Wednesday 24 October 2018



 (Michael Joseph 1955, Penguin Paperback 1308, 1958)


‘When I was quite small I would sometimes dream of a city.’ The dreamer is David Strorm, a ten-year-old boy with a burning secret that could destroy him. Born in Waknuk, a small-town frontier place of austere farmland, ‘an orderly, law-abiding, god-respecting community of some hundred scattered holdings’, the world he grows up in extends little further than this. While beyond lies the Wild Country. And beyond that, the Fringes. The rest of the continent is ‘Planet Of The Apes’ Badland, poisonously irradiated and crawling with mutants. For David, known history stretches back no further than three centuries. Before that – maybe a thousand years, no-one knows for sure, was the global disaster they call the ‘Tribulation’. And David experiences haunting dreams of a fantasy city. As gradually the all-pervasive unease underlying the seemingly robust ‘Tom Sawyer’ life-style emerges, he befriends a secretive girl – Sophie Wender, who has six toes. He receives a vicious parental beating as punishment for concealing her minor deformity. Sophie’s forced flight to the hazardous refuge of the Fringes intimates a dire warning about his own ‘blasphemy’, maturing his unease into horror. Making them both victims of the ever-vigilant scrutiny and exclusion of differences.

‘Triffid’, the word John Wyndham added to the language, rapidly became part of the national vocabulary – if predominantly through TV and movie adaptations. But the gentler child’s-eye view of ‘The Chrysalids’ has added charm. The writing is direct, uncluttered, personable. It flows easily. Almost a kid’s book that communicates, and is readily understood, as a kid’s book, and it continues to be a set discussion-and-analysis text for schools. But that is not to limit its appeal. To Brian Aldiss, both characters and settings are ‘beautifully realised’. I first read the book during my school years. And it retains its seductive appeal across the intervening decades.

On first publication in 1955 it represented the first wave of Cold War post-apocalypse fear. Although not exactly unprecedented, the world David inhabits carries the shock of relevance, the creepy-crawl of superpower confrontation snatched from the daily news. There was George R Stewart’s ‘Earth Abides’ (Random House, 1949), in which the survivors of global viral-pandemic rebuild their stern shattered world. And Walter M Miller Jrn’s ‘A Canticle For Leibowitz’ (JB Lippincott & Co, 1960) – originally serialised from April 1955 in ‘The Magazine Of Fantasy & SF’, in which a repressive future-religion outlaws technology as the tools of destruction following what he terms the ‘Flame Deluge’ of World War III. There are elements of both futures in ‘The Chrysalids’. The distinction being that George R Stewart and Walter M Miller Jrn appeared through genre SF sources and were only grudgingly conceded respect by sniffy reviewers. Wyndham was published by Penguin, and hence won over the literary world as a ‘proper’ writer. He’d established a beachhead outside the SF ghetto, and became a name to be defensively brandished by geeky fans to deflect elitist scorn. It had not always been so.

Born in Knowle, Warwickshire, on 10 July 1903, his given name – John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris, was complex enough to contain an abundance of pseudonyms, which he adopted to advantage across a varied career. In many ways archetypically English, he was a lean and undemonstrative figure, quietly unassuming, mild-mannered but capable of rising to anger and moral indignation when his sensibilities were offended. Failing his entrance exam to study law at Oxford, intent on following his father’s profession, he fell into commercial art and advertising instead, all the while distracted by the luring fiction of HG Wells. His own first short story sale, a time-travel conundrum called “Worlds to Barter”, appeared as by ‘John Beynon Harris’ in the May 1931 issue of ‘Wonder Stories’, a big thick-paged American pulp magazine.

Alongside a generation of pioneering but largely forgotten British fantasists such as George C Wallis, Benson Herbert, Festus Pragnell and John Russell Fearn, he continued writing almost exclusively for the American newsstand market with tales featuring a robot intelligence from Mars (“The Lost Machine”, 1932), conflict with the bat-like inhabitants of an asteroid (“Exiles On Asperus”, 1933), a lost subterranean civilization beneath the Sahara (“The Secret People”, 1935), and a dumb Martian ‘wife’ called Lellie who I watched as part of ABC-TV’s ‘Out Of This World’ series on 24 June 1962 (dramatising a story from the July 1952 issue of ‘Galaxy’). The memorably lurid cover of the first, and only issue of ‘Ten Story Fantasy’ magazine (Spring 1951) shows a voluptuously bikini’d blonde menaced by a villain with a whip-fetish, while our caped hero strives to intervene, armed with his own whip. It illustrates “Tyrant And Slave-Girl On Planet Venus” by John Beynon, a story that captures something of Leigh Brackett’s wistful beauty set among ancient Martian cities and gentle canals. So there’s a wide and diverse catalogue of tales covering most of the SF tropes, with little cohesive character uniting them to make them distinctively ‘Wyndham’.

This first career-phase lasted clear through to his service as a corporal with the Royal Corps of Signals during World War II, in which he participated in the Normandy D-Day landing. It was while in France he witnessed for the first time the reality of burning cities and roads clogged with refugee-columns, the stuff his stories had so lightly dealt with. He was demobilised with a radical new perspective on his writing, and on the genre. This post-war readjustment was also partly provoked by the serious success of his younger brother, novelist Vivian Beynon Harris. He made a hard critical evaluation of what he’d achieved, and determined to lever his work upwards, striking out under a purely English style, while taking advantage of another reconfiguration of his multiple names.

