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James Blish

James Blish
Born (1921-05-23)May 23, 1921
East Orange, New Jersey, United States
Died July 30, 1975(1975-07-30) (aged 54)
Henley-on-Thames, England, United Kingdom
Pen name William Atheling, Jr.
Occupation Writer, critic
Period 1940–1975
Genre Science fiction, fantasy


James Benjamin Blish (May 23, 1921 – July 30, 1975) was an American author of fantasy and science fiction. Blish also wrote literary criticism of science fiction using the pen-name William Atheling, Jr.

Blish was born at East Orange, New Jersey.

In the late 1930s to the early 1940s, Blish was a member of the Futurians. He broke into science fiction print with two stories published by Frederik Pohl in Super Science Stories, "Emergency Refueling" in March and "Bequest of the Angel" in May 1940. ISFDB catalogs ten more stories published during 1941 and 1942, but only two in the next five years.

Blish trained as a biologist at Rutgers and Columbia University, and spent 1942–1944 as a medical technician in the United States Army. After the war he became the science editor for the Pfizer pharmaceutical company. His writing career progressed until he gave up his job to become a professional writer.

He is credited with coining the term gas giant, in the story "Solar Plexus" as it appeared in the anthology Beyond Human Ken, edited by Judith Merril. (The story was originally published in 1941, but that version did not contain the term; Blish apparently added it in a rewrite done for the anthology, which was first published in 1952.)

From 1962 to 1968, Blish worked for the Tobacco Institute.

Blish adapted episodes of Star Trek for Bantam Books. They were collected into twelve volumes, and published as a title series of the same name from 1967 to 1977. The adaptations were generally based on draft scripts, often containing additional plot elements or differing situations from the televised episodes. The original novel Spock Must Die!, also by Blish, was released by Bantam in 1970. Blish noted his financial stability later in life was the result of his Star Trek work.

