KNIGHT, Damon (Francis)
(1922-)
   US writer and editor; his third marriage was to Kate WILHELM. Like many sf writers, DK became involved in sf FANDOM at an early age, and by 1941 was a member of the FUTURIANS in New York, where he shared an apartment with Robert A.W. LOWNDES and met James BLISH, C.M. KORNBLUTH, Frederik POHL and others. (In The Futurians: The Story of the ScienceFiction "Family" of the 30's that Produced Today's Top SF Writers and Editors (1977) he published a candid history of the group and its era.) His first professional sale was a cartoon to AMZ. His first story was "Resilience" (1941) in STIRRING SCIENCE STORIES, edited by another Futurian, Donald A. WOLLHEIM; but DK's career as a short-story writer lay fallow for several years. In 1943 he became an assistant editor with Popular Publications, a PULP-MAGAZINE chain. Later he worked for aliterary agency, then returned to Popular Publications as assistant editor of SUPER SCIENCE STORIES. In 1950-51 he was editor of WORLDS BEYOND, but the magazine ran for only 3 issues; later he edited IF for 3 issues 1958-9.DK made his initial strong impact on the field as a book reviewer,and is generally acknowledged to have been the first outstanding GENRE-SF critic. His very first piece - a fanzine review (in Larry SHAW's Destiny's Child) of the 1945 ASF serial version of A.E. VAN VOGT's The World of A(1948) - remains perhaps his best known; it is in any case one of the most famous works of critical demolition ever published in the field, inspiring considerable revisions in the published book, and being credited (perhaps a touch implausibly) for van Vogt's eventual slide from pre-eminence. DK later reviewed books for a number of amateur and professional magazines, notably INFINITY and The MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION , expressing throughout a sane and consistent insistence on the relevance of literary standards to sf. His early reviews were collected in In Search of Wonder (coll 1956; rev 1967), and won him a HUGO in 1956. He stoppedreviewing entirely when FSF declined to print a negative response to Judith MERRIL - the review of The Tomorrow People (1960) which appears inIn Search of Wonder. In 1975 he received a retrospective PILGRIM AWARD from the SCIENCE FICTION RESEARCH ASSOCIATION.DK's 1940s stories - including occasional collaborations with Blish, once using the collaborative pseudonym Donald Laverty, and 3 times as Stuart Fleming - were of only mild interest until the release in 1949 of his ironic END OF THE WORLD story "Not With a Bang" in one of the first issues of FSF. Thismagazine, and GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION even more so, now provided markets in which DK could develop his urbane and darkly humorous short stories-including the famous "To Serve Man" (1950), "Four in One" (1953), "Babel II" (1953), "The Country of the Kind" (1955) and "Stranger Station"(1956) - though as the decade advanced, and as his perspectives on the human enterprise darkened, even these markets proved too narrow, and he was forced to publish some of his finest work in lesser journals, where his scouring, revisionary, anatomical rewrites of the genre's already sclerotic conventions could appear in safe obscurity. DK's reputation as a writer has primarily rested on the short stories published during the 1950s and, to a lesser extent, the 1960s; they are adult and sane and havenot dated. His best work has been assembled in various collections, including Far Out (coll 1961), In Deep (coll 1963; cut 1964 UK), Off Center (coll 1965 dos; exp vt Off Centre 1969 UK), Turning On (coll 1966;exp 1967 UK) and Rule Golden (coll 1979); later collections like Late Knight Edition (coll 1985), One Side Laughing: Stories Unlike OtherStories (coll 1991) and God's Nose (coll 1991) tend to mix early and later work.From the first, novels presented something of a difficulty for DK. Most of them - like his first, HELL'S PAVEMENT (fixup 1955; vt AnalogueMen 1962), a DYSTOPIAN story of a future society with humanity under psychological control, Masters of Evolution (1954 Gal as "Natural State"; exp 1959 chap dos) and The Sun Saboteurs (1955 If as "The Earth Quarter"; 1961 dos) - were expanded from stories, losing in the process thecompressed drivenness of his short work. Of them all, only The People Maker (1959; rev vt A for Anything 1961 UK) and the late The World andThorinn (fixup 1981), a scintillating picaresque derived from some 1960s tales, seem comfortably to fill the longer format; and by the mid-1960s he appeared to have turned his attention permanently elsewhere.Like Frederik Pohl, DK became adept at all aspects of the writing business, havingworked as magazine editor, short-story writer, novelist and critic. He now involved himself in formalizing the professional collegiality so important to the sf field, first by cofounding, with Blish and