US writer, for many years a teacher of gifted children, who began publishing with "The River Styx Runs Upstream" for Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine in 1982, and who was for some time best regarded asan author of tales of HORROR, some of which - along with sf and FANTASY stories - were assembled in Prayers to Broken Stones (coll 1990). True to the instincts of that genre, his first novel, Song of Kali (1985), rendered modern-day Calcutta as a moral and psychic cesspool, into which the protagonists of the book sink very deep indeed as unleashed evil from the world's ancient heart threatens to flood the 1980s. His second novel, the immense Carrion Comfort (1983 Omni; much exp 1989), is also horror, though with an sf underpinning, and as such its basic premise is un-new. The "carrion-eaters" of the title are MUTANT humans who have acquired thecapacity to control other humans through direct psychic access to their hind-brains, while at the same time feasting psychically on the experiences into which they force their victims. True to the dictates of the horror genre - to which Simmons remains astonishingly faithful for nearly 500,000 words - his mutants soon decay into lovers of pain and death, and the protagonists of the book must attempt to exploit divisions among these puppet masters. Their survival seems genuinely triumphant, though the sole surviving vampire is preparing to start WWIII.However, despite the haunting rationality of this tale, DS's later work is of much greater sf interest. Phases of Gravity (1989) is not sf, being instead - if one is able to ignore a moment or two of muffled transcendence - perhaps the first historical novel by an sf author about the space programme, recounting the psychic rejuvenation of a grounded astronaut. But HYPERION (1989) - which won a 1990 HUGO - and The Fall of Hyperion(1990) - 2 vols which together, under the preferred title Hyperion Cantos (omni 1990), clearly make a single novel - are genuine, full-blown METAPHYSICAL sf. Over a SPACE-OPERA structure - ages after a BLACK HOLE has destroyed Old Earth, the Galaxy is dominated by a vast human hegemony knit together by ANSIBLE-like fatlines and farcasters that plumb discontinuities in space - an extremely complex narrative engages with many themes, including religious quests, TIME TRAVEL
, bioengineering and much else. In the first volume, which is structured after Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, 7 "pilgrims" have been called to the planet Hyperion, where the time-travelling Shrike which guards the Time Tombs promises some dreadful transcendence; en route they tell tales whichreveal their significant life-experiences (one of these tales, "Remembering Siri", was first published separately in 1983), each talebeing recounted in a different sf idiom, and each contributing to the growing mosaic of the overall story, described by John CLUTE as a space opera about the end of things, an "entelechy opera" or tale of cosmogony. Every member of the cast bears a secret burden, and each burden expands insignificance as the surviving protagonists arrive on Hyperion and engage more and more deeply with the Keatsian implications of their mission (the two sections of Hyperion Cantos take the titles of Keats's long but incomplete poems about the displacement of the old gods, the victory of a new pantheon). Meanwhile, wars and apocalypse and ENTROPY threaten the entire Galaxy. The AIS that run everything turn out to inhabit the quantum-level interstices of the farcaster net - just as does the AI who tends to dominate Orson Scott CARD's Xenocide (1991) - and the end of the Universe will depend upon which AI faction is able to corner for itselfthe significance of Hyperion, the Shrike, and the human saintliness which begins to invest activities there.As a compendium and culminating presentation of GENRE SF's devices and deep impulses, Hyperion Cantos is perhaps definitive for the 1980s. In one novel, DS became one of the half-dozen central figures of that decade. A slight sentimentality about children and a love of generic competence for its own sake only slightly modify the sense of excitement generated by his arrival on the scene, though his two 1992 novels may have calmed that excitement to some degree. The Hollow Man (1982 Omni as "Eyes I Dare Not Meet in Dreams"; much exp1992), though pure sf in its rationale, is structured (somewhat stiffly) to reflect the metaphysical journey of DANTE ALIGHIERI's protagonist in La Divina Commedia (written c1304-21), containing ample references as well tothe poetry of T.S. Eliot (1888-1965). It deals with a tortured man whose ESP powers are explained in terms of quantum physics and Chaos-theorymathematics; a longish horror story is implanted in its midst. Children of the Night (1992) - which features a priest who had appeared as a child in Summer of Night (1991), a Stephen- KING-like tale of supernatural horror -rationalizes the vampire novel, and is a pure-sf thriller in its AIDS-related story of Romanian vampires, led by the still-living VladDracula, whose condition turns out to be a hereditary immune deficiency curable by the intake of human blood. The novel arguably trivializes the agonies of post-Ceausescu Romania and of AIDS by linking them to vampirism, and does not fully justify DS's return to themes he had already used so forcefully in Carrion Comfort. And Fires of Eden (1994), a horror novel with supernatural elements set in 19th and 20th century Hawaii, quite as fully overmaster his material as initially he was inclined to. There is an intellectual chill about all three novels, which are wellcrafted but dispassionate, suggesting that for the moment at least DS is marking time.