He spelled out his dissatisfaction with the state of SF in a 1948 article attacking what he saw as the sex and violence that had become its selling point (a review ‘Why Blame Wells?’ in ‘Fantasy Review’). His answer was to reset the standards, turn it back to the chillingly credible, deceptively simple narrative skills of his earliest model, HG Wells. Writing ‘a simple story, simply told, with an art which conceals art.’ The results were immediately rewarding, with ‘The Day Of The Triffids’ (1951) and, when they were defeated, ‘The Kraken Wakes’ (1953) – both typifying what Aldiss terms the ‘school of cosy catastrophe’, scoring accolades from mainstream critics who would never have wasted their measured words on garish pulps. To his literary agent, Walter Gillings, the maxim ‘that the story is more important than the concept on which it is based’ made him ‘the most popular writer of fantastic fiction since HG Wells’.

Naturally, this convenient career fire-break theory is not exactly as precise as that. In fact the new approach is embodied in just three novels (the third being ‘The Midwich Cuckoos’). But before it, he was already conceded a degree of access through his inclusion in the British general fiction periodical ‘The Passing Show’. And afterwards, he could still write for clique markets too. For this second life of John Wyndham, characterised by familiar, recognisable – if disrupted, Home Counties landscapes and solid middle-class protagonists imperilled by sinister vegetable monsters, the future setting and social strangeness of ‘The Chrysalids’ (1955) forms a pleasing anomaly. Albeit one better received within the SF community than it was in the wider literary world beyond. In a September 1955 editorial John Carnell tells how Wyndham ‘stopped by’ the ‘New Worlds’ office only to be ‘over-powered’ by his enthusiasm for what Carnell considered ‘without doubt his most outstanding novel and far superior to either ‘The Day Of The Triffids’ or ‘The Kraken Wakes’’ (‘New Worlds’ no.39). Anthony Boucher’s praise was equally fulsome in his review of the American edition in ‘The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction’.

Within a decade of its publication the SF New Wave would reconfigure the novel’s post-apocalypse angst into a new Wild West theme-park of comic-book mutie-thrills in a new rad-land wilderness for pioneer adventuring. Until it becomes the stuff of computer games and ‘Judge Dredd’. But for the first readers of ‘The Chrysalids’ it carried the sting of current events, and all our shared tomorrows. Awareness that atomic radiation causes chromosomal damage that induces foetal abnormalities legitimised a new kind of fictional monster, although the ‘Mad Max’ creature-fest that later ensued had little bearing on the sad victims of Hiroshima. David’s telepathic special abilities, by way of Harlan Ellison’s “A Boy And His Dog”, are now pretty much a ‘Strontium Dog’ cliché. Even then, it was not without precedent. For there are other SF tales where anatomical definition has been lost and various mutant species wage fierce wars of purity over which is the true image.


‘When I was quite small I would sometimes dream of a city. Which was strange, because it began before I even knew what a city was’. The first lines draw you in. As Brian Aldiss comments, ‘so powerful are the associations here that we are immediately prepared for a novel of visionary intensity’ (an essay ‘The British Contribution To SF’ in ‘Maya’ no.14). In the geography of ‘The Chrysalids’ there’s a nominal administrative centre based in Rigo (Rigolet), climate-shifted Labrador. The big island of Newf corresponds to Newfoundland, with ‘Waknuk’ – (Wabush) at its western-most tip. Founded by David’s grandfather, Elias Strorm drawing six pioneering wagons, Waknuk is an agrarian post-apocalypse society, with its own version of what Walter M Miller called ‘the simplification’. Women are forced to endure living under Taliban-style repression. David’s strict unwavering father and austere mother adorn their home with slogans such as ‘Keep Pure The Stock Of The Lord’ defined by a book called ‘Repentances’. These are the ‘ancient and wrathful prophets of doom’, the ‘venomous and puritanical old men’ who strive to impose stability and changelessness in a land where only some fifty-per-cent of plants, animals, or humans, breed ‘true’. Warnings against ‘Offences’ or ‘Blasphemies’ enforce an inflexible morality with roots in their dark incomprehensible fear of an unknown past. 

David has a sympathetic sea-faring Uncle Axel who relates garbled semi-understood accounts of his voyages around the radioactive American mainland. His tales of city-ruins that glow faintly in the dark, and tribes of strange mutants, carry all the charge of Odysseus’ trips to mystical islands, or Gulliver’s Travels, or the playfully imaginary cartoons of Lunarians. ‘It was odd’ muses Uncle Axel, ‘how many people seem to have positive, if conflicting, information upon god’s views.’ Clear through into his mid-teens David shares his secret connection only with a clique of fellow telepaths, half-cousin Rosalind Morton, with Michael, Mark, Rachel, Sally & Katherine, Anne & Walter Brent. A kind of benign version of ‘Midwich Cuckoo’ (in which mutant children menace the adult population). Anne tries to reject her ‘gift’ by marrying a ‘norm’, then commits suicide when her denial becomes intolerable. The story of this secret gang of paranormally-gifted teens, outsiders by their very nature, is a gift to alienated teen readers who already feel themselves misunderstood and out-of-step with a dull conformist world. They are the New Breed living ‘a life of perpetual deception, concealment and lying’. But their secret is accelerated by the arrival of new sister Petra, whose abilities are of an amplified intensity. The city David dreamed of in moments when his mind is most open and vulnerable, exists. But what he’d been able to pick up only as fleeting hints, Petra has the power to reach out and talk to. It’s she who first picks up emanations of other ‘thought-shapes’ from far beyond the restrictions of Newf, from the far side of the world, from unknown Sealand (New Zealand).

