In March , it was announced in Locus that the copyrights to 29 Lafferty novels and short stories were up for sale. Lafferty was born on November 7, , in Neola, Iowa to Hugh David Lafferty, a broker dealing in oil leases and royalties, and Julia Mary Burke, a teacher; he was the youngest of five siblings. His first name, Raphael, derived from the day on which he was expected to be born-- the Feast of St.
When he was 4, his family moved to Perry, Oklahoma. He graduated from Cascia Hall  and later attended night school at the University of Tulsa for two years starting in , mostly studying math and German, but left before graduating. He then began to work for a Clark Electric Co. Lafferty lived most of his life in Tulsa, with his sister, Anna Lafferty. Lafferty enlisted in the U.
Army in When he left the Army in , he had become a 1st Sergeant serving as a staff sergeant and had received an Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal .
R A Lafferty
He never married. Lafferty did not begin writing until the s, but he wrote thirty-two novels and more than two hundred short stories, most of them at least nominally science fiction. His first published science fiction story was "Day of the Glacier", in The Original Science Fiction Stories in , and his first published novel was Past Master in Until , Lafferty worked as an electrical engineer.
After that, he spent his time writing until around , when his output declined due to a stroke. He stopped writing regularly in He died 18 March , aged 87 in a nursing home in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Other manuscripts are housed in the University of Iowa 's Library special collections department. He is buried at St. Rose Catholic Cemetery in Perry. Lafferty's quirky prose drew from traditional storytelling styles, largely from the Irish and Native American , and his shaggy-dog characters and tall tales are unique in science fiction. Little of Lafferty's writing is considered typical of the genre.
His stories are closer to tall tales than traditional science fiction and are deeply influenced by his Catholic beliefs; Fourth Mansions , for example, draws on The Interior Mansions of Teresa of Avila. His writings, both topically and stylistically, are not easy to categorize. Plot is frequently secondary to other elements of Lafferty's writing; while this style has resulted in a loyal cult following, it causes some readers to give up attempting to read his work. Not all of Lafferty's work was science fiction or fantasy; his novel Okla Hannali , published by University of Oklahoma Press, tells the story of the Choctaw in Mississippi , and after the Trail of Tears , in Oklahoma , through an account of the larger-than-life character Hannali and his large family.
This novel was thought of highly by the novelist Dee Brown , author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee , who on the back cover of the edition of published by the University of Oklahoma Press , writes "The history of the Choctaw Indians has been told before and is still being told, but it has never been told in the way Lafferty tells it Hannali is a buffalo bull of a man who should become one of the enduring characters in the literature of the American Indian.
Lafferty's work is represented by Virginia Kidd Literary Agency,  which holds a cache of his unpublished manuscripts. Kornbluth's "The Meeting. He never received a Nebula award. His collection Iron Tears was also a finalist for the Philip K. These range in quality from attractive, cloth-bound books with specially commissioned illustrations, to mimeographed, spottily proofread booklets, in print runs never greater than a couple thousand, and often five hundred or fewer; almost all are now in the hands of collectors, and those that do become available are priced beyond the reach of the standard academic researcher.
And, even with the considerable labors of the small-presses in bringing Lafferty to print, some forty short stories remain unpublished, as well as fourteen entire novels—among them the third and fourth volumes of The Coscuin Chronicles, as well as the bulk of his multi-generational Tulsa epic In a Green Tree. The result is something of a palimpsest in which characters interact not only with those on their own layers, but occasionally with those on other layers as well.
In Archipelago, naval grunt and part-time genius painter Finnegan struggles with his status as a fictional character living on multiple levels of reality. The first two volumes, Tales of Midnight and Tales of Chicago, were published in separate hardcover editions the three volumes were brought back together by the print-on-demand publisher Lulu Press at the instigation of an unidentified agent, for an edition now no longer offered for sale. Moreover, material from Argo overlaps, but does not precisely coincide with, the UM Press booklet Episodes of the Argo.
The previous two books of the series are likewise complicated. A cross-cut of the multiplicities may seem like a bunch of endings, but that is only a seeming. It is a forward surge on multiple tracks of multiple powers, and it still goes on. Which is to say, the stories are not merely a vehicle for the myths; there is an equilibrium often missed or mischaracterized by commentators, such as Bain, dependent on Jungian terminology for their analysis.
