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Snake's Hands: The Fiction of John Crowley

Alice K. Turner
Michael Andre-Driussi

Brilliant, poetic, a master of fantastic symbolism and emotional portraiture, John Crowley is one of the finest contemporary American novelists. As Harold Bloom writes in his Preface to this book, "Crowley writes so magnificently that only a handful of living writers can equal him as a stylist... Of novelists, only Philip Roth consistently writes on Crowley's level." Engine Summer; Little, Big; Aegypt; Great Work of Time; The Translator: these are only the highlights of a twenty-five year literary career of extraordinary depth and eloquence. Yet Crowley has not been the subject of a full-length critical study until now; Snake's-Hands remedies this lack, in full. In Snake's-Hands, Alice K. Turner and Michael Andre-Driussi assemble a host of brilliant essays on the fiction of John Crowley, by such eminent writers and critics as John Clute, Thomas M. Disch, James Hynes, Brian Attebery, and Bill Sheehan. Explore with them Crowley's fantasticated retellings of the Hundred Years' War and of innumerable beast fables; his subtle rendering of the bucolic decline of Earth; his astonishing, multi-leveled vision of the fairylands deep within mundane reality; his British Empire upon which the sun, heartbreakingly, never can set; his glowing, brooding trio of Hermetic masterpieces; his tale of poetry at war with nuclear annihilation. Wonders of artistry, the artistry of wonder: Crowley is a genius, and Snake's-Hands demonstrates this alluringly, in a potent mosaic of insights. Snake's-Hands: The Fiction of John Crowley is the essential guide to the work of a great writer, and a landmark of criticism in its own right.

Table of Contents:

Preface by Harold Bloom

Deep Thoughts: John Crowleys 15th-Century Game of Kings, by Alice K. Turner
Off the Deep End: a Defense to the Conclusion to John Crowley's First Novel, by Michael Andre-Driussi

John Crowley's Great Blond Beasts, by Michael Andre-Driussi

A Poetic Novel, by Thomas M. Disch
One Writer's Beginnings: Engine Summer as a Portrait of the Artist, by Alice K. Turner
"It Doesn't Get Better": Little Belaire, the List, and the Riven World of Engine Summer, by Adam Stephanides
The Great Knot Unraveled, Or Not, by Michael Andre-Driussi
Many Lives (Synopsis of a Proposed Novel), by John Crowley
"Learning to Live with It": The First Engine Summer, by Adam Stephanides

Best and Biggest, by Thomas M. Disch
About Little, Big, by John Crowley
Little, Big Girl: The Influence of the Alice Books and Other Works of Lewis Carroll on John Crowley's Little, Big, or The Fairies' Parliament, by William S. Ansley
Little, Big for Little Folk, by Alice K. Turner

The Novelty of Ægypt, by Michael Andre-Driussi
Timelines for Great Work of Time, by Michael Andre-Driussi
Time's Great Work and Strange Turnings, by Brian Attebery
Memory and the World of John Crowley: Technology and the Art of Memory, by Jennifer k. Stevenson
Antiquities and Four More Tales, by Alice K. Turner

Genre Trouble, or John Crowley's Unfinished Symphony, by James Hynes
The Ægypt Series, by John Clute
Astrology and Thematic Structure in the Ægypt Novels of John Crowley, by Don Riggs
Pierce Moffett the Ass: Apuleian and Brunonian Themes in John Crowley's Dæmonomania, by Sondra Ford Swift
"The Words of Mercury are Harsh...": Love's Labour Lost in Ægypt, by Matthew S. S. Davis
Blackbury Jambs, and Other Misunderstandings, by Graham Sleight
Time in Ægypt, by Alice K. Turner
John Crowley on the Ægypt Series (an Interview by Alice K. Turner)

Life after Ægypt: Notes on John Crowley's The Translator, by Bill Sheehan
The Fiction of John Crowley: A Bibliography, by Graham Sleight
Screenwriting by John Crowley, by Matthew S. S. Davis
Selected Non-Fiction by John Crowley: Reviews and Articles, by Matthew S. S. Davis

Running the Snake

Kage Baker

This short story originally appeared in the anthology Sideways in Crime (2008), edited by Lou Anders, and was reprinted in Clarkesworld, Issue 128, May 2017. It can also be found in the anthology Year's Best Fantasy 9 (2009), edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Kramer.

Read the full story for free at Clarkesworld.

Rattlesnakes and Men

Michael Bishop

Nebula-nominated Novelette

In the near future, home-protection systems are genemodded rattlesnakes, which are programmed to recognize the DNA of the occupants and react only against intruders.

Originally published in Asimov's Science Fiction, February 2015. The story is included in the collection Other Arms Reach Out to Me: Georgia Stories (2017).

