Johns, W E

Tagged: Author

(1893-1968) UK air pilot, who served variously with the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force throughout World War One until shot down and captured on 16 September 1918, and later author, who began producing boys' action adventures in 1930. His normal byline was Captain W E Johns (a rank he did not in reality attain, having risen no higher than Flying Officer). His total output exceeded 200 volumes, his popularity exceeding any other twentieth-century British writer for children except Enid Blyton. Less well known is his short period as editor of Pearson's Magazine, May-November 1939.

Johns became famous in particular for the 102 books about airman Biggles, of which two – Biggles Hits the Trail (1935) and Biggles – Charter Pilot: The Adventures of Biggles & Co on a World-Wide Cruise of Scientific Investigation (coll 1943) – have some sf content. The former features a lost Himalayan mountain rich in radium, whose inimical inhabitants have harnessed this resource for (inter alia) Invisibility and Death Rays. The latter's sixteen short stories include episodes in which Biggles encounters bizarre plants, giant animals and humans, the lost Element orichalcum, surviving dodos, troglodytes from the Hollow Earth, and vampire bats with the power of Hypnotism.

Amongst Johns's numerous other works, of particular sf interest is the Tiger and Rex Clinton sequence beginning with Kings of Space: A Story of Interplanetary Adventure (1954) and Return to Mars: A Story of Interplanetary Flight: A Sequel to Kings of Space (1955), which introduce the two Clintons, father and son, who join with an eccentric Professor whose Inventions propel the sequence (unlike the Edisonade, this very British sequence separates the warrior hero from the culture hero). In a number of constantly improving saucer-Spaceships, the companions explore various planets in the solar system and elsewhere, meeting Alien societies and occasionally becoming involved in interplanetary or interstellar Future War, notably in The Death Rays of Ardilla: A Story of Interplanetary Exploration (1959) (see Death Rays). For the full list of titles in this series, see Checklist. Throughout, especially in volumes like The Quest for the Perfect Planet: A Story of Space Exploration (1961) and Worlds of Wonder: More Adventures in Space (coll 1962), Johns's anti-war sentiments, and his growing interest in the increasingly stressed Ecology of planet Earth, are clearly manifest; the series was never popular with Johns's usual readers, who found his concerns pessimistic. [JC/AC/DRL]

see also: Rays.

William Earle Johns

born Bengeo, Hertfordshire: 5 February 1893

died Kingston upon Thames, Surrey: 21 June 1968

works

series

Biggles (highly selected)

Tiger and Rex Clinton

links

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