Michael Bishop inducted into Georgia Writers Hall of Fame

Published 7:40 pm Monday, December 10, 2018

On Nov. 5, 2018, in the auditorium of the UGA Richard B. Russell Special Collections Library in Athens, Michael Bishop was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, along with two other living novelists, Cynthia Shearer and Tayari Jones, and two writers posthumously accorded that honor, Furman Bishop (1919-2012), an acclaimed sportswriter and editor of The Atlanta Constitution, and Frances Newman (1883-1928), famous for her novels “The Hard-Boiled Virgin” (1926) and “Dead Lovers are Faithful Lovers” (1927).

The University of Georgia Libraries established the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in April of 2000 to “recognize Georgia writers past and present, whose body of work reflects Georgia’s rich literary heritage.” Although many organizations in Georgia bestow awards on individual books written within a specific time frame, authorities regard this program as “the first to honor Georgia writers for their overall contribution to [state] culture.” Every year UGA’s Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library hosts a reception and an induction ceremony to honor writers selected for the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.

A pamphlet issued by the Libraries for 2018’s inductions cites Bishop for creating “a diverse galaxy of stories in genres as different as fantasy and historical fiction, contemporary satire and Southern gothic.”

Although born in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1945, Bishop was a “military brat” from the instant of his birth to his graduation from high school at a USAF dependent school outside Seville, Spain, in May of 1963. At that point, he returned to the states and enrolled at the University of Georgia in Athens, where he ultimately graduated with a B.A. in English and a M.A. in the same subject with a thesis on the poetry of Dylan Thomas. His first professional sale was to the Georgia Review in 1967, with a rhymed Keatsian ode entitled “An Echo Through the Timepiece.”

An ROTC graduate, Bishop reported to the Air Force Academy Preparatory School outside Colorado Springs in the summer of 1968, where he taught grammar and composition, as well as literature and writing, during which time he sold his first short story, “Piñon Fall,” to Galaxy Magazine. From 1972 to 1974, he served as an English instructor at the University of Georgia, continuing his fiction writing on the side, and then moved with his wife, the former Jeri Ellis Whitaker, whom he had married in 1969, and their young children, Christopher James (“Jamie”) Bishop and Stephanie Bishop, to Pine Mountain, Georgia.

In 1975, Bishop’s first novel, A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire, a complex science-fiction tale with a subtext inspired by our protracted war in Vietnam, appeared from Ballantine Books. Several other novels and stories saw print between Funeral and his well-received and often translated 1982 novel No Enemy but Time. This examination of human origins, accomplished through a species of time travel called “spirit dreaming,” won the Nebula Award, given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), an award that had earlier gone to his novelette “The Quickening” in 1981. A few years on, his story “Dogs’ Lives” was featured in The Best American Short Stories anthology for 1985.

Subsequent novels earned praise and won others awards, including Who Made Stevie Crye? (1984), Ancient of Days (1985), Philip K. Dick Is Dead, Alas (1987), “Unicorn Mountain” (1988), “Count Geiger’s Blues” (1992), and “Brittle Innings” (1994), Locus Award winner for Best Fantasy Novel, whose film rights were twice optioned and then bought outright by Twentieth Century Fox, although no movie was ever made. The author observes that, if nothing else, this unexpected bounty helped finance the Bishops’ children’s college educations. Between 1996 and 2012, Bishop held the writer-in-residence post at LaGrange College, which in 2001 bestowed on him an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from the college.

In addition to his solo novels, Bishop has published nine story collections, perhaps most notably The Door Gunner and Other Perilous Flights of Fancy: A Michael Bishop Retrospective (2011); a poetry collection, Time Pieces (1999), with a cover illustration by his son Jamie (who did covers for four others of his books before dying in the mass shooting at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007); and the mysteries “Would It Kill You to Smile?” (2000) and Muskrat Courage (2003) written with his friend and colleague Paul Di Filippo. He has also edited seven story collections, including three Nebula Award anthologies, the omnibus volume “Light Years and Dark” (1984), and “A Cross of Centuries: Twenty-Five Imaginative Tales of the Christ” (2007).

More recently, Bishop’s “Other Arms Reach Out to Me: Georgia Stories” (2017) earned him a Georgia Author of the Year Award in the category of short-fiction collections, and his latest title, from Fairwood Press/Kudzu Planet Productions out of Bonney Lake, Washington, is a compendium of four carefully revised stories, “The Sacerdotal Owl and Three Other Long Tales” (2018).

Many of his titles, in revised editions, are available at Fairwoodpress.com.