They are representative, moreover, of certain set patterns of thought that must be escaped. But these would merely be additional perspectives on an already multi-perspectival object which, per Lafferty, would maintain its own integrity irrespective of any single view of it. It is the first and the last sheepskins that are always lost or worn.
To determine if their experiment has worked, they set out an objective reference to the pre-assassination world: a history text which will have to change if it is to accommodate the new historical order. They were a bad lot. We killed them when they were kids. World-making is a taxing task, and world-sustaining more strenuous still16; though strongly invested in both, Lafferty puts his greatest efforts into the task of educating his audience in how to do both, so that his world need not fall apart when he lays down his pen. Ferguson 17 This DIY aesthetic pervades his work: often he provides the pieces, but leaves it to the reader to puzzle out the picture.
Its present order is only the way it comes in the box. Arrange it as you will … Put the nightmare together. Thus also with Lafferty, much of whose science fiction as a result is self-reflexively concerned with instructing readers in the mode of cognition necessary to share in such prodigious labor. But St. Ledger is not just an archetype: he is also a stand-in for Lafferty himself, a persona through which the author sets about reconstructing artistic and ideological perceptions.
Then Lafferty complicates this still further when he reveals, through St.
Log and Ocean are thus one: both products of language, linked together in a continual cycle of expansion and narration. Ferguson 22 given over to a sea louse, in order to call into question the reliability of the entire narrative preceding it. The louse, one of many used by the whales to etch artistic designs into the stones of their grand Temple-City, represents both the actual method of inscription of the text and, luminescent upon the lines of its etching, the text itself as it exists in the Oceanic Unconscious.
Drawing on M. For Clement, the game involves two players, the reader and author, with the former trying to ferret out such scientific errors as exist in the text, and the latter trying to forestall that by making as few as possible. For this game of hard SF to be played to its fullest, both author and reader would need to themselves be scientific professionals or highly-trained amateurs : men of action extending the boundaries of empirical knowledge by day, and constructing worlds around their findings by night. For Lafferty, who seeks precisely to motivate collective and individual human actions toward the construction of world frames, the Mission to Gravity type of cheerful competition simultaneously takes world-creation too seriously and not seriously enough.
All other aspects of his prose—the metafictional trickery, the puzzle construction, even the gleeful bloodletting and whopping great lies—are related and subordinated to this higher-order quest, which not only makes use of the traditional mechanism of estrangement embedded in science fiction, but also expands the boundaries of what is possible within sf, essentially estranging the genre from itself.
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The vast majority, however, simply do not understand him. Ferguson 25 required. What he found in science fiction was not only a lucrative market, but also a genre in which, by convention, worlds were created at will and destroyed on a whim—a sort of linguistic laboratory in which to conduct his research on human perception.
The actual world having come to an end, it is not only textuality that has become science-fictional, but reality on the whole; with each sentence he asks what in the world of the tale can contribute to the world that humanity is charged with reconstructing. From the first, something seems off about Bellota, the world on which they have landed. It is a joke, a caricature, a burlesque.
It is a planet with baggy pants and a putty nose. It is a midget world with floppy shoes and a bull-roarer voice. It was designed to keep the cosmos from taking itself too seriously. The law of levity here conspires against the law of gravity. It was the rest of the universe that was atypical. The bear is himself a caricature of animalkind, somehow a giant dog, somehow a shaggy man, an ogre, and also a toy.
And Snuffles was a caricature of a bear. But we have not been able to enjoy the carnival. Remember that nothing is lost. The telepathic communication is Lafferty talking with his textual creatures in the medium of text, and he when he brings the world of their story to an end, he will chew them together to create new characters for stories yet unwritten on worlds yet uncreated.
Perfection is a very long, very hard road. This process of dismemberment and re-creation, destroying the old to make possible the new, is central to the grotesque mode of perception, and it recurs throughout body of the universe. Time and again, Lafferty carnivalizes and dismembers whole subgenres of sf to provide fodder for his reconstruction of artistic and ideological perceptions.
At the same time, he reaches out to his colleagues to join him in this all-important project. So a hypermasculinized expeditionary force, the pride of vintage sf, is sent to shake it. You barely glanced at the suggested list. Stories about aliens and astronauts rarely bother much with time: they take place in the future, and their heroes act in the present. So when he is put on the tip that the Proavitoi do not die, and moreover that they have a Ritual that passes along from the very oldest the origin story of the universe, he believes he is finally near to answering his burning question.
