Temple, William F(rederick) 1914-1989

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TEMPLE, William F(rederick) 1914-1989

PERSONAL: Born March 9, 1914, in Woolwich, London, England; died, July 15, 1989; son of William and Doris Temple; married Joan Streeton, September 16, 1939; children: Anne, Peter. Education: Gordon School, London, 1919-1927; Woolwich Polytechnic, London, 1928-30.

CAREER: Writer. London Stock Exchange, London, England, head clerk, 1930-50; worked for a bookseller in Folkestone, England. Military service: Served in the Royal Artillery, 1940-46.

MEMBER: Science Fiction Writers of America.



Four-Sided Triangle: A Novel, Long (London, England), 1949, Fell (New York, NY), 1951.

The Dangerous Edge, Long (London, England), 1951.

Martin Magnus, Planet Rover (juvenile), Muller (London, England), 1955.

Martin Magnus on Venus (juvenile), Muller (London, England), 1955.

Martin Magnus on Mars (juvenile), Muller (London, England), 1956.

The Automated Goliath [and] The Three Suns of Amara, Ace (New York, NY), 1962.

Battle on Venus, Ace (New York, NY), 1963.

Shoot at the Moon, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1966.

The Fleshpots of Sansato, Macdonald (London, England), 1968.


The True Book about Space-Travel, Muller (London, England), 1954, published as The Prentice-Hall Book about Space Travel, Prentice-Hall (New York, NY), 1955.

Contributor to books, including Thrills, edited anonymously by Charles Birkin, Philip Allan (London, England), 1935; Dan Dare's Space Book, Hulton (London, England), 1952; The Girl Book of Modern Adventurers, Hulton (London, England), 1952; The Authentic Book of Space, edited by H. J. Campbell, Hamilton (London, England), 1954; The World-Wide Book for Boys, Beaver (London, England), 1957; Gay Stories for Girls, Beaver (London, England), 1957; New Writings in SF 7, edited by John Carnell, Dodson, 1966; The Double Bill Symposium: Being 94 Replies to "A Questionnaire for Professional Science Fiction Writers and Editors," edited by Bill Bowers and Bill Mallardi, D:B Press (Akron, OH), 1969; Androids, Time Machines, and Blue Giraffes: A Panorama of Science Fiction, edited by Roger Elwood and Vic Ghidalia, Follett (Chicago, IL), 1973. Contributor of short stories to Amazing Stories, Tales of Wonder, New Worlds, Super Science Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Authentic Science Fiction Monthly, Reveille, Weird Tales, Other Worlds Science Stories, Science Fantasy, Fantastic Adventures, Startling Stories, Nebula Science Fiction, Fantastic Universe, Boy's Own Paper, Imagination, Heiress, Analog, Famous Science Fiction, Worlds of If, Vision of Tomorrow, Story and Stanza, and Interzone. Editor, British Interplanetary Society Bulletin.

ADAPTATIONS: Four-Sided Triangle was adapted for film.

SIDELIGHTS: William F. Temple learned his craft amidst the science fiction boom of pre-and post-World War II England. Inspired by his companionship with writers such as Arthur C. Clarke, John Wyndham, and John Christopher, Temple persevered through an African stint with England's army during World War II to release Four-Sided Triangle, a novel toying with love and cloning and the extraordinary dynamics that occur when the two are mixed. Darren Harris-Fain in the Dictionary of Literary Biography noted: "Like most popular fiction of the period, Four-Sided Triangle was largely ignored in the mainstream press, although it was avidly discussed among science-fiction fans. In the field the story has become a minor classic—especially in its expanded novel form, which most critics agree is superior to the original magazine story."

Temple published nine science fiction books, including the "Martin Magnus" series of books for children. Still, his works never achieved a higher point of acclaim than with his debut novel. His distinctly British prose received an indifferent reception by American critics. As Robert H. Wilcox noted in the St. James Guide to Science Fiction, "Some readers . . . find Temple's work a bit stuffy at times."

Temple's imagination is especially on display in his many published short stories. Harris-Fain noted several examples, including "Conditioned Reflex," in which "a Martian robot that escapes to Earth tries to convince the humans it meets that human beings are also robots, the products of Martian exploration of Earth thousands of years ago. The people do not believe it, but when the Martian robot leaves behind a device that works in controlling other humans, the truth of the robot's claims is realized. Yet another example is 'The Lonely,' published in the July, 1955, issue of Imagination. The entire thrust of this story rests on its idea—namely, following a major catastrophe the last woman in London finds the last man in London, only to discover that he is homosexual." Harris-Fain also explained that in many of his stories, "Temple sympathizes with the alien or the outsider and critiques the tendency to judge others by one's own limited cultural standards."

Temple himself gave up science-fiction writing after 1968's The Fleshpots of Sansato. As he noted in an interview with the St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers: "I've read [science fiction] since childhood. At first, uncritically: I didn't notice it was only twodimensional, i.e., lacked depth, especially in characterization. Then critically: I decided to try to add that third dimension in my writing. Then despairingly: Nobody noticed that I had. Then cynically: Nobody wanted it anyway. They preferred their robots. Then uncaringly: I don't bother to write it any more."

"The work and career of William F. Temple," concluded Harris-Fain, "are representative of many science-fiction writers who attempt to earn their livings as professional writers: competent if not brilliant, imaginative if not always innovative, with a firmer grounding in scientific fact than literary fiction. Like many such writers, he never gained much of a reputation beyond the science-fiction community; this limited exposure may also be a result of Temple's distaste for self-promotion. Also, like several magazine writers in science fiction of the 1940s and 1950s, Temple did not change with the times, and in the 1960s and beyond, readers came to view his work as dated. Nor is it likely that he will ever be read by many uninterested in science fiction. However, one cannot fully understand the development of modern science fiction without understanding writers such as Temple, and a good part of his legacy lies in the role he played in the subgenre at an important stage of its development."



Ashley, Mike, The Work of William F. Temple: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide, Borgo Press (San Bernardino, CA), 1994.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 255: British Fantasy and Science-Fiction Writers, 1918-1960, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2002.

St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Foundation, summer, 1992, Mike Ashley, "Tell Them I Meant Well: A Tribute to William F. Temple," pp. 5-24.

Lan's Lantern, January, 1989, Larry Nowinski, "The Female Characters of William F. Temple: A Limited Study," pp. 30-32, and Timothy Nowinski, "Old Ideas with a Twist," pp. 53-55.

Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February, 1967, p. 28.

Punch, January 1, 1969, p. 35.

Times Literary Supplement, November 28, 1968, p. 1346.*

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