by Dave Nee
Damon Knight is one of the grand old men of science fiction, having served his
time as a fan, illustrator, writer, critic, editor, teacher, alleged leader of a literary
gang, historian, founder of SFWA... Born 19 September 1922 in Baker, Oregon, he
spent most of his childhood in the Columbia river town of Hood River At the
tender and susceptible age of 11, he was seduced by the garish pulp glories of
Amazing Stories. This traumatic experience would scar him for life, as he proceeded
to pursue and procure other works of scientifiction. Through the letter columns of
the pulps, he discovered fans... and fanzines. Two issues of his own, Snide,
published while studying at the Salem WPA Art Center in 1940, would lead him to
be abducted into the frenetic company of the Futurian Society in New York City.
His various careers have their origin in the 1940s. A brief stab at pulp illustration
was blunted by the theoretically more lucrative rewards of writing fiction. He
would hit his stride in the early 50s, in sardonic short stories best to be found, along
with his telling commentary, appropriately in The Best of Damon Knight. There is an
excellent bibliography in the Damon Knight issue of F&SF, November 1976.
Two stretches as an assistant editor at Popular Publications were punctuated
with stints at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency. That second stretch on Super
Science Stories was followed in 1950 with the editorship of all three issues of Worlds
Beyond, from Hillman Periodicals. 1958-59 saw three issues of Worlds of If; 1959-60, a
stormily-ended book review editorship at F&SF; 1969-66, editorial consulting for
the science fiction line at Berkley Books. At this time he initiated his lengthy list of
eclectic sf anthologies. Probably his most famous work as an editor began in 1966:
Orbit would run 13 numbers from Berkley-Putnam, switching to Harper & Row in
1974 for another 8 (gaining some editorial freedom, but losing paperback editions
and what Vonda Mclntvre has dubbed the "peeled-eyeball" cover art ul v ill rhr).
In 1945, his infamous dissection ot A. E. van Vogt s Worlds of Null-A introduced
his incisive critical acumen. In 1953 he began regular book reviewing and claims to
have done "little else for nine years." A cursory examination of the preceding
paragraphs will put that myth to rest. The best of these reviews form In Search of
Wonder, a cntical anthology whose original version won him a Hugo Award in 1956.
That year he co-founded, with Judith Merril and "nominally" James Blish, the
Milford Science Fiction Writers' Workshop, a monster whose progeny have spread
across the nation in the last decade or so. From this group, he would meet his third
wife, the preternaturally talented sprite, Kate Wilhelm
Knight's last anthologies, Turning Points and Westerns of the 4U's, were published
six years ago; the final Orbit, three years ago. His most recent novel, The World and
Ihorinn, some two years old, is mostly material from Galaxy magazine circa 1968.
So, while Knight the fan remains evident, and certainly the teacher persists, most
of the other hats appear to have been shelved for the moment.
This is but a variation of previously published detail, a concatenation of signposts. Others could tell you more about Knight the man. But why don't you find
out for yourself?
ITS ABOUT TIME