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Wilson, Richard

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1920-1987) US author and director of the News Bureau of Syracuse University until his retirement in 1982; he was instrumental in persuading many sf writers to donate their personal archives to the university's George Arents Research Library. Involved in sf Fandom from an early age, he was a founder of the Futurians in the 1930s, publishing his first sf story, "Murder from Mars", with Astonishing Stories in April 1940; "Stepsons of Mars", which he wrote with fellow Futurians Joseph Harold Dockweiler and C M Kornbluth under the House Name Ivar Towers, appeared in the same issue. A further Towers story, "The Man Without a Planet" (November 1942 Super Science Stories), was by Wilson alone; he later used the pseudonym Edward Halibut for "The Futile Flight of John Arthur Benn" (February 1956 Infinity), this presumably because the same issue contained "Course of Empire" under his own name. War service interrupted his career, but after 1950 – perhaps finding the new atmosphere in sf congenial to his gently satirical, humorous bent – he contributed prolifically to the magazines for some years, and soon published his first novel, The Girls from Planet 5 (1955), the first of three Satires in which Aliens comically invade Earth (see First Contact; Invasion; Sex; Women in SF); the others were And Then the Town Took Off (January-March 1958 Infinity; 1960 dos) and 30-Day Wonder (1960). In each, Wilson made use of the arrivals from outer space to generate mocking perspectives on our own behaviour: from the strident patriarchy still attempting, in the first novel, to keep Texas pure although the rest of the USA has become a matriarchy, to the appalling consequences, in the third, of being exposed to aliens who observe to the literal letter all Earth laws and enforce similar behaviour on us. Similarly couched Satire dominated his first two collections, Those Idiots from Earth (coll 1957) and Time Out for Tomorrow (coll 1962).

Unfortunately, from the mid-1960s Wilson published relatively little in book form – Adventures in the Space Trade (1986 chap dos), a memoir, A Rat for a Friend (1986 chap), a story, and The Kid from Ozone Park & Other Stories (coll 1987 chap), though welcome, were of pamphlet-length – and most of the graver, smoother, finer stories of his last decades remained uncollected until The Story Writer and Other Stories (coll 2012), a posthumous compilation which also assembles material from earlier years and includes the first appearance of "At the Sign of the Boar's Head Nebula", a long story which for many years had continued to await publication in Harlan Ellison's projected «The Last Dangerous Visions». Wilson's sardonic "The Eight Billion" (July 1965 F&SF), whose titular population figure is – thanks to Immortality – that of New York alone, has been called the ultimate Overpopulation story. He won a 1968 Nebula for his novelette "Mother to the World" (in Orbit 3, anth 1968, ed Damon Knight); other late stories of interest include "See Me Not" (February 1967 Impulse) (see Science Fantasy), "A Man Spekith" (May 1969 Galaxy), "The Day They Had the War" (June 1971 F&SF) and the contents of The Kid from Ozone Park (all original stories).

In his later years, Wilson reportedly made it clear to colleagues that he remained too content in his professional life to continue seriously in a writing career. [JC]

Richard Wilson

born Huntington Station, New York: 23 September 1920

died Syracuse, New York: 29 March 1987


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