Snakeskin Road

James Braziel

In this powerful and moving new novel by James Braziel, author of Birmingham, 35 Miles, a woman begins a harrowing journey of survival along a passage of terror-and hope....

They call it Snakeskin Road. An ever-changing network of highways, rivers, and forgotten trails, it’s used by profiteers of a grim new traffic in human cargo. The catastrophic climatic changes that transformed the Southeast into a vast, inhospitable desert have left its desperate inhabitants with no choice but indentured servitude. Jennifer Harrison is among those destined for the farms, mines, casinos, and brothels of the midwestern “Free Zones.” Carrying the unborn child of her deceased husband, Mathew, Jennifer hopes that in three years’ time she’ll be free to reach Chicago-and a world better than the one she is leaving.

Along with a thirteen-year-old refugee entrusted to her care, Jennifer begins a hazardous pilgrimage across a countryside of barricaded city-states, lawless camp towns, marauding gangs, and what’s left of a corrupt government. But nothing she faces is more dangerous than a man named Rosser-a ruthlessly opportunistic bounty hunter determined to bring her back to Birmingham. In a world where hope is always a mile ahead, Jennifer has one last chance before the road disappears forever.

Brother. Prince. Snake.

Cecil Castellucci

A retelling of the Prince Lindwurm fairy tale, Brother Prince Snake is a story of love, sibling rivalry, and how a monster became King.

Read the full story for free at

All the Snake Handlers I Know Are Dead

Dennis Danvers

All the Snake Handlers I Know Are Dead, by Dennis Danvers, is dark, magical realism tale about a lone woman building a cabin in the mountains of Appalachia and the strange man she encounters there.

Read the full story for free at

Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream

James Alan Gardner

Prix Auroa winning and Hugo and Nebula Award nominated novelette. It originally appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction, February 1997. The story can also be found in the anthologies Nebula Awards 33 (1999), edited by Connie Willis, Aurora Awards: An Anthology of Prize-Winning Science Fiction & Fantasy (1999) edited by Edo van Belkom and Galileo's Children: Tales Of Science vs. Superstition (2005) edited by Gardner Dozois. The story is included in the collection Gravity Wells: Speculative Fiction Stories (2005).

Ten Deals with the Indigo Snake

Mel Kassel

This short story originally appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 101, October 2018.

Read the full story for free at Lightspeed.

A Snake Falls to Earth

Darcie Little Badger

Nina is a Lipan girl in our world. She's always felt there was something more out there. She still believes in the old stories.

Oli is a cottonmouth kid, from the land of spirits and monsters. Like all cottonmouths, he's been cast from home. He's found a new one on the banks of the bottomless lake.

Nina and Oli have no idea the other exists. But a catastrophic event on Earth, and a strange sickness that befalls Oli's best friend, will drive their worlds together in ways they haven't been in centuries.

And there are some who will kill to keep them apart.


Tom Maddox

This short story originally appeared in Omni, April 1986. It can also be found in the anthologies Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology (1986), edited by Bruce Sterling, The Year's Best Science Fiction: Fourth Annual Collection (1987), edited by Gardner Dozois, and Omni Best Science Fiction One (1992), edtied by Ellen Datlow.


Tim Major

Caitlin Hext's first shedding ceremony is imminent, but she's far from prepared to produce a Snakeskin clone. When her Skin fails to turn to dust as expected, she must decide whether she wishes the newcomer alive or dead.

Worse still, it transpires that the Hext family may be of central importance to the survival of Charmers, a group of people with the inexplicable power to produce duplicates every seven years and, in the process, rejuvenate. In parallel with reporter Gerry Chafik and government aide Russell Handler, Caitlin must prevent the Great British Prosperity Party from establishing a corrupt new world order.

Prince Alberic and the Snake Lady

Vernon Lee

"Prince Alberic and the Snake Lady" is a fairy tale of the fin de siecle.

The story originally appeared in The Yellow Book, July 1896. It can also be found in the anthology The Big Book of Classic Fantasy (2019) edited by Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer. It also appeared in a number of collections.

The Dabare Snake Launcher

Joelle Presby

The Sadous, an oil-rich West African family, are handed a plum contract as repayment for a decades-old favor that could make the next generation even richer if the family doesn't tear itself apart first. Two engineer daughters of the Sadou family, Pascaline and Maurie, upon whom the burden of success rests, have troubles of their own. One wants nothing more than to leave and make her own name as an engineering prodigy, while the other is troubled by fever dreams and snakes. Ethan Schmidt-Li is an ambitious megacorp executive with eyes on a big promotion--only to get more than he bargained for when put in charge of the company's make-or-break project.

These are some of the people that Tchami "Chummy" Fabrice has brought together to an ambitious end--constructing the world's first space elevator in Africa and ensuring the space industry that it catapults will enrich the continent and all involved. They have the carbon nanofiber, prime land around Kilimanjaro, and a captured rock in orbit for the tether. The hard part will be getting all these different people working together long enough to see it built.

