Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 594
Robert Silverberg was born on January 15, 1935, in New York City to Michael Silverberg, an accountant, and Helen (nee Baim) Silverberg. Robert began writing for publication while still in his teens. When he graduated with a B.A. from Columbia University in 1956, he married Barbara H. Brown, an engineer,...
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- Critical Essays
Robert Silverberg was born on January 15, 1935, in New York City to Michael Silverberg, an accountant, and Helen (nee Baim) Silverberg. Robert began writing for publication while still in his teens. When he graduated with a B.A. from Columbia University in 1956, he married Barbara H. Brown, an engineer, and began a full-time writing career. He was an incredibly prolific writer whose production included short stories, novels, and nonfiction books, produced sometimes at a rate over two million words per year. During the early years of his career he was regarded a competent but not necessarily good writer.
In the mid-1960s came a shift in his output. His novels and stories became more detailed; the issues he encountered in his nonfiction research became significant elements in his fiction. By the early 1970s some critics regarded Silverberg as an accomplished writer. Although there have been significant pauses in Silverberg's production, including a four-year hiatus in the 1970s, his work has continued to draw significant critical attention, and he is generally regarded as one of the most sophisticated writers of science fiction and fantasy, in particular, although his nonfiction has considerable merit, too.
He separated from his wife in 1976, and they divorced in 1986. In the late 1970s he needed to earn money to buy his wife her own house; this, he says, pushed him back into writing after his long break, with Lord Valentine's Castle being the result. He received $127,500 for the book, which became the foundation for a series of novels and short stories. In 1987, Silverberg married Karen L. Haber. Critics have noted that Silverberg's fiction of the 1980s and 1990s has been marked by brilliant descriptive prose; Silverberg has made strange, alien places come alive. This is one of the most notable traits in Letters from Atlantis. His work of these decades has also seen a fusion in his work of fantasy and science fiction, a trend found in much of the fantastic fiction of the last decade, and shown to good effect in Letters from Atlantis, in which the science fiction ideas related to time travel and space travel are merged into an account of a mythical, fantastic land in which each successive king merges his personality with all those who have gone before him. In this land, magical potions can induce time-traveling vision of the past and future.
Silverberg has won numerous awards for his writing. Hugo Awards, which are determined by science fiction fans, are given out annually by the World Science Fiction Convention. Silverberg won the 1956 Hugo Award for "best new author." He won it for the best novella in 1969 for "Night-wings" and in 1987 for "Gilgamesh in the Outback." He won it for the best novelette in 1990 for "Enter a Soldier. Later: Enter Another." In 1970, he was the guest of honor at the World Science Fiction Convention. Nebula Awards are given out annually by the Science Fiction Writers of America. Silverberg won the Nebula Award for best short story in 1970 for "Passengers" and in 1972 for "Good News from the Vatican." He won the Nebula Award for best novella in 1975 for "Born with the Dead" and in 1986 for "Good News from the Vatican." He won the Nebula Award for best novel in 1972 for A Time of Changes. In 1962, he won the New York Herald Tribune's Spring Book Festival Award for Lost Cities and Vanished Civilizations; he won the same award again in 1967 for The Auk, the Dodo, and the Oryx: Vanished and Vanishing Creatures. In 1960, Lost Race of Mars was named a best book for children by the New York Times.