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).

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