Charles Sheffield (25 June 1935 – 2 November 2002) was an English-born mathematician, physicist and science fiction writer who served as a President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and of the American Astronautical Society.
His novel The Web Between the Worlds, featuring the construction of a space elevator, was published almost simultaneously with Arthur C. Clarke's novel on the subject, The Fountains of Paradise, a coincidence that amused them both. Excerpts from both Sheffield's The Web Between the Worlds and Clarke's The Fountains of Paradise have appeared recently in a space elevator anthology Towering Yarns.
Sheffield served as Chief Scientist of Earth Satellite Corporation, a company that processed remote sensing satellite data. The association gave rise to many technical papers and two popular non-fiction books, Earthwatch and Man on Earth, both collections of false-colour and enhanced images of Earth from space.
He won the Nebula and Hugo awards for his novelette "Georgia on My Mind" and the 1992 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for his novel Brother to Dragons.
Before he died, he was writing a column for the Baen Books web site; his last column concerned the discovery of the brain tumour that led to his death.
|Born||25 June 1935|
Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire, England
|Died||2 November 2002 (aged 67)|
Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.
|Alma mater||St John's College, Cambridge|
|Period||1977–2002 (fiction) |
Charles Sheffield attended St John's College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a Double First in Mathematics and Physics. During his studies he met and later married his first wife, Sarah Sanderson, whose death in 1977 became the catalyst for his writing career. They had a son, Charles Christopher ("Kit"), and a daughter, Ann Elizabeth. The family soon after moved to the United States, where Sheffield began working in the field of practical physics, a career that would lead him to a consultancy with NASA and the role of chief scientist at the Earth Satellite Corporation in Washington.
In response to the traumatic grief from the death of his wife Sarah to cancer (in 1977), Sheffield began a second career as a science fiction author, winning both the prestigious Nebula and Hugo awards and serving as President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (1984–1986). He maintained two successful careers, consulting for various scientific corporations while earning fame for his "Hard SF". During this period he lived in Washington, DC, and met and married Linda Zall, a fellow scientist, and had two daughters, Elizabeth Rose and Victoria Jane.
At the time of his death, he was married to writer Nancy Kress, and lived with his children in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Volumes 1 and 2 were reprinted in omnibus version Proteus Manifest (SFBC July 1989) and later in a revised omnibus version Proteus Combined (Baen November 1999)
Volumes 1, 2 and 3 were reprinted in omnibus version The Heritage Universe (SFBC October 1992); Volumes 1 and 2 were reprinted in revised omnibus version Convergent Series (Baen October 1998); Volumes 3 and 4 were reprinted in revised omnibus version Transvergence (Baen November 1999)
The Compleat McAndrew was preceded by two earlier versions: The McAndrew Chronicles, (Tor, June 1983) and One Man’s Universe (Tor, December 1993); also, Sheffield later wrote an additional McAndrew story:
Sheffield wrote about this series:
In the late 1970s when I was just starting to write fiction, my young children (young back then, grown-ups now) ordered me to produce stories about every funny or disgusting thing in the world. They made the list for me. It had on it items of comic low appeal to them—sewage, visits to the dentist, mushrooms, fat aunts, opera singers, flatulence (I think they used a different word), comic Germans and Italians, fad diets, pigs, morticians, and head lice. Not an easy assignment, but I did my best. Over the years I have published ten politically incorrect stories tackling one or more of the listed topics... Together they form what I think of as my "sewage" series. They feature my two favourite lawyers, Henry Carver and Waldo Burmeister, and they are depressingly easy to write.
The Amazing Dr. Darwin was preceded by an earlier version, Erasmus Magister (Ace June 1982); also, Sheffield later wrote an additional Erasmus Darwin story:
Between the Strokes of Night (1985) is a science fiction novel by Charles Sheffield. The story is divided in two vastly separated time periods: the near future of 2010, and the far future of 29,000 AD. Due to the unique technological mechanisms of the novel, the same cast of characters appears in both parts, though it is not a time travel story.Black hole starship
A black hole starship is a theoretical idea for enabling interstellar travel by propelling a starship by using a black hole as the energy source. The concept was first discussed in science fiction, notably in the book Imperial Earth by Arthur C. Clarke, and in the work of Charles Sheffield, in which energy extracted from a Kerr-Newman black hole is described as powering the rocket engines in the story "Killing Vector" (1978).In a more detailed analysis, a proposal to create an artificial black hole and using a parabolic reflector to reflect its Hawking radiation was discussed in 2009 by Louis Crane and Shawn Westmoreland. Their conclusion was that it was on the edge of possibility, but that quantum gravity effects that are presently unknown will either make it easier, or make it impossible. Similar concepts were also sketched out by Bolonkin.Cold as Ice (novel)
Cold as Ice (1992) is a science fiction novel by Charles Sheffield. The setting takes place in the late 21st Century with humans having colonized the Solar System, and a terrible civil war recently resolved in which 50% of humanity was wiped out. The plot follows an eclectic group of characters sorting out a mystery initiated during the early days of the war. Like most of Sheffield's books, in addition to hard scifi descriptions of a convincing future world, intricate psychologies of the major characters play a crucial role.
