Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff (born 1954 in California and raised in Nebraska and lives near San Jose California) is a versatile author and performer, best known for her science fiction and fantasy works. Bohnhoff also writes magic realism, nonfiction, and performs music since 1979—generally folk or rock music, and since the 1990s more specifically filk and parody music styles—with her husband, Jeff Bohnhoff.
Bohnhoff, mother of three and married and a Bahá'í since 1981, began her interest in science fiction
after watching The Day the Earth Stood Still
as a child. Her mother was a singer and music was a predominant passion, over writing, through her high school and college days.
Over a decade after her high school experience of choosing between practical subjects and the arts of music and writing Bohnhoff wrote an autobiographical essay "But My Mother Was a Singer" in which she struggles with the question and argues that though the Bahá'í teachings include an admiration for the arts, and earning a livelihood by one's calling, "… using our cultural criteria, the arts may seem to have little to do with survival. But they have a tremendous amount to do with 'carrying forward an ever advancing civilization' ." Eventually she held a day job as an Instructional Designer and Manager for Kelly Services for some years but bosses would either "urge me to give up music" or told her "You don't belong here" while co-workers would misunderstand the life of the artist - "'If you are any good, what are you doing working here?'" "Minor setbacks", Bohnhoff continues, "in my 'career' provided intensely embarrassing situations at work." On the musical side the drive to do music "…took me through years of food stamps and rice cakes, the disappointment and frustration of losing band members and starting over…" as well as taking her through "… the inertia when playing 'wall paper' music …[and] the 'top 40' club act". Along with such struggles is the spiritual one of purity of motive - "I, too, love applause, and to me the act of sharing music is more rewarding than writing it" and which genre of music was spiritual? She writes that at one point, eight months pregnant, she had an opportunity to work at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley for "fifteen hour days" but learned that "…I was a musician and a writer by natural inclination, not a celebrity" and "found a deeper understanding of Bahá'u'lláh's admonition to be independent of all save God." She resolves the conflict noting "Any musician who has heard a song come to life out of the weave of rhythm and melody, any writer who has ever created a set of characters, any painter who has laid brush to canvas, any sculptor who has ever been up to his elbows in clay or marble dust, any woman who has ever given birth to a child, any and all have experienced something central to understanding the love that motivated the First Creator." Bohnhoff writes using an Apple Inc. PowerBook.
Bohnhoff has written several dozen short stories and novelettes in most of the well known publishing magazines: Analog Magazine
, Interzone (magazine)
, Amazing Stories
, Realms of Fantasy
, Jim Baen's Universe
, and others. Many of them have a recognizable relationship to religions - several have a significant basis in relation to the Bahá'í Faith
and a few use Pagan
(Infinite Space, Infinite God
), and Moslem
(The Sons of the Fathers
) characters or situations. Two brief examples include "Home is Where..." in which a pair of time traveling historians from the future employ an unusual conflict resolution method when their homesick kids go on strike during a Cold War visit to a US Air Force Base, and "The White Dog" wherein a lady comes to terms with her shocking albino appearance through the allegorical totem used by `Abdu'l-Bahá
-- a little white dog. The story "The White Dog" was a finalist for the 1999 BSFA award
. "Cruel and Unusual Punishment" was included in the E-book anthology Infinite Sky, Infinite God
which won the 2007 EPPIE award
. The story "O, Pioneer" was a finalist for the 2006 Sidewise Award for Alternate History
In addition to her shorter works Bohnhoff has written several full length novels which elaborate on her interests in examining/promoting feminist and religious concepts in science fiction, fantasy and related genres. Her most well known novel may be The Meri
which became a trilogy and has been published twice (1992 and 2005) and was a finalist for Analog
's 1993 award for Best First Novel Bohnhoff has worked with internet development of online content with her editorship of Hackoff.com
- a blook
by Tom Evslin
Feminist and Religious Themes
series revolves around the period of transition among the people who live on a peninsula. The chapters are headed with quotes from scripture presented as those of the religion of the people but many are in fact quotes from Bahá'í scripture
, while a few are from the Bible
. The first and second book also carry an acknowledgement of Bahá'u'lláh
, a Local Spiritual Assembly
and Bahá'í community. The plot involves a progression on the understanding of a people in relation to the role and position of women. Unknown to the people of the story, women have always been instrumental to their religion as agents of God
and a chosen few have always acted as the personification of the Spirit of God, or "Meri". The first book focuses on a young girl destined to take on that role. While similar to other stories of the triumph of women it has several unique qualities most particularly a central male character being her benefactor and teacher and not an obstacle she has to overcome. The second book focuses on the return of the prior "Meri" who takes it as her mission as the head of the renewed religion to promulgate the new paradigm of the role of women. The third book focuses on her transition to being a head of state but wrestling with several of the same issues from among as well as beyond her people. Another novel she has written called The Spirit Gate
has many of the same features but is written in a different context - a fantasy work set in a historical time and place of roughly 1000AD in the area today of Poland and Ukraine where two forms of Christianity
(Eastern Orthodox and Catholic) and Islam
met the pagan older religion. Bahá’í themes, especially in the respect granted other religions, are largely identified with the older religion. Several of these themes are also in Bohnhoff's shorter writings - "Infinite Sky, Infinite God" highlights a Catholic
future. Several short stories center on women - like "The Doctor's Wife" and "The White Dog" and both have reference to a religion.
