R. A. Lafferty


R. A. Lafferty : biography

November 7, 1914 – March 18, 2002


Lafferty’s quirky prose drew from traditional storytelling styles, largely from the Irish and Native American, and his shaggy-dog characters and tall tales are unique in science fiction. Little of Lafferty’s writing is considered typical of the genre. His stories are closer to tall tales than traditional science fiction and are deeply influenced by his Catholic beliefs; Fourth Mansions, for example, draws on The Interior Mansions of Teresa of Avila.

His writings, both topically and stylistically, are not easy to categorize. Plot is frequently secondary to other elements of Lafferty’s writing; while this style has resulted in a loyal cult following, it causes some readers to give up attempting to read his work.

Not all of Lafferty’s work was science fiction or fantasy; his novel Okla Hannali (1972), published by University of Oklahoma Press, tells the story of the Choctaw in Mississippi, and after the Trail of Tears, in Oklahoma, through an account of the larger-than-life character Hannali and his large family. This novel was thought of highly by the novelist Dee Brown, author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970), who on the back cover of the edition of published by the University of Oklahoma Press, writes "The history of the Choctaw Indians has been told before and is still being told, but it has never been told in the way Lafferty tells it … Hannali is a buffalo bull of a man who should become one of the enduring characters in the literature of the American Indian." He also wrote, "It is art applied to history so that the legend of the Choctaws, their great and small men, their splendid humor, and their tragedies are filled with life and breath."

Lafferty’s work is represented by Virginia Kidd Literary Agency, which holds a cache of his still-unpublished manuscripts."R.A. Lafferty (1914-2002), Locus, May 2002, p.9, 68.


  • (Lafferty’s fifth book)

Historical novels

  • The Flame is Green, 1st volume of the Coscuin Chronicles (1971)
  • Half a Sky, 2nd volume of the Coscuin Chronicles (1984)
  • Sardinian Summer, 3rd volume of the Coscuin Chronicles (unpublished)
  • First and Last Islands, 4th and final volume of the Coscuin Chronicles (unpublished)
  • Okla Hannali (1972)
  • Esteban (unpublished)
  • Antonino Vescovo (unpublished)

Science Fiction and Fantasy novels

  • Past Master, 1968
  • The Reefs of Earth, 1968
  • Space Chantey, 1968 (a retelling of the Odyssey in SF terms).
  • Fourth Mansions, 1969
  • Arrive at Easterwine: The Autobiography of a Ktistec Machine as Conveyed to R. A. Lafferty, 1971
  • Not to Mention Camels, 1976
  • Aurelia, 1982
  • Annals of Klepsis, 1983
  • Serpent’s Egg, 1987
  • East of Laughter, 1988
  • The Elliptical Grave, 1989
  • Dotty, 1990
  • Sindbad: The Thirteenth Voyage, 1999
  • When All the World Was Young (unpublished)

Autobiographical novels

In a Green Tree

  • My Heart Leaps Up, 1920-1928
  • Grasshoppers and Wild Honey, 1928-1942 (unpublished)
  • Deep Scars of the Thunder, 1942-1960 (unpublished)
  • Incidents of Travel in Flatland, 1960-1978 (unpublished)

The Devil is Dead Trilogy

  • The Devil is Dead (1971)
    • the "Interglossia"; a portion of The Devil is Dead which was omitted from printings of it; the Interglossia has been republished in How Many Miles to Babylon? & in pgs 16-18, Issue 5 of A Magazine of Popular Literature and Popular Culture, in 1972 (ed. by Tom Collins & published by Fan Press of Lakemont, GA) ; OCLC: 70161160
    • "Apocryphal Passage of the Last Night Of Count Finnegan On Galveston Island"; the last chapter of The Devil Is Dead, omitted from the standard version, because the publisher of the first edition did not receive it in time to include it; later published separately in Episodes of the Argo
  • Archipelago: the first book of The Devil is Dead trilogy (1979)
  • More Than Melchisedech
  • Tales of Chicago
  • Tales of Midnight
  • Argo