Williamson, John Stewart 1908-2006
Williamson, John Stewart 1908-2006
(Will Stewart, Jack Williamson)
OBITUARY NOTICE— See index for CA sketch: Born April 29, 1908, in Bisbee, Arizona Territory (now AZ); died November 10, 2006, in Portales, NM. Author. Williamson was a pioneering, award-winning science-fiction author whose career spanned the pulp era through the twenty-first century. Born in Arizona before it became a state, he was witness to the radical transformations of the United States in the twentieth century. His own early life on the farm was fairly isolated from human contact, and so he developed a vivid imagination to pass the time. When he came across his first science-fiction pulp magazine, Amazing Stories, in 1926, the world of planetary and time travel was a revelation for him. Williamson was immediately inspired to write, and he had his first success just two years later when “The Metal Man” appeared in that same pulp magazine. Over the next years, he regularly contributed to the pulps, and many of his stories were cover features. His first novel, The Girl from Mars, written with Miles J. Breuer, was released in 1929. Continuing to write, he attended what is now West Texas State University and the University of New Mexico, though he did not complete a degree. When the United States entered World War II, Williamson joined the U.S. Army Air Forces; he served as a weatherman and was promoted to staff sergeant. After the war, he worked briefly as a wire editor for the Portales, New Mexico, News Tribune and released one of his best-remembered science-fiction novels, The Legion of Space (1947), as well as the classic The Humanoids (1949). With the publication of the latter, Williamson was beginning to prove himself to be a writer of considerable depth. Much of the science fiction being written at the time was about space travel heroics and ugly alien monsters. Williamson, on the other hand, was one of the first authors in the genre to focus more on characterization and to address serious themes, such as the potential hazards to humanity of advanced technology. Occasionally collaborating with other writers, he partnered most successfully with Frederik Pohl, with whom he would write the “Jim Eden,” “Starchild,” and “Cuckoo’s Saga” series, among other works. Also the creator of the “Beyond Mars” comic strip, which ran in the New York Sunday News from 1953 to 1956, Williamson would publish over sixty science-fiction novels and short-story collections, as well as several works of nonfiction. He returned to university studies to complete a master’s degree at Eastern New Mexico University in 1957, and a doctorate from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1964. Not only did his own gifts as a writer contribute to the legitimacy of his favorite genre, but the author sought to make science fiction and fantasy literature legitimate works to study at the college level. He therefore enjoyed being a faculty member at Eastern New Mexico University, teaching courses in creative writing and genre fiction. He was an associate professor there in the 1960s and a professor from 1969 until his 1977 retirement. Williamson continued to publish into the twenty-first century, with his last novel being The Stonehenge Gate (2005). His contributions to science fiction were recognized with just about every major award in the field. Among his honors were the 1976 Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement from the Science Fiction Writers of America, the 1994 World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement from the World Fantasy Convention, the 1998 Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement from the Horror Writers Association, the 2001 Hugo and Nebula Awards for his novella The Ultimate Earth, and the 2001 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Transforming Earth.A former president of the Science Fiction Writers of America, he also won the prestigious Hugo for his autobiography, Wonder’s Child: My Life in Science Fiction (1985).
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES
Williamson, Jack, Wonder’s Child: My Life in Science Fiction, Bluejay (New York, NY), 1985.
Chicago Tribune, November 15, 2006, Section 2, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times, November 14, 2006, p. B10.
New York Times, November 14, 2006, p. C21.
Washington Post, November 17, 2006, p. B7.