Search SFE    Search EoF

  Omit cross-reference entries  

MacDonald, John D

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

Icon made by Freepik from


(1916-1986) US author and ex-lieutenant colonel in the US Army, known mainly for such well-written thrillers as The Brass Cupcake (1950) and the twenty-one Travis McGee novels (1964-1985), which quickly evolved from seemingly escapist tales of derring-do, with strong hints of Ecological despair about the fate of Florida, into impassioned and savagely explicit laments for that state, for the planet, and for the human race; the nonfiction Reading for Survival (1987) is couched as a conversation about the past and the Near Future between Travis McGee and his intellectual guru Meyer, whose ebullient pessimism about humanity's chances increasingly sets the tone for the series from Darker Than Amber (1966) onward. None of MacDonald's sf, which began early in his career with "Cosmetics" for Astounding in February 1948, and some of which was written under the pseudonyms John Wade Farrell and Peter Reed, significantly anticipates this later mood. A first selection from his fifty or so sf stories was assembled in Other Times, Other Worlds (coll 1978).

In his first years as a publishing writer, MacDonald wrote for various markets; his first long tale may have been "You've Got to be Cold" (April-May 1947 The Shadow; vt "The Night is Over" [his original title] in More Good Old Stuff, coll 1985). His two early sf novels, Wine of the Dreamers (May 1950 Startling Stories; 1951; vt Planet of the Dreamers 1953) and Ballroom of the Skies (1952), were both polished and proficient adventures in Paranoid sf involving extraterrestrial manipulations of humanity: inadvertent in the first book, as the Alien dreamers on their distant planet think humans are their dreams; and in the second, set soon after World War Three in a world dominated by India, as part of a winnowing process to select good leadership material to help rule the galaxy (see Uplift). A later novel, The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything (1962), filmed for Television as The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything (1980) directed by William Wiard, is a complicated comic adventure with elements of homage to Thorne Smith's fantasies, though the darker elements implied in this kind of frolic are more sharply foregrounded by MacDonald: the protagonist inherits an Invention from his recently deceased uncle, a watch which, when correctly used, speeds up time for him alone, rendering him invisible to the people in real, apparently frozen, time, allowing him to invade the privacy of others and giving him great power (see Invisibility; Stasis Field; Time Distortion). All three novels were assembled as Time and Tomorrow (omni 1980). [JC/PN]

see also: Leisure; Pulp.

John Dann MacDonald

born Sharon, Pennsylvania: 24 July 1916

died Milwaukee, Wisconsin: 28 December 1986

works (highly selected)


  • Reading for Survival (Washington, District of Columbia: Center for the Book of the Library of Congress, 1987) [nonfiction: pb/nonpictorial]

about the author


previous versions of this entry

This website uses cookies.  More information here. Accept Cookies