Black Easter (Hardcover)
|Author: James Blish|
James Blish, despite writing some of America's best science fiction, died with almost all of his work out of print and a legacy as little more than "a guy who wrote Star Trek novels." Born in New Jersey in 1921, he was interested in science fiction as a child, avidly reading stories by the first generation of pulp writers from the 1930s. In New York, he hooked up with other sf fans, like Isaac Asimov and Damon Knight, with whom he helped to form the Futurians, a group of fans most of whom went on to not insignificant careers in the field. Blish's first story was published in 1940, after which he attended Rutgers University, studying biology. Graduating in 1942, he was drafted into the Army, where he served until 1944. The next year he married Virginia Kidd, a literary agent who eventually represented some of the biggest names in US sf. Blish spent two years in postgraduate work studying zoology at Columbia University, but dropped out to write full-time. While employed at a newspaper, he began to write prolifically in the evenings and weekends. The famous Okie series came out of this time. Eventually compiled as the CITIES IN FLIGHT omnibus in 1970, these stories revolved around a number of floating cities, and were modeled after life in the Oklahoma Dustbowl in the 1930s. Blish and Kidd were divorced in 1963, and the next year he married writer and illustrator Judith Ann Lawrence (the two remained married until Blish's death from cancer). Continually rewriting and expanding his stories made for a tortuously complicated bibliography--for example, though he is credited with writing more than 20 novels, only one or two were actually conceived as novels; all the rest were expansions of stories or fix-ups (the peculiar sf practice of stringing several stories together to make a single, novel-length work). He also wrote a great deal of vitriolic sf criticism under the pseudonym William Atheling, Jr. In 1967, due in part to declining health, increasing alcoholism, and a lack of commercial success, Blish turned to writing novelizations of the Star Trek TV show. The majority of the rest of his publications are, in some way or another, related to the show, and are, by general consensus, of little value--several of them were actually written by his wife, with rumored help from her mother. Nevertheless, a reissue of CITIES IN FLIGHT in early 2000 should spark a resurgence of interest in his early, exemplary work.