Wallace, Ian

Tagged: Author

Pseudonym of John Wallace Pritchard (1912-1998), US clinical psychologist and teacher who spent his working life – from 1934 until his retirement in 1974 – in professional education. As an author he was active mainly after 1967, though under his own name he published some nonfiction in the 1940s and the non-sf Every Crazy Wind (1952).

Beginning with Croyd (1967), Wallace produced a remarkable series of sf novels in two series normally listed under the Croyd surtitle: the Croyd Spacetime Maneuvres sequence and the St Cyr Interplanetary Detective series. Most of them are more or less closely linked to a common background about 500 years hence, though the baroque contortions of his storylines tend to obliterate any sustained sense of continuity and often make it very difficult to determine the precise era of the tale in question. This freewheeling dreamlike arbitrariness – as well as a startlingly inept sense of dialogue – has caused him more than once to be likened to A E van Vogt, though a saving sharp sense of humour was always been evident in Wallace's work. The common background to his books has a solar system that dominates a large group of planets. Various Alien creatures – some godlike – participate in and impinge upon this central system. Transcendental Time Paradoxes and loops abound, as do all the other appurtenances of the more intricate sort of Space Opera, including Heroes.

Of the two series, of greater interest – but more taxing – is the Croyd Spacetime Maneuvres, comprising by order of event The Lucifer Comet (1980), set in 2464 CE, Z-Sting (1978), set in 2475 CE, Heller's Leap (1979), set in 2494 CE and involving St Cyr (see below), Croyd, set in 2496 CE, Dr Orpheus (1968), set in 2502 CE, A Voyage to Dari (1974), set in 2506 CE, Pan Sagittarius (1973), set in 2509 CE, and Megalomania (1989), set subsequently, at a time when gods play dice with the universe. In the earlier-published volumes, Wallace generally managed to control his tendency to create heavy-handed exercises in what might be called Gamine Baroque; Croyd and Dr Orpheus are among the most exhilarating space-opera exercises of the post-World War Two genre. Croyd himself, the effective Secret Master (à la Van Vogt) of the human worlds for much of the series, frequently has to withstand – or initiate – radical changes in the rules that ground the Universe, and as a result must constantly busy himself with matters of cosmogonic grandeur (see Cosmology). In Dr Orpheus, for instance, he must combat a plot on the part of distant but approaching aliens who, desperate to implant their fertile eggs in humans, had earlier given the egomaniacal Dr Orpheus the use of an Immortality Drug, anagonon, which has the side-effect of forcing those who take it to obey anyone whom they intuitively recognize as their hierarchical better – e.g., Orpheus himself; by now, according to the aliens' plan, the human race should be ripe for implantation. Croyd's counteroffensive involves a great deal of paradoxical Time Travel, including a sojourn in ancient Greece. But even at its most exciting moments, the story is conveyed at a contemplative remove, permitting the reader to enjoy its intricacies with relative calm.

The St Cyr Interplanetary Detective sequence is the more approachable. The individual titles – The Purloined Prince (1971), set in 2470 CE (although this and other dates, while provided in the texts, are of little help in tales involving Time Paradoxes and the like), Deathstar Voyage (1969), set in 2475 CE, and The Sign of the Mute Medusa (1977), set in 2480 CE – tend like most detective novels to accept the nature of the world as a given and to concentrate upon problem-solving plots. Each book features Claudine St Cyr, an ace officer whose missions embroil her in complicated dilemmas on various planets; Time Travel is not eschewed, but is kept relatively straightforward.

Of those books not directly identified with any series The World Asunder (1976) is in fact connected to Pan Sagittarius, and The Lucifer Comet (1980), a successful tale, is attached by a tangle of strings to Croyd himself. Only Wallace's first novel, the non-genre Every Crazy Wind (1952) as by John Wallace Pritchard and The Rape of the Sun (1982) seem clearly not to inhabit the basic and voluminous shared universe presided over by Croyd. The dreamlike tone of Wallace's work is retrospective in effect, rather than wish-fulfilling as with Van Vogt; it is only when this central calm declined in his later career to something approaching indifference – however laced with mysticism and occult plot turns – that Wallace's novels became inconsequential. [JC]

see also: Black Holes; Crime and Punishment; Galactic Empires.

John Wallace Pritchard

born Chicago, Illinois: 4 December 1912

died Las Vegas, Nevada: 7 July 1998

works

series

Croyd: Croyd Spacetime Maneuvres

Croyd: St Cyr Interplanetary Detective

individual titles

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