  • Book One ("Seeding Program") is about the inception of Pantropy, when the Pantropy program appears to have deteriorated into hideous genetic experimenting and has been outlawed. It describes Sweeney, a modified ("adapted") human whose metabolism is based on liquid ammonia and sulfur bonds and whose bones are made from ice IV, who is inserted into a colony on Ganymede by the Terran Port Authority (a para-military organization) to capture a renegade scientist and end his plans to seed modified humans on distant worlds. However, the government really only tries to derail pantropy because it will cut their profits from terraforming attempts. Sweeney is surprised to find a well established, functioning community on Ganymede and eventually realizes that he was just used as an expendable agent and that he has been fed false hopes about the possibility of being changed into a normal human being who could live on earth. Having found a real home, he switches sides and with his help the Ganymede colony manages to launch their seed ships to secret destinations, beyond the reach of the corrupt government.
  • Book Two ("The Thing in the Attic") depicts a very successful seeding project. It tells the story of a small group of intellectuals from a primitive culture of modified monkey-like humans living in the trees of their jungle world. Having openly voiced the opinion that the godly giants do not literally exist as put down in the book of laws, they are banished from the treetops for heresy. In their exile on the ground they have to adapt to vastly different circumstances, fight monsters resembling dinosaurs, and finally happen upon the godly giants — who turn out to be human scientists who have just arrived on the world to monitor the progress of the local adapted humans. The protagonists are told by the scientists that their whole race must eventually leave the treetops to conquer their world and that they have become pioneers of some sort for accomplishing survival.
  • Book Three ("Surface Tension") gives another example of a culture of adapted humans: A pantropy starship crashes on an ocean world, Hydrot, which is on orbit around Tau Ceti. With no hope for rescue, the few survivors modify their own genetic material to seed microscopic aquatic "humans" into the lakes and puddles of the world and leave them a message engraved on equally scaled metal plates. The story then tells how over many seasons, the adapted human newcomers explore their aquatic environment, make alliances, invent tools, fight wars with hostile beings and finally gain dominance over the sentient beings of their world. They develop new technologies and manage to decipher some of the message on the metal plates. Finally they build a wooden "space ship" (which turns out to be two inches long) to overcome the surface tension and travel to "other worlds" — the next puddle — in search of their ancestry, as they have come to realize that they are not native to their world.
  • Book Four ("Watershed") takes a look at the more distant future. A very long time after the beginning of the Pantropy program, a starship crewed by "standard" humans is en route to some unimportant backwater planet to deliver a pantropy team who are "adapted" humans resembling seals more than humans. Due to racial prejudices, tension mounts between the crew and the passengers on board. When the captain decides to restrict the passengers to their cabins to prevent the situation from escalating, the leader of the adapted humans informs him that the planet ahead is Earth, where the "normal" human form once developed. He challenges the "normal" humans to follow him onto the surface of their ancestral home planet and prove that they are superior to the "adapted" seal people who will now be seeded there — or admit that they were beaten on their own grounds. The story concludes as the captain and his lieutenant silently ponder the possibility that they, being "standard" humans, are just a minority, and an obsolete species.
  • They Shall Have Stars (Faber 1956, Avon T-193 1957 published under the title Year 2018!)
  • A Life for the Stars (G. P. Putnam's Sons 1962, Avon H-107 1963)
  • Earthman Come Home (G. P. Putnam's Sons 1955; Avon T-225 1956, originally published as four short stories)
  • The Triumph of Time, (Avon T-279 1958; published in the UK as A Clash of Cymbals Faber 1959)
  • Galactic Cluster (stories, Signet S1719 1959) — Containing among others "Beep", "Common Time" and "Nor Iron Bars". The book version of the last story combines "Detour to the Stars" (1956) and "Nor Iron Bars" (1957). The 1960 UK hardback removes three stories from the Signet edition and adds "Beanstalk" (1952); the 1963 UK paperback edition removes three stories from the Signet edition (only two of the three are the same as those removed for the 1960 variation); the 1980 UK paperback uses the 1963 contents and adds "Beanstalk".
  • So Close to Home (stories, Ballantine 465K 1961)
  • The Star Dwellers (G. P. Putnam's Sons 1961, Avon F-122 1962, Faber and Faber 1962, Berkley 1970)
  • Mission to the Heart Stars (Faber and Faber 1965, G. P. Putnam's Sons 1965, Panther 1980, Avon 1982) — A sequel to The Star Dwellers