Bohnhoff has worked in a number of venues to contribute to the field of authorship and relevance of Science Fiction and Fantasy at SciFi/Fa Conventions. She has participated in and moderated panel discussions for over a decade:
- "Different Types of Writing
- "Turning Mental Blocks into Building Blocks,
- "Is SF Relevant Any More? Was It Ever?,
- "Mythic roots of fantasy"
- "Coping with and/or embracing change"
- "The Rise and Fall of Civilization"
- "Historical Fiction: Call it fantasy, and they'll buy it. Will readers--and thus editors--only buy historical fiction when you add magic and fairies?"
- "Science and Religion: Harmony or Discord"
- "Cardinal Richelieu revisited - the good and evil priest in literature"
- "Research for alternate history. Sources to use so good history can make good fiction"
- "Is it now chic to be geek - Is this the age of the geek?"
- "Asian-themed fantasy, urban fantasy, maybe even Roman fantasy?"
- "Disenchantment - Fantasy novelists portrayals of Christian and Christian-like faiths..."
- "Evolution - Science vs. Religion why do they disagree? And if people can re-engineer themselves where does that leave God?"
- "The Art & Craft of Writing
- "Plot, Settings, and Characters"
- "Tolkien vs Jackson"
- "Show me - Don't tell me"
- "How to Write the BEST First Line"
- "The Wiccan Culture: An Introduction"
- "The Short Story as an Art Form"
- "Getting Your Writing to Grow Up"
Bohnhoff has also contributed to professional writing magazines and online presentations.
- "But My Mother Was a Singer" (The Creative Circle - Art, Literature and Music in Bahá'í Perspective, anthology, Kalimat Press, 1989) ISBN 0-933770-68-5
- "Hand-Me-Down Town" (Analog, 1989)
- "A Little Bit of an Eclipse" (Analog, 1990)
- "Blythe Magic" (Analog, 1990)
- "Heroes" (Analog, 1990)
- "Shaman" (Analog, 1990)
- "Hobbits" (Analog, 1991 / Hobbits, Halflings, Warrows & Wee Folkd, Questar 1993)
- "Home Is Where..." (Analog, 1991)
- "If It Ain't Broke..." (Analog, 1991)
- "The Devil His Due" (Amazing Stories, 1991)
- "The Doctor's Wife" (Analog, 1992)
- THE MERI (Baen, 1992, Sense of Wonder Press, James A. Rock & Co., Pub. 2005) (first of The Meri trilogy) ISBN 0-671-72115-1
- "An End to Writer's Block" (Writer's Digest, 1992)
- "A Tear in the Mind's Eye" (Analog, 1993)
- "Squatter's Rights" (Analog, 1993)
- "Taco Del and the Fabled Tree of Destiny" (Amazing Stories, 1993)
- TAMINY (Baen, 1993) (second of The Meri trilogy) ISBN 0-671-72174-7
- "The Boy Who Loved Clouds" (Amazing Stories, 1993)
- "As the Angels in Heaven" (Analog, 1995)
- THE CRYSTAL ROSE (Baen, 1995) (third of The Meri trilogy) ISBN 0-671-87648-1
- "The Secret Life of Gods" (Analog, 1995)
- "The Sons of the Fathers" (Century, 1995)
- "Marsh Mallow" (Analog, 1996)
- THE SPIRIT GATE (Baen, 1996)
- "Ask Arlen" (Analog, 1997)
- "Content with the Mysterious" (Analog, 1997)
- "Doctor Dodge" (Interzone, 1997)
- "Pipe Dreams" (Analog, 1997)
- "Dialogue and Characterization" (The Writer, 1997, The Writer's Handbook, 1998)
- "Beggars Might Ride" (Interzone, 1998)
- "Silver Lining" (Interzone, 1998)
- "Who Have No Eyes" (Interzone, 1998)
- "White Dog" (Interzone, 1999)
- "Taming the Fictional Wilds" (Fiction Writer Magazine, 1999)
- "Any Mother's Son" (Analog, 2000)
- "A Hole in Her Head" (Realms of Fantasy, 2001)
- "Cruel and Unusual Punishment" (Interzone, 2002, and Infinite Sky, Infinite God. anthology, 2006) (2007 winner of the EPPIE award)
- MAGIC TIME: ANGELFIRE (with Marc Zicree) (Eos, 2002) ISBN 9780061050695
- "Distance" (Analog, 2003)
- "O, Pioneer" (Paradox, 2005)
- "Dabbling in Magic" (Speculations, 2005)
- Hackoff.com a blook (Bohnhoff was the editor) by Tom Evslin.
