An Unofficial Lucius Shepard Appreciation Site
My name is Dan, and I have been a Lucius Shepard fan since I came across a used copy of the Bantam US trade paperback copy of Life During Wartime. (I was in college at the time, circa 1988, so used books were mainly what I could afford.) From there I sought out Green Eyes, though I'm pretty sure I did pay full price for that one, in the reprint edition with the green cover. Later, the university library got a copy of the beautiful Arkham House edition of the story collection The Ends of the Earth, which was my first exposure to the art of J.K. Potter together with Shepard's fiction (even though by that time a few such pairings had already occurred). In 1994, Ziesing Books published Shepard's novel The Golden, which was a major book for me, one that I have read at least a few times.
I'm not sure what it was that drew me to Lucius's work, but whatever it was, it pulled me in right from the start. I suspect it had something to do with the Melville and Hawthorne I was reading and studying at that time. Shepard's complex, rolling sentences, arranged in longish paragraphs, appealed to me. His stories have great dialog, but do not rely too much on dialog to carry the story. They are deeply rooted in character, a humanist lens through which to face the mysteries of Nature and the inexplicable--reconciling with The Weird.
Shepard's work to me always had a sense of rebellion lurking beneath the surface, an unwillingness to accept things as presented, containing an edgy anti-authoritarianism, but tempered with a kind of humility and wonder. The maturity of his prose, a confidence that stopped short of certainty, set him apart from many of his younger contemporaries in the speculative fiction world of the 1980's and 90's (Lucius had started late, a "young" writer on the scene in his 40's).
Something else I enjoyed about Shepard's fiction throughout his career was that he was not afraid to mix in horrific elements, though never as an end in itself. There was something dangerous and subversive lurking in Shepard's fiction, which at the time I felt to be connected to the Splatterpunk fiction of the late 80's and early 90's, much more so than any other writers who were being published in magazines like Asimov's and F&SF. I was also reading (Ray Garton, Skipp & Spector, and all the writers who appeared in the great small press magazines and anthologies of that period, such as The Horror Show, Silver Scream and Book of the Dead). While I have no reason to believe Lucius himself felt any literary connection to the authors who received or embraced the Splatterpunk label, I found something similar in them...perhaps it was a refusal to look away, an embrace of the irreverant, tinged with a Reagan-era post-punk sensibility that one could find in the music and indie cinema of that time. (Or more likely, these similarities are simply a matter of timing and a coincidence of my own diverse reading interests, which at the time also included a lot of Neal Barrett Jr, Joe R. Lansdale, Andrew Vachss, and Lawrence Block. All that said, let's not forget that 1984's Green Eyes is a first class zombie novel!)
Lucius emerged as a writer during this time, and I was blessed to discover and read him all along the way. Then and now I had a feeling that Lucius Shepard was the among the best and brightest of not only the decade of the 80's, but again in the 90's, and again in the 2000's. For me the quality stayed high through that 30 year period. I loved Life During Wartime (1987) as much as Kalimantan (1990), as much as The Golden (1993), as much as Valentine (2002) and Floater (2003), as much as The Skull (2013).
Lucius Shepard's body of work has a unique place in literature, but in his lifetime, and certainly even now as I write this in the same year of his passing, I do not believe he has gotten the recognition he is due. This seems like a strange thing to say about a writer who received awards and nominations from almost the very beginning of his writing career. I don't think I'm the only one who thinks Shepard deserves more. I can relate to this quote from an appreciation by Matthew Cheney, as I remember well how out of reach the price for The Ends of the Earth was for me when I was in college:
"I keep thinking back to a moment of childhood: visiting the Avenue Victor Hugo Bookshop in Boston in the late '80s and paging through the Arkham House hardcover of The Jaguar Hunter, which I couldn't afford to buy. $21.95 was a fortune to me then. I looked at the book and looked at it and looked at it. But that's not why I keep thinking about it. What I keep thinking about is this: A year or two ago [circa 2012], I got a pristine copy of that book for pennies. A price I could have afforded even when I was a kid. A first edition, first printing of a brilliant book that ought to be a collector's item selling for a hundred times what I paid for it. I was happy to get a gift for my inner child, but also deeply angry that I could afford it — that it's not as valuable and scarce as it deserves to be just reminds me of how little valued Lucius's work is in comparison to its quality."
I'd like to think that in the decades to come people will read his work and come to see that Lucius Shepard embodied a genre all to himself. It is not really useful to figure out whether this or that work fit into literary, or fantasy, or SF, or horror, or weird fiction categories. It is and was all these things and more. No box can contain it, despite the fact that Lucius Shepard lived and worked in a publishing business obsessed with boxes.
I hope this site can play a small role in bringing about a future where Lucius Shepard has an American Library omnibus edition, where a good bookstore carries a row of matching Lucius Shepard trade paperbacks taking up most of a shelf, where The Golden is made into an HBO vampire mini-series, where maybe even The Dragon Griaule cycle is taught in university courses. (Update: being located in the US, I was slow to notice that Orion in the UK has published an full collection of Lucius Shepard books in contemporary editions.)
Until that day, please find something of Lucius Shepard's that you have not read and read it! He left behind so much work. Better yet, find a nice hardcover limited edition of a Lucius Shepard novella or collection and keep it on your shelf with your most treasured books. At the time I am writing this, it is a crime how under-valued so many fine Lucius Shepard editions are in the secondary market. The bookselling sites are full of bargains. Shepard worked with some of the best publishers, book designers, and artists of his lifetime--Arkham House, Ziesing, PS Publising, Subterranean, often working with JK Potter as illustrator, as well as some other top illustrators. The overall price someone would need to spend to put together a collection of US and UK first editions of Lucius Shepard fiction right now is astoundingly low.
I am coding this site by hand, plain HTML and CSS code--no database or CMS required. If someone can keep this content on the internet after I am gone (hopefully at least a few decades from now), there's no reason it can't live forever, as Luciius Shepard's fiction hopefully will. (All due respect to hyphenated lucius-shepard.com and its contributors; I understand that site was at one time maintained as Lucius Shepard's official website.)
I am happy to have contributions from other Shepard fans. Feel free to email corrections, contributions, or suggestions related to the information on this site to .