Time is running out for the group. Rosalind, David with Petra, escape on great-horses – which may or may not be deviational. For them, fleeing into the Fringes is ‘like going over the rim of the world, into the outskirts of hell’. Once there David mistakes unfamiliar plants for mutations, in much the same way that Uncle Alex’s seafarers had mistaken monkeys for severely malformed people. But even as they progress deeper, things are complexifying. Back in Waknuk, others of their kind are being rounded up, and Katherine is being tortured with hot-irons. If Wyndham has been accused of writing ‘cosy catastrophes’, there’s nothing cosy about this. The forces for Racial Purity are reacting with an urgency driven by fear. Fear of the secret deviants they realise have been living amongst them unnoticed for nigh on twenty years. A punitive expedition of Norms is despatched into the Fringes intent on pursuit. Events converge on a mutie-town of cave-hovels where the fugitives find David’s resentful spider-limbed mutant uncle, harbouring lost Sophie. Sophie conceals the three escapees in her cave, away from the Spider-man’s predatory designs on ‘breeder’ Rosalind.

Sophie is poorly ill-served by Wyndham. Sterilised and cast into the Fringes, only for her continuing loyalty to David to be used as an instrument to free them from mutant captivity. To provide a fleeting erotic pulse as she casually tugs off her blouse to wipe it free of blood, gifting David a glimpse of her breasts. Only to be killed off in a single line of text with David barely expressing pain or remorse. Nevertheless, although the developments unfold through David’s eyes, unusual for the SF of its time, this is very much a book of strong decisive women, from Rosalind and Petra through to Aunt Harriet, who gives birth to a flawed daughter, presenting an impossible dilemma that drives her to suicide. And the Sealand women. As Kingsley Amis observes, in general ‘science-fiction writers are evidently satisfied with the sexual status quo – the female-emancipation of a… Wyndham is too uncommon to be significant’ (‘New Maps Of Hell’, Victor Gollancz, 1961).

Doomed Aunt Harriet had prayed to ‘send charity into this hideous world’. But the novel’s outcome brings nothing of the sort. ‘Her prayers as futile as her hopes.’ For Wyndham, the resolution is certainly not one of tolerance. At the same time that David, Petra and Rosalind are cowering in Sophie’s cave, a rescue-mission of Sealand folk are slowly travelling across the wilderness-continent of vast desolation, of fused black glass and cinders towards them. These Sealand People are not proposing an enlightened inclusive equal-opportunities programme for mutants, norms and telepaths to integrate into one caring sharing community. Far from it. In a quite shocking sequence, as the pursuit party from Waknuk invades the village, the Spider-man kills his brother – David’s intolerant vindictive father, and then is himself killed. Then, the Sealand airship appears in the sky above the final battle, ‘the strange fish-shaped craft I had dreamt of in my childhood’. It emits eddies of ‘queer mist’ that inundates both sides in a deluge of sticky cobweb-like threads. Does it pacify or anaesthetise the combatants? No, it kills them all. These are brutal, unforgiving times. The Sealanders creed is a Darwinian survival of the purest, just as ruthless as the one imposed upon Waknuk to burn crops and slaughters cattle that betray the slightest signs of deviation. To rescue Petra – and their target is Petra above all the other lesser talented telepaths (not Rachel who is left to her fate back in Waknuk), they have few qualms about killing off all opposition. It’s a price they’re quite prepared to pay for the triumph of their kind.

With the fugitives safely aboard the ship, the Sealand woman explains that those with telepathic power are the New People who will build a new kind of world. The unhappy Fringes people are condemned, through no fault of their own, to a life of squalor and misery. While it was the Old People who brought down Tribulation, precipitated by the fact that ‘often they were shut off by different languages and different beliefs’, and they were broken into fragments by it. The people of Waknuk are part of those fragments, attempting to perpetuate ‘living shut off from one another, with only clumsy words to link them’. They are history. The Tribulation was an instrument of evolution. The ‘Norms’ will ‘attain the stability they strive for, in the only form it is granted – a place among the fossils’. Like the dinosaurs, they have been superseded, and will pass away. For the telepaths, ‘we have a new world to conquer, they have only a lost cause to lose’.

Odd that in the Sealand woman’s declaration that ‘in loyalty to their kind they cannot tolerate our rise, in loyalty to our kind, we cannot tolerate their obstruction’ musician Paul Kantner would see connections with the emerging crash-pads of San Francisco’s psychedelic counter-culture. He lifted the quote intact as lyrics to theme Jefferson Airplane’s “Crown Of Creation” (1968). Because the Haight-Ashbury hippie movement also saw itself as a New Breed rising from the chaos and debris of a jealous outmoded failed culture. As though Wyndham was an early adapter tapping into the millennial mood of change, which saw exploding the world’s first nuclear device as a fire-break in history, after which everything was different, and social evolution was being jolted upwards. That, or be exterminated in the attempt. For Kantner it was chemicals, not telepathy, that expanded his consciousness, his lyrics striving to reach the state Wyndham expressed as ‘words exist that can, used by a poet achieve a dim monochrome of the body’s love, but beyond that they fail clumsily’.

Old flesh, and new flesh. The fugitives from the repressions of Waknuk will live out their lives in the city that, when he was quite small, David would sometimes dream of. If the fortuitous intervention of the Sealand culture is something of a deus-ex-machina, one of a variety of sanctuaries towards which SF rebels from dystopic future totalitarianisms invariably gravitate, beyond the rad-wasted badlands, it is also confirmation that the abilities they share are not just as random a mutation as an additional toe. They are the chrysalis form of a new evolution towards an advanced mentally interlinked human species. Old world, and new world. For those who associate the name John Wyndham with a particular kind of cosy-nostalgia Home Counties fiction, no, reading ‘The Chrysalids’ will provide a corrective expansion to the spectrum of his work. While oddly enough, the urgent need to resist the vindictive restrictions imposed on society by irrational religious superstitions is now more vital than it was when John Wyndham wrote the novel.


