High, Philip E

Tagged: Author

(1914-2006) UK writer, variously employed before working (from 1950 until his retirement in 1979) as a bus driver. He began to publish sf in September 1955 with "The Statics" for Authentic Science Fiction #61 and contributed to other UK magazines, including New Worlds and especially Nebula Science Fiction, for several years before the appearance of his first sf novel. Selected magazine stories, 1956-1970, were eventually assembled as The Best of Philip E. High (coll 2002); some late work appeared as Step to the Stars (coll 2004).

High's first novel The Prodigal Sun (1964) set the pattern for most of those to follow. His initial presentation of the world is pessimistic and Dystopian, showing the human race deeply divided; but he overlays that sense with plots of an epic cast whose optimism escalates towards global or galactic unity, often mediated by Psi Powers that confer empathy (in the ESP sense) and wish-fulfilling marriage with one's ideal partner. In The Prodigal Sun, characteristically, an Earthman possessing powers enhanced through his upbringing by an Alien race returns to his grim home planet, rousing it from a kind of Arrested Development. Other novels combining social comment and adventure include No Truce with Terra (1964 dos) – featuring attempted Xenoforming of Earth by an electromechanical ecology – The Mad Metropolis (1966 dos US; vt Double Illusion 1970) and These Savage Futurians (1967 dos), the latter having a primitive Ruined Earth setting with hidden enclaves of Technology. The Time Mercenaries (1968 dos) interestingly displaces a twentieth-century submarine into a time when mankind has lost its genetic capacity to fight; the resurrected crew (having been artificially preserved in Suspended Animation) dutifully saves mankind from interstellar Invasion by Aliens.

Though constrained by the repetitiveness of his breathless arc from glum Dystopia to a Utopian human future that can in the end seem too easily achieved, High was capable of writing enjoyable adventures; there was, however, a sense that he did not fully stretch his dark imagination. Again and again humanity is divided, usually by the machinations of Aliens (sometimes working through human puppets or collaborators): in Invader on my Back (1968 dos), for example, the hidden invaders' Telepathic influence has imposed a rigid system of human castes, with law-abiding "Norms" and police segregated from criminal "Delinks". Butterfly Planet (1971) posits a roughly similar future situation in the absence of alien interference. The transformation of Earth into a literal hunting preserve in Come, Hunt an Earthman (1973) gives free rein to another High trait, his fascination with exotic terror-Weapons. All but one of his 1970s novels were written for Robert Hale Limited. He was an imaginative though often sloppy exponent of Space Opera. [JC/DRL]

see also: Amnesia; Devolution; Gaia; Islands; Matter Penetration; Mecha; Miniaturization; Prehistoric SF; Rejuvenation; Sun; Torture; Underground; Upload; Weather Control.

Philip Empson High

born Biggleswade, Bedfordshire: 28 April 1914

died Canterbury, Kent: 9 August 2006

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