Resistance Army maims, rapes, slaughters, and turns children into killers in the name of Christ. In Israel, Jews and Muslims enthusiastically kill each other on the authority of the One God. In Northern Ireland, Protestants and Catholics compete in murder to defend their own versions of Christianity. In Iraq, Sunnis and Shiites do likewise for their versions of Islam. In China, no religion can be practiced without strict government supervision, while in Sudan a pious government unleashes a genocide of "unbelieving" citizens. Meanwhile, American fundamentalist churches try to dictate the content of public school science classes.
Ever wonder how we arrived at this state of affairs? It wasn't a conspiracy of monstrous villians deciding to do evil. It was mostly by the efforts of decent, ordinary people trying to do good. Yet persecution is not inevitable. I wanted to find out what kinds of religious beliefs and practices, in what kinds of circumstances, breed persecution. The answers are grim but illuminating.
I'm honored that Joyce E. Salisbury has written a foreword to In the Name of Heaven. Dr. Salisbury is one of the foremost living scholars of early Christian history. Her latest book, The Blood of the Martyrs, deals with the long-term aftereffects of martyrdom on cultures. Very interesting indeed.

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.

Click on Arslan in the Selected Works column for more about the book.

The House in the Snow
Orchard, 1987 (hardcover); Scholastic, 1990 (paper).

Depending on the kids, this is a book that can be enjoyed from third grade through junior high. It's laid in a vaguely Brothers Grimm sort of world, with fighting and feasting and the power of invisibility. While it was in print, it was regularly listed in Best Books for Children. Click on the title in the Selected Works column to find out how it came to be written.

Rainbow Man
Tor, 1993 (hardcover); Tor (Orb series trade paperback), 1994.

We know as a fact that it is right for some people to suffer. The only question is, which ones.
- From
Revised Manual for Selectors, Working Draft, Introduction

That's the epigraph with which this novel begins. It's about gender, religion, love, and light speed. Click on Rainbow Man in the Selected Works column to learn more.

Wheel of the Winds
Arbor House, 1988 (hardcover); Tor, 1989 (paper); Grafton, 1989 (paper). Also available from E-reads in electronic format or print-on-demand.

On a cloud-shrouded planet that never sees its sun, Captain Repnomar and Warden Lethgro (with the Captain's old dog and her well-trained ship crows) set off to recapture the alien Exile before he can find whatever he's looking for -- and incidently discover that their world is round.


Triptych
This is a book that didn't happen. The three stories listed below were scheduled to be reprinted, with an introduction and a couple of my poems, as a book titled Triptych in the "Author's Choice" series from Pulphouse Publishing . It was in page proofs when the series was canceled. (The Engh curse? Cf. "Ratropy.") These are the stories, and where they actually were published:

“We Serve the Star of Freedom” (as Jane Beauclerk), The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1964.

“Lord Moon” (as Jane Beauclerk), The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1965; reprinted in hardcover, with an “author’s memoir,” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1965, Southern Illinois University Press, 1981.

“Aurin Tree,” Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, February 1987.

The three stories constitute a little trilogy of what Baird Searles once called “Dunsanian, Baroque SF.” (In fact, he called the first two “true, lost masterpieces,” and who am I to argue with Baird Searles?) “Lord Moon” was written first, though published second. I was so fond of its fairytale-like world that I wrote “We Serve the Star of Freedom” to explore it from a different social viewpoint. Years later, I wrote “Aurin Tree” so that the heroes of those two stories could meet. Looked at another way, the three stories poke fun at the scientific mind ("Lord Moon"), the commercial mind ("We Serve the Star of Freedom"), and the military mind ("Aurin Tree") respectively. I acknowledge with gratitude the influence of Dunsany, as well as of James Branch Cabell and especially of E.R. Eddison’s masterpiece, The Worm Ouroboros.

"The Oracle"
In Edges, Ursula K. Le Guin and Virginia Kidd, eds., Pocket Books, 1980.

