Terry Bisson, who was for many years a Kentuckian living in New York City, is now a New Yorker living in California. In addition to his Hugo and Nebula award winning science fiction, he has written bios of Mumia Abu-Jamal and Nat Turner. He is also the host of a popular San Francisco reading series (SFinSF) and the Editor of PM’s new Outspoken Authors pocketbook series.
Photo (c) Rosalie Winard
Author: Terry Bisson
Publisher: PM Press (Spectacular Fiction Series)
Published April 2011
Size: 8 by 5
Page count: 192 Pages
Subjects: Science Fiction, Short Stories
Beginning with a harrowing, high-speed ride through the Upper South (a TVA baby is a good ol’ boy with a Yankee father and a 12-gauge) and ending in a desperate search through New Orleans graveyards for Darwin’s doomsday machine ("Charlie’s Angels"), Terry Bisson’s newest collection of short stories covers all the territory between—from his droll faux-FAQ’s done for Britain’s Science magazine, to the most seductive of his Playboy fantasies ("Private Eye"), to an eerie dreamlike evocation of the 9/11 that might have been ("A Perfect Day"). On the way we meet up with Somali Pirates, a perfect-crime appliance (via Paypal) and a visitor from Atlantis who just wants a burger with fries, please.
Readers who like cigarettes, lost continents, cars, lingerie, or the Future will be delighted. For those who don’t, there’s always Reality TV.
"Bisson's work is a fresh, imaginative attempt to confront some of the problems of our time. It is the Bissons of the field upon whom the future if science fiction depends.”—Washington Post Book World
“With his sharp accuracy and sharp humor, he seems to me the Mark Twain of science fiction." —Kim Stanley Robinson
“Terry Bisson is one of the sharpest short story writers in science fiction today.” —Sacramento Book Review
It’s 1959 in socialist Virginia. The Deep South is an independent Black nation called Nova Africa. The second Mars expedition is about to touch down on the red planet. And a pregnant scientist is climbing the Blue Ridge in search of her great-great grandfather, a teenage slave who fought with John Brown and Harriet Tubman’s guerrilla army.
Long unavailable in the US, published in France as Nova Africa, Fire on the Mountain is the story of what might have happened if John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry had succeeded—and the Civil War had been started not by the slave owners but the abolitionists.
"History revisioned, turned inside out ... Bisson's wild and wonderful imagination has taken some strange turns to arrive at such a destination."
--Madison Smartt Bell, Anisfield-Wolf Award winner and author of Devil's Dream.
“You don’t forget Bisson’s characters, even well after you’ve finished his books. His Fire on the Mountain does for the Civil War what Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle did for World War Two.”
--George Alec Effinger, winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards for Shrödinger’s Kitten, and author of the Marîd Audran trilogy.
“McKinley Cantor and Ward Moore move over! The South has risen again--this time as a brilliantly illuminated black utopia. Terry Bisson’s novel touched my heart, brought tears to my eyes, and kept me thinking about it for days after finishing the book. It’s an astonishing feat of rewriting history into something truly wonderful.”
--Edward Bryant, co-author of Phoenix Without Ashes and winner of two Nebula awards for short stories Stone, and gIANTS.
“Few works have moved me as deeply, as thoroughly, as Terry Bisson’s Fire On The Mountain… With this single poignant story, Bisson molds a world as sweet as banana cream pies, and as briny as hot tears."
--Mumia Abu-Jamal, death row prisoner and author of Live From Death Row, from the Introduction.
The Left Left Behind
By Terry Bisson
Pub Date October 2009
Page Count: 128 pages
Size: 7.5 by 5
Subjects: Fiction, Religion
Hugo and Nebula award-winner Terry Bisson is best known for his short stories, which range from the southern sweetness of “Bears Discover Fire” to the alienated aliens of “They’re Made Out of Meat.” He is also a 1960’s New Left vet with a history of activism and an intact (if battered) radical ideology.
The Left Behind novels (about the so-called “Rapture” in which all the born-agains ascend straight to heaven) are among the bestselling Christian books in the US, describing in lurid detail the adventures of those “left behind” to battle the Anti-Christ. Put Bisson and the Born-Agains together, and what do you get? The Left Left Behind--a sardonic, merciless, tasteless, take-no-prisoners satire of the entire apocalyptic enterprise that spares no one--predatory preachers, goth lingerie, Pacifica radio, Indian casinos, gangsta rap, and even “art cars” at Burning Man.