Worlds To Barter”, appeared as by ‘John B Harris’ in ‘Wonder Stories’ May 1931) – the cover art taken by Jack Williamson’s ‘Through The Purple Cloud’, reprinted in ‘Tales Of Wonder no.10’ (March 1940), later collected into ‘Sleepers Of Mars’. “From the Men of Earth’s Last Days to the People of the Twenty-Second Century came the Order for the Evacuation of A World!’, ‘a refugee from 2145’ – ‘a world in which Mr Wells ‘Sleeper’ might awake’ tells his great-great-great-grandfather, Professor Lestrange, of the forced population transfer through time that he’d escaped… with the romance subplot that Mary, feared lost in time, joins him in 1945

The Lost Machine” (in ‘Amazing Stories’, April 1932) later collected into anthology ‘Machines That Think’ edited by Isaac Asimov with Warrick & Greenberg. Also collected into ‘The Best Of John Wyndham 1932-1949’, where Leslie Flood says it ‘was possibly the prototype of the sentient robot later developed by such writers as Isaac Asimov’

The Venus Adventure” in ‘Wonder Stories’ (May 1932), then ‘Tales Of Wonder no.7’ (June 1939), and collected into ‘Exiles On Asperus’. On 21 November 2133 Scottish fundamentalist Joseph ‘Noah’ Watson, financed by ‘richest man in the world’ Henry Headington, build a space ‘Ark’ to escape the ‘end of the world’. Centuries later – 19 June 2923, brilliant young Hal Newton’s spaceship the ‘Fyra’ – using Jonite fuel invented by wife Vida, reaches Venus, ‘a ghostly world of pale horrors’ to find the native monotreme Gorlaks facing rival tribes descended from the Ark, the civilised Dingtons (from Headington) with their ornithopters and city called Chicago, and the savage devolved Wots (from Watson) of Ararat. After much intrigue and confrontation the Wots are defeated

Wanderers Of Time” in ‘Wonder Stories’ (March 1933) collected in ‘Wanderers Of Time’. A non-stop Ripping Adventure Yarn. With his time-machine damaged by a policeman’s bullet as he rendezvous with the lovely but feisty Miss Betty Mordan, Roy Saber and Betty from 1951 – via 1941, travel into the far post-human future where they meet time-travelling dwarf Del Two Forty-A from 10,402. Attacked by ‘scuttering’ six-legged machines – which tear Betty’s red frock away (as a gift to the magazine’s artist!), they are imprisoned in a towering spike with other temporal castaways from 3902 and 2200, plus two giant Numen, all drawn to this ‘dead spot’ in the time-stream. Betty escapes with hunky Hale Lorrence back to his 3902, as they discover the white machines and hive-city are ant-powered, and are at war with red biped war machines. Escaping using heat-beams, the new object of Roy’s romantic interest, Jessica, is snatched. They commandeer a robot-insect to mount the rescue as Del and Kal repair a stolen time-traveller. Roy stays with Jessica in 2200, but is still drawn towards other adventures in time…

The Third Vibrator” in ‘Wonder Stories’ (May 1933), then ‘Tales Of Wonder no.4’ (October 1938) and collected into ‘Sleepers Of Mars’. David Hixton, inventor of the death-ray Vibration weapon, experiences flashbacks to Kis-Tan of Lemuria whose vibration-weapon decimates central Australia, creates the Sahara and Gobi deserts, then Xtan of the city Zapetl, whose vibration weapon destroys Atlantis. There’s some dubious racial references to ‘yellow race of slant-eyed men to the east’ and ‘blacks of a very backward type’. Hixton destroys the weapon, and tells the tale from the madhouse he’s confined to

Spheres Of Hell” aka “The Puff-Ball Menace” in ‘Wonder Stories’ (October 1933), Wyndham’s first Cosy Disaster, anti-imperialist Prince Khordah of Ghangistan strikes back at the West via very English gardens and allotments seeded with a saprophyte-parasitic fungus hybrid – ‘an army of vegetable invaders’, spores carried by strong winds east from the Cornish coast town of St Brian. Ralph Waite hunts for Dorothy Forbes through the militarised devastation, in protective asbestos suit. But as a hybrid, after two or three generations it reverts to a harmless form

Invisible Monsters” aka “Invisible Monster” in ‘Wonder Stories’ (December 1933) as by John Beynon Harris, then ‘Tales Of Wonder no.11’ (July 1940) as by John Beynon, collected into ‘Sleepers Of Mars’ (Coronet Books, 1973) Breathless ‘Boys Own’ style as a weekend fishing trip is interrupted by the explosive return of ‘The Hurakan’, first spaceship to Venus. Dirk and David try to explain to a sceptical desk-constable how their friend Toby was ripped apart by an invisible entity within the wrecked ship. Part ‘Quatermass’ and part ‘The Blob’ – although this precedes them both, the creature expands despite the army’s attempt to blow it up

Exiles On Asperus” in ‘Wonder Stories Quarterly’ (Winter 1933) with Frank R Paul interior artwork, collected into ‘Exiles On Asperus’. A full-blooded space-adventure romp, when convict-ship ‘Argenta’ is holed, Martian rebel prisoners led by Sen-Su take control. Maybe in a metaphor for the Indian Raj the ancient Martian race resents controls imposed by imperial Earth. Due to human sabotage both parties are marooned on ‘pocket planet’ Asperus where they’re assisted by survivors of an earlier ‘Red Glory’ spacewreck and menaced by ‘flying screechers’ called Batrachs. Earthmen and Martians find common cause against the subterranean-dwelling Batrachs and free their human slaves, but for the psychologically-treated New Generation who remain in the caves, unable to break their conditioning and emerge

