Murray Leinster was born 120 years ago

Murray Leinster
Murray Leinster

William Fitzgerald Jenkins (portrait ©Ziff-Davis Publishing), that was his real name, was born on June 16, 1896 in Norfolk, Virginia, USA.

William Fitzgerald Jenkins’ career as a freelance writer began in 1916 with the publication of his story “The Foreigner” in the magazine “The Smart Set” expanding over time to various literary genres. In 1919 he published his first science fiction story, “The Runaway Skyscraper” in the magazine “Argosy”.

He signed various detective stories and westerns with the pseudonym Will F. Jenkins and even two romance novels under the pseudonym Louisa Carter Lee occasionally using other pseudonyms. However, gradually he specialized in fantasy, horror and especially science fiction stories, which generally signed as Murray Leinster.

In 1920 Murray Leinster published “The Mad Planet”, which, along with its sequels “The Red Dust” in 1921 and “Nightmare Planet” in 1953 formed one of his best known novels under the title “The Forgotten Planet”. It’s the story of the descendants of an expedition shipwrecked on a planet that was seeded to develop life forms that after millennia became giant insects and plants.

In 1921, William Fitzgerald Jenkins married Mary Mandola. Together they had four daughters.

In the ’30s William Fitzgerald Jenkins kept on writing detective stories and westerns for various magazines but was one of the few authors to prosper in the science fiction market when the magazines “Astounding” and “Analog” became dominant under John W. Campbell’s direction. For this reason, sometimes he published science fiction stories with pseudonyms such as William Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Jenkins when more than one was published in the same issue and one was already signed Murray Leinster.

In 1934 Murray Leinster published the story “Sidewise in Time”, credited for the invention of the concept of parallel universes. The Sidewise Award for Alternate History established in 1995 has a name chosen after that story. It’s one of the various concepts developed for the first time by Murray Leinster or at least made popular by him.

For example, his 1945 story “First Contact”, which received a Retro Hugo Award in 1996, is perhaps not the first but it was important to spread the concept of universal translator. His 1946 story “A Logic Named Joe” describes a personal computer connected to a network.

Murray Leinster’s career continued in the following decades with the publication of a lot of stories, often fixed-up later to be republished as novels. His 1956 story “Exploration Team” won the Hugo Award.

Among Murray Leinster’s works there are also a number of novels linked to TV shows. Some science fiction and detective stories, signed with various of his pseudonyms, have been adapted into various anthology radio and TV series.

Murray Leinster died on June 8, 1975. He was one of the most important pioneers of science fiction since he began writing stories of that genre even before the name was invented. He was among the few who managed to keep on being successful when science fiction passed its pulp magazines phase and had an important influence on many writers of the following generations.

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