Gallun, Raymond Z

Tagged: Author

(1911-1994) US author and technical writer, born and educated in Wisconsin, a considerable traveller in later years. He began publishing sf stories at the age of nineteen in November 1929 with "The Space Dwellers" in Wonder Stories and "The Crystal Ray" in Air Wonder Stories. In the 1930s he made a 1932 contribution to Hugo Gernsback's Science Fiction Series [see Checklist] and published frequently in F Orlin Tremaine's Astounding, his most famous contributions being the Old Faithful series posthumously assembled as The Old Faithful Saga (coll of linked stories 2005 ebook): "Old Faithful" (December 1934 Astounding), "The Son of Old Faithful" (July 1935 Astounding) and "Child of the Stars" (April 1936 Astounding). The first of these novelettes features a sympathetically conceived Martian – much in contrast to the then dominant sf convention that Aliens were to be depicted as monstrous – and the later two deal with that Martian's descendants. Along with other stories, the first three were collected in The Best of Raymond Z. Gallun (coll 1978). During his prolific years – he published most of his 120-plus stories during 1929-1942 – Gallun also used the pseudonyms Arthur Allport, Dow Elstar, E V Raymond and William Callahan in his magazine fiction, publishing his first book, The Machine that Thought (March 1939 Science Fiction Stories; 1942 chap) as by William Callahan. His style was rough-hewn, but he plotted his work with vigour and packed it with ideas, often decidedly original: from a very early date, many of his stories show an interest in Biology and Genetic Engineering not widely shared by his contemporaries. He became inactive in the 1940s and, though he has published again from about 1950, he never regained the popularity of his early years, although one of his finest stories, reprinted in the Best volume, was "The Restless Tide" (November 1951 Marvel Science Fiction). He published nothing 1961-1974, but remained intermittently active through the 1980s, when some of his work was nominated for contemporary awards. The US Convention I-CON gave him its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1985 and subsequently renamed this award as the Raymond Z Gallun Award.

Gallun's first novel, Dawn of the Demi-Gods Book 1: Passport to Jupiter (January 1951 Startling as "Passport to Jupiter"; 2006 ebook), initiates the Dawn of the Demi-Gods sequence, a Future History in which the population of Earth vicariously experiences the exploration of the solar system via weekly Virtual Reality broadcasts featuring the intrepid Hartwell family, climaxing in the Invention of vitaplasm, which governs the plot of the sequel – People Minus X (December 1935 Astounding as "Avalanche" as by Dow Elstar; much exp 1957; vt Dawn of the Demi-Gods Book 2: People Minus X 2006 ebook) – by making Androids possible. The sequence reflects Gallun's many years of writing in a four-square idea-oriented style for the Pulp magazines, and unsurprisingly derives its energy from the concepts which flood it, including body-Miniaturization, body-recording, the transfiguration of human volunteers into denizens of space, and much more. The Planet Strappers (1961) is more routine, but The Eden Cycle (1974) is a carefully written, slow-moving study of humans who, having received from aliens the gift of Immortality and a capacity to reinhabit imaginatively – through a kind of Virtual Reality – various epochs of world history (> History in SF), find themselves less and less capable of responding to their experiences.

Gallun was a writer – along with Edmond Hamilton and Stanley G Weinbaum – whose writing reflected the expectations of magazine readers of the early 1930s; and like Hamilton (Weinbaum died early) his development after 1945 was tied, for good and for ill, to those early days. Some late stories, as well as a selection of earlier material, were assembled as A First Glimpse and Other Science Fiction Classics (coll 2006 ebook); the consistency of Gallun's style throughout his career was notable, though his concerns became more modern. Late novels, like Skyclimber (1981), set on Mars, and Bioblast (1985), about the early years of a mutant Superman, may therefore lack some essential degree of appeal to more recent audiences because they are crude, because they avoid sex (despite a speculative focus on Biology), because their protagonists are unsubtle. But the sense of purpose persists, as does a humane vigour – as a late memoir, Starclimber: The Literary Adventures and Autobiography of Raymond Z. Gallun (1991) edited by Jeffrey M Elliot, amply conveys. Gallun is the best of those pre-1939 sf writers who failed to remain well known into the current nostalgic period. [JC]

see also: Astounding Science-Fiction; Far Future; Jupiter; Longevity (in Writers and Publications); Outer Planets; Social Darwinism.

Raymond Zinke Gallun

born Beaver Dam, Wisconsin: 22 March 1911

died Forest Hills, New York: 2 April 1994

works

Dawn of the Demi-Gods

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nonfiction

about the author

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