Scortia, Thomas N

Tagged: Author

(1926-1986) US chemist and author, active in solid-propellant research in the aerospace industry during the 1960s before becoming a full-time writer in 1970. He had already been publishing craftsmanlike stories for sixteen years, beginning with "The Prodigy" for Science Fiction Adventures in March 1954; known pseudonyms for short work in the sf magazines are Scott Nichols and Gerald MacDow (Arthur R Kurtz has also been given as a Scortia pseudonym). Some of his better work is assembled in Caution! Inflammable! (coll 1975); a more definitive conspectus is The Best of Thomas N. Scortia (coll 1981) edited by George Zebrowski. It has been argued that Scortia was at his best in short forms, where his sustained interestingness as a producer of ideas and situations took sometimes bravura shape; and there is little doubt that his first novel, What Mad Oracle?: A Novel of the World as It Is (1961), in which the aerospace industry is crippled by government corruption, lumbered through its material without much verve. After 1970, however, as his production started to increase, Scortia began to seem destined for a very substantial career. Artery of Fire (March 1960 Science Fiction Stories; exp 1972) describes the privately-financed construction of a huge beam or "artery" designed to transmit power from Pluto to frozen and impoverished Earth (see Climate Change), a project which is bedevilled (inevitably, given the Hard SF view of the world Scortia was most comfortable espousing) by politicians; Earthwreck! (1974) is set in on two Space Stations, one American one Russian, after a nuclear Holocaust has extinguished the human species on its home planet; one of these must be converted into a Spaceship, so that the Moon can be reached, so that the few survivors can preserve the human race. These were both intriguing tales, scientifically numerate and competently commercial.

He then shifted, however, into collaborative enterprises, mainly a series of popular Technothrillers with Frank M Robinson which, though successful in their own terms, exhibited relatively little of the creative daring Scortia had always threatened to exploit more fully. They are The Glass Inferno (1974) – which along with Richard Martin Stern's The Tower (1973) was filmed as The Towering Inferno (1974) – The Prometheus Crisis (1975), The Nightmare Factor (1978), The Gold Crew (1980) and – completed by Robinson after Scortia died – Blow Out! (1987), which features a transcontinental tunnel for the use of trains (see Transportation). Scortia's death was reported as being from leukaemia induced by exposure to radiation as an observer at early nuclear tests, and came just after he had announced new solo projects. [JC]

see also: Cyborgs; Immortality; Sex.

Thomas Nicholas Scortia

born Alton, Illinois: 29 August 1926

died La Verne, California: 29 April 1986

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