Plus: "Special Relativity," a one-act drama that answers the question: When Albert Einstein, Paul Robeson, J. Edgar Hoover are raised from the dead at an anti-Bush rally, which one wears the dress? As with all Outspoken Author books, there is a deep interview and autobiography: at length, in-depth, no-holds-barred and all-bets off: an extended tour though the mind and work, the history and politics of our Outspoken Author. Surprises are promised.
"Bisson is a national treasure!"
--John Crowley, author of Little Big
"Bisson can charm your toes off!”
--The Washington Post
"Bisson's prose is a wonder of seemingly effortless control and precision; he is one of science fiction's most promising short story practitioners, proving that in the genre, the short story remains a powerful, viable and evocative form."
--Reed Business Information, Inc.
For a calendar of speaking events, please click here
- Fire on the Mountain: Fantasy Literature
- Fire on the Mountain: Tor.com
- Fire on the Mountain: Big Pulp
- The Left Left Behind: Medium
- TVA Baby: See Sharp Press
- Fire on the Mountain: GuysLitWire
- Terry Bisson: An Interview in Locus
- TVA Baby on Rain Taxi
- The Left Left Behind: Book Legion
- Short Takes: Locus
- The Left Left Behind: Sacramento Book Review
- Fire on the Mountain: Aqueduct Newsletter
- Science Fiction and Politics: Counterpunch
- BoingBoing sees a Fire on the Mountain
- Fire on the Mountain in The Indypendent
- Terry Bisson on Ecosocialist Horizons Hour speaking about Fire on the Mountain
- Outspoken Author Series Talk with Terry Bisson, Gary Phillips and Kim Stanley Robinson@ Counterpulse 10/13/10
- Outspoken Author Series Talk with Terry Bisson, Gary Phillips and Kim Stanley Robinson panel on Shaping San Francisco with Intro by Ramsey Kanaan 10/13/10
- Audio of Kim Staney Robinson, Terry Bisson, Eric Simmons Panel at SF in SF
Fire on the Mountain: A Review
By Marion Deeds
October 17th, 2012
"Fire on the Mountain is a thought-provoking, politically flavored story that ultimately is heart-warming. It stayed with me after I turned the final page. I am glad this provocative little novel is available again."
Fire on the Mountain: A Review
By Jo Walton
April 22nd, 2009
"Terry Bisson is one of those brilliant writers who is inexplicably uncommercial. He has the gift of writing things that make me miss my stop on the metro because I’m so absorbed, but I almost never meet anyone who reads him. My very favourite book of his is Talking Man, an American fantasy, which I will no doubt talk about here in due course. A Fire on the Mountain runs it a close second. It got wonderful reviews—they’re all over this Ace paperback I bought new in 1990. His short work wins awards, and I’ll buy SF magazines if he has a story in them. I think he’s one of the best living stylists. But all he has in print are a three admittedly excellent collections."
Fire on the Mountain: A Review
"Bisson's writing is solid and evocative, and creates a strong sense of place to bring the reader squarely into this new world. Similarly, his characters are exquisitely detailed and complex. Yasmin is conflicted about watching the Mars landing with her mother-in-law, hesitant to relive the death of her husband but unwilling to allow his mother to experience this historic event alone. Yasmin's daughter Harriet is independent and headstrong, while still requiring a loving attachment to her mother and connection to her deceased father."
January 7th, 2017
Interview is terribly interesting. As Bisson is the series editor, it’s not clear if he interviewed himself or if someone else did. Either way, there’s plenty of fascinating information. On a similar note, the interview inspired me to read and research the life of John Brown—a man I had pretty much forgot about for nearly three decades.
Bisson is explicit: you can’t separate his politics from his writing (101). As a reader, Bisson’s writing sparks curiosity and interest so that, frankly, you’ll want to explore the people and ideas he’s presenting or referencing, often in different contexts. If you like authors that open up new vistas and connections, Terry Bisson is for you.
See Sharp Press
In most of the stories, Bisson’s dark humor is at the forefront, particularly in “TVA Baby,” which is grotesque but laugh-out-loud funny. Other standouts include “Pirates of the Somali Coast” and the other stories mentioned above, except “A Special Day.”
As with nearly all short story collections, there are some “hits” and some “misses” in TVA Baby; but the ratio of hits to misses is higher here than in the average collection. So . . . . .
