Born in Philadelphia in 1947, James Morrow spent his teenage years in Hillside Cemetery, not far from Philadelphia. After receiving degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, Morrow began to produce prose fiction. His first such endeavor, The Wine of Violence, was called the best SF novel published in English in the last ten years by the American Book Review. He followed this with The Continent of Lies. Morrow's breakout novel was a satire on the nuclear arms race, This Is the Way the World Ends, which became a Nebula Award nominee and the BBCs choice as the best SF novel of the year. His next dark comedy, Only Begotten Daughter, shared the 1991 World Fantasy Award with Ellen Kushners Thomas the Rhymer. Throughout the 1990s Morrow worked on the Godhead Trilogy: Towing Jehovah, Blameless in Abaddon, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; and The Eternal Footman.
Morrow then wrote the historical novels The Last Witchfinder, and its sequel, The Philosophers Apprentice. Morrow's contributions in short fiction also include a Nebula Awardwinning story The Deluge, published in Bible Stories for Adults; the periodically produced one-act play The Zombies of Montrose, published in The Cats Pajamas; and the Nebula Awardwinning novella, City of Truth.
James Morrow makes his home in State College, Pennsylvania with his wife and son.
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James Morrow discusses The Last Witchfinder
Book reviewers have categorized your previous novels as wild Vonnegutian satires full of fantastical and even surrealistic events. Why this sudden leap into straight historical fiction?
The leap was a long time coming. About twenty years ago I had a mind-boggling encounter with a single sentence in Masks of the Universe, a history of science by the physicist-astronomer Edward Harrison. At one point Harrison asserts that the witch universe, the zeitgeist of the late Renaissance, would have destroyed European society but for the intervention of science. And I said to myself, What a great subject for a novel! Even if Harrison was overstating the case, I simply had to explore that astonishing idea, the near destruction of a civilization by its own theology.
So you spent twenty years researching and writing The Last Witchfinder? You have a long attention span.
Not the past twenty years, no. I kept deferring the project, daunted by its scope, and composed other sorts of fiction instead. But I never stopped thinking about Harrisons riveting sentence, and then about eight years ago I took the plunge and committed myself to writing a magnum ...
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