IMO the finest British science-fiction author, whose works are (some of them, anyway) on a par with those of Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.

John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Benyon Harris was born in Edgbaston, Birmingham in 1903, the son of a barrister. He started writing short stories intended for sale in 1925, writing for the American market (spit) between 1930 and 1939. After the war he returned to writing, deciding to try a modified form of science fiction, a form he called 'logical fantasy'.

His books include The Day of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes, The Chrysalids, The Midwich Cuckoos, Trouble with Lichen, The Outward Urge, Chocky and Web, and the anthology The Seeds of Time.

What makes him great is the quintessential Britishness of his novels. All are set in Middle England - London being used on occasion when a city is required - in perfect rural 1950s harmony of a type not seen since The Darling Buds of May. The Midwich Cuckoos, for instance, is set in the fictional village of Midwich and you can see the azaleas climbing up the cottage walls. An age of post-war optimism, where Nuclear Power Is Your Friend, the BBC Home Service broadcasts on bakelite radio sets, and women wear hats. I love it. It's the kind of period I wish I lived in... and they still had science fiction then.

John Wyndham died in March 1969. They don't make 'em like they used to.

Bibliography

Novels


1935 The Secret People (published as John Beynon)
Published in serialised form for Passing Show magazine and later published in novel form. Tells the story of a man and woman who discover, and are imprisoned by, a race of gnomes living under the (now flooded) Sahara Desert.
1936 Planet Plane
Concerning a space flight to Mars and encountering on an ancient Martian race, now dying out.
1951 The Day of the Triffids
Probably Wyndham's most famous work. A meteor shower blinds most of the population allowing the mysterious triffids (mobile carnivorous plants with dangerous stings) to become a dangerous predator of man. Although the triffids seem to be the main focus for many, it is really a book about how mankind can survive horrific disaster and rebuild for the future.
1953 The Kraken Wakes
Similar in theme to triffid, but this time mankind is threatened by an alien invasion. The twist being that the aliens live under the sea.
1955 The Chrysalids (aka Re-Birth)
Set in a post-apocolyptic future where mutants are seen as against God and murdered by the over-religious population. The main character has a strange sort of telpathy which would be seen as a mutation. In a common theme, he joins with other telepaths who start a new civilisation.
1957 The Midwich Cuckoos
Another book in which the theme is disaster and threats to humankind. This time the threat comes from within; the women in the sleepy middle-England village of Midwich are impregnated by aliens which then grow to become a collection of creepy telepaths who can control others with the power of thought. Wyndham's take on the main theme of the book seems particularly poigniant during the current 'war on terror': The powers that be find it necessary to slaughter the children because they are a threat but "it is our culture that gives us scruples about the ruthless liquidation of unarmed minorities". Made into a film: The Village of the Damned.
1960 Trouble with Lichen
The plot concerns a young woman biochemist who discovers that a chemical extracted from an unusual strain of lichen can be used to retard the ageing process, enabling people to live to around 200-300 years. Wyndham speculates how society would deal with this prospect.
1968 Chocky
Told from his father's viewpoint a child's imaginary friend is not actually imaginary, but is a non-physical visitor from another planet. Made into an ITC series in 1984. In which, IIRC, chocky manifestied itself as a weird light on the wall. Scared the crap out of my six-year-old self!
1978 Web (published posthumously)
A plan to build a utopia on a jungle island is upset by attacks from mutant spiders.

Collections of short stories



1954 Jizzle

1956 The Seeds of Time

1959 The Outward Urge (with Lucas Parkes)

This is sometimes thought of as a novel, sometimes as a collection of linked short stories. It is actually the only book here I've not read, so I can't really comment any further. Lucas Parkes is actually another psuedonym of Wyndham's (using yet more of his numerous middle names).

1961 Consider Her Ways and Others

Consider Her Ways is a long short story, if such a thing can exist. It is presented here with other actually short stories.

1973 Sleepers of Mars

1973 The Best of John Wyndham

A collection of short stories. Also available as two books covering 1932-1949 and 1951-1960

1973 Wanderers of Time

A collection of short stories written for american pulp magazines in the 1930s

1979 Exiles on Asperus

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.