Klass, Philip J. 1919-2005

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KLASS, Philip J. 1919-2005

(William Tenn, a pseudonym)

PERSONAL: Born 1919, in London, England; died of prostate cancer, August, 9, 2005, in Merrit Island, FL; married 1957; wife's name Fruma (an editor); children: Adina.

CAREER: Science-fiction writer and educator. Pennsylvania State University, University Park, associate professor, beginning 1966, then professor of English and comparative literature, currently professor emeritus. Military service: U.S. Air Force radar and radio laboratory, technical editor, 1945.

MEMBER: Science Fiction Research Association (member of executive board).

AWARDS, HONORS: Named author emeritus, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, 1999.



Of All Possible Worlds, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1955, revised edition, M. Joseph (London, England), 1956.

The Human Angle, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1956.

Time in Advance, Bantam (New York, NY), 1958.

The Seven Sexes, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1968.

The Square Root of Man, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1968.

The Wooden Star, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1968.


(Editor) Children of Wonder: Twenty-one Remarkable and Fantastic Tales, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1953, published as Outsiders: Children of Wonder, Permabooks (Garden City, NJ), 1954.

(Editor, with Donald E. Westlake) Once against the Law, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1968.

A Lamp for Medusa (novella; originally published as "Medusa Was a Lady!" in Fantastic Adventures, 1951), Belmont Books (New York, NY), 1968.

Of Men and Monsters (novel; expanded version of "The Men in the Walls," published in Galaxy, 1963), Ballantine (New York, NY), 1968.

Immodest Proposals: The Short Science Fiction of William Tenn, Volume 1, edited by Mary Tabasko and Jim Mann, NESFA (Framingham, MA), 2001.

Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn, Volume 2, edited by James A. Mann and Mary Tabasko, NESFA, Press (Framingham, MA), 2001.

Dancing Naked: The Unexpurgated William Tenn, edited by Laurie D. T. Mann, NESFA Press (Framingham, MA), 2004.

Contributor to periodicals, including Astounding Science Fiction, Galaxy, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Fantastic Adventure, Thrilling Wonder, Playboy, and Esquire. Consulting editor, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1958. Author 's works have been translated into French, German, Russian, Japanese, and other languages.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Salvation!, a novel, to be published by St. Martin's Press.

SIDELIGHTS: A science-fiction author noted for publishing wry satire under the pseudonym William Tenn, Philip J. Klass began writing after his discharge from military service in World War II. His first published story, "Alexander the Bait," appeared under his own name in a 1946 issue of Amazing Science Fiction, the leading science-fiction magazine of the time. The story involves a scientist who falsely claims to have discovered rich sources of uranium on the moon, the ploy designed to ignite a space race that he hopes will result in his own travel to the moon. However, when his duplicity is realized, the scientist suffers an ironic fate: he is banned for life from space.

After experimenting with various pen names, Klass settled on William Tenn, under which he published his fourth story, "Child's Play," in 1947. Klass later regretted the pseudonym, which precluded his ability to publish—and enjoy recognition—as himself when his work gained in popularity. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Lewis Nichols noted that when Klass sought to publish under his real name, his publisher declined, commenting, "Who ever heard of Klass?"

During the 1950s Klass edited Children of Wonder: Twenty-one Remarkable and Fantastic Tales, an anthology of stories by science-fiction writers about the experience of childhood. He also published his own stories in three collections, Of All Possible Worlds, The Human Angle, and Time in Advance. The first volume contains one of Klass's best-known stories, "Down among the Dead Men," in which human corpses are converted into androids used to fight on the frontline of a brutal interstellar war. The Human Angle also includes several of Klass's best stories, such as "Wednesday's Child," about a young woman who gives birth to herself, and "The Discovery of Morneil Mathaway," a commentary on artistic authenticity and critical influence in which an art historian from the future paints the works of a second-rate artist whose work is celebrated centuries later.

In 1968 Klass published three additional collections, The Seven Sexes, The Square Root of Man, and The Wooden Star. The last volume includes the story "The Masculinist Revolt," a satire in which future men rally against the gains of twentieth-century sexual equality, focusing their ire on the threat that unisex clothing poses to male identity. The story, one of Klass's personal favorites, elicited an outpouring of negative reaction from both feminists and homophobes; the former objected to the story's perceived misogyny, the latter accused Klass of advocating homosexuality. During the same year Klaus published two longer works, Of Men and Monsters, a full-length novel based on "The Men in the Walls," an earlier story serialized in Galaxy, and the novella A Lamp for Medusa, which originally appeared as "Medusa Was a Lady!" in Fantastic Adventures. While Of Men and Monsters describes how small groups of humans survive, mouselike, in the walls of homes inhabited by giant aliens who have conquered the Earth, A Lamp for Medusa involves a modern protagonist who, in a parallel universe, is reincarnated as Perseus and given the ability to rewrite history.

In 2004 Klass published two volumes of his collected work as Tenn. Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn, contains some thirty short stories from the late 1940s and 1950s. While noting that some of the half-century-old pieces inevitably seem dated, Science Fiction Chronicle reviewer Steven Sawicki commended Klass's ability to construct an engaging narrative. "If there ever was a link between oral story-telling and written storytelling," remarked Sawicki, "Tenn is probably it." The second volume, Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn, Volume II, contains all of Klass's longer fiction, including Of Men and Monsters and A Lamp for Medusa, as well as several previously uncollected works, including "Bernie the Faust."

While Klass's creative production tapered off in the 1970s, he remained active in the science-fiction literary community and, as an English professor at Pennsylvania State University, taught writing as well as a course on science-fiction literature. In recognition of his lifelong contribution and commitment to the genre, Klass was honored in 1999 as an author emeritus of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.



Cowart, David, and Thomas L. Wyner, editors, Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 8: TwentiethCentury American Science-Fiction Writers, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1981.


Booklist, April 15, 2001, Roland Green, review of Immodest Proposals, p. 1544; October 15, 2001, Green, review of Here Comes Civilization, p. 388.

Library Journal, June 15, 2001, Jackie Cassada, review of Immodest Proposals, p. 107.

New York Times Book Review, June 9, 1968, Lewis Nichols, review of Of Men and Monsters.

Penn Stater, July, 1973, Laurie Mann, "Philip Klass: Wit with a Flair for the Incredible."

Science Fiction Chronicle, June, 2001, Steven Sawicki, review of Immodest Proposals, p. 32; December, 2001, Sawicki, review of Here Comes Civilization, p. 41.

Washington Post Book World, February 22, 1981, review of The Square Root of Man, p. 12.


Official Home Page of Science Fiction Writer William Tenn, (August 13, 2004).

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Web site, http://www.sfwa.org/ (July 28, 2004), "SFWA Honors William Tenn as Author Emeritus."