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Unlikely Friends: James Merrill and Judith Moffett, A Memoir

(Kindle paperback and ebook, 2019)

"This is the fascinating story of a relationship between the National Book Award winning poet James Merrill and the younger poet and science fiction writer, Judith Moffett. It is a lot of other things as well--a portrait of literary politics in the second half of the twentieth century; the post-Stonewall opening up of the gay closet followed closely by the AIDS epidemic; a complex psychological portrait of a young poet's near-obsession with an older one; an exploration of sexual ambiguity."



Tarzan in Kentucky

(David Robert Books / WordTech Communications, 2015)

"All the formal mastery and modal variety I admired in Moffett's earlier books are on rich display here, graced with new kinds of hard-won wisdom." --Geoffrey Brock

The Ragged World: Holy Ground Trilogy #1

(St. Martin's Press, 1991)

When the Hefn arrive at an Earth on the brink of ecological collapse, they determine to save the planet by forcing its human abusers to mend their biosphere-destroying ways, no matter how much suffering results. All too obviously their concern is for the planet, not for the people who live there, most of whom have no personal contact with the aliens.  

But despite alien indifference to human welfare, the lives of the few who do meet and come to know them are profoundly impacted for the better. This is the story of several humans, deeply troubled in various ways before the Hefn came, who are changed forever by the bonds that form between three of the aliens and themselves.


About Tiny Tango, which appears in the novel as Chapter 3:  When an ambitious young botanist named Nancy Sandford--one of the humans profoundly changed by the Hefn intervention--discovers that she is positive for HIV, she scraps her plans for a world-class research career and reinvents herself as a mediocre professor in an academic backwater, hoping in this way to keep her secret concealed and to survive until a cure is found. In her struggle to endure the loneliness and terror of such a life, Sandy involves herself in activities ranging from the botanical to the bizarre; and both sorts come into play when an accident occurs at a power plant near her home, and, soon after, an alien ship lands on the moon. The meltdown shatters Sandy's carefully restricted personal world, yet its consequences--combined with alien intervention--bring about a startling conclusion to her situation and to the story.


Written in 1987, "Tiny Tango," was an early attempt to grapple with the AIDS epidemic in fiction.  The story was a finalist for both the Nebula and the Hugo in the Novella category.

Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream: Holy Ground Trilogy #2

(St. Martin's Press, 1992)

Pam and Liam, two mathematically gifted but emotionally traumatized teens, are being trained in "time-window" technology by the Hefn Humphrey. On spring break from the Bureau of Temporal Physics, they travel by steamboat to Hurt Hollow, a homestead/museum in rural Kentucky. For many years people have visited the Hollow and been drawn to the labor-intensive life lived there by forces they can't account for.

Arriving just in time to take over for the hospitalized caretaker, Pam and Liam are joined by their teacher, the Hefn Humphrey, founder of the Bureau and mentor to the Apprentices. Humphrey is intensely curious about the Hollow: might its magical qualities help convert people into stewards of the Earth they have all but destroyed? But what begins as a bucolic vacation, filled with goat-milking, gardening, beekeeping, and speculation about the mysterious appeal of Hurt Hollow, turns nightmarish as a Hefn-hating evangelist rouses the locals against Humphrey and jeopardizes the future of humanity.

The Bird Shaman: Holy Ground Trilogy #3

(Bascom Hill, 2008)

"The Bird Shaman is, by genre standards, a very talky novel, but the conversation can be both intense and brilliant. It is also often quite erudite. [...] Like another author influenced by Quaker thought, Joan Slonczewski, [Moffett] is fond of setting up situations where there is a potential for violence, and then solving them peacefully, against our genre-reinforced expectations."

–Michael Levy, The New York Review of Science Fiction


(Contemporary Books, 1987; Ballantine/Del Rey, 1993; Fantastic Books, 2009)

"A small colony of Quakers flourishes on the planet Pennterra under the benevolent tutelage of the alien 'hrossa' until a second wave of humans threatens to disrupt the delicate balance between settlers and natives. Moffett's first novel approaches the subject of humanity's place in the universe with uniqueness and sensitivity. Highly recommended." --Library Journal

Homestead Year: Back to the Land in Suburbia

(Lyons & Burford, 1995; iUniverse, 2011)

In 1992 the author--prefiguring the "urban homesteading" trend of the new millennium--took a year off from teaching to run an experiment in self-sufficiency and sustainability: she converted her one-acre property in the Philadelphia suburbs into a little farm. To an established organic garden and edible landscaping she added bees, a pond stocked with catfish and bluegills, and seven black Cayuga ducks. The story, described in journal format, is highlighted with obstacles, triumphs, an impressive amount of food, and a deepening awareness of how every element in nature is interconnected with every other.

Whinny Moor Crossing

(Princeton University Press, 1984)

This is Moffett's second collection. Most poems are cast in received or nonce forms, and include a group with a Cambridge setting and another located in Stockholm. The technical influence of James Merrill's work is unmistakable, though most of the subjects that engage Moffett are very different from those that interest Merrill.

The North! To the North! Five Swedish Poets of the Nineteenth Century

(Southern Illinois University Press, 2001)

The poets are Esaias Tegnér (1782-1846), Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-1877), Viktor Rydberg (1828-1895), Gustaf Fröding (1860-1911), and Erik Axel Karlfeldt (1864-1931). Each is a world-class literary figure working in a minor language; a comparable list for the English 1800s would include Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Keats, Shelley, Arnold, and Tennyson.

James Merrill: An Introduction to the Poetry

(Columbia University Press, 1984)

Even serious and dedicated readers of poetry have sometimes been frustrated by Merrill's brilliant, rewarding, but sometimes quite difficult work. This book was written from a desire to help make his poetry more accessible--to give more readers a chance to let it enhance their lives. The book describes his major themes, discusses his literary influences, provides a kind of Masterplot for his controversial Ouija trilogy The Changing Light at Sandover, and talks in detail about the technical means by which his marvelously clever and emotionally powerful art has been achieved.

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