Snake Ropes

Jess Richards

Set on an isolated island off the Scottish coast, in a community run by women who are in awe of a mysterious structure called the Thrashing House, the novel is narrated by two teenage girls in very different circumstances. Mary is doing her best to protect her younger brother, Barney, as the island's sons are mysteriously disappearing. Morgan is scheming to escape the prison her parents have made of their home. The two girls unite, each on a desperate mission in which secrets will be revealed and lives changed forever.


Adrian Selby

Once they were a band of mercenaries who shook the pillars of the world through their cunning, their closely guarded alchemical brews and stone cold steel. Whoever met their price won.

Now, their glory days behind them and their genius leader in hiding, the warriors known as the 'Twenty' are being hunted down and eliminated one by one.

A lifetime of enemies has its own price.


Lucy Sussex

When 15-year-old Kate discovers that her friend Martin has vanished into the nightmare Otherworld, she knows that only she can save him - but the Otherworld does not release its victims so easily.

Time Snake and Superclown

Vincent King

As the Watcher moves through a series of times and worlds of his own, omnipotent, invulnerable, guarding the Zone against the Alien, he tries to understand why the wraiths, the fragile humans, feel no threat from the universe. And the answer, when he finally learns it, is one which is both tragic and hopeful for the destiny of mankind.

Snake Agent

Detective Inspector Chen: Book 1

Liz Williams

You were supposed to go to Heaven, but ended up in one of the many Chinese hells instead. Who you gonna call? Nobody, you're dead. Luckily, in future Singapore, Detective Chen is on the case. Specializing in supernatural crimes, Chen finds himself in hell teaming up with a demon cop to solve the mystery, return a lost soul to its rightful reward, and restore harmony between Heaven and Earth.

The Talking Devil / The Ten Ton Snakes

Doc Savage Novels (Doubles): Book 9

Kenneth Robeson

The Talking Devil

Doc Savage is the target of a new, malevolent foe -- the spirit of the King of Evil, who utters murderous commands through an ancient Chinese Devil Doll. Is Doc cursed? Or has a maniacal criminal genius discovered the ultimate key to Doc's destruction? To survive, the Man of Bronze plunges into a terrifying struggle that can end only one way -- death!

This is # 113 in the Doc Savage Novels series.

More information about The Talking Devil available at the Hidalgo Trading Company website.

The Ten Ton Snakes

A war hero running for his life and a mysteriously heavy cargo of exotic snake skins send Doc and his crew racing into the steaming jungles of Brazil. There, the Man of Bronze unearths a bizarre secret buried for centuries -- and battles a sinister force that marks him for instant execution!

This is # 114 in the Doc Savage Novels series.

More information about The Ten Ton Snakes available at the Hidalgo Trading Company website.

Lester Dent authored both novels under pseudonym Kenneth Robeson.



Vonda N. McIntyre

This is the haunting story of an extraordinary woman and her dangerous quest to reclaim her healing powers. Revered healer Snake must undertake a journey in search of the dreamsnake, whose bite eases the fear and pain of death.

Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand


Vonda N. McIntyre

Nebula Award winning and Hugo Award nominateed novelette.

In a post-apocalyptic world, the young healer Snake ventures into unknown lands during her proving year. Her genetically engineered rattlesnake and cobra provide vaccines and medicines, while the rare alien dreamsnake eases pain and suffering.

The story is the first chapter in the novel Dreamsnake (1978).

It originally appeared in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, October 1973. It has been reprinted many times since. The story can be found in the anthologies:

The story can also be found in the collection Fireflood and Other Stories (1979).

Waiting For the Galactic Bus

Snake Oil: Book 1

Parke Godwin

Imagine two brothers off on an intergalatic Spring Break. When their friends leave them behind on Earth, they've got a few millenia to kill before they'll manage to get back to school. So, as an experiment, mind you, they decide to give evolution a bit of a nudge... And that's when all hell breaks loose... a little more literally than either of them planned...

The Snake Oil Wars: or Scheherazade Ginzberg Strikes Again

Snake Oil: Book 2

Parke Godwin

Barion and Coyul are at it again... This time, they've been discovered toying with evolution. Barion has been summoned back to answer to the Council for their transgressions and Coyul is left behind to clean up the mess...

Escape from New York

Snake Plissken: Book 1

Mike McQuay

In a world ravaged by crime, the entire island of Manhattan has been converted into a walled prison where brutal prisoners roam. But when the US president crash-lands inside, only one man can bring him back: notorious outlaw and former Special Forces war hero Snake Plissken. But time is short. In 24 hours, an explosive device implanted in his neck will end Snake's mission, and his life, unless he succeeds!

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins

Ambition will fuel him.

Competition will drive him.

But power has its price.

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He's been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined -- every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute... and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.