- TENN, William
- Pseudonym of US writer and academic Philip Klass (1920-), who taught writing and sf at Pennsylvania State College from 1966. After serving in WWII, WT began writing sf, publishing in 1946 in ASF his first story,"Alexander the Bait", a tale that demonstrates the pointed (and, in terms of the sf shibboleths of 1946, iconoclastic) intelligence of his work in its PREDICTION that SPACE FLIGHT would be achieved institutionally rather than through the efforts of an individual inventor-industrialist-genius (EDISONADE) - a prediction that sf as a whole was remarkably loth to make,and with the reality of which it proved subsequently loth to live. WT soon became one of the genre's very few genuinely comic, genuinely incisive writers of short fiction, sharper and more mature than Fredric BROWN and less self-indulgent than Robert SHECKLEY. From 1950 onwards he found a congenial market in Gal, where he published much of his best work before falling relatively inactive after about 1960. Among the finer stories assembled in his first collection, OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS (coll 1955; with 2 stories cut and 3 added, rev 1956 UK), were "Down Among the Dead Men"(1954), about the use of ANDROIDS reconstituted from human corpses as front-line troops in a savage interstellar war, "The Liberation of Earth" (1953), in which liberation is imposed upon Earth alternately by twowarring ALIEN races (in a prescient satirical model for much of the revolutionary activity of later decades), and "The Custodian" (1953), an effective variant on the last-man-on-Earth theme. WT's occasional post-1960 stories maintained the high calibre, comic manner and dark vision of his early work. Most of the contents of his 5 further collections, however, date from the late 1940s through the mid-1950s: The Human Angle (coll 1956), Time in Advance (coll 1958), comprising 4 longerstories, The Seven Sexes (coll 1968), The Square Root of Man (coll 1968) and The Wooden Star (coll 1968), each containing at least some examples of his best work. In The Human Angle, for instance, can be found "Wednesday's Child" (1956), in which a rather simple young woman's biologicalpeculiarities climax in her giving birth to herself, and "The Discovery of Morniel Mathaway" (1955), which involves TIME TRAVEL and (unusually inGENRE SF) evolves into a serious look at the nature of the making of ART.OF MEN AND MONSTERS (1963 Gal as "The Men in the Walls"; exp 1968), WT's only full-length novel-released at the same time and in the same format as the 3 1968 collections listed above, and cursed with a title that seemed to indicate merely a further assembly - had little impact on publication, although its reputation has justifiably grown. Giant aliens have occupied Earth and almost eliminated mankind, except for small groups living, like mice, within the walls of the aliens' dwellings. These humans manage to survive, and even prosper after a fashion - though the rites of passage they engage upon, and the CONCEPTUAL BREAKTHROUGHS they experience, can only be seen as ironically reversing the implications of such moments as they occur in "normal" sf. As the novel closes, humanity is about to spread, again like mice, hiding in niches in the holds of the aliens' spaceships, to the stars. Also published in derisory book form at this time was A Lamp for Medusa (1951 Fantastic Adventures as "Medusa was a Lady"; 1968 chap dos), a fantasy-like tale in which a young American falls into a kind of PARALLEL WORLD where, as Perseus, he is given an opportunity to rewrite human history.Despite his cheerful surface and the occasional zany HUMOUR of his stories, WT, like most real satirists, was fundamentally a pessimist; and, when the comic disguise was whipped off, as happened with some frequency, the result was salutary. The sf community has granted WT no awards.WT is not to be confused with Philip J. Klass (1919-), US electrical engineer and UFO debunker, for many years senioreditor of Aviation Week \& Space Technology, whose books include UFOs Identified (1968), Secret Sentries in Space (1971), UFOs Explained (1974),UFOs: The Public Deceived (1983) and UFO-Abductions: A Dangerous Game (1988).JCAs Editor: Children of Wonder (anth 1953; vt Outsiders: Children of Wonder 1954); Once Against the Law (anth 1968) with Donald E. WESTLAKE.About the author: William Tenn (Philip Klass) (1987 chap) by Gordon BENSON Jr.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. Academic. 2011.