(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

William Kotzwinkle’s writing career, begun in 1969, has included fiction for both children and adults. He has received many awards, including the North Dakota Childrens Choice Award in 1983 and the Buckeye Award in 1984 for E. T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Abandoning his idiosyncratic style, Kotzwinkle in these novels writes a straightforward narrative that nevertheless demonstrates a playfulness with language and a joyous buoyancy, combined with his own characteristic imaginative vision.

Criticism of E. T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, written from a screenplay, has focused on the differences between the 1982 film and the novel, with critics divided about their preferences. The novel elaborates internal action, in contrast to the external action of the film, and it gives a mechanism for interpretation. E. T.s consciousness is explored in the novel. He is portrayed as more imaginatively sympathetic as he is confronted with the limited vision of suburban Earth children. His determination to teach Elliott the wisdom of the stars is a promise unrealized by both the book and the film. The novel explains E. T.’s telepathic communication with Elliott, so that, for example, Elliott’s inebriation when E. T. discovers beer is clarified. Elliott’s mother, Mary, is a gratuitous and colorless presence in the film. The novel explains her motivations as she confronts the problems of a single parent whose children (and she herself) are swept along with each popular fad.

The novels continue Kotzwinkle’s social criticism,...

(The entire section is 635 words.)