Piers Anthony is a science fiction and fantasy author who is very prolific. Many of his early works are superb. They make you think and have exciting plots at the same time. Macroscope (1969) and his Of Man and Manta (1968 - 1976) trilogy are examples of this period. He already has some very strange ideas about sex and romance, but what is science fiction for but strange ideas?

Although his first Xanth book was published in 1977, A Spell for Chamelion is more part of his middle period. His odd attitude towards sex and romance takes center stage. The beginnings of a transition become evident, but there are still mind twistingly worthwhile ideas and genuine tension in these books.

His most recent books, alas, are what he is best known for. Many of the newer Xanth books would properly be shelved with children's books. Sometimes very young children go on ostensibly dangerous adventures without having the reactions you would really expect from young children in these circumstances. He himself has discussed this elliptically, speaking of the positive effect his books panned by critics had on a very sick little girl. This is good, but properly speaking some of these books belong on the children's shelf of the library. Even those of his books not truly children's books no longer have the mind bending ideas they once did. They are for easy to read, but the soul of the early Piers Anthony is gone.

Piers Anthony was born in 1934 in England.

Not many are as well read with Piers Anthony as they are with such famous authors like Poe or Shakespeare. There are just a few random people here and there who know of him, maybe a bit more than that at times if you are lucky. But those who pick up one of his books will find themselves deep inside the mind of a man whose creativity knows no boundaries. Within the pages of his numerous novels, short stories and essays lay unfathomable numbers of people, places and things that nurture your inner most emotions into being.

Anthony has created whole worlds beneath his pencil, and one sometimes wonders how he has done this. What things in his life have contributed to his many works? One may ask how he has written so many works of art that seem to pull his readers in, trap them, make them laugh and cry, smile and frown, and think as well, and most of all...set them free from their bleak realities for at least a little while.

Within these following pages are the inspirations of Anthony and what has happened in his life that has made his writings the way they are. They will explain the occurrences of his childhood and middle life that shaped his imagination, and what things he has written to touch the lives of others. This will take a glimpse into the mind and world of the fiction, fantasy, and sci-fi author Piers Anthony, a man living between two worlds.

Anthony was born on August 6, 1934, in Oxford, England, making him a Leo (Anthony 5). This seems to have been the first step to being a future creative genius. It is said that Leos possess a great need and desire to create and lead the way into new things and ideas (Yahoo! Astrology). Piers Anthony was actually not his full name. His mother has named him Piers Anthony Dillingham Jacob, his mother having figured he may become famous one day and gave him the extra names to draw on for pseudonyms should he ever need one (Anthony 5). Today, Anthony uses his first and second names for his pseudonym.

The readers of the Anthony's novels may see the reoccurring harmonicas in the stories and this is because of something that happened during the author's childhood. Around his sixth birthday, Anthony took a voyage to America on the ship Excalibur and the birthday was celebrated while on board. One of the gifts he received was a harmonica. He loved the gift and not only loves harmonicas until this day, and has a very nice one of his own now and that is why they appear in his works (Anthony 16).

Upon arrival in America, Anthony was enrolled in the first grade at a school located in Media, Pennsylvania (Anthony 20) and then was later transferred to a boarding school in New York State (Anthony 23). Here he learned some lovely songs and fell in love with the concept of day following the dark. One of the songs that stayed with him was called "Wake Nicodemus" and was about a black slave during the Civil War (Anthony 25):

Twas a long weary night/
We were almost in fear that the future was more than he knew/
Twas a long weary night but the morning is near/
And the words of our prophet are true.
There are signs in the sky that the darkness is gone/
There are tokens in endless array/
While the storm which had seemingly banished the dawn/
On hastens the event of the day. ("Wake Nicodemus")

Anthony's best friend at the time was a young black boy named Craig Work (Anthony 25). Both his friend and the song seemed to have played a roll in his view on racism, which is reflected in several of his writings. "It has been the custom of racists to claim that some of their best friends are black, making a mockery of the term "friendship"; my best friend really was, and racism is anathema to me. This, too, was to have an effect on my adult career" (Anthony 25). The proof of such can be found in one of his Xanth novels called Xone of Contention, in which a black girl named Breanna is the heroine.

