I write speculative fiction, poems (often on sf themes), and occasionally articles (usually on sf themes). When I was in high school, having read about sf fandom and fanzines in Anthony Boucher's Rocket to the Morgue, I informed my classmates Eleanor Arnason (who also became a fiction writer and poet) and Ron Whyte (who became a playwright) that as we were sf fans, we also should be putting out a fanzine. So we did, undaunted by the fact that we didn't know any other fans and hadn't seen any other fanzines. Finding out a couple of years later where Worldcons were, I started congoing, and so got in touch with other fans and other fanzines. When I graduated college, I looked at what I'd been writing, and saw that the fiction was uniformly bad, but the poems were fairly good and getting better. So I concentrated on poetry and for a couple of years gave up entirely trying to write fiction. But then Star Trek came along, and I couldn't help making up stories about the characters, and felt compelled to try writing some of them down. One of them, in turn, seemed worth trying to re-write as a story without the Star Trek elements (for instance, the starship became an airplane), and it probably became my first sale, "Ptolemaic Hijack," in Worlds of Fantasy, in 1971. ("Probably" because they neglected to say it had been accepted, and I heard sooner from a literary magazine, Four Quarters, that they were accepting "The Statement of Mrs. Thaddeus Usheen to the Press upon Being Rescued by the Coast Guard" but the published copy of "Mrs. Usheen" arrived a little later than the published copy of the "Hijack.") And I started getting poems accepted the same year, too. Since then, I've continued to write professionally, as well as a certain amount of fannish writing. Over the years, in addition to writing a lot of fanzine work on sf and fantasy generally, and stuff dealing with Star Trek, I’ve written stuff focused on the Land of Oz, Sherlock Holmes, Lewis Carroll, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Doctor Who, and Blake’s Seven fandoms. Academically, I received a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota with my dissertation, Suspending Disbelief: the development of fantasy as a literary genre in nineteenth-century British fiction as represented by four leading periodicals, Edinburgh Review, Blackwood’s, Fraser’s, and Cornhill (1979). The bibliography here deals with my professional work.
Ruth Berman was conceived in Texas, born in Kentucky, and resident in Minnesota most of the rest of the time. As a middle child in a family that went in for reading aloud, she grew up hearing and speaking a wide variety of books, such as Mother Goose, Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, Louisa May Alcott, or Christopher Morley. Her work has appeared in The Saturday Review, Amazing, Asimov's SF, Weird Tales, The Poet Dreaming in the Artist's House, Burning with a Vision, Aliens and Lovers, The Tolkien Scrapbook, New Worlds, Shadows, Mathenauts, Xanadu, and many other magazines and anthologies. Her book, Dear Poppa: The World War II Berman Family Letters (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1997), was nominated for a Minnesota Book Award. [Biography from Autumn World ]
Ruth Berman's work has appeared in many science fiction and fantasy magazines and anthologies, as well as in general, literary, and scholarly magazines and anthologies. She edited Sissajig and Other Surprises (a collection of the fantasy writings of Ruth Plumly Thompson, IWOC), The Kerlan Awards in Children's Literature, 1975-2001 (Pogo Press), and Dear Poppa: the World War II Berman Family Letters (Minnesota Historical Society Press). She was one of the co-authors of Autumn World, a group novel (Stone Dragon Press).[Biography from Bradamant's Quest ]
Ruth's emergence as a fiction writer was recognized in the early seventies when she was guest of honor at Minicon, the annual Minnesota SF convention, and when she was a nominee for the annual John W. Campbell award for best new SF writer. She has published a couple of dozen short stories, at least three times as many poems, and many critical articles and reviews related to fantasy. She has served as Poetry Editor for both Mythlore and Pandora. Recently, Ruth has been translating fantasy stories from French originals.
When Ruth helped start the Rivendell Discussion Group of the Mythopoeic Society in 1974, I soon became the chief organizer of the monthly meetings, and editor of the newsletter, but there was never any question that Ruth was naturally first among equals in our discussions of fantasy literature in the traditions of T.H. White, Ursula K. Le Guin and C.S. Lewis. Her wide reading, and graduate training, along with her intelligence and taste made her an authority to whom we would inevitably turn for an explanation of the literary background of some text under discussion, or of some doubtful passage, or for suggestions for further reading. Even during the two years that she taught English at the University of Oklahoma, scarcely a meeting would pass here in Minneapolis without someone observing, apropos some literary mystery, "Well, Ruth would know...."
In December of 1976 I heard Ruth read a short story, "The Death of Gawaine," that struck me like a thunderclap. It remains one of my favorite stories. Although seeming too impossibly brief, it captures and portrays the reconciliation of a dying Gawaine with fate, and the refusal of his wife, a fairy princess out of medieval legend, to be reconciled with that fate, at least without protest. It is like many of Ruth's stories, short on action, yet economically and subtly capturing nuances of feeling and thought and meaning that are never spelled out by the narrator, but implicit in the way that characters find their own truths and persist in their integrity without.being understood by most other characters. That sort of quiet integrity is common to both the stories and the writer.
This story also suggested a whole new approach to Arthurian legend, another world lurking beneath the obvious surface narratives of Malory or Chretien de Troyes, that of the women of the stories. This idea has since been employed by other writers, notably the bestselling Marion Zimmer Bradley, but none has been more hauntingly suggestive than Ruth's brief glimpse into a fey and almost feminist Faerie world. Characteristically, Ruth's story was inspired by reading and mulling over a 14th century legend. Even her creative writing is often inspired by her scholarly pursuits.
In 1974, Ruth co-founded a writers' support group with Eleanor Arnason and Ellen Kuhfeld. This group has fostered numerous stories, poems, essays and critical articles. P.C. Hodgell has acknowledged its support in writing her well-received novels, and I believe that Mary Monica Pulver has also read some of her novels-in-progress to the group. I remember attending in the mid-'70s and hearing Pat read from an exciting narrative that would later appear in God Stalk (1982) and Dark of the Moon (1985). Hearing Ruth and Eleanor offer suggestions, and hearing them read and listen to criticism, I was reminded of other official and unofficial groups of likeminded writers (like the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood) throughout literary history. Or perhaps even the ancient guilds or brotherhoods of bards, or druids, priests or poets. Quietly, without ostentation, Ruth Berman embodies that history today, creating living and beautiful pasts and futures, for our present. [From David Lenander, slightly adapted from the 1986 Minn-Stf lecture series booklet, used by permission.]
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