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Roger MacBride Allen: His Life and Work

Profiled by Galen Strickland
Posted May 5, 2001, with later edits

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Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the youngest of three children. His family moved to Bethesda, Maryland when he was nine years old, and he grew up in the Washington, D.C. area, attending Walt Whitman High School. He went to Boston University, and graduated with a degree in journalism in 1979. He returned to the Washington area to take on a series of jobs to support himself while he tried to finish his first novel. He worked as a waiter, a typewriter salesman, a telephone answering service operator, and a bookstore clerk, among many other temporary jobs.

He eventually landed a job in the publications department of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. This small association was dedicated to the idea of helping college and university trustees do their jobs better. While at AGB, Roger sold his first novel, The Torch of Honor, to Baen Books, and then sold his second, Rogue Powers, on the basis of an outline. These two novels were later issued in a combined, and somewhat edited version, under the title Allies and Aliens.

Click here for a review of these two novels

He quit AGB, having learned a great deal about layout, design, editing and production. It was the first and last nine-to-five job he ever held. Then, more or less accidentally, he settled down to write full time, and he has produced roughly a book a year from that time.

Roger met his future bride at an SF convention in 1992. Eleanore Fox, who was then working as a literary agent, later joined the U. S. Foreign Service and her first post took her to London. Roger was still living in Washington, and following a long-distance courtship, they were married in California in 1994. Shortly after their wedding, Eleanore was reassigned to Brazilia, and this time the author followed. After two and a half years in that tropical capital, they returned to the Washington area, and they currently reside in Takoma Park, Maryland.

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He is the author of twenty-two novels. Among his most recent works are a trilogy of Star Wars novels -- Ambush at Corellia, Assault at Selonia, and Showdown at Centerpoint, and a trilogy of Asimovian Robot novels -- Caliban, Inferno, and Utopia. Others of his books about which I have read good things include The Ring of Charon and The Shattered Sphere, which are known as the Hunted Earth sequence, and Orphan of Creation (also recently read and reviewed). His newest series began with the publication of The Depths of Time, in March, 2000, with the second volume, The Ocean of Years, appearing in June, 2002. The conclusion of the trilogy, The Shores of Tomorrow, appeared a year later. Two other novels that have received considerable attention were written in collaboration with others; The War Machine with David Drake, and Supernova with Erik Kotani. Again, it was disappointing to discover that many of Allen's novels, as recent as they are, are currently out of print. It would perhaps be good if he had followed his own advice, as given in the book A Quick Guide to Book-on-Demand Printing (Learn How to Print and Bind Your Own Paperback Books).

After reading his first two novels, I would have assumed that Allen had been a Navy veteran, but so far I have not found any evidence to support that proposition. Obviously, he is a thorough researcher, as I found the depictions of military structure, command, and strategy to be very realistic. His characters are well-drawn, three-dimensional people, with whom most readers should have no difficulty identifying. The stories are well plotted and the alien culture depicted in Rogue Powers is also very believable. The aliens reminded me somewhat of the creatures encountered by Max Jones in Heinlein's Starman Jones. Quite a few other parallels could be drawn between Allen's work and that of Heinlein, primarily the sense of duty and honor expressed by many of the main characters, and I feel there are echoes of other Grand Masters as well, such as Poul Anderson and Frederik Pohl, as well as the depictions of military life reminiscent of A. Bertram Chandler. Regardless of which other writers influenced Allen's own style, he has established himself as a legitimate heir to these and other SF icons.

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Related Links:
My review of Allies and Aliens
My review of Orphan of Creation
Allen's Bibliography at fantasticfiction.com


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September 26, 1957
Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA

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