Cyril Kornbluth was born July 2, 1923 in Inwood, an area of Manhattan, New York. The “M” used by him in his name actually is probably a reference to his wife, Mary Byers, with whom he collaborated in writing various works, but to the best of our knowledge he had no middle name.
Cyril M. Kornbluth started writing when he was 15 and his first story, “The Rocket of 1955”, was published in 1939 on the fanzine “Escape”. He was still a teenager when he joined the group of the Futurians, where he met many colleagues, including Frederik Pohl, who over the years became his closest writing partner, and his wife, Mary Byers.
In World War II, Cyril M. Kornbluth served in the infantry and was wounded in battle. For his actions during the Battle of the Bulge he received the Bronze Star. After the war, he graduated from the University of Chicago and for a while worked as a journalist, then he resumed his work as a writer.
Cyril M. Kornbluth became most famous for his short fiction, which often contained a fierce humor towards the institutions. “The Marching Morons” (1951) is probably the most controversial because it’s a grim vision of a future society in which a small elite of smart people try to run a world where almost the entire population is composed of idiots. The solution to the problem is indeed shocking!
In many cases, however, it was difficult to identify Cyril M. Kornbluth as the author of a story because he used many pen names including Cecil Corwin, S. D. Gottesman, Edward J. Bellin, Kenneth Falconer, Walter C. Davies, Simon Eisner, Jordan Park, Arthur Cooke, Paul Dennis Lavond and Scott Mariner. The anthologies published years later made the task easier.
Regarding novels, Cyril M. Kornbluth didn’t write much on his own and with varying success. His best result was (“The Syndic” (1953), which won the Prometheus Award. Kornbluth wrote novels especially in collaboration with a colleague. “Mars Outpost” (1952) was written with Judith Merril under the pen name Cyril Judd.
The most famous and successful collaboration of Cyril M. Kornbluth was certainly the one with Frederik Pohl, which focused on social science fiction with satires of various types. In 1955 the two writers published their masterpiece, “The Space Merchants”. Their subsequent novels were never at the same level while maintaining a generally good quality: “Search the Sky” (1954), “Gladiator at Law” (1955), “Presidential Year” (1956) and “Wolfbane” (1957).
Unfortunately, on March 21, 1958 Cyril M. Kornbluth had a heart attack and died. Some of his stories were incomplete and were finished by Frederik Pohl. One of these stories, “The Meeting”, published in 1972, won the Hugo Award. In 1981, Pohl also published a new version of the Kornbluth’s novel “Not This August”.
It’s impossible to say how much Cyril M. Kornbluth could’ve still given to science fiction had he not died so young. With his vitriolic humor he could’ve written many other satires on elements of the world of the decades after his death.