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Fast, Howard

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1914-2003) US author best known for his work outside the sf field: historical novels under his own name, and detective novels and thrillers as by E V Cunningham. The Unvanquished (1942) and Spartacus (1951), both signed with his own name, remain perhaps his most familiar titles. He began publishing sf with "Wrath of the Purple" for Amazing in October 1932, about a blob (see Biology) whose growth is unstoppable (for a while), but did not actively produce sf until the later 1950s, when he started a long association with The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. His sf and fantasy stories have been collected in The Edge of Tomorrow (coll 1961), The General Zapped an Angel: New Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction (coll 1970) and A Touch of Infinity: Thirteen New Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction (coll 1973); all the stories in the latter two volumes were reassembled as Time and the Riddle: Thirty-One Zen Stories (coll 1975). His work is sharply political in implication – he was a member of the Communist Party 1943-1956, being imprisoned for contempt of Congress in 1947; Peekskill: USA: A Personal Experience (1951) is a scathing record of how the authorities dealt with a political protest famous for the involvement of folk singer Pete Seeger (1919-2014) – and eschews most of the cruder satisfactions of genre fiction.

Phyllis (1962) as by E V Cunningham, is a borderline sf novel in which a US and a Soviet scientist come together to try to force their governments to ban the bomb by threatening to explode two themselves. In "The Trap", a novel-length tale which occupies most of The Hunter and The Trap (coll 1967), the US Government secretly attempts to raise exceptional children in a monitored environment; when the Department of Defense attempts to view the results the children, now telepathic, close themselves off from the world to breed Homo superior. Harlan Ellison, among others, has expressed high praise for Fast's stories, but admiration, though widespread, is not universal. Some critics have seen their occasionally religiose moralizing as cloying and their ideative content as trite. Given the strength of the convictions conveyed, this is a price likely to be exacted. [JC]

see also: Satire.

Howard Melvin Fast

born New York: 11 November 1914

died Old Greenwich, Connecticut: 12 March 2003



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