Passingham, W J
Entry updated 9 April 2015. Tagged: Author, Fan.
(1897-1957) UK journalist who wrote several science-fiction serials for the popular weeklies in the 1930s, none of which was reprinted in book form. Passingham's interest in the progress of science was evident from several articles he wrote for London weekly papers such as "Today's Sky-Baby May be Tomorrow's Flying Giant" (18 January 1936 The Passing Show), which profiled the early Rockets pioneers Max Valier and Robert H Goddard (1882-1945). His's first serial was "The Broadcast Murders" (29 May-14 August 1937 The Passing Show) where a Mad Scientist perfects a radio beam capable of destroying ships and aircraft. In "When London Fell" (18 September-4 December 1937 The Passing Show), the expansion of the Underground (see Underground) – a subject that had long fascinated Passingham and which he wrote about in The Romance of London's Underground (1932) – causes vast cracks to appear under London, through which emerge Dinosaurs. Odhams, who published The Passing Show, must have felt Passingham's serials were just right for younger readers: his next appeared in their newly created boys' magazine (see Boys' Papers) Modern Wonder, "Atlantis Returns" (23 October 1937-15 January 1938; Modern Wonder) (see Atlantis). Arguably Passingham's most intriguing serial was "World Without Time" (25 June-10 September 1938 The Passing Show) in which the rotation of the Earth accelerates. His final pre-war serial was perhaps his least sophisticated, "The World Behind the Moon" (22 October 1938-28 June 1939 Modern Wonder) in which a rogue planet inhabited by frog-like Aliens has positioned itself on the far side of the moon (see Counter-Earth).
Passingham's role in sf went beyond his fiction. He became aware of the fledgling science fiction Fandom in 1938, discovering he was a near neighbour of fellow-journalist Walter Gillings, and joined the Science Fiction Association. Through his connections he managed to put John Carnell in touch with the publisher The World Says in 1939, with the prospect of converting New Worlds into a professional SF Magazine, but the publisher immediately collapsed. Passingham continued to contribute to the newspapers and wrote an occasional series, The Man With the Microscopic Eyes, which began with "The Searchlight Gun" (27 May 1939 Illustrated) and features a man who turns detective because his eyes have become ultra-myopic so that he can see the minutest detail. Passingham's mystery novels did appear in book form, and he later wrote two Sexton Blake (see Sexton Blake Library) novels, but because none of his sf works were perpetuated in book editions his contribution to British sf of the 1930s is generally overlooked. [MA]
William John Passingham
born Forest Gate, Essex: 1897 [April/June quarter]
died Essex: 1957 [January/March quarter]
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