The Moon Devils” aka “The Last Lunarians” in ‘Wonder Stories’ (April 1934), reprinted in ‘Wonder Stories Annual’ (Summer 1950) and ‘Tales Of Wonder’ (no.3, 1938). Stephen Dawcott, survivor of ‘The Voyage Of The Scintilla’ to the Moon, leaves a manuscript, the spaceship puts down for repair in Mare Serenitatis – the Sea of Tranquility, where rock carvings lead them into a tomb. Despite being sponsored by the Lunar Archaeological Society they begin irresponsibly looting and plundering, opening the coffins. But the Moonmen and women are not dead, simply in suspended animation. Anticipating the 1958 movie ‘It! The Terror From Beyond Space’, the Lunarians emerge from the cabinets in the ship’s hold to kill the crew as they return towards Earth, surviving the crash into the Ocean close to the Solomon Islands

The Man From Earth” in ‘Wonder Stories’ (September 1934), then in ‘Tales Of Wonder no.10’ September 1940, reprinted in ‘Fantastic Story Quarterly Vol.1 no.2’ Summer 1950 as ‘The Man From Beyond’. Collected into ‘The Best Of John Wyndham 1932-1949’ where Leslie Flood says it ‘is remarkably outlined for its time’ with ‘the poignancy of a man’s realisation, caged in a zoo on Venus, that far from being abandoned by his fellow-explorers, he is the victim of a far stranger fate’

THE SECRET PEOPLE as by JOHN BEYNON. Originally serialised in nine parts by Odham’s ‘Passing Show’ illustrated by Fortunino Matania (from Summer double-issue 20 July 1935), reprinted in ‘The Toronto Weekly Star’ (1936) and in US ‘Famous Fantastic Mysteries’ (April 1950). (George Newnes Ltd, hardback, 1935) US Lancer Paperback edition, 1964, alternate text, as by JOHN BEYNON HARRIS. UK Hodder, and Coronet Paperback edition 1972 ISBN 0-340-15834-4

FOUL PLAY SUSPECTED Detective novel, as by JOHN BEYNON (Newnes, 1935), the hero, Detective-Inspector Jordan, is also featured in two further unpublished novels, ‘Murder Means Murder’ and ‘Death Upon Death’

PLANET PLANE (STOWAWAY TO MARS) as by JOHN BEYNON. Originally serialised in Odham’s ‘Passing Show’ illustrated by Chester (May-July 1936), (George Newnes, hardback, 1936 as ‘Planet Plane’). Adapted as ten-part serial ‘The Space Machine’ for boy’s magazine ‘Modern Wonder’ (from 19 May 1937). Then, as ‘Stowaway To Mars’, Nova Publications, 1953. Hodder, & Coronet Paperback edition, 1972, ISBN 0-340-15835/2. With a 1981 million-pound international prize offered for the first interplanetary journey, millionaire adventurer Dale Curtance blasts off from Salisbury Plain in the ‘Gloria Mundi’ with a handpicked crew, only discover a woman stowaway aboard. Her extraordinary story helps prepare them for the dangers they encounter on a Mars of canals and robotic machines. An American ship makes a disastrous landing, while the fate of the Russian ship ‘Tovarich, is picked up in ‘Sleeper Of Mars’ after its unfriendly encounter with Curtance’s crew…

Perfect Creature” (in ‘Tales Of Wonder no.1’, 1937) edited by Walter Gillings. An earlier variant called ‘The Female Of The Species’, with the creature’s gender switched, appeared in ‘Argosy’ (October 1953). Reprinted in ‘Magazine Of Fantasy & SF’ (January 1953) as by John Wyndham, and retitled again – as ‘Una’, for inclusion in ‘Jizzle’. Collected into ‘The Best Of John Wyndham 1932-1949’

Sleeper Of Mars” sequel to ‘Stowaway To Mars’, in ‘Tales Of Wonder no.2’, Spring 1938 as by John Beynon. ‘On Their Dried-Up Planet The Martians Slept On, Cheated Of A New World That Had Died Long Since…’ Will Mars be claimed by the British Empire, or become the eighth Soviet Republic? Gordonov is a Clydeside engineer whose ‘passionate desire for equality and opportunity’ led to him becoming a Soviet citizen. Wary of contamination, the living Martians of Hanno designate abandoned Ailiko – ‘a dead city upon a dying planet’ for the Russians, as sentient machines repair their ship they discover tens-of-thousands of Martians in suspended animation vaults beneath the city and wake one called Yauadin, who begins waking the rest. With the ship repaired, and throngs of vengeful awakened Martians, there’s last-minute betrayal, and no-one escapes alive…

Beyond The Screen” aka “Judson’s Annihilator” in the UK ‘Fantasy no.1’ (1938), then ‘Amazing Stories’ (Vol.13 no.10, October 1939). Impressive novelette, with Wyndham showing a bleak resignation about impending war, ‘at home this kind of fatalism was growing’ and name-checking Mr Baldwin, Tommy ‘Juddy’ Judson invents a kind of force-field that does not repel, but appears to annihilate whatever passes through its invisible screen. Following military trials on Salisbury Plain units are set up across Britain, and decimate an aerial attack by the totalitarian United States Of Central Europe. When Judson’s sister Sheilah is abducted, Martin Stalham uses Sherlock Holmes dictum ‘eliminate the impossible and that which remains, however improbable, must be the solution’ to deduce that the screen is actually a portal. Stepping through it he finds a Dark Age of endless forest and primitive people – ‘survivors of a shipwrecked civilisation’, alongside stranded German airmen. Not the deep past, but a regressed post-war ‘disease-bombs, air-born bacilli’ future. He rescues Sheilah and escapes back through the screen, turning it off to maroon the unfortunate Germans! She agrees to marry him, but never ‘to bring children into this kind of world’