  • Welcome to Mars! (G. P. Putnam's Sons 1967, Faber and Faber 1967, Sphere 1978, Avon 1983) — Dolph Haertel's seminal first flight to Mars.
  • Anywhen (Doubleday 1970, Faber and Faber 1970, Arrow 1978, Avon 1983) — Contains among others the novelettes A Style in Treason and "A Dusk of Idols" (The 1971 UK edition removes the preface and adds a short story, "Skysign"]
  • Midsummer Century (DAW 89 1972) — The Far Future, at the time of Rebirth V. [The 1974 edition adds two unconnected short stories]
  • A Case of Conscience — Technically part of the Scholium, thanks to presence of the drive (see above)
  • "There Shall Be No Darkness" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, 1950) — horror short story where guests at a remote country estate discover that one of them is a werewolf. This was filmed as The Beast Must Die (a.k.a. Black Werewolf) (1974).
  • The Warriors of Day (as Sword of Zota 1951, Galaxy 16 1953, Lancer 1967, Avon 1979, Arrow 1979)
  • Jack of Eagles (Greenberg 1952, Galaxy 19 1953, as ESPer Avon T-268 1958, Avon 1968, Faber and Faber 1973, Arrow 1975)
  • "Get Out of My Sky" (novella, 1957)
  • Fallen Star (Faber and Faber 1957) (also published as The Frozen Year Ballantine 197 1957) — Set in the International Geophysical Year of 1958, it tells the story of a disaster-ridden polar expedition that finds a meteorite containing fossil life forms.
  • VOR (Avon T-238 1958, Arrow 1979) [expanded by Blish from the collaborative 'The Weakness of RVOG' [with Damon Knight], {Thrilling Wonder Stories}, Feb 1949]
  • Titans' Daughter (Berkley G507 1961, Four Square 1963, Avon 1981) (expanded from "Beanstalk" (in Future Tense, ed. K. F. Crossen, 1952)
  • The Night Shapes ( Ballantine F647 1962)
  • The Duplicated Man (with R. W. Lowndes, Avalon 1959, Airmont 8 1964)
  • A Torrent of Faces (with Norman L. Knight, Doubleday 1967, Ace Special A-29 1968)
  • The Vanished Jet (Weybright and Talley 1968)
  • And All the Stars a Stage (Doubleday 1971, Faber and Faber 1972, Avon 1974)
  • The Quincunx of Time (Dell 1973, Faber and Faber 1975, Avon 1983) expansion of "Beep" (Galaxy, Feb 1954)
  • Star Trek (Bantam F3459, 1967)
    • Variant title: Star Trek 1 (Bantam Q2114, 1975)
  • Star Trek 2 (Bantam F3439, 1968)
  • Star Trek 3 (Bantam F4371, 1969)
  • Spock Must Die! (Bantam H5515, 1970) The first Star Trek novel for an adult audience
  • Star Trek 4 (Bantam S7009, 1971)
  • Star Trek 5 (Bantam S7300, 1972)
  • Star Trek 6 (Bantam S7364, 1972)
  • Star Trek 7 (Bantam S7480, 1972)
  • Star Trek 8 (Bantam Pathfinder SP7550, 1972)
  • Star Trek 9 (Bantam Pathfinder SP7808, 1973)
  • Star Trek 10 (Bantam Pathfinder SP8401, 1974)
  • Star Trek 11 (Bantam 1975, Q8717)
    • Variant title: Day of the Dove (Bantam ISBN , 1985)
  • Star Trek 12 (Bantam ISBN , 1977), with J. A. Lawrence
  • Variant title: Star Trek 1 (Bantam Q2114, 1975)
  • Variant title: Day of the Dove (Bantam ISBN , 1985)
  • The Star Trek Reader (Dutton ISBN , 1976)
    • Includes volumes Star Trek 2, Star Trek 3, and Star Trek 8.
  • The Star Trek Reader II (Dutton ISBN , 1977)
    • Includes volumes Star Trek 1, Star Trek 4, and Star Trek 9.
  • The Star Trek Reader III (Dutton ISBN , 1977)
    • Includes volumes Star Trek 5, Star Trek 6, and Star Trek 7.
  • The Star Trek Reader IV, (Dutton ISBN , 1978)
  • Includes volumes Star Trek 2, Star Trek 3, and Star Trek 8.
  • Includes volumes Star Trek 1, Star Trek 4, and Star Trek 9.
  • Includes volumes Star Trek 5, Star Trek 6, and Star Trek 7.
  • The Classic Episodes 1 (Bantam Spectra ISBN , 1991)
    • All Season 1 episode adaptations, excluding Mudd's Women
  • The Classic Episodes 2, (Bantam Spectra ISBN , 1991)
    • All Season 2 episode adaptations, excluding I, Mudd'
  • The Classic Episodes 3, (Bantam Spectra, ISBN , 1991)
  • All Season 1 episode adaptations, excluding Mudd's Women
  • All Season 2 episode adaptations, excluding I, Mudd'
  • The Seedling Stars (Gnome 1957, Signet S1622 1959, Faber and Faber 1967)
  • Best Science Fiction Stories of James Blish (stories, Faber and Faber 1965). It includes There Shall Be No Darkness; the revised 1973 edition removes There Shall Be No Darkness and adds 2 stories from the late 1960s; this revised version was published by Arrow Books in 1977 as The Testament of Andros.
  • A Work of Art and other stories (edited by Francis Lyall;) Severn House 1993)
  • A Dusk of Idols and other stories (edited by Francis Lyall; Severn House 1996)
  • Works of Art NESFA (edited by James Mann, introduction by Gregory Feeley; NESFA 2008)
  • Flights of Eagles (edited by James Mann, foreword by Tom Shippey; NESFA 2009)
  • New Dreams This Morning (1966)
  • Nebula Award Stories 5 (1970)
  • Thirteen O'Clock and other zero hours (collection of C. M. Kornbluth stories; edited by Blish; 1970)
  • Tuck, Donald H. (1974). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Chicago: Advent. pp. 51–53. ISBN . 
  • Tymn, Marshall B.; Kenneth J. Zahorski; Robert H. Boyer (1979). Fantasy Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide. New York: R.R. Bowker Co. pp. 52–54. ISBN . 


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