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Ely, David

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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Working name of US journalist and author David Eli Lilienthal (1927-    ), who began to publish work of sf interest with "The Last Friday in August" for Fantastic in December 1961, but who is perhaps best known for a politically charged borderline thriller, The Tour (1967), in which tourists visit a fictional South American country to engage in "fake" sex, violence, guerrilla warfare, and reality-show-like rituals. The fabrication of reality (see Perception) for an anomie-ridden middle class also impels his first sf novel, Seconds (1963), which had some initial success and was made into the fine John Frankenheimer film Seconds (1966), financed by and starring Rock Hudson (1925-1985). Both book and film revolve around an organization which transforms middle-aged men into young, Rock-Hudson-like he-men; at first the change is exciting, but soon the falsity of being Rock Hudson changes everything to nightmare. (Hudson, a gay man who died of AIDS, seems clearly to have been unpacking his own necessary impostures here.) In the title novella in Time Out (coll 1968), after a Near Future nuclear Disaster has razed the United Kingdom to the ground, America and the USSR decide to rebuild the entire country in secret; the Satire is broad, but occasionally telling. The protagonist of Ely's second sf novel, A Journal of the Flood Year (1992), discovers that a huge wall designed to reclaim part of the American continental shelf from the Atlantic has begun to leak in this rigidly stratified Near Future world – of which the wall is a potently rendered symbol – and his attempt to warn the government of the oncoming and inevitable Disaster prompts nothing but a punitive denial syndrome. [JC]

see also: Psychology.

David Eli Lilienthal

born Chicago, Illinois: 19 November 1927


  • Seconds (New York: Pantheon Books, 1963) [hb/Muriel Nasser]
  • Time Out (New York: Delacorte Press, 1968) [coll: hb/Janet Halverson]
  • A Journal of the Flood Year (New York: David I Fine, 1992) [hb/Candy Jernigan]


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