James Blish was born 90 years ago

James Benjamin Blish was born on May 23, 1921 in East Orange, New Jersey,  USA.

James Blish studied biology at Rutgers and Columbia University. During World War II he served as a medical laboratory technician in the U.S. Army.

James Blish career as a writer developed slowly, beginning with some short stories published since 1940 writing novels and anthologies only from the ’50s. For several years Blish worked in the pharmaceutical industry and then became a full-time writer in the ’60s.

James Blish is famous primarily for the cycle of the Cities in Flight which consists of four novels written between the ’50s and ’60s. This saga begins with the invention of an anti-aging medicine and especially an anti-gravity technology particularly efficient on large objects. Thanks to that, entire cities – the Okies – can leave the Earth for space journeys that will last a very long time but the residents may face them because they remain young.

There are some technologies that James Blish used in several of his stories that otherwise aren’t connected: the Dirac Radio, which allows communications at speeds greater than light, and the Haertel engine, the first faster-than-light propulsion system.

Over the years James Blish wrote several stories about space exploration and the human colonization of other planets. Among these the most famous ones are collected in the book “The Seedling Stars”, in which human beings change themselves to live in a variety of alien environments.

James Blish wrote some science fiction but also fantasy and horror novels addressing the problem of the price of knowledge which often include theological issues. The most famous is “A Case of Conscience”, which in 1959 won the Hugo Award as the best novel of the year.

James Blish also wrote several novels and collections related to the television series “Star Trek”: some are adaptations of show episodes, others are based on original subjects.

In 1968 James Blish moved to Oxford, England, where he worked until his death in 1975 from lung cancer.

Throughout his life James Blish has contributed to the world of science fiction not only with his stories but also through his work as a critic – he wrote reviews under the pseudonym William Atheling Jr. – and as part of the founders of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA). After his death a prize for criticism was created in his name.

Also because of his untimely death James Blish hasn’t been a very prolific author yet he wrote about very different topics. He was one of the most intellectual science fiction authors: he had a degree in biology but he was also interested in literature and poetry. That’s why we wrote stories about space travel full of technologies and scientific concepts – he’s credited with inventing the expression “gas giant” – but also much more philosophical stories. We’ll never know what more great stories he could have given us.

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