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Schmitz, James H

Entry updated 7 November 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1911-1981) German-born author whose parents were American; in the US from 1938, serving with the USAF in World War Two; his first story was "Greenface" for Unknown in August 1943. From 1949, when "Agent of Vega" (July 1949 Astounding) appeared as the first of four stories featuring sentient Robot Spaceships and "Galactic Zones" troubleshooters with Psi Powers, later assembled as Agent of Vega (coll of linked stories 1960) – they are also included in Agent of Vega and Other Stories (coll 2001) with many other tales – he regularly produced the kind of Genre SF for which he remains most warmly remembered: Space-Opera adventures, several featuring female Heroes depicted with minimum recourse to their "femininity" – they perform their active tasks, and save the Universe when necessary, in a manner almost completely free of sexual role-playing Clichés. After Agent of Vega, most of his best work shares a roughly characterized common background, a Galaxy inhabited by humans and Aliens with room for all and numerous opportunities for discoveries and reversals that carefully fall short of threatening the stability of that background, whose stabilizing function is commonly encountered in the kind of Future History underlying the argued vision of the galaxy as published in Astounding during the two decades – 1950 to about 1970 – of Schmitz's greatest activity. Many of his stories, as a result, focus less on moments of Conceptual Breakthrough than on the pragmatic operations of teams and bureaux involved in maintaining the state of things against criminals, Monsters and unfriendly species; in this they rather resemble the tales of Murray Leinster, though they are more vigorous and less inclined to punish adventurousness. Psi Powers are frequently found, especially Telepathy.

At the heart of this common Universe is the Federation of the Hub and its Overgovernment, under which various agencies operate – notably the Psychology Service that monitors criminal use of Psi Powers. The main Hub sequence first appeared in book form as A Tale of Two Clocks (1962; vt Legacy 1979), A Nice Day for Screaming and Other Tales of the Hub (coll 1965), The Demon Breed (September-October 1968 Analog as "The Tuvela"; exp 1968) and portions of A Pride of Monsters (coll 1970). A Tale of Two Clocks, dealing with complex repercussions of the discovery and scientific/Economic implications of artificial "plasmoid" life created long ago by "Old Galactic" Forerunners, is particularly exuberant in its inventiveness; The Demon Breed features a covert Alien Invasion plan thwarted partly by Eric Frank Russell-style bluff and partly by the female protagonist's action-adventure tactics and knowledge of exotic Biology in the vividly realized floating-Island setting. The Telzey Amberdon books – The Universe Against Her (June 1962, May-June 1964 Analog as "Novice" and "Undercurrents"; fixup 1964), The Telzey Toy (coll 1973) and The Lion Game (April, August 1965 Analog as "Goblin Night" and "Sleep No More"; cont August-September 1971 Analog as "The Lion Game"; fixup 1973) – nestle conceptually within the Hub. Amberdon, a brilliant young Telepath whom the Psychology Service of the Overgovernment would like to recruit as a full agent but who stubbornly retains a large measure of independence, is perhaps Schmitz's most typical creation, and the stories in which she performs her activities are only marginally less appealing than his single finest and funniest novel, The Witches of Karres (December 1949 Astounding; exp 1966), which features three Amberdon-like juvenile "witches" with Psi Powers and their rescue from Slavery by a Spaceship captain in whom they induce first apoplexy and eventually transcendence – for he too finds Superpowers within himself.

All the Hub stories – including the Hub: Telzey Amberdon subseries – have been assembled in four omnibus volumes, beginning with Telzey Amberdon: The Complete Federation of the Hub Volume 1 (coll 2000) edited by Eric Flint and Guy Gordon [as their contents are extensively resorted and include many previously uncollected stories, these omnis are listed separately in the Checklist below]. A further three volumes edited by Flint and Gordon collect the rest of Schmitz's works including the aforementioned The Witches of Karres, The Eternal Frontiers (1973) – another novel set outside the Hub background, which (despite much violent action on an intended colony world whose "native" predators prove to be disguised Aliens wielding devastating Technology) fails to delight – the Agent of Vega story sequence, and numerous independent tales. The Best of James H. Schmitz (coll 1991) edited by Mark L Olson is a good conspectus, though Eternal Frontier (coll 2002) edited by Eric Flint and Guy Gordon, is more comprehensive. Although Telzey Amberdon is the most frequent recurring character in the Hub sequence, there are several others including Trigger Argee and Nile Etland, the resourceful female protagonists of A Tale of Two Clocks and The Demon Breed respectively. Tables of recurring characters appear in The Best of James H. Schmitz and The Hub: Dangerous Territory: The Complete Federation of the Hub Volume 4 (omni 2001).

It may be that Schmitz's work is too pleasing to have seemed revolutionary, and indeed – with the exception of his choice of protagonists – he always played very safe with conventions; but for many years he succeeded in demonstrating, modestly and competently, that the template of Space Opera could provide continuing joy. [JC/DRL]

see also: Children in SF; Ecology; Identity Exchange; Life on Other Worlds; Little Green Men; Matter Penetration; Matter Transmission; Memory Edit; Miniaturization; Poltergeists; Superman; Telekinesis; Toys in SF; World Ships; Zoo.

James Henry Schmitz

born Hamburg, Germany: 15 October 1911

died Los Angeles, California: 18 April 1981




  • A Tale of Two Clocks (New York: Dodd, Mead/Torquil, 1962) [Hub: Trigger Argee: hb/uncredited]
    • Legacy (New York: Ace Books, 1979) [vt of the above: Hub: Trigger Argee: pb/Bob Adragna]
  • A Nice Day for Screaming and Other Tales of the Hub (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Chilton Book Company, 1965) [coll: Hub: hb/uncredited]
  • The Demon Breed (New York: Ace Books, 1968) [expanded from September-October 1968 Analog as "The Tuvela": Hub: Nile Etland: in the publisher's first Science Fiction Special series: pb/Diane and Leo Dillon]
  • A Pride of Monsters (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1970) [coll: including some Hub stories: hb/Richard Jones]

Hub: Telzey Amberdon

The Complete Federation of the Hub

individual titles

collections and stories

about the author


previous versions of this entry

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