How do you deal with the knowledge that people do horrible things to each other? Deny it? Shut it off in a separate compartment of your mind? Accept it? Go mad? That’s what this story is about, and writing it was one of the most agonizing experiences of my life. I was happily working away on something else when “The Oracle” suddenly rose up and forced me to write it. I was in intense pain the whole time – partly because I’m not used to having my stories dictated to me, and partly because when I’m writing (even involuntarily) I feel what my main characters feel, and this story’s protagonist was in intense pain. I thought it was a novel (which is why it has chapters) but it came out too short, and was published as a novella in the excellent paperback anthology Edges.
Although in some ways it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever written, I’m still dissatisfied, perhaps because I seem to have had so little to do with writing it. When people ask “Why the horns on Renée’s forehead? What does the dragon mean?” I can only answer, “Beats me.” (On the other hand, the typhoon, the frogs, the house in Manila, and much more are from my experiences in the Philippines, and the bird in the jungle is the rare Palawan pheasant, which I found in an ornithology text when I needed such a bird.) I’m thinking of fleshing the story out a bit more – there are some gaps I could fill – and selling it as a novel.
A selection from the manuscript of this story won me a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Scholarship Grant. This is the neatest kind of grant. A sample of your work, with no identification attached, is judged by a jury of professional writers. If they like it enough, the NEA sends you a check, saying basically, "you can do whatever you want with this, but we hope you'll take a year off from whatever else you do and concentrate on your writing." I took leave without pay from my library job and spent 7 months researching in Europe, living on bread, cheese, and fruit from the market. It gave me the courage to quit my job entirely and become a fulltime writer. The next time Congress talks about abolishing the NEA "because they fund obscene and un-American works," you can tell them that (at least in literature) the NEA doesn't fund individual works at all. They fund writers, and change lives for the better.

"Penelope Comes Home"
In Walls of Fear, Kathryn Cramer, ed., Morrow, 1990.

This novella was written for Kathryn Cramer’s second anthology of “house” stories (the first was The Architecture of Fear, 1987), exploring the dangers, the eerieness, and the power of houses real and imaginary. Many of us have walked through a door and had the feeling that the house welcomed us – or resented us. I took a house that I often passed on the road, added some of a friend’s experiences and some classical flavor from a poem by Catullus I was translating at the time, and cranked it all up to a higher intensity. I had long wanted to write about the Palouse country of eastern Washington State where I live – hills like the rolling shoulders of enormous bears – and this gave me the opportunity.


"The Lovesick Simurgh"
In Arabesques, Susan Shwartz, ed., Avon, 1988.

I fell in love with the Roman Emperor Gallienus when I saw his handsome, soulful, and certainly much idealized portrait bust in the Louvre, and jumped at the chance to write a fantasy that incorporated him. For centuries, Rome and Iran were the two superpowers that dominated the Middle East. This story is about what happens when a Persian Simurgh (a very interesting mythological bird) falls in love with a Roman eagle. It's the prequel to "The Peri, the Roc, and the Undergrooms."


"Moon Blood"
In Universe 1, Robert Silverburg and Karen Haber, eds., Doubleday, 1990.

I wrote this while awaiting the birth of my second grandchild and reading everything I could find on the birth process. At the same time, I’d been reading books on primate behavior and wondering about the origins of tool-making. This mix of subjects got me thinking about the whole female hominid reproductive cycle, and what it might have meant when some of those hominids were in process of becoming human. At just that time, Robert Silverburg and Karen Haber were resurrecting Terry Carr’s wonderful anthology series Universe. So there’s “Moon Blood” for you.

"The Peri, the Roc, and the Undergrooms"
In Arabesques 2, Susan Shwartz, ed., Avon, 1989.

This is a stand-alone sequel to “The Lovesick Simurgh.” Gallienus’ father and co-ruler, Valerian, has the gloomy distinction of being the only Roman emperor ever captured in battle by a foreign enemy. I was intrigued by a statement in Lactantius’ The Deaths of the Persecutors (Valerian was not fond of Christians) that the Persians who captured him had preserved Valerian’s skin in one of their temples. This story is my explanation of how it got there (and incidentally of where Prester John came from).

"Ratropy"
The Little Magazine 15 (3/4), 1988; reprinted in MagiCon Program/Souvenir Book, 50th World Science Fiction Convention, FANAC, Inc., Orlando, FA, 1992.