While Anthony was still in first grade, his family moved to a farm in Vermont, miles away from the nearest town (Anthony 33). The whole area was surrounded by forests, which Anthony came to love. "I retain a deep liking for the forest, and it shows in my fiction" (Anthony 33). In most of his novels, the Xanth series especially, forests are a large and important part of the environment.

While Anthony and his family were in Vermont, his parents began fighting a little because of their extreme differences of opinion between his father's love of the country and his mother's love of the city. "I believe this became the final stress upon their marriage, this difference in life styles, and this too is reflected in my fiction" (Anthony 34). This did affect his future writings, shown by some of his works that contain conflicts between two separate environments. One very good example is his series of books known as the Adept series. In the series, there are two parallel worlds, one of which is almost all rural and the other is almost all urban.

At the farm in Vermont, the family lived without electricity (Anthony 34). This played a major factor on his adult career, and while may not have been found within his works, certainly affected the way he wrote them. "For many years- well over a decade- I wrote my novels in pencil and typed them on a manual typewriter, preferring to be independent of electricity, as we were there" (Anthony 34).

The next influential occurrence in Anthony's younger years happened when he was 11 years old, at a school called Rose Valley. While there, Anthony fell in love for the first time (Anthony 49). Though it was only "puppy love" it was as strong as any other kind (Anthony 49). From this point on, his ideas of the perfect woman were molded from this girl named Herta Payson (Anthony 49). "Puppy love? That's what they call it. But my definition of the ideal women was molded by the image of that girl. For many years I required my wife to wear her hair long, to her discomfort, and my daughter Penny has never had her hair cut short. It shows in my fiction: Long hair is what makes a woman feminine" (Anthony 49). Examples of this are in almost every work of his, in one way or another. Many of the heroines in the stories that he would come to write had long, lovely hair. He eventually wrote about Rapunzel as well (Anthony 49).

During the middle and later years of Anthony's life, a few very important things affected his life and inspired him to write. One of these things was simply having children (Anthony "Thank you for your note…"). He was married to his college sweetheart in 1956, three days after he graduated from Goddard with his Bachelor of Arts degree (Anthony 87). After a few failed tries to have children, they finally succeeded on October 12, 1967 with their first daughter whom they named Penny (Anthony 138). "Having children led to my awareness of fantasy of interest to children, and the Xanth series reflects that, though they are adult novels" (Anthony "Thank you for your note…"). During Penny's infant existence, it took Anthony an entire year to write his book Marcoscope (Anthony 140). Thus, having a child effected his writing greatly in both content and the creating there of. Anthony went on to write such fantasy series as the Apprentice Adept Series, Incantations of Immortality Series, Tarot Series, and many more.

Penny also affected his writings later in her life. "My daughter's interest in archaeology led to my involvement in the excavation of an Indian burial mound, and the major novel of my career, Tatham Mound" (Anthony "Thank you for your note…").
One of Anthony's books, called Letters to Jenny, which was reprinted in December of 1994, and was the product of one of the more horrible occurrences in his life that affected his writings. The book is a compilation of letters from seven years (so far) that Anthony had written to a girl named Jenny (Anthony "Thank you for your note…"), who lay in a coma after being struck by a drunk driver. This also led to the creation of a character in the Xanth novels called Jenny Elf (Amazon.com "Letters to Jenny").

After extensive researchh, it has been decided that the life of the fiction, fantasy and sci-fi author, Piers Anthony did, in fact, have a direct effect on his writings. People, places, things and events have found their way into his works after making their mark upon him. Examples of this are music and songs from his childhood, his family life, and his childhood friends and memories that were mentioned before. The occurrences within Anthony's life have shaped the worlds that he has created and determined what he has placed in them. His works hold the truths of living, and contains the lessons that Anthony has learned throughout his many years.

