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Boyd, John

Pseudonym of Boyd Bradfield Upchurch (1919-2013), US sf author employed 1947-1971 as a production manager and salesman for the Star Engraving Company, and active in the sf field for a decade following publication of his first novel, The Last Starship From Earth (1968), during which period he published thirteen novels and just one short sf story, "The Girl and the Dolphin" (March 1973 Galaxy). The Last Starship From Earth, which received considerable critical acclaim, remains his most highly regarded work. A complex tale told with baroque vigour, a Dystopia, an Alternate-History story, a Space Opera with Time-Travel components making it impossible to say which of various spaceships actually is the last to leave Earth, and in what sense "last" is intended, the book is a bravura and knowing traversal of sf protocols. The protagonist, sent from a stratified Dystopian Earth to the Prison planet Hell for machiavellian reasons, ends up travelling through time, making sure Jesus Christ terminates his career this time at the age of 33, which will eliminate the dystopia by changing the future into ours; he becomes, in the end, the Wandering Jew, making his way home by simply living through the intervening millennia.

None of Boyd's subsequent novels – some of which are abundantly inventive – made anything like the impression of this first effort, though they are not inconsiderable. The Rakehells of Heaven (1969), The Pollinators of Eden (1969) and Sex and the High Command (1970) all deal amusingly and variously with sexual matters (see Sex), as does his last novel, The Girl with the Jade Green Eyes (1978; rev 1979), and are full of rewarding hypotheses about the cultural forms human nature might find itself involved in. Some later novels, like Andromeda Gun (1974), a perfunctory comic novel involving a parasitic Alien in the Old West (incognito aliens were a favourite with Boyd), show some reduction of creative energy, though Barnard's Planet (1975) evinced a partial recovery; it deals with some of the same issues as his first novel and with some of the same verve. The feeling remains that Boyd had a larger talent than he allowed himself to reveal in his relatively short career, and that carelessness about quality sometimes badly muffled the effect of his wide inventiveness. He did publish a detective story, "Slaughter in the Street" for Detective World in 1950, plus two non-fantastic novels and one nonfiction work as by Boyd Upchurch [all listed below]; it may be that further work, perhaps under other names, remains unregistered. There is, all the same, no sign of any significant publication since the late 1970s. [JC]

see also: Ecology; Under the Sea.

Boyd Bradfield Upchurch

born Atlanta, Georgia: 3 October 1919

died Atlanta, Georgia: 8 June 2013




Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 09:01 am on 21 July 2024.