The Trojan Beam” (in ‘Fantasy no,2’, March 1939) Collected into ‘The Best Of John Wyndham 1932-1949’. A future-1965 Sino-Japanese war fought by magnetic-beam weapons, explained to double-agent George Saltry, until the ‘biggest magnetic disturbance ever known’ draws a lethal storm of Leonid meteorites down to completely obliterate Japan

Derelict Of Space” (in ‘Fantasy no.3’) as by John Beynon. A lot of procedural detail as an error of judgement by space-salvage sailor Captain Belford, returning the derelict ‘Excelsis’ to Earth, results in the seeming destruction of the German town Pfaffheim. With murder, political wranglings and cover-up by the Reich as the explosions were not caused by the cargo of ganywood, gold, patchatal oil or Ganymede-grown tillfer-fibre, but by secret Nazi munitions. Our fake-news era reflected in ‘nobody paid serious attention to an evening paper’s headlines’! The issue also includes his “Child Of Power” as by Wyndham Parkes. In industrial Irkwell in Derbyshire – with broken regional dialect, young Ted Filler ‘the boy who saw sound’ has an ‘electro-sentient’ sixth sense. He hears radio broadcasts… and detects voices from other worlds. It references Olaf Stapledon’s “Odd John” and JD Beresford’s 1911 wunderkind novel “The Hampdenshire Wonder”, while perhaps prefiguring his own ‘Midwich Cuckoos’

Vengeance By Proxy” (in ‘Strange Stories’, 1940) Collected into ‘The Best Of John Wyndham 1932-1949’. Macabre. Tourists Walter and Elaine Fisson travelling Yugo-Slavia sixty miles from Belgrade, run over a wounded Kristor Vlanec, his dying consciousness mind-transfers to her, so she wakes speaking Serbo-Croat and adopting male characteristics. She’s arrested when she kills Vlanec’s original attackers in revenge. Then Vlanec escapes by taking over Walter… whose spirit transfers to Elaine!

Phoney Meteor” (in ‘Amazing Stories’, March 1941)

LOVE IN TIME as by JOHNSON HARRIS (published by Walter Gillings and Benson Herbert through Utopian Publications, 1945) a separate edition of the 1933 story ‘Wanderers In Time’, with racy nude cover

The Living Lies” (in ‘New Worlds’, October 1946, reprinted in ‘Other Worlds Science Stories’, November 1950) as JOHN BEYNON

Why Blame Wells?” article in ‘Fantasy Review’ (1948)

Jizzle” (in ‘Colliers’ magazine, 8 January 1949) as by JOHN BEYNON. Reprinted in ‘Fantasy & SF’, February 1952

Technical Slip” (in ‘Arkham Sampler’, Spring 1949, reprinted in ‘Imagination’, December 1950) as by JOHN BEYNON. Collected into ‘Jizzle’

Adaptation” (in ‘Astounding Science Fiction’, Vol.43 No.5, July 1949) as by JOHN BEYNON. Collected into ‘The Best Of John Wyndham 1932-1949’. Seriously-themed planet-hopping saga covering a spread of time. Colonists ‘adapt’ to drier lower-gravity Mars of mysterious ancient ruins and ‘delicately complex’ plants that grow along waterway margins. Due to ill-health, Mars’s first-born child – Jannessa, is returned to Earth in 1994 in the ‘Aurora’ but there’s a mutiny and the ship is lost, marooned on Europa she’s rescued by kindly subterranean slaty-blue aliens who ‘adapt’ her to living on their world. Yet, feeling herself a freak, she finally returns to Earth to her father, Franklyn Godalpin, where her ‘adaptations’ – she’s ‘twenty-five inches tall,’ mean she’s still a misfit! ‘If the conditions are in some way beyond our control, one of two things happens: either it becomes adapted to the conditions it finds – or it fails to adapt, which means that it dies’

Time To Rest” (in ‘Arkham Sampler’, Winter 1949, then reprinted in ‘New Worlds’, September 1949) as by JOHN BEYNON HARRIS

The Eternal Eve” (in ‘Amazing Stories’, September 1950), first short story to appear as by JOHN WYNDHAM

THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (Michael Joseph, 1951, hardback. Penguin Paperback no.993, 1954) serialised in five parts in ‘Colliers’ as ‘Revolt Of The Triffids’ from 6 January 1951. Also in ‘The John Wyndham Omnibus’, 1964. And as ‘The Revolt Of The Triffids’ Popular Library (US), 1952. Filmed in 1963 with Howard Keel, and adapted as a BBC-TV serial in 1981

The Red Stuff” (in ‘Marvel Science Stories’, February 1951) reprinted in ‘Tales From The Galaxies’ anthology edited by Anabel Williams-Ellis and Michael Pearson (Pan) and ‘The Best Of John Wyndham 1951-1960’

Tyrant And Slave-Girl On Planet Venus” as by JOHN BEYNON in ‘Ten Story Fantasy’ magazine (Spring 1951) – with totally inaccurate James Bama cover-art replacing the silver-furred Venusian griffa with a bikini-clad girl! reprinted as “No Place Like Earth” (in ‘New Worlds’, Spring 1951) then in ‘Exiles On Asperus’. A reflective sequel to ‘Time To Rest’ (1949), quoting Walt Whitman, with Bert torn between surrendering to the peaceful long drawn-out senility of Martian canals and dead cities, plus the lure of the lovely Zaylo, or the vital new tyranny of rain-soaked Venus. Earth has been shattered into a new asteroid belt

