Jones, Raymond F

Tagged: Author

(1915-1994) US writer, very active for about fifteen years after he first appeared in Astounding in September 1941 with "Test of the Gods". He was virtually silent in the 1960s; some more routine novels appeared in the 1970s. His best-known short story is the witty "Noise Level" (December 1952 Astounding), an archetypal Astounding tale of Conceptual Breakthrough, scientific advance taking place through destruction of a previous paradigm: Scientists are told that Antigravity exists, and so proceed to invent it. The story had two sequels, "Trade Secret" (November 1953 Astounding) and "The School" (December 1954 Astounding). During his most prolific – and most exciting – period he wrote one story, "Utility" (July 1944 Astounding), under the pseudonym David Anderson. Two collections, The Toymaker and Others (coll 1951) and The Non-Statistical Man (coll 1964), gather much of this work.

Jones's first novel, also from that time, is probably his best. Renaissance: A Science Fiction Novel of Two Human Worlds (July-October 1944 Astounding; 1951; vt Man of Two Worlds: A Science-Fiction Novel 1963) is a long, complicated Parallel-Worlds adventure with an exciting narrative – Future War, superscience and echoes of nuclear Holocaust – and a number of lively variations on favourite sf themes, told with some of the intricacy of his contemporary at Astounding, A E van Vogt. The Alien: A Gripping Novel of Discovery and Conquest in Interstellar Space (1951), the story of the discovery of an ancient Alien artefact in the Asteroid belt (> Suspended Animation), likewise displays strong narrative drive. This Island Earth (stories June 1949-February 1950 Thrilling Wonder; fixup 1952) begins with beleaguered Aliens secretly using human scientists in order to resist an enemy in an intergalactic war which threatens to engulf Earth. The protagonist finally persuades them that, by allowing their tactics to be dictated by vast Computers, they have become predictable to the enemy. But he may be too late. The film version, This Island Earth (1954), begins well but loses interest when it diverges – perhaps inevitably – from the book, which became quite famous, all the same, due to the commercial impact of the movie.

Jones's 1950s juveniles – particularly the Ron Barron sequence comprising Son of the Stars (1952), Planet of Light (1953) – are effective, as is Syn (1950 as "Divided We Fall"; 1969). But after The Secret People (1956; vt The Deviates 1959) and The Cybernetic Brains (September 1950 Startling; 1962) he became comparatively inactive, and later novels, like Weeping May Tarry (1978), the latter with Lester del Rey, show a much diminished energy. Though not generally an innovator in the field, Jones, during his first period of activity, produced solid, well-crafted Hard-SF adventures featuring protagonists with sharp, clear, calm minds. His plots were sometimes noisy; but he wrote quietly, in a reassuringly transparent style. He was one of the carriers of the voice of sf. [JC/PN]

see also: Astounding Science-Fiction; Cybernetics; Cyborgs; Discovery; Dystopias; Great and Small; Islands; Physics; Power Sources.

Raymond Fisher Jones

born Salt Lake City, Utah: 17 November 1915

died Salt Lake City, Utah: 24 January 1994

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