But this viewpoint is unsuited for an expedition man, who should already have had his orientation toward time fixed in the Ritual of the naming. Ferguson 32 that it may not have to end. But Ceran, perversely, seeks to get beneath the surface of the pulp standard fare, and he ventures into the caverns underneath Proavitoi in search of the eldest of them all. When he reaches bottom, he is confronted with the one thing the hypermasculinized sf narrative cannot abide: laughter.
Meanwhile, Lafferty would seem to have created in Proavitus a world that is both vibrant—echoing still with the original cosmic laughter—and seemingly sustainable. But the reader departs this world along with Ceran Swicegood, and Lafferty does not return to it in later work for the simple reason that he cannot; as the Proavitoi do not die, they cannot aid us in our rebirth.
Ferguson 34 creation does arise will do so only after we undertake the grotesque task of dismemberment. With his emphatic insistence on the need for humanity to progress, one might expect Lafferty to be a political revolutionary as well. Lewis citing Erasmus, has become deeply entrenched.
A lustrum year is one in which the entire structure of society is swept away, and an inverted version arises to take its place. These chronological displacements are not limited to as they are catalogued by the Institute scientists, they increasingly intrude on the narrative of the present time. All the circumstances stand ready. The fructifying minerals are literally jumping out of the ground. And nothing grows. As could the overwhelming wall-of-sound noise, the eccentric dancing, the drugs, the libertinous sexual arrangements, Pope Joan Baez? It is a society perfect in its own way—yet, as Lafferty notes: The thing wrong with perfection is not that it repeats itself, but that it stands still in its first instance and freezes time.
The thing wrong with love is that the false will so often supersede the true. The thing wrong with that town was that it was introverted and backwards; there are those who will live in it forever, but there are also those who will break out of it. The thing wrong with that year is that it began to come apart before the first week of June. And at the same time there was nothing of the childlike: they sure did not desire children.
Having demonstrated the inability of both the traditional space-exploration tale and the utopian construct to fulfill the enormous potential that science fiction represents, it is left to Lafferty to provide a narrative model that can act as a conduit for the Rabelaisian carnival, one which makes use of dismemberment and cosmic laughter, channeling both toward the creation of a new mode of perception. A space-opera retelling of The Odyssey, the book begins with a group of spacemen—fresh off a decade-long galactic war27—heading for home after they take just one small detour to the planet Lotophage, literally the planet of the Lotus- Eaters.
It had lasted ten equivalent years and taken ten million lives. Economically and ecologically it was of healthy effect— and who should grumble? It did not prove a point, since all points had long ago been proved. But this eternal present is not one of dismemberment and re-creation; rather, it is one of degradation and decay, as they are absorbed into the earth, and ultimately used to feed the successive generations of cosmic tourists.
The pulp story is Lotophage, and many are the adventurers—and writers—who have been absorbed by it, and used to feed the next wave of stupefied explorers. As the embodiment of future mythology, Roadstrum alone is able to transcend it; he rouses himself and drags as many crewmen as he can to the ships, and they fly for whatever destination they can reach, which turns out to be the planet of the Laestrygonians, a tribe of Old Norse-speaking half-trolls.
So do Roadstrum and his men, once they get into the spirit of the thing. Ferguson 40 way of demonstration, all the rest clamor to be shot as well. Crewman Snow was similarly slain, but in louder fashion. Two of them, being transformed into giants by the joy of battle, elect not to leave at all.
Life on Lotophage is bloodless, and men who bury themselves in that earth—Roadstrum and his epic excepted—will rise no more. In their daily dismemberments, the giant Valhallans act out the perpetual becoming that for Lafferty is the state appropriate to science fiction—again, as he noted in his speech, sf as a genre is in the business of creating and destroying worlds. The mythology of the future is being formed before our eyes; Lafferty proclaims it anew to each reader who comes to the book, speaking to him through the text as Snuffles does to his doomed humans.
Here the high kerigma of heralds rises in silvery gibberish. That simple sentence, Here it begins, contains within itself the entire mythology of the future. In the bardic mythology of the past, the sentence would imply ending as well as beginning, bringing closure to the workings of fate. But the bard of the Chantey proclaims a beginning that, as a present moment moving ever into the future, can have no end. But his destruction is also always in the context of carnivalized creation—whether as writer, bard, or pseudo-ursine, he dismembers so that we may all re-member. Criticism of Lafferty has run into much the same roadblock.