Cold as Ice has been through six editions and remains in print more than twenty years after initial publication.Convergence (novel)
Convergence (1997) is a science fiction novel in the Heritage Universe series by American writer Charles Sheffield. This book is a sequel to Transcendence.Divergence (novel)
Divergence (1991) is a science fiction novel by American writer Charles Sheffield, part of his Heritage Universe series. The book, the sequel to Summertide, takes place millennia in the future when most of the Orion Arm of the galaxy has been colonized by humans and other races. Among the various star systems of this arm of the galaxy, a number of million-year-old artifacts have been discovered, remnants of a mysterious race called the Builders.
The characters of this book start just a few days after the previous book left off to go in search of a newly discovered artifact. This book introduces a few new characters that become important throughout the rest of the series. The characters work together to discover a new theory about the origins and current condition of the Builders. During this process, they discover that an old menace to the universe, thought to be extinct, has been unleashed upon the Orion Arm of the Milky Way once again.
The novel includes excerpts from the Lang Universal Artifact Catalog (Fourth Edition), and from the Universal Species Catalog (Subclass:Sapients).
The sequel to Divergence is Transcendence.Georgia on My Mind (novelette)
"Georgia on My Mind" (1993) is an English language science fiction novelette by Charles Sheffield. It won both the 1993 Nebula Award for Best Novelette and the 1994 Hugo Award for Best Novelette.The novelette involves two major themes: being widowed and the quest for a legendary Babbage computer. The "Georgia" of the title is the remote South Georgia Island which lies just north of Antarctica.Godspeed (Sheffield novel)
Godspeed is a 1993 novel by American author Charles Sheffield.
On the isolated planet of Erin, young Jay Hara has grown up on dreams of space and legends of the fabled Godspeed drive, which once allowed humans to travel at translight speeds. After meeting Paddy Enderton, a seedy old spacer, Jay is drawn into a chase which carries him off the planet, into the asteroid belt and its tiny worldlets, and finally to the remnants of an ancient space station where the Godspeed drive may still exist. Along the way, Jay is at once awed and terrified of the piratical spacers who crew the ship, particularly the smooth-talking, ruthless captain, Daniel Shaker. Struggling to reconcile his admiration for Shaker with the man's evident viciousness, Jay eventually comes into his own as a spacer and an adult.Higher Education (novel)
Higher Education is a 1996 science fiction novel by Charles Sheffield and Jerry Pournelle. The book is part of the Jupiter series and was published through Tor Books.My Brother's Keeper (Sheffield novel)
My Brother's Keeper is a 1982 science fiction novel by Charles Sheffield, published as a paperback original by Ace Books in 1982. It was reissued by Baen Books in 2000.
The story takes place in approximately 2000 from the perspective of the early 80s. The hero of the story is a professional concert pianist, who has a twin brother who does mysterious work for the US State Department. The brothers are in a helicopter crash and in order for one of them to survive, doctors use experimental neurosurgery to combine parts of their remaining brains. When the patient awakens, the pianist brother is in control of the body, but has access to his brother's memories and realizes he must complete the spy's last mission for him.Nimrod Hunt
Nimrod Hunt is a science fiction novel by Charles Sheffield. The story takes place hundreds of years in the future, with humanity having extensively colonized surrounding space, including beyond the solar system. Humans have encountered three extraterrestrial races, which although all bizarrely different in physiology and psychology coexist peacefully. In order to defend from unknown threats beyond known space, a security company creates highly advanced robotic soldiers to patrol the border. These go haywire and become the single greatest threat. A series of four-member teams, with a representative from each species, is dispatched to deal with the problem. The action of the story follows one such team.
The novel was revised as The Mind Pool with a different ending. In the preface to The Mind Pool, the author describes how he was unhappy with the original.Proteus In The Underworld
Proteus in the Underworld (1995) is a science fiction novel by Charles Sheffield. The book is set in the same universe as his previous works Proteus Unbound (1989) and Sight of Proteus (1978).Resurgence (novel)
Resurgence (2002) is a science fiction novel by American writer Charles Sheffield, the finale of the Heritage Universe and the last book he published. Following the previous book in the series, Convergence, there are no more Builder artifacts left in the part of the galaxy explored by the four clades of the Orion Arm. However, an envoy from the neighboring Sagittarius Arm shows a short route to that arm and the ship's dead passengers carry an ominous message: a force even stronger than the Builders is consuming whole star systems in the neighboring arm.
