LEINSTER, Murray


LEINSTER, Murray
   Pseudonym under which US writer William Fitzgerald Jenkins (1896-1975) was best known in the sf field, and under which he wrote almost all his work in the genre; exceptions were a few stories in magazines, mainly those in the Bud Gregory series as by William Fitzgerald, and a small number as by Will F. Jenkins. He remained active as an sf writer from 1919, when his first story, "The Runaway Skyscraper", about a buildingfalling backwards through time, was published in Argosy, until about 1970. Like most contributors to the pre-WWII US sf PULP MAGAZINES, he publisheda great deal of material that did not reach book form until after 1945. His first book publication, Murder Madness (1931), as its title indicatesdid not aim directly at the sf market (then still nascent in the USA), though the book is in fact sf. The Murder of the U.S.A. (1946; vt Destroy the U.S.A. 1950 Canada) as by Will F. Jenkins was again directed as much to the mystery as to the sf market, though its plot (the hero solves the mystery of who dropped 300 A-bombs on US cities) is more sf than locked-room. Because of the pile-up of magazine material, many of ML's post-WWII book publications contained or reworked early stories, and were often rather dated in plotline and character development; ironically, it was at this time that he was publishing his best work in the magazines, stories that competed on equal terms with those by writers 20 years newer to the field.ML's first series was the set of 4 off-beat Masters of Darkness or Preston-Hines superscience-blackmail stories contributed toThe Argosy, 1929-30, and never collected in book form. The more widely known Bud Gregory series comprises the 3 stories in Out of this World (coll 1958) and "The Seven Temporary Moons" (1948); all 4 were originallypublished in TWS. Bud is a hillbilly whose intuitive knack with high technology allows him to solve various superscience problems. Of more interest is the Med Service sequence, S.O.S. from Three Worlds (coll 1967), The Mutant Weapon (1959 dos), Doctor to the Stars: Three Novelettesof the Interstellar Medical Service (coll 1964) and This World is Taboo (1961); all but Doctor to the Stars were assembled as The Med Series (omni1983). In these stories and novels, Calhoun and the "being" Murgatroyd act as troubleshooters in various far-flung crises; the tales are robust and adventurous, but rudimentary compared to the inventiveness of James WHITE's Sector General tales (see also MEDICINE). The Joe Kenmore novels -Space Platform (1953), Space Tug (1953), and City on the Moon (1957) - make up a juvenile series about the crisis-ridden first years of the near-future US space effort, told in melodramatic terms that have not worn well.ML's best years as an sf writer were undoubtedly the decade following WWII, a period during which his finest short stories were published, amongthem "First Contact" (1945), "Doomsday Deferred" (1949) as by Jenkins, "The Lonely Planet" (1949), "If You Was a Moklin" (1951) and "ExplorationTeam" (1956), which won the 1956 HUGO for Best Novelette and became part of Colonial Survey (1955-6 ASF; fixup 1956; vt Planet Explorer 1957), perhaps his most enjoyable single volume, though his individual short stories are generally superior to his book-length work. When ML did contrive FIXUPS of short material, the result was often disappointing. His first classic story, for instance, "The Mad Planet" (1920), on being incorporated into The Forgotten Planet (1920-53 var mags; fixup 1954), exposed to view implausibilities that may have been tolerable in a 1920 short story but which, 30 years later in book form, failed to convince. His novels, which were frequently unambitious and repetitive, generallystretched beyond their proper span, and seemed written for a less demanding market than his best stories (which appeared in many journals, including ASF and Gal). A good selection of these tales can be found in Monsters and Such (coll 1959); The Best of Murray Leinster (coll 1976 UK)ed Brian Davis is much inferior to The Best of Murray Leinster (coll 1978) ed J.J. PIERCE.The last decade of ML's career boasted numerous publications, but no substantial works were conceived after the mid-1950s - though The Pirates of Zan (1959 dos), a competent but unremarkable spaceopera, won some praise. In this book, and in almost every full-length title ML published after WWII, the Galaxy serves as a template which scamps and engineers tinker with to their own advantage, and to the advantage of small communities on Earth or elsewhere. "According to the fiction tapes," as ML puts it in The Pirates of Zan, "the colonized worlds of the galaxy vary wildly from one another. In cold and unromantic fact, it isn't so. Space travel is too cheap and sol-type solar systems too numerous to justify the settlement of hostile worlds." It is perhaps revealing that variations, in this quote, are seen as innately hostile. In any case, the ML universe had little room for CONCEPTUAL BREAKTHROUGH, and the similarities in background from one novel to another were sufficiently numerous that his later books made up one loose series. Allied to this template view of the Universe was a deepening political simplicity of view, rather right-wing in orientation (a viewpoint common to many sf writers of his generation), which led to the frequent depiction of cartoon-like confrontations between the USA and underhanded enemies, in the resolving of which means tended to dominate ends. In Timeslip! * (1967) and The Time Tunnel * (1967), based on episodes from the tv seriesTIME TUNNEL - another ML novel, Time Tunnel (1964), is confusingly unrelated to this series - the past is paradoxically restructured by executive fiat to make life safe for democracy. But the paradox seems unconscious.The high and only superficially simple competence of the stories remains as ML's memorial. In this work he speaks with a directness to the heart of magazine sf and its readership with a craftsmanship and consistency that warrant the nickname he was given: the Dean of SF.
   JC
   Other works: Fight for Life (1947 Startling Stories; 1949); The Last Space Ship (1946-7 TWS; fixup 1949); Sidewise in Time (coll 1950); Conquest of the Stars 1952 (chap Australia); The Unknown (1952 chap Australia); The Black Galaxy (1949 Startling Stories; 1954); The Brain-Stealers (1947 Startling Stories as "The Man in the Iron Cap"; 1954 dos); Gateway to Elsewhere (1950 Fantasy Book; 1952 Startling Stories as "Journey to Barkut"; 1954 dos); Operation: Outer Space (1954); The OtherSide of Here (1936 ASF as "The Incredible Invasion"; rev 1955 dos); War with the Gizmos (1958); Four from Planet 5 (1959); The Monster from Earth's End (1959); The Aliens (coll 1960); Men into Space * (1960), basedon the tv series; Twists in Time (coll 1960); Creatures of the Abyss (1961; vt The Listeners 1969 UK); The Wailing Asteroid (1960); OperationTerror (1962); Talents, Incorporated (1962); The Duplicators (1964 dos); The Greks Bring Gifts (1964); Invaders of Space (1964); The Other Side of Nowhere (1964); Get Off my World! (coll 1966); Space Captain (1966 dos); Checkpoint Lambda (1966); Miners in the Sky (1967); Space Gypsies (1967); ties based on the tv series LAND OF THE GIANTS, comprising Land of the Giants * (1968), \#2: The Hot Spot * (1969) and \#3: Unknown Danger *(1969); A Murray Leinster Omnibus (omni 1968), assembling Operation Terror, Checkpoint Lambda and Invaders of Space; Last Murray Leinster Interview (1983 chap) with Ronald Payne.As Editor: Great Stories of Science Fiction (anth 1951).
   About the author: Murray Leinster (Will F. Jenkins): A Bibliography (1970 chap) by Mark OWINGS.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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