Havelock, and others on oral narrative. Yet, as may be seen from any number of totalizing schemata aimed at explicating science fiction literature and art,30 there exists within the genre a shared pool of themes and settings that makes it amenable to much of the analysis Ong provides for oral narrative. A thorough exploration of this missed connection would likely require a thesis-length project; not only expanding the characteristics of the genre discussed above, but also considering sf history as it relates to publishing technologies and as it gestates in the pulps and the zines.
The implications of this with regard to science fiction in general and Lafferty in particular are broad and deep, and will be elaborated in future work. Csicsery-Ronay , Odysseus. This myth filter was necessary. With Lafferty assuming a bardic role, however, these written elements—among them direct address, episodic structure, and doggerel verse—evoke the psychodynamic of oral narrative, and form a common program of recollection, or anamnesis.
Though it is difficult and perhaps impossible to date the work of his last years with precision, this latter story may be the last Lafferty ever wrote. Ferguson 47 distance from the text cf. Herman —68 , but rather to collapse that distance entirely. If the narration ends, so too does the world of the story—and with it the audience constituted by the telling of that tale. Yet scarcely a century later this mode of rigid control had such a stranglehold on prose fiction that Lafferty, in attempting to bring the techniques of oral narration into written narrative, found himself again and again having to explain the basics of the verbal art form.
The Man with the Aura: The Collected Short Fiction of R.A. Lafferty Volume 2!
It is ostensibly a story about a Malayan hereditary storyteller named Galli, and the tale he tells the first-person narrator, an unnamed GI. One exasperates people and pretends to be embarrassed. But 35 Italics in the original. And this exchange is likewise mutual though adapted to the economics of the sf trade : our purchase of his story allows him to continue as a professional storyteller, and allows us the use of his techniques in shaping our own narratives.
No, it was a city road. It was really a city trail or path. The piece was also incorporated into Deep Scars of the Thunder, the unpublished third volume of his In a Green Tree series. Ferguson 53 take something known and make it strange; he comes upon something strange and wrestles with it to make it knowable.
Ferguson 54 the meaning of a word. Lafferty presents these layers in two successive sections, showing the same day as it unfolds in both timeframes. In the day of grass, he becomes Kit-Fox—not in the sense of a ritual renaming, by which a Ceran Swicegood becomes manly hero Blaze Bolt, but in the sense of recovering a more vibrant version of himself, one too lurid to exist in the day of straw. I tell you it is not thick enough if only the regular days flow.
I hesitate to instruct you in your own business, and yet someone must instruct you. There must be overflowing and special days apart from the regular days. You have such days, I am sure of that. It is a textual Big Bang: Lafferty wins lordship over this particular day, and with it the prerogative of seeing a world into being.
His successful wrestle answers as well the question of Ceran Swicegood, and his answer is the same as the grandmothers of the Proavitoi: it all began in laughter—in fear and chuckling, in scare-shaking and in laughter-shaking.
R. A. Lafferty - Short Stories - Science Fiction, Fantasy, Philosophy & History
In the case of the prophets on the mountain, to lose a wrestle is to be tossed off the mountain to smash on the rocks below. Lafferty made his ascent, and spent his years wrestling God in the mist amid the days of grass on which his stories take place. But it is not a world he can sustain forever on his own; in his New Orleans address he already speaks as one looking to pass on his bardic mantle, aware that a day will come when he too will lose his wrestle and fall, and a spot on the mountain open up for whoever is prepared to seize the chance.
Lafferty works in cognizance and defiance of death, that paradoxically close associate of writing cf.
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Ong Though his Catholic faith provides him some assurance about the final destination of his individual soul, the fate of human consciousness seems day by day less secure. Or is it a terminal silence? Well, what does happen now? Even plot! Ferguson 59 are violated? And so on. Lafferty takes this story logic and makes it broader still, using narrative to establish the contextual parameters in terms of which people understand anything. In this, Lafferty forges a strange alliance given their ideological presuppositions with postmodern theorist Frederic Jameson.
It must not end. Over the course of his three-decade career, R. Lafferty demonstrated the techniques required for such a project, and provided as well a puzzle box full of pieces for use in the construction. This project is ongoing.