Murray Leinster

By: Joshua Glenn
June 16, 2013


The prolific science fiction writer MURRAY LEINSTER (William Fitzgerald Jenkins, 1896–1975) is one of the few Radium Age sf authors — his first sf story, “The Runaway Skyscraper,” appeared in a 1919 issue of Argosy — who was able to find success after the mid-1930s. In fact, John W. Campbell, whose editorship of Astounding sparked the Golden Age, published a number of Leinster stories; and it’s worth noting that one of Leinster’s first editors was H.L. Mencken. During the 1920s and ’30s, the prolific Leinster rehearsed the themes — often, in contributions to Hugo Gernsback’s pulp magazines — for which he’d become well-known later. During science fiction’s so-called Golden Age, his 1934 story “Sidewise in Time” was the first alternate-history yarn… not to mention the first to pose the enduring question, “What if the South won the Civil War?” The title of Leinster’s 1945 aliens-meet-humans story “First Contact” gave us a phrase that today seems natural and inevitable. Most impressively, perhaps, Leinster’s 1946 story “A Logic Named Joe” offers a prescient look not only at home computers (“logics”) but at the interconnection of those computers via a distributed system of servers (“tanks”) which stream communications, entertainment, data access, and commerce into every home. Yes: the Internet!


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Stan Laurel, Barbara McClintock, Leroy Sievers.

READ MORE about members of the Hardboiled Generation (1894-1903).

MORE RADIUM AGE SCI FI ON HILOBROW: HiLoBooks homepage! | What is Radium Age science fiction? |Radium Age 100: 100 Best Science Fiction Novels from 1904–33 | Radium Age Supermen | Radium Age Robots | Radium Age Apocalypses | Radium Age Telepaths | Radium Age Eco-Catastrophes | Radium Age Cover Art (1) | SF’s Best Year Ever: 1912 | Radium Age Science Fiction Poetry | Enter Highbrowism | Bathybius! Primordial ooze in Radium Age sf | War and Peace Games (H.G. Wells’s training manuals for supermen) | Radium Age: Context series | J.D. Beresford | Algernon Blackwood | Edgar Rice Burroughs | Karel Čapek | Buster Crabbe | August Derleth | Arthur Conan Doyle | Hugo Gernsback | Charlotte Perkins Gilman | Cicely Hamilton | Hermann Hesse | William Hope Hodgson | Aldous Huxley | Inez Haynes Irwin | Alfred Jarry | Jack Kirby (Radium Age sf’s influence on) | Murray Leinster | Gustave Le Rouge | Gaston Leroux | David Lindsay | Jack London | H.P. Lovecraft | A. Merritt | Maureen O’Sullivan | Sax Rohmer | Paul Scheerbart | Upton Sinclair | Clark Ashton Smith | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Olaf Stapledon | John Taine | H.G. Wells | Jack Williamson | Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz | S. Fowler Wright | Philip Gordon Wylie | Yevgeny Zamyatin

GOLDEN-AGE SCI-FI at HILOBROW: Golden Age Sci-Fi: 75 Best Novels of 1934–1963 | Robert Heinlein | Karel Capek | William Burroughs | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Clifford D. Simak | H.P. Lovecraft | Olaf Stapledon | Philip K. Dick | Jack Williamson | George Orwell | Boris Vian | Bernard Wolfe | J.G. Ballard | Jorge Luis Borges |Poul Anderson | Walter M. Miller, Jr. | Murray Leinster | Kurt Vonnegut | Stanislaw Lem | Alfred Bester | Isaac Asimov | Ray Bradbury | Madeleine L’Engle | Arthur C. Clarke | PLUS: Jack Kirby’s Golden Age and New Wave science fiction comics.

What do you think?

  1. An important figure in science fiction bridging the gap between radium & gold.

  2. Leinster was also an inventor and, under his real name of William F. Jenkins, is the inventor of the Front Projection process for film special effects which was far superior to to the Back Projection process which preceded it.

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