KESSEL, JOHN (JOSEPH VINCENT) (1950- )

US academic and writer who began publishing sf with "The Silver Man" for Galileo in 1978, and whose short fiction rapidly established him as an author of cunningly pastiche-heavy, erudite stories. His two best known early tales - both assembled with other work in Meeting in Infinity: Allegories & Extrapolations (coll 1992) - are probably "Not Responsible! Park and Lock It!" (1981) and "Another Orphan" (1982 F&SF; 1989 chap dos), which won the Nebula in 1983; in both, an urgent extremism of metaphor tends to enforce allegorical readings.

This extremism with the materials of genre sf also dominates much of JK's first novel, Freedom Beach (1985) with James Patrick Kelly, a tale whose charcters find themselves occupying allegorical venues construed according to the styles of various authors, from Aristophanes to Groucho Marx. Of greater interest, perhaps, is his first solo novel, Good News From Outer Space (fixup 1989), a sustained but dizzying look at the human animal as the millennium approaches, identity crises eat into men and women, the dead are medically reawoken, and dreams of redeeming aliens raddle the large cast.

There are echoes of Philip K. Dick, but a gonzo Dick, and of Barry N. Malzberg's allegorized urban desolation (and black wit) - but JK's desolation, very frighteningly and very movingly, is populous with human faces, however fractured. JK seems to be one of the writers capable of bending the tools of sf inward upon the human psyche.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, St. Martin's Griffin, 1995