Merril, the MILFORD SCIENCE FICTION WRITERS' CONFERENCE in 1956, which he ran (soon withWilhelm) for over 20 years, later participating in its spiritual offspring, the CLARION SCIENCE FICTION WRITERS' WORKSHOP writing seminar, for which he edited The Clarion Writers' Handbook (anth 1978; rev as Creating Short Fiction 1981; rev under that title 1985); and second bybeing responsible for founding the SCIENCE FICTION WRITERS OF AMERICA, serving as its first president 1965-7. At about the same time he began to issue well conceived reprint ANTHOLOGIES like A Century of Science Fiction (anth 1962), First Flight (anth 1963; vt Now Begins Tomorrow 1969; exp vtFirst Voyages 1981 with Martin H. GREENBERG and Joseph D. OLANDER), Tomorrow x 4 (anth 1964), A Century of Great Short Science Fiction Novels (anth 1964) and many others. He also translated a number of French sf stories, some for publication in FSF, and collected them as 13 French Science-Fiction Stories (anth 1965). But his greatest editorialachievement during these years was the ORBIT series of ORIGINAL ANTHOLOGIES that he began in 1966, and which would become thelongest-running and most influential series of that sort yet seen in the field; among writers strongly identified with Orbit were Gardner DOZOIS, R.A. LAFFERTY, Kate WILHELM and Gene WOLFE.In the 1980s, after the end ofOrbit, DK became more active as a writer again, though without making a huge impression on a new generation of readers. But if The Man in the Tree (1984) seems unduly slack and irony-poor in its presentation of acontemporary MESSIAH figure, DK returned to something like form, though without quite the energy of earlier efforts, in the wickedly UTOPIAN sequence comprising CV (1985), The Observers (1988) and A Reasonable World (1991), about ALIEN parasites who turn out not to be thePARANOIA-justifiying plague of 1950s sf but moralistic symbionts who enforce something like rational behaviour upon humanity's leaders; in the third volume, a plethora of sf devices and utopian appeals somewhat weakens the pleasurable sting, but the series as a whole seems young at heart, and DK's cognitive energy remains clearly evident - as also demonstrated by the autumnal ironies of Why Do Birds (1992), in which the world is brought to an end. There is still a sense that he may have a mind to continue to shock the sf world. In 1995, he was granted the NEBULA Grand Master Award.
   MJE/JC
   Other works: Beyond the Barrier (1964); The Rithian Terror (1953 Startling Stories as "Double Meaning"; exp 1965 dos); Mind Switch (1965; vt The Other Foot 1966 UK); Three Novels (omni 1967; vt Natural State and Other Stories 1975 UK); World without Children, and The Earth Quarter (coll 1970) including The Sun Saboteurs as "The Earth Quarter", its magazine title; Two Novels (omni 1974) presenting The Rithian Terror and The Sun Saboteurs, both under their magazine titles; THE BEST OF DAMON KNIGHT (coll 1976); Better than One (coll 1980) with Kate Wilhelm; Rule Golden/Double Meaning (omni 1991) presenting the collection Rule Golden plus The Rithian Terror as Double Meaning.Nonfiction: Charles Fort: Prophet of the Unexplained (1970);Turning Points: Essays on the Art of Science Fiction (anth 1977), critical essays.As Editor: Beyond Tomorrow (anth 1965); The Dark Side (anth 1965); The Shape of Things (anth 1965); Cities of Wonder (anth 1966); NebulaAward Stories 1965 (anth 1966); Science Fiction Inventions (anth 1967); Worlds to Come (anth 1967); The Metal Smile (anth 1968); One Hundred Years of Science Fiction (anth 1968); Toward Infinity (anth 1968); Dimension X (anth 1970; in 2 vols, the 2nd vol vt Elsewhere x 3 1974 UK); A Pocketfulof Stars (anth 1971); First Contact (anth 1971); Perchance to Dream (anth 1972); Science Fiction Argosy (anth 1972); Tomorrow and Tomorrow (anth1973); The Golden Road (anth 1973); A Shocking Thing (anth 1974); Happy Endings (anth 1974); Science Fiction of the Thirties (anth 1975); Monad 1: Essays on Science Fiction (anth 1990),Monad 2: Essays on Science Fiction (anth 1992) and Monad 3: Essays on Science Fiction (anth 1994).The Orbit anthologies: Orbit 1 (anth 1966); Orbit 2 (anth 1967); Orbit 3 (anth 1968); Orbit 4 (anth 1968); Orbit 5 (anth 1969); Orbit 6 (anth 1970);Orbit 7 (anth 1970); Orbit 8 (anth 1970); Orbit 9 (anth 1971); Orbit 10 (anth 1972); Orbit 11 (anth 1972); Orbit 12 (anth 1973); Orbit 13 (anth 1974); Orbit 14 (anth 1974); Orbit 15 (anth 1974); Orbit 16 (anth 1975); Orbit 17 (anth 1975); Best Stories from Orbit: Volumes 1-10 (anth 1975); Orbit 18 (anth 1976); Orbit 19 (anth 1977); Orbit 20 (anth 1978); Orbit 21 (anth 1980).
   About the author: "All in a Knight's Work" by James Blish, Speculation 29, 1971; "Knight Piece" by DK in Hell's Cartographers (anth 1975) ed Brian W. ALDISS and Harry HARRISON.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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