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James Benjamin Blish (23 May 192130 July 1975; age 54) was a Nebula and Hugo-award winning science fiction author, born in East Orange, New Jersey. He wrote many novelizations of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes. He was the first to do so, publishing them through Bantam Books. He adapted every TOS episode into a short story with the exceptions of "Mudd's Women", "I, Mudd" (which he intended to write as novel-length stories, later finished by his wife Judith Anne Lawrence, as Mudd's Angels and printed in 1978), "Shore Leave", and "And the Children Shall Lead" (he died before he finished these stories.) These novelizations were printed in twelve popular mass-market paperbacks, titled Star Trek 1, Star Trek 2, etc. all the way up to Star Trek 12. He also wrote the second original Star Trek novel Spock Must Die!, which was published by Bantam.

Biography

Blish born in East Orange, New Jersey in 1921.

He went to Rutgers University, majoring in microbiology, and graduating in 1942. He was then drafted into the US Army during the war, as a lab technician, but was discharged. After the war he became the science editor for the Pfizer pharmaceutical company. He then briefly read Zoology at Columbia, but did not finish the course. Instead, he opted to work full time as a writer from the 1940s onwards, starting with the handful of magazines still operating during the war.


In 1964, he moved to England, where he would spend the rest of his life.

He was married twice: first in 1947 to the writer and literary agent Virginia Kidd (div. in 1963); secondly to the artist J. A. Lawrence in 1964. It is believed J.A. Lawrence assisted him in writing Star Trek short stories, but how much is controversial. She received her first credit the final volume, Star Trek 12, published in 1977, two years after Blish's death.

He was actively involved in, or setting up, in a number of science fiction collective. The Futurians was one of the earliest of these (where he met his first wife), others included the Milford Science Fiction Writers' Conference, the Science Fiction Writers of America, and the UK's Science Fiction Foundation, each of which he helped found.

Death

Blish died from lung cancer in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England in 1975; he is buried in Holywell Cemetery, Oxford, near the grave of Kenneth Grahame, author of The Wind in the Willows.


His papers were left to the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

He was a heavy smoker for much of his life, and did work for the Tobacco Institute, much of which remained uncredited.

Work

Blish was a distinguished and prolific author of science fiction aside from his work with Star Trek. He wrote under several pen names, one of the most significant being William Atheling Jr. He was awarded or nominated for some of the most prestigious literary prizes in the genre: winning the Hugo Award for A Case of Conscience in 1959, and a nomination for We All Die Naked in 1970; he also was nominated for the Nebula Awards three times - in 1965, 1968 and 1970. In 2002, he was inducted posthumously into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

His written output included a set of different future histories that intertwined with each other on different levels – The Cities in Flight, and a collective series known as The Haertel Scholium.

His Hugo-winning novel A Case of Conscience followed in the wake of C.S. Lewis' "Space Trilogy", with a Jesuit priest conflicted over whether a particular alien race should be converted to Christianity and "saved", or could even sin in the first place. Blish was an agnostic by his own admission, but this novel deals with deeply spiritual dilemmas.

Science fiction innovations

Blish pioneered a number of different concepts now found throughout science fiction:

  • The Spindizzy, which is a more comprehensive interstellar drive and spatial shield able to hurl entire cities into superluminal flight.
  • The concept of the anti-agathic drugs that prevent death from the effects of cellular aging and cell death.
  • Pantropy, or tecto-genetic engineering of Humans to permit colonization of planetary environments not normally considered remotely habitable to normal Humanity.
  • The Dirac transmitter, permitting instantaneous transmissions across the galaxy, and whose collective transmissions also transcend time.

Blish was responsible for coining the term "gas giant" in the story "Solar Plexus" as it appeared in the anthology Beyond Human Ken when describing Jupiter. This term has been widely adopted, not only by the public, but even among astrophysicists.


Star Trek novelisations

Ironically "...Blish's state of relative financial security derived not from the sale of his best books but from a series of contracts he signed with Bantam Books to produce collections of story versions of the hit TV series Star Trek." (Ketterer, David; Imprisoned in a Tesseract; 21)

"Blish's doubts about this project are recorded in a notebook entry: 26 July 66 An apparent opportunity has arisen to do a book of 8 short stories derived from scripts of the forthcoming TV series Star Trek for a flat fee of $2000. This creates a dilemma. I need the money and could do the work quickly. One the other hand I don't like this kind of work and it's bad for the reputation to get involved in that sort of hacking.

I suppose the best out is to do it under a pen name- and bear in mind that it might help to work for the show directly- especially since the producer will be at the Tricon [1966 World Science Fiction Convention in Cleveland]."

Despite his reservations, Blish signed a series of four-book contracts with Bantam Books, and beginning in 1967 eleven Star Trek collections appeared under his own name." (Ketterer; 249) "A 'Writing Accounts' ledger entry indicates that Blish received a $2,000 advance for each of the Star Trek collections." (Ketterer; 324)

"Blish, in Josephine Saxton's words, 'affected to despise Star Trek' and, in fact, he had not written Star Trek 10. Judith Blish has revealed that Star Trek 6-11 (all of which appeared under Blish's name except the last where J. A. Lawrence appears as collaborator) were essentially written by Judith Blish and her mother Muriel Lawrence." (Ketterer; 25)

When Blish wrote Spock Must Die! he had already finished the first three of his books of adaptations of the Star Trek series. This is was his first original effort, and is meant to be set after the events of the first three seasons of Star Trek.

On August 16, 2004, S. C. Mitchell of Mesa, Arizona wrote in a review of the book on Amazon.com that "James Blish was contracted to write this book because he had experience writing for Star Trek: he's (sic) already written most of the episode adaptations. The problem was that he was living in England at the time, where the show was not airing; he based his adaptations on scripts, many of them early draft scripts. In short, Mr. Blish was contracted to write a novel based on a show he had never seen." (Mitchell; [1]) The fact is that until April, 1969, Blish lived in the United States, and if he had never seen Star Trek, it was because he didn't want to.

"The third of Blish's "Writing Accounts" ledgers indicates that he received an advance of $3,000 for this book (Spock Must Die!)- $1,000 more than the sum he was paid for each of the Star Trek collections." (Ketterer; 358)

According to Blish: "...no serious Blish student...should take anything in Spock Must Die! seriously. It was a potboiler, and to keep myself interested I threw into it at random anything that occurred to me whether it made sense or not." (Ketterer; 268)

In the Star Trek fanzine T-Negative, (issue 5, 1970), the publication of Spock Must Die! was announced, noting that the price was 60c. "It is essential to note that the price of Spock Must Die! was comparable to the price of many fanzines at the time. After the double-digit inflation of the early 1980s, the gap in the price between fanzines and pro novels widened, so that later, the average price of a fanzine became at least twice that of a pro novel. This makes the pro novels more of a bargain today. In these early days, by contrast, there were far fewer pro novels and far more fanzines. Many fanzines had professional quality stories and were comparable in price, making them more attractive than the pro novels of the time. (However, then and now, more Star Trek fans knew about pro novels than fanzines..)" (Verba, Joan Marie; Boldly Writing: A Trekker Fan & Zine History, 1967-1987; 4)

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