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McIntosh, J T

Entry updated 14 August 2023. Tagged: Author.

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Pseudonym of Scottish author and journalist James Murdoch MacGregor (1925-2008), used for all his sf writing excepting one story as by H J Murdoch for Science Fantasy; in some early work the surname was spelled M'Intosh. He also wrote non-sf under his own name. He began publishing sf with "The Curfew Tolls" in Astounding in December 1950, producing many stories (though no collections) through 1980. With his first novel, World Out of Mind (1953), he fully entered a career that was, in its early years, notably successful. World Out of Mind implausibly but enjoyably sets a disguised Alien on an Earth dominated by aptitude tests, where he wins his way to the top and thence prepares the way for Invasion. Born Leader (1954; vt Worlds Apart 1958) puts two sets of colonists from a destroyed Earth on nearby planets (see Colonization of Other Worlds), where the authoritarian set conflicts with the libertarian set. In One in Three Hundred (February 1953 F&SF; exp 1954), Earth is doomed again, and pilots of the only Spaceships available are given the task of selecting those they will save of the planet's billions of inhabitants. The Fittest (1955; vt The Rule of the Pagbeasts 1956) depicts the harrowing effects of a misfired experiment to increase animal Intelligence (see Uplift). 200 Years to Christmas (1961 dos) is a routine but competent variation on the Generation-Starship theme.

McIntosh was one of the scriptwriters for the film Satellite in the Sky (1956).

Although some of McIntosh's novels in the 1960s and 1970s continued to demonstrate a no-nonsense professional skill with plot and competence at creating identifiable characters, his work began to show some slackening of interest: The Million Cities (August 1958 Satellite; rev 1963) is a bland urban Dystopia; The Noman Way (July-November 1952 New Worlds as "The ESP Worlds"; 1964) less interestingly repeats the test situation of his first novel, which seems to have been something of a preoccupation of his, for it turns up also in the serial "The Lady and the Bull" (November-December 1955 Authentic); inverting the theme, a pair of Supermen (male and female) in Six Gates from Limbo (1968) are not tested by but are required to judge a series of colony-world Dystopias. Out of Chaos (1965) is a routine Post-Holocaust novel; Time for a Change (1967; vt Snow White and the Giants 1968) treats a local intrusion of time-travelling aliens as a domestic issue; Flight from Rebirth (March 1960 Astounding/Analog as "Immortality – For Some"; much exp 1971), a chase tale in an urban setting, again features testing; A Planet Called Utopia (1979) is set on a planet boasting a genuine Utopia, with a single major faultline: as control over pain has not been achieved, Immortality is treated as a curse.

McIntosh never lost the vivid narrative skills that made him an interesting figure of 1950s sf, but his failure to challenge himself or his readers in his later career led to results that verged on mediocrity. His early work warrants revival. After 1980 he fell silent. [JC]

see also: Androids; Disaster; End of the World; Games and Sports; Keep; Sun.

James Murdoch MacGregor

born Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland: 14 February 1925

died Aberdeen, Scotland: 22 July 2008


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