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17 December 2011

Ms Miesel, born in 1941, holds Master’s degrees in Biochemistry and Medieval History. She is predominantly a non-fiction writer who has produced a number of very valuable works examining the writings of others both in and out of the SF field – and I do recommend most of them. However in one way she had been a great disappointment to me as a reader.
In 1982 Ace produced a book entitled DREAMRIDER. This was a brilliant shamanistic fantasy set in a number of alternate worlds. It featured a 10 page Introduction by Gordon Dickson, saying what a wonderful writer Miesel was and how this was only the first of what he expected to be many works of fiction. I watched for her name for years and was furious when in 1989 a book (Shaman) appeared from a different publisher, with a different cover, and different title – which book I bought thinking that it was a sequel to Dreamrider, only to find that it was the same book. It claimed to be an expanded and improved version, but I didn’t find it so and I wasn’t pleased. I do recommend either version, (but I preferred the original and retained that copy) but be aware that they’re the same book.
Dreamrider’s main character is Ria, a woman who lives in a far more repressive version of our own world. She has the ability to become a shaman and this becomes reality when her dreams lead her into a far different version of Earth, where giant otters exist as comrades and fellow citizens to humans. Kara, an aged human shaman and her friend and colleague, Lute, one of the Mac(ro)Otters, begin to teach Ria in dreams. But the PSI, the government agency in Ria’s world that oversees social conformity had been alerted to Ria’s odd behavior and she is faced with possible rehabilitation, something that can amount to the loss of personality and reduction of intelligence to a moronic level, and she must fight to retain her individuality. (The brief scene where Ria recognizes her old schoolteacher and hails her, to find that the woman has been reduced to this level by the PSI is chilling.) Ria learns, grows, and changes, and by the end of the book it looks likely that she will be a nexus point for possible changes to her world as well. This, for me, has been a book that has stood up to regular re-reading for almost thirty years, and I find the richness of the two main worlds and their offshoots, engaging every time. I only wish that Meisel had written other books that continued Ria and Lute’s story and showed what changes to her world Ria managed to make and where they would lead.
Sandra Miesel is Catholic and her views have stirred up some controversy over the years. A letter to Life Site News, her critiquing of an earlier letter by Michael D. O’Brien on LoTR and Harry Potter, received a stinging rebuttal from the author (frankly I thought Miesel was right.). Her consideration of Philip Pullman in “The Pied Piper of Atheism” is trenchant and her very reasonable point, made on a website (http://www.zenit.org/article-21008?l=english) – that the character Dr. Mary Malone, an ex-nun, and now an advocate of sex and science, who ends in this third book by engaging in occult practices to lead two twelve-year-old children to sleep in the same bed and indulge in sexual foreplay is not exactly a role-model for young children reading this trilogy – is well made.
The book she co-authored, The Da Vinci Hoax is a scholarly piece of work, but may suffer slightly from a fixed point of view. Both writers are devout Catholics unable to accept that the Church may, over the centuries, have deliberately suppressed certain writings and histories, particularly those of women. However they do very successfully deconstruct the Da Vinci Code, pointing out that while all the background on which it rests is supposedly true, much of what is cited is inaccurate or incorrect. The result of both books to me was a decision that I will probably never have sufficient time to read both side by side while looking up and verifying all references given to decide the truth and accuracy of each for myself – but I really wish I did. I think it would be a wonderful project that would expand my knowledge of history considerably.
Many of Sandra Miesel’s works are available on Amazon and other books sites, all are recommended.
(Partial) Bibliography there are other non-fiction books in which Ms Meisel is part-author and two fiction collections of Rudyard Kipling stories.
Exploring Cordwainer Smith by Arthur Burns, John Foyster, Sandra Meisel, and Alice Bangsund. (1975)
Dreamrider 1982 Ace. 
SHAMAN. 1989 Baen – an earlier version of this was published in 1982 as Dreamrider NOTE: this is essentially the same book.
Miesel, Sandra (1978). Against Time’s Arrow: The High Crusade of Poul Anderson. Borgo Press 
Miesel, Sandra (1973). Myth, symbol, and religion in The Lord of the Rings. T-K Graphics.
Olson, Carl E.; Sandra Miesel (2004). The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code. Ignatius Press.
The Pied Piper of Atheism: Philip Pullman and Children’s Fantasy. by Pete Devere, Sandra Meisel, and Carl Olson. Paperback Jan 2008 Ignatius Press.

Collections

Forward! (1985) (with Gordon R Dickson)
Mindspan (1986) (with Gordon R Dickson)

Anthologies containing stories by Sandra Miesel

Catfantastic V (1999)

Short stories
a number appeared in Amazing Stories, Amazing SF, etc over the 1980s. But I haven’t listed them here

2 Comments »

  1. Dear Lyn,

    Perhaps it’s silly to comment five years after the fact, but SHAMAN really was an expanded version of DREAMRIDER. It has an extra 25,000 words and a song by Misty Lackey that weren’t in the original. I’m genuinely touched that you liked it but sales were terrible. That’s why there were no sequels. Vol II as planned would have had Ria going to Washington and setting up as a literal Columbian Sibyl as advisor to the ruling class. She discovers and prevents a planned scientific experiment that would set off worldwide earthquake and volcanic activity with immense loss of life and weather events. More later. Sandra

    Comment by Sandra Miesel — 4 January 2016 @ 13:47

  2. No, it isn’t too late to comment, so long as I’m alive, writing, and doing my small blog any input is valid. And curses! I’d have loved to read that. I’m about due to read Dreamrider again, and I’ll read it now with that in mind. Sigh. I don’t know what it is, that many great books don’t sell that well when so much drek does. Er, perhaps you could have another try at getting the sequel out? Pleeeeaaase.

    Comment by lyn — 5 January 2016 @ 07:50

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