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John Wyndham

John Wyndham (July 10, 1903 - March 11, 1969) was the pen name used by the apocalyptically oriented British science fiction writer John Beynon Parkes Lucas Harris. In his earlier writings, he used various combinations of his names, and in one example, The Outward Urge, actually pretended to be two collaborating authors.

His book The Day of the Triffids was possibly the origin of the style of British science fiction described as the "cosy catastrophe" in which everyone is killed except for a handful of middle-class survivors. Though this was his most famous book, adding the word "triffid" to the English language, several of his other books are proving to be more durable:

The Midwich Cuckoos depicts a small village in which, during 24 hours when the inhabitants are unconscious, and the village is cut off from the outside world, all the women of child-bearing age mysteriously become pregnant, eventually giving birth to golden eyed children with telepathic abilities. It was filmed as Village of the Damned[?] (1960), with (unusually for a science fiction film) the plot being kept fairly close to the book. There is also a remake in colour by John Carpenter, starring Christopher Reeve in one of his last film roles before he was paralysed in a riding accident.

The Chrysalids depicts a rural community in Newfoundland, several centuries after some nuclear war, with a religious obsession about eliminating those born with any genetic abnormalities. It follows a small group of cousins who realise their telepathic abilities have to be hidden, and their troubles when these are discovered. The novel was adapted as a BBC Radio 4 play in the early 1980s.

All of Wyndham's novels have an air of old-fashioned Englishness which is either quaint or stuffy, depending upon one's point of view.

Bibliography (incomplete)

  • The Wanderers of Time (1933)
  • Stowaway to Mars (1935)
  • The Secret People (1935)
  • Sleepers of Mars (1938) (short stories as "John Beynon")
  • The Day of the Triffids (1951)
  • Jizzle (1954)
  • The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)
  • The Outward Urge (by "John Wyndham" and "Lucas Parkes")
  • The Kraken Wakes
  • The Seeds of Time
  • Trouble with Lichen (about man's wish for longevity)
  • Chocky (made into a BBC television series for children in the 1980s)
  • Web (1979 - published by the executors of his estate, ten years after his death.)

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