And The Walls Came Tumbling Down” (in ‘Startling Stories’, May 1951) collected into ‘The Best Of John Wyndham 1951-1960’

Bargain From Brunswick” (in ‘Fantasy & SF’, June 1951) collected into ‘Jizzle’

Operation Peep” (in ‘Suspense’, Summer 1951), reprinted as “Pawley’s Peepholes” in ‘Science Fantasy’, Winter 1951) then in ‘Seeds Of Time’ and ‘The Best Of John Wyndham 1951-1960’

Pillar To Post” (in ‘Galaxy’, December 1951) collected into ‘The Seeds Of Time’

The Wheel” (in ‘Startling Stories’, January 1952) collected into ‘Jizzle’

Survival” (in ‘Thrilling Wonder Stories’, February 1952) collected into ‘The Seeds Of Time’

Dumb Martian” from the July 1952 issue of ‘Galaxy’, dramatised as part of ABC-TV’s ‘Out Of This World’ series on 24 June 1962. Collected into ‘The Seeds Of Time’ and ‘The Best Of John Wyndham 1951-1960’

THE KRAKEN WAKES (Michael Joseph, 1953, hardback. Science Fiction Book Club, 1955, hardback. Penguin Paperback no.1075, 1955) serialised in ‘Everybody’s’, and also featured in ‘The John Wyndham Omnibus’, 1964. And as ‘Out Of The Deeps’ for Ballantine US edition, 1953

Time Stops Today” (in ‘Future SF’, January 1953)

Close Behind Him” (in ‘Fantastic’, February 1953) collected into ‘The Best Of John Wyndham 1951-1960’

Reservation Deferred” (in ‘Fantastic’, June 1953) collected into ‘Jizzle’

More Spinned Against” (in ‘Fantasy Fiction’, June 1953) collected into ‘Jizzle’

Confidence Trick” (in ‘Fantastic’, August 1953) collected into ‘Jizzle’

A Stray From Cathay” (in ‘Fantasy Fiction’, August 1953)

How Do I Do?” (in ‘Beyond Fantasy Fiction’, September 1953) collected into ‘Jizzle’

Never On Mars” (in ‘Fantastic Universe’, January 1954)

Perforce To Dream” (in ‘Beyond Fantasy Fiction’, January 1954) collected into ‘Jizzle’

Opposite Number” (in ‘New Worlds’, April 1954) collected into ‘The Seeds Of Time’

Chronoclasm” (in ‘Science Fantasy’, September 1954) collected into ‘The Seeds Of Time’

Compassion Circuit” (in ‘Fantastic Universe’, December 1954. Reprinted in ‘New Worlds’, May 1955) collected into ‘The Seeds Of Time’

JIZZLE short story collection (Dennis Dobson, 1954, hardback. Science Fiction Book Club, 1961, hardback. New English Library, 1962) Includes ‘Jizzle’, ‘Technical Slip’, ‘A Present From Brunswick’, ‘Chinese Puzzle’, ‘Esmerelda’, ‘How Do I Do?’, ‘Una’, ‘Affair Of The Heart’, ‘Confidence Trick’, ‘The Wheel’, ‘Look Natural, Please!’, ‘Perforce To Dream’, ‘Reservation Deferred’, ‘Heaven Scent’, and ‘More Spinned Against’ ISBN 0-234-77645-5

THE CHRYSALIDS Originally serialised in ‘Argosy’ magazine September-October 1955. (Michael Joseph, 1955, hardback), with cover art by Spencer Wilson. Also in ‘The John Wyndham Omnibus’, 1964. US title ‘Re-Birth’, Ballantine, 1965. Penguin Paperback no.1308 (1958). Radio Play adaptation by Barbara Clegg (1982). Stage Play adaptation by David Harrower (1999)

Wild Flower” (in ‘Fantastic Universe’, November 1955) collected into ‘The Seeds Of Time’

THE SEEDS OF TIME short story collection (Michael Joseph, 1956, hardback. Penguin Paperback no.1385, 1959) includes ‘Chronoclasm’, ‘Time To Rest’, ‘Meteor’, ‘Survival’, ‘Pawley’s Peepholes’, ‘Opposite Number’, ‘Pillar To Post’, ‘Dumb Martian’, ‘Compassion Circuit’ and ‘Wild Flower’

TALES OF GOOSEFLESH AND LAUGHTER short story collection. Ballantine, US, 1956. Combines eleven stories from ‘Jizzle’ and ‘The Seeds Of Time’

SOMETIME, NEVER ‘Three Tales Of Imagination’ by John Wyndham (‘Consider Her Ways’), William Golding (‘Envoy Extraordinary’) and Mervyn Peake (first publication of Titus Groan story ‘Boy In Darkness’) (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1956. US Ballantine Books 215, 1957)

THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS (Michael Joseph, 1957. Penguin Paperback no.1440, 1960) And as ‘The Village Of The Damned’ for US Ballantine, 1960. Filmed at ‘Village Of The Damned’ (MGM, 1960) with George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Michael Gwynn and John Phillips. With sequel ‘Children Of The Damned (1964) with Ian Hendry and Barbara Ferris.