Works Cited

Anthony, Piers. Bio of an Ogre. New York: Ace Books, 1988.
---. "Thank you for your note…" E-mail. 5 February 2001.
"Yahoo! Astrology." Leo profile. http://astrology.yahoo.com/us/astrology/profile/leo.html.
Work, Henry Clay. "Wake Nicodemus." http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Cinema/2636/lyrics.htm#wake. 1864.
"Amazon.com: buying info: Letters to Jenny." http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0812522826/ref=ase_crescentbluesele/105-1223774-2911157.

I've also found he begins better than he ends. The first Incarnations of Immortality book (On a Pale Horse) was excellent, and some of the others were okay, but they took a definite downturn. The Xanth series also started strong and went steadily downhill. The Adept series was really great for the first set, but one of the books (I forget the title) of the second set actually made me do something I've never done: I actually put the book down in the middle and decided I couldn't stand to read anything else from this man. I haven't read it since.

It wasn't moral outrage or anything (though I think the scene in question was sexual; I have no problems with that). It was much more simple than that. I was just sick of his juvenile world-view and writing style. He has some lovely ideas that start off making wonderful worlds, but always pollutes the storylines with childishness. This is great at the beginning, as childishness can make for enjoyable reading, but it gets sickening after a while, and starts to take over.

There are a few books Piers Anthony has written which do not suffer from being oversexed. I don't mean they don't have sex; I mean, they deal with it better than others. On a Pale Horse actually has a point as a book, and having a point squeezed out a good half of the sex filler that would have otherwise dominated. Bearing an Hour Glass also struck me relatively well, but that could be because it had time travel. In Xanth, Night Mare was good enough on its merits, of having a gripping plot with well-sustained suspense, to overcome the few scenes with sex. It really helps that the main character is a horse.

On the other hand, Piers Anthony has written a few books which though they have a high sex quotient survive somehow. Golem in the Gears is the quest of a very small man to find someone with whom it is possible for him to mate. Considering the normal difficulties he would have finding a partner, it is quite reasonable that his sexual frustration has grown to sufficiently epic proportions that he would go questing. And it has a nifty little math-related section at the end.

Back in the Incarnations of Immortality, the Love of Evil contains much sex, but displays it in the unusual-for-Piers-Anthony light of actually having moral implications. In the end, recall that the main character is Satan after all, so his choices are understandable if not forgiveable.

Aside from those five, I would be hesitant to recommend a book written by Piers Anthony.

A quick Piers Anthony story:

Nearly 20 years ago (oh, how time flies), I was passing through Orlando, Florida and stopped at one of the local malls to stretch my legs. Wandering about, I spied a store in the mall that catered to my ilk. There were comic books, RPG gaming stuff, and science fiction/fantasy books. I wandered in and had a look around for a bit.

After a while, I noticed that there was a good deal of Piers Anthony merchandise. Now this was in the day, when Anthony seemed to be publishing a new Xanth novel every quarter and some other story every six months. And even taking into account the pure volume that seemed to flow from Anthony's publisher, this store had a truckload of his work.

I mentioned the huge volume of Piers Anthony stuff in the shop to the guy behind the counter, and he related like a war weary veteran the fact that Anthony often came in the store. He said that he came in nearly every other day, gracing the store with his presence and acting as if he was lord of the manor. Anthony would wander about the store loudly letting the patrons know his thoughts on other writers and in some cases, openly mocking people who did not purchase his work.

Not that I was ever terribly impressed by Piers Anthony's writing, but this encounter along with his Letters to Jenny in which he seems to put forth the notion that his letters and stories helped heal a girl who had been put into a coma after being struck by a drunk driver and gave her a reason to live pretty much sealed my opinion of Anthony as a raving egomaniac.

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