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May, Julian

Entry updated 10 October 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1931-2017) US editor and author, active in US Fandom in the 1940s and early 1950s; married to T E Dikty from 1953 to his death in 1991, founding with him Publication Associates in 1957 (see his entry for this and later enterprises); he also served as editor and agent for all her mature work. She began publishing sf with "Dune Roller" for Astounding in December 1951, a frequently anthologized story that was dramatized for the Television series Tales of Tomorrow (1951-1953) and filmed as The Cremators (1972; vt Dune Rollers). Though she remained active in Fandom (where she chaired the 1952 Worldcon, the first woman in this role), she became relatively inactive in the sf genre for many years. During this time, under her own name and a number of pseudonyms, including Bob Cunningham, John Feilen, Matthew G Grant, Jean Wright Thorne and George Zanderbergen, she wrote between 250 and 290 books, most of them nonfiction juveniles: many were efficient presentations of science and nature topics, others were biographies. During this period, her only work of sf interest appeared as by Ian Thorne [see Checklist] and Lee N Falconer, under which name she wrote A Gazeteer of the Hyborian World of Conan (1977).

In the 1980s May turned her attention once again to sf, making an immediate and very substantial impact with her Saga of Pliocene Exile, which serves as an extensive prelude to the Galactic Milieu sequence: The Many-Colored Land (1981), which won a 1982 Locus Award, and The Golden Torc (1982), both assembled as The Many-Colored Land & The Golden Torc (omni 1982); plus The Nonborn King (1983) and The Adversary (1984), both assembled as The Nonborn King & The Adversary (omni 1984); and supplemented by The Pliocene Companion (1984; vt A Pliocene Companion: A Guide to the Saga of Pliocene Exile 1985). The Galactic Milieu sequence begins with a transitional volume – Intervention (1987; vt in two vols The Surveillance 1988 and The Metaconcert 1988) – and continues with Jack the Bodiless (1992), Diamond Mask (1994) and Magnificat (1996). Underlying the increasingly complicated storyline of this four-volume prelude is what might be described as a Planetary Romance set on Earth: the protagonists have left a Utopian twenty-second century society from which they have felt estranged, via one-way Time Travel six million years into deep prehistory (see Prehistoric SF), where they discover not only that the Pliocene is rich in potential but that two apparently Alien species are in a state of deadly conflict over the young world and over the humans who have already arrived there. Much additional material – from archetypes out of Celtic myths (see Mythology) to the introductions of various Psi Powers to intimations of Hard SF – is fed into this vision, leavened intermittently by a Trickster protagonist or two. The effect is at times reminiscent of the Planetary-Romance Baroque of Roger Zelazny.

With Intervention the overall sequence moves into an Alternate History version of contemporary times which segues into the Galactic Milieu tales, where the family romance of the Remillard clan intersects with explanatory narratives set deep into the past, and with the melodramatic course of the assessing of humanity's potential role (if any) in the Galactic Milieu (see Galactic Empires) itself. The narrative is increasingly charged with metaphysical intonations, linked to a sustaining concern with the attractive theme of psychic Evolution; in the end, Zelazny seems at times less clearly evoked than Doris Lessing.

May's next series, the Shared World Trillium sequence with (varyingly) Marion Zimmer Bradley and Andre Norton, is fantasy [see Checklist]; but the Rampart Worlds sequence – comprising Perseus Spur (1998), Orion Arm (1999) and Sagittarius Whorl (2001) [for subtitles see Checklist] – is lightweight action-adventure sf set in a corporation-dominated Galactic Empire in the moderately distant future, and involves complex ownership disputes that mask deeper concerns. The competence of the sequence is undeniable, though the enthralling driven fieriness of the Galactic Milieu books is rarely hinted at. The Boreal Moon Tale sequence is again fantasy [see Checklist]. There is no question but that May is of real importance for the emotional range and moments of conceptual daring found in the eight Galactic Milieu novels: that, for very many readers, has been triumph enough. [JC]

Julian May Dikty

born Chicago, Illinois: 10 July 1931

died Bellevue, Washington: 17 October 2017



Galactic Milieu: Saga of Pliocene Exile:

Galactic Milieu

  • Intervention (Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987) [Galactic Milieu: hb/Stephen Bradbury]
    • The Surveillance (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 1988) [cut vt containing the first half of the above: Galactic Milieu: pb/Michael Herring]
    • Metaconcert (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 1989) [cut vt containing the second half of the above: Galactic Milieu: pb/Michael Herring]
  • Jack the Bodiless (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1992) [Galactic Milieu: hb/Stephen Bradbury]
  • Diamond Mask (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1994) [Galactic Milieu: hb/Archie Ferguson]
  • Magnificat (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1996) [Galactic Milieu: hb/Archie Ferguson]

Trillium (for convenience all titles are listed)

Rampart Worlds

Boreal Moon Tale

ties as by Ian Thorne

nonfiction as by Ian Thorne

  • Godzilla (Mankato, Minnesota: Crestwood House, 1977) [nonfiction: chap: tie to the film: hb/]
  • King Kong (Mankato, Minnesota: Creative Educational Society, 1977) [nonfiction: chap: hb/]
  • Mad Scientists (Mankato, Minnesota: Crestwood House, 1977) [nonfiction: chap: tie to the film: hb/]

nonfiction as by Lee N Falconer

nonfiction as Julian May (highly selected)

about the author


previous versions of this entry

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