If you enjoy concise writing and mordant humor, you’ll enjoy TVA Baby.
Fire on the Mountain: A Review
By Sam J. Miller
August 13th, 2014
"Fire on the Mountain is a brilliant book, deeply moving for the strength of its imagination and the warm-hearted generosity of its spirit, for the audacity of an author who dares to propose a history less horrible. I suspect it would work as well on a young man who is excited about issues of history & race & activism, as it would on a guy who doesn't care about any of that, but likes a good science fiction story."
Terry Bisson’s latest collection of short stories, TVA Baby, presents thirteen science fiction tales that focus on voyeurism and violence—and sometimes both...
Here and throughout the book, Bisson maintains a lighthearted tone amidst the darker atmosphere very well, and his playful incorporation of real-world humdrum amidst the science-fiction mayhem offers a lens on contemporary society. Watch your heads!
I respect everyone's right to believe what they want. Hey, whatever keeps the sheep interested in the sky cake, right? Its when their beliefs are thrust upon me that I get annoyed. One things we have to hear about incessantly is the rapture. You know, that wonderful day that I wish would happen, when all the Christians just disappear in an instant. Oh, dare to dream.
Sacramento Book Review
January 12, 2010
Terry Bisson is one of the sharpest short story writers in science fiction today. Under his watchful eye, the country of England has journeyed across the ocean, Death has taken a vacation, and insightful ATMs have offered advice to their customers.
Now he tackles the Left Behind series with his tongue-in-cheek satire The Left Left Behind, a look at a world where born-agains, afternoon talk show hosts, world leaders, CEOs, celebrities, and right-wingers have been raptured, and a small group of survivors forms a band while they ride out the Tribulation. Bisson spins the entire genre on its head with his ending, offering more than a few laughs along the way.
Fire on the Mountain: A Review
The Aqueduct Gazette Newsletter
It's 1959 in socialist Virginia. The Deep South is an independent Black nation called Nova Africa. The second Mars expedition is about to touch down on the red planet. And a pregnant scientist is climbing the Blue Ridge in search of her great-great grandfather, a teenage slave who fought with John Brown and Harriet Tubman's guerrilla army. Fire on the Mountain is the story of what might have happened if John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry had succeeded- and the Civil War had been started not by the slave owners but the abolitionists.
Science Fictions and Politics
By Ron Jacobs
As we approach the December 2nd anniversary of Brown's hanging, try to imagine an alternate scenario. John Brown and his troops did not get captured that autumn day in 1859. Instead, they made their way back into the hills surrounding Harper's Ferry and set up a camp. While militias and eventually US troops gathered in the towns around the mountain where Brown and his men were camped, a fire burned on the mountain like a beacon to all those men-white and black--who desired an end to slavery and a free nation of all men and women together. Instead of an insurrection fought by slavers and their allies designed to create a nation where the plantation and slave economy would continue to exist, there was an insurrection led by those wanting a nation where neither slavery or wage slavery existed. Now imagine this latter insurrection succeeding and creating a new nation based on these principles and calling itself Nova Africa.
BoingBoing Sees a Fire on the Mountain
By Cory Doctorow
I thought of sf writer Terry Bisson's work as being delightfully absurdist, always moving but never solemn, but then I read Fire on the Mountain, his acclaimed 1988 short novel, reprinted in 2009 by PM Press in a handsome pocket edition with an introduction written by the revolutionary Mumia Abu Jamal from his cell on death row. Now I know that Bisson is perfectly capable of being as solemn as a funeral, and that when he takes on that mode, he is just as moving, and sweetly sad in a way that reveals the powerful mastery that's hidden behind his whimsy in stories like They're Made of Meat and Bears Discover Fire.Read more | Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Back to reviews | Back to top
When John Brown Won
By Scott Borchert
In his introduction, Mumia Abu-Jamal praises the vision of this novel as “one born in a revolutionary, and profoundly humanistic, consciousness.” Indeed, there is something revolutionary about re-imagining the past, turning history inside out and extracting visions of a different world. Fire on the Mountain does all of this in a way that is engaging and often inspiring — but this is no mere exercise in radical fantasizing. Rather, by considering what has been, and creating a narrative of what could have been, Bisson reminds us that what is yet to come remains unwritten.Read more | Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Back to reviews | Back to top