- "Willies" (Analog, 2006)
- "The Nature of Things" (Jim Baen's Universe, 2006)
- MR. TWILIGHT - (with Michael Reaves) (Del Rey, 2006)
- ''Batman; Fear Itself" (Comic Book with Michael Reaves) (Del Rey and DC Comics, 2007)
Though Bohnhoff's interest in music as a career stretches back to her high school years and her mother, her avocation as a musician was started by 1980 when she was a member of a band called "Talisman" playing a mix of original progressive rock
and top 40
and got some airtime on KZAP
, a radio station in Sacramento, California
. The Bonhoffs later reformed as part the band "Syntax" through which they released a cassette tape "Silent Planet" in 1990 - "Syntax" using a substantial amount of MIDI
based music. They were introduced to filk
music in 1991 and predominantly use acoustic guitars
in their live shows. In 1991 the Bohnhoffs had been invited to a science fiction convention for Maya's "Hand-me Down Town" publication in Analog magazine because Maya was up for the Nebula Award
. At a party for the event Jeff had the opportunity to a jam session
with founding filk musicians Dr. Jane Robinson
, Cynthia McQuillin
and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
. After other conventions mostly for Maya's writing, Jeff and Maya were spontaneously invited to play music at the 1995 Baycon
by Kathy Mar
. It was after a long evening of music that they wrote "Knights in White Satin". Filk and parody have become their main musical presence, though now they perform through their own production company, MysticFig and as a duo predominantly.
Mrs. and Mr. Bohnhoff have given concerts at various science fiction conventions and conference for many years and have won awards doing so. They have attended conventions Norwescon, Worldcon, LepreCon, Consonance, OryCon, the Ohio Valley Filk Fest and others. They have produced several of their own tapes and CDs through their own production company. They also play often at the local Bahá'í events and Centers. Maya also participated in a panel discussion "Intro to Filk - Who are those people sing weird songs?" at the 1997 OryCon and "Steal That Tune - Filkers have borrowed tunes from folk sources, rock singers, Broadway shows, you name it. And not all of the results are parodies...." with her husband and others.
- Silent Planet (1990) (cassette) (as part of the band "Syntax")
- Retro Rocket Science (2001)
- Manhattan Sleeps (2002)
- Aliens Ate My Homework (2003) (Bohnhoffs' song Knights in White Satin won the 2003 Pegasus Awards for Best Writer/Composer, the Cat Faber Best Parody, by the Ohio Valley Filk Fest concom.
- Harmony Heifers (2005) (and won the 2005 Pegasus Award for Best Performers)
- Official Webpage
- Biographical Interview of Maya A Baha'i Perspective online radio program, WXOJ-LP Northampton MA, 103.3 FM.
- Biographical Interview of Jeff A Baha'i Perspective online radio program, WXOJ-LP Northampton MA, 103.3 FM.
- Author page at ISFDB
- Author page at Baens-Universe Publishers
- Author page at Authorsden
- Scifi Horizons Interviews- Author Maya Bohnhoff at the WFC in early November 2005. Bohnhoff discusses Mr. Twilight (referred to by its working title, Brimstone Blues.) Copyright © 2007 Scifihorizons, MOTI Group.
- SF Review of Magic Time by Ernest Lilley.
- TV series [[Prisoners of Gravity] - Original Episode Guide] In episode 471005, aka Madness, airdate: October 29, 1992, Bohnhoff was interviewed.
- Feministsf Wiki Entry
- Seanan McGuire's Stars Fall Home - Featured Guest Artists
- _The Meri_ and _Taminy_ by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff a book review by Mary K. Kuhner (one of the very very few substantial reviews of the books.)
- a google of reviews where Maya "Kaathryn" (her least misspelled and unique name) Bohnhoff is mentioned.