James Morrow

Born in Philadelphia in 1947, James Morrow spent his teenage years in Hillside Cemetery, not far from Philadelphia. While such an adolescence might bespeak a morbid frame of mind, in Jim’s case the explanation lies in his passion for 8mm moviemaking. Before going off to college, he and his friends used graveyard locales in a half-dozen short horror and fantasy films, including The Revenge of the Monster Maker, Cagliostro the Sorcerer, and two literary adaptations, The Ancient Mariner and The Tell-Tale Heart.

After receiving degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, Jim channeled his storytelling drive into the production of prose fiction. His first such endeavor, a Vonnegutian fable titled The Wine of Violence, was called “the best SF novel published in English in the last ten years” by the American Book Review. He followed this utopian satire with The Continent of Lies, a comedic meditation on what is now called virtual reality. The author’s breakout novel was a satire on the nuclear arms race, This Is the Way the World Ends, which became a Nebula Award nominee and the BBC’s choice as the best SF novel of the year. His next dark comedy, Only Begotten Daughter, chronicled the escapades of Jesus Christ’s divine half-sister in contemporary Atlantic City. It shared the 1991 World Fantasy Award with Ellen Kushner’s Thomas the Rhymer.

Throughout the 1990’s Jim devoted his literary energies to killing God, an endeavor he pursued through three interconnected novels. The first book of the Godhead Trilogy. Towing Jehovah, winner of the World Fantasy Award and the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, recounts the efforts of a supertanker captain to bury the two-mile-long corpse of God. Blameless in Abaddon, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, finds a small-town, small-time Pennsylvania magistrate putting God on trial for crimes against humanity. In The Eternal Footman, a “plague of death awareness” descends on humankind after God’s skull goes into geosynchronous orbit above Times Square.

Having grown sick of his Creator, and vice-versa, Jim next attempted to dramatize the birth of the scientific worldview. The resulting historical novel, The Last Witchfinder, tells of Jennet Stearne, who makes it her life’s mission to bring down the 1604 Parliamentary Witchcraft Act. Janet Maslin, writing in the New York Times, praised this loopy epic for fusing “storytelling, showmanship and provocative book-club bait ... into one inventive feat.” Jim followed The Last Witchfinder with a thematic sequel, The Philosopher’s Apprentice, relating the adventures of a failed philosophy student hired to implant a conscience in a mysterious young woman whose brain is a tabula rasa. Reviewing The Philosopher’s Apprentice on NPR’s Fresh Air, Maureen Corrigan called it “an ingenious riff on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” adding, “hold on tight and enjoy the giddy thrills.”

Other recent projects by Jim include a set of Tolkien Lesson Plans, written in partnership with his wife, Kathy. Aimed at secondary-school teachers who want to bring The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings into their classrooms, this nine-unit curriculum is featured on the Houghton Mifflin website. Another Jim and Kathy collaboration appeared in April of 2007, The SFWA European Hall of Fame, which anthologizes sixteen Continental science fiction stories, each rendered carefully into English via a three-way Internet conversation among the author, the translator, and the editors.

Jim’s contributions to the short fiction field also include a Nebula Award-winning story “The Deluge,” collected in Bible Stories for Adults; the occasionally produced one-act play “Come Back, Dr. Sarcophagus,” collected in The Cat’s Pajamas; and the Nebula Award-winning novella, City of Truth. Tachyon Books has recently published the latest Morrow novella, Shambling Towards Hiroshima, set in 1945 and dealing with a U.S. Navy scheme to leverage a Japanese surrender via a biological weapon that strikingly anticipates Godzilla.

A full-time writer, James Morrow makes his home in State College, Pennsylvania, along with his wife, Kathryn, son, Chris, and enigmatic sheepdog, Molly. When not endeavoring to craft adequate fiction, he pays intermittent attention to his family, savors his DVD collection of vulgar biblical spectacles, and plays with the Lionel electric trains running around in his attic.

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The Godhead Trilogy