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Maine, Charles Eric

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author, Fan.

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Pseudonym used by UK author David McIlwain (1921-1981) for his sf; two other pseudonyms, Richard Rayner and Robert Wade, were used for detective thrillers. Maine was one of the relatively few but extremely active UK fans before World War Two, and in 1938 published his first story, "The Mirror", in his Fanzine The Satellite, which he edited with Jonathan Burke; he also appeared in the fanzine incarnation of New Worlds. His first novel was Spaceways: A Story of the Very Near Future (1953; vt Spaceways Satellite 1958), based on his own BBC Radio play Spaceways (1952); it was filmed as Spaceways (1953). Also developed from a script, in this case his own screenplay for Timeslip (1955; vt The Atomic Man), is Maine's The Isotope Man (1957), which begins his only series, the Mike Delaney books, the other volumes in which are Subterfuge (1959) and Never Let Up (1964). Like most of his sf, these have a leaning towards thriller-like plots and a disinclination to argue too closely scientific pinnings that are often shaky, as in Escapement (1956; vt The Man Who Couldn't Sleep 1958), a weak Mad Scientist tale involving manipulated dreams which was subsequently filmed as The Electronic Monster (1957; vt The Dream Machine).

The looseness of Maine's grasp of science is particularly visible in stories featuring Hard-SF themes like Space Flight as in High Vacuum (1957), or even global Disaster as in The Tide Went Out (1958; vt Thirst! 1977), in which earthquake activity causes Earth's oceans to drain away into implausible Underground fissures or perhaps even the Hollow Earth. In Calculated Risk (1960), Time Travellers from the future come back to the present in an attempt to prevent a devastating nuclear war which had created a Ruined Earth. Sometimes lightly, sometimes with gravity, Maine's numerous books touch on a variety of sf themes from Rockets to Sociology, but generally without more than fitfully illuminating them; he was determinedly an author of middle-of-the-road Genre SF, and as such was successful.

His finest novel is generally thought to be The Mind of Mr Soames (1961), a story of a man who does not reach consciousness until the age of thirty, and of the arguments about how best to educate him, with moral issues dealt with quite sensitively; the book was filmed as The Mind of Mr Soames (1969). The Darkest of Nights (1962; vt Survival Margin 1968; rev vt The Big Death 1978), though perhaps too heavily focused on a dissolving marriage, effectively portrays a global Pandemic caused by a "mutated virus" originating in China. [JC/PN/DRL]

see also: Antigravity; Clones; Medicine; Money; Moon.

David McIlwain

born Liverpool, England: 21 January 1921

died London: 30 November 1981



Mike Delaney

  • The Isotope Man (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1957) [tie: novelizing the film Timeslip: Mike Delaney: hb/Martin Kaye]
  • Subterfuge (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1959) [Mike Delaney: hb/Martin Kaye]
  • Never Let Up (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1964) [Mike Delaney: hb/John Woodcock]

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