The late, totally unique Jon Gustafson once presented his local writing group with a totally unique first sentence, “There were rats in the soufflé again,” and challenged them to write stories with that opening line. From the resulting flood of stories, by professional and amateur writers alike, Jon edited a chapbook, a small limited-edition hardcover anthology, and finally a full-scale hardcover and trade paperback anthology (see “Same Thing Twice”) – and who knows how many other "rats" stories, like this one, were published elsewhere? I stole the title “Ratropy” from Mike Linderman, who had used it for another “rats in the soufflé” tale, and applied it to a different concept. Thanks again, Mike!
“Ratropy” apparently killed The Little Magazine, which went out of business immediately after printing it. Your best bet is to find a copy of the MagiCon Program Book. If that fails, send me your name and postal address, and I’ll send you a copy of the story.

"Same Thing Twice"
In Rat Tales, Jon Gustafson, ed., Pulphouse Publishing, 1994.

Another “rats in the soufflé” story (see "Ratropy" for how it all happened) – this time in a whole anthology of such stories, plus a few poems and recipes, by 24 authors, including Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Algis Budrys, Jerry Oltion, Brian Aldiss, John Brunner, Nancy Etchemendy, John Dalmas, V.E. Mitchell, Kevin J. Anderson, et al. My story is about the difficulties of producing canned daydreams for the bored-but-busy market. "Our motto is, 'Never the same thing twice!'"

"The Tail"
MosCon X Program Book, Moscow, ID, 1988; reprinted in Cats in Space and Other Places, Bill Fawcett, ed., Baen, 1992; reprinted again in Mysterious Cat Stories, John Richard Stephens & Kim Smith, eds., Carroll & Graf, 1993.

A short short true (!) story, told from a cat’s point of view, of what happens when your tail develops a mind of its own.

"Talking About Fangs"
RadCon 1C Program Book, Richland, WA, 1995; reprinted in Nebula Awards Showcase 2010, Bill Fawcett, ed., Roc, 2010.

A more realistic look at vampirism. “You can say getting sucked by a vampire is a sensual experience, but so is being swallowed by an anaconda.”
Perhaps especially timely in the present vampire-loving decade.

"Tick"
In Christmas Magic, David Hartwell, ed., Tor, 1994.

Despite the title of this paperback anthology, the story is science fiction, not fantasy. That’s “Tick” as in tick-tock, tick-tock. All earthly time systems are closely tied to Earth. What can “a day” or “a year” mean when you’re lightyears away from any rotating, revolving planet? Science fiction stories usually get around this by casually referring to “Galactic Standard Time” or some such, so that readers don’t have to bother with an unfamiliar system. But come on, how would you keep time on a generation starship, and how would you think about time? How about timing from a fixed future point, rather than from one in the past? But then how do you identify an anniversary – like Christmas?


Femina Habilis
Subtitled A Biographical Dictionary of Active Women in the Ancient Roman World from Earliest Times to 527 CE.
This is a work in progress. Dr. Kathryn E. Meyer (Washington State University History Department) and I are collaborating on the project, which includes not only high-flown ladies -- empresses, doctors, philanthropists, poets, philosophers, lobbyists, priestesses, etc. -- but also gladiators, grocers, prostitutes, dancers, hairdressers, doorkeepers, clothes-folders, helmet-gilders, and many more of the innumerable women who kept an empire functioning. Click on Femina Habilis in the Selected Works column for sample entries and more information.

Selected Works

History
In the Name of Heaven: 3000 Years of Religious Persecution
The first English-language general history of religious persecution worldwide, from ancient Egypt through 1900.
Femina Habilis
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
Arslan
A third-world dictator sets out to save the planet in his own way. "One of the finest works of fiction of our generation."
Rainbow Man
A woman starshipper settles on an idyllic planet and discovers the road to hell. "A chilling depiction of reason in the service of unreason."
Wheel of the Winds
An epic of planetary circumnavigation. "Excellent validation for the idea that Engh is a major writer."
Children's Fantasy
The House in the Snow
Nine boys face 20 vicious robbers, in the mysterious House where no one is ever seen going in or out.

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