The team gets together one last time in an attempt to find the envoy's home planet. They work to discover if the Builders touched the Sag arm in a way similar to the local arm. They attempt to see if the source of this mysterious enemy can be found so that future generations may study it and find a way to stop it before it reaches the local arm in the millennia ahead.Summertide
Summertide (1990) is a science fiction novel by American writer Charles Sheffield, the first of his series of Heritage Universe. The story takes place millennia in the future, with humans having extensively colonized our spiral arm of the Milky Way and having encountered a number of intelligent alien races. Littered throughout the galaxy are hundreds of massive abandoned engineering projects built by a mysterious race, referred to as The Builders, extinct for three million years. An eclectic group of scientists and opportunists are descending upon one such artifact at a time when its surrounding environment is extremely dangerous to study an unusual phenomenon.
The novel includes excerpts from the Lang Universal Artifact Catalog (Fourth Edition), describing several Builder artifacts.
Divergence is the next book in the series.The Billion Dollar Boy
The Billion Dollar Boy is a 1997 science fiction novel by Charles Sheffield. The story takes place centuries in the future where asteroid mining is a major industry. Earth's population is 14 billion, most live in poverty. The protagonist is Shelby Cheever, a spoiled, exceedingly rich teenager, who lords his wealth over everyone around him, while taking pride in being completely unproductive. In a drunken vacation mishap, Shelby accidentally ends up in a remote mining colony with no easy return, due to entering a FTL translation node without setting the coordinates. There he is forced to work hard to survive, and interact with his new shipmates as equals. Through both routine labor, and many misadventures, Shelby endures much positive character building.
This book is a future retelling of Kipling's Captains Courageous. Same plot: spoiled rich kid gets high [drunk] and falls off an ocean liner [spaceship] into the ocean [a wormhole node]. He is picked up by a fishing boat [space mining ship] and forced to work for/with them for several months until the hold is full. There is even the mysterious Pennsylvania Pratt [Scrimshander Limes] who has forgotten his identity after a personal tragedy and remembers it temporarily while saving shipwreck [sabotage] victims.
The book is a relatively light adventure tale, by Sheffield standards, and serves mainly as a platform for the author's views on child rearing, while giving some hard science fiction theories about far future technology and economics.The Cyborg from Earth
The Cyborg from Earth is a 1998 science fiction novel by Charles Sheffield. It is the fourth in a series of unrelated stories, published by Tor Books in their Jupiter line.The Diamond Drill
"The Diamond Drill" is a science fiction novelette by Charles Sheffield. It was first published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact in April 2002, and subsequently republished in Year's Best SF 8 in June 2003.The Ganymede Club
The Ganymede Club is a science fiction novel by American writer Charles Sheffield, published in 1995. A mystery and a thriller, the story unravels in the same universe that Sheffield imagined in Cold as Ice. Shortly after humanity begins colonisation of the solar system, a trade war sets off vicious civil war that kills billions. The book received favorable reviews from Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews, as well as in the science-fiction press. It was ranked #14 in SF novels in the 1996 Locus awards. The novel has been translated into Italian and was published as Memoria impossibile in 1998 in the magazine Urania. In 2009 Bastei Lübbe published a German language edition in Germany.Transcendence (Sheffield novel)
Transcendence (1992) is a science fiction novel by American writer Charles Sheffield, part of his Heritage Universe series. This book is the sequel to Divergence and Summertide.Weird Tales (anthology series)
Weird Tales was a series of paperback anthologies, a revival of the classic fantasy and horror magazine of the same title, published by Zebra Books from 1980 to 1983 under the editorship of Lin Carter. It was issued more or less annually, though the first two volumes were issued simultaneously and there was a year’s gap between the third and fourth. It was preceded and succeeded by versions of the title in standard magazine form.
Each volume featured thirteen or fourteen novelettes, short stories and poems, including both new works by various fantasy authors and reprints from authors associated with the original Weird Tales, together with an editorial and introductory notes to the individual pieces by the editor. Authors whose works were featured included Robert Aickman, James Anderson, Robert H. Barlow, Robert Bloch, Hannes Bok, Ray Bradbury, Joseph Payne Brennan, Diane and John Brizzolara, Ramsey Campbell, Mary Elizabeth Counselman, August Derleth, Nictzin Dyalhis, Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, Robert E. Howard, Carl Jacobi, David H. Keller, Marc Laidlaw, Tanith Lee, Frank Belknap Long, Jr., H. P. Lovecraft, Robert A. W. Lowndes, Brian Lumley, Gary Myers, R. Faraday Nelson, Frank Owen, Gerald W. Page, Seabury Quinn, Anthony M. Rud, Charles Sheffield, Clark Ashton Smith, Stuart H. Stock, Steve Rasnic Tem, Evangeline Walton, Donald Wandrei, and Manly Wade Wellman, as well as Carter himself.
Carter habitually padded out the volumes he edited with a few his own works, whether written singly or in collaboration (the latter generally "posthumous collaborations" with Clark Ashton Smith in which he wrote stories on the basis of unused titles or story ideas from Smith’s notebooks).