For All The Night (aka ‘The Space Station AD 1994’)” (‘New Worlds no.70’, April 1958) by John Wyndham, a ‘Troons’ story collected into ‘The Outward Urge’

Idiot’s Delight (aka ‘The Moon: AD 2044)” (‘New Worlds no.72’, June 1958) as by John Wyndham and Lucas Parkes, a ‘Troons’ story reprinted in ‘Moonrise: The Golden Age Of Lunar Adventure’ edited Mike Ashley 2018, collected into ‘The Outward Urge’

The Thin Gnat-Voices (aka ‘Mars AD 2094’)” (‘New Worlds no.73’, July 1958) as by John Wyndham and Lucas Parkes, a ‘Troons’ story reprinted in ‘Fantastic Vol.8 no.1’ (January 1959), collected into ‘The Outward Urge’

Space Is A Province Of Brazil (aka ‘Venus AD 2144’)” (‘New Worlds no.75, September 1958) as by John Wyndham, a ‘Troons’ story collected into ‘The Outward Urge’

THE OUTWARD URGE (Michael Joseph, 1959, hardback. Science Fiction Book Club, 1961. Penguin Paperback no.1544, 1962) Billed as ‘with Lucas Parkes’ as technical collaborator, in reality another pseudonym. Chapter 1 (‘The Space-Station: AD 1994’) and Chapter 4 (‘Venus: AD 2144)’ first published by Michael Joseph in 1959. Chapter 2: ‘The Moon: AD 2044’ Chapter 3: ‘Mars: AD 2094’. An additional Chapter 5 (‘The Emptiness Of Space: The Asteroids AD 2194’) added for the Science Fiction Book Club edition in 1961.

TROUBLE WITH LICHEN(Michael Joseph, 1960, hardback. Science Fiction Book Club, 1962. Penguin, 1963)

The Emptiness Of Space (aka ‘The Asteroids 2194)” specially written for the 100th issue of ‘New Worlds’ (November 1960), then gathered into ‘The Outward Urge’ and ‘The Best Of John Wyndham 1951-1960’

CONSIDER HER WAYS short story collection. (Michael Joseph, 1961, hardback. Penguin, 1965. Also as ‘The Infinite Moment’ for US Ballantine, 1961) Includes ‘Random Quest’, adapted as an episode for TV’s ‘Out Of The Unknown’ with Keith Barron and Arnold Ridley (11 February 1969), as a 1971 film (as ‘Quest For Love’ directed by Ralph Thomas, from a screenplay by Terence Feely) with Joan Collins, Tom Bell and Denholm Elliott, then as a November 2006 BBC4 TV-film starring Samuel West

THE JOHN WYNDHAM OMNIBUS collection (Michael Joseph, 1964) made up of ‘The Day Of The Triffids’, ‘The Kraken Wakes’ and ‘The Chrysalids’

A SENSE OF WONDER anthology containing John Wyndham (‘Exiles On Asperus’), plus Jack Williamson (‘The Moon Era’) and Murray Leinster (‘The Mole Pirates’) (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1967)

CHOCKY (Ballantine, US 1968. Michael Joseph, 1968, hardback. Penguin, 1970) adapted as a BBC radio ‘Saturday Playhouse’ by John Constable in March 1998

WANDERERS OF TIME (Hodder hardback, and Coronet Paperbacks, 1973) Collection of short stories from 1933, 1934 and 1939 as by JOHN BEYNON. With new introduction by Walter Gillings. Includes ‘Wanderers Of Time’, ‘Derelict Of Space’, ‘Child Of Power’, ‘The Last Lunarians’ and ‘The Puff-Ball Menace’ ISBN 17306-8

SLEEPERS OF MARS (Hodder hardback, and Coronet Paperbacks, 1973) Collection of short stories from 1931, 1933, 1934 and 1938 as by JOHN BEYNON. With new introduction by Walter Gillings. Includes ‘Sleepers Of Mars’, ‘Worlds To Barter’, ‘Invisible Monster’, ‘The Man From Earth’ and ‘The Third Vibrator’ ISBN 0-340-17326-2

THE BEST OF JOHN WYNDHAM 1930-1960 (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1973, hardback. Sphere, 1973. Re-issued as ‘The Man From Beyond’ Michael Joseph, 1975 ‘THE BEST OF JOHN WYNDHAM 1932-1949’ edited by ANGUS WELLS (Sphere Books Ltd, 1973. ISBN 0-7221-9374-4) With Introduction by Leslie Flood, and Bibliography. Includes ‘The Lost Machine’ (‘Amazing Stories’, 1932), ‘The Man From Beyond’ (‘Wonder Stories’, 1934), ‘Perfect Creature’ (‘Tales Of Wonder’, 1937), ‘The Trojan Bean’ (‘Fantasy’, 1939), ‘Vengeance By Proxy’ (‘Strange Stories’, 1940), ‘Adaptation’ (‘Astounding Science Fiction’, 1949) + THE BEST OF JOHN WYNDHAM 1951-1960 edited by ANGUS WELLS (Sphere Books Ltd, 1973. ISBN 0-7221-9374-2) with ‘Pawley’s Peepholes’, ‘The Red Stuff’, ‘And The Walls Came Tumbling Down’, ‘Dumb Martian’, ‘Close Behind Him’ and ‘The Emptiness Of Space’

EXILES ON ASPERUS (Coronet Paperbacks, 1979) Collection of short stories from 1932 (‘The Venus Adventure’ from ‘Wonder Stories’), 1933 (‘Exiles On Asperus’ from Gernsback Publications) and 1951 (‘No Place Like Earth’ from ‘New Worlds’) as by JOHN BEYNON

WEB (Michael Joseph, 1979. Penguin Books, 1980 ISBN 0-1400-5338-7)

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