Cyril M. Kornbluth (July 2, 1923 – March 21, 1958) was an American science fiction author and a member of the Futurians. He used a variety of pen-names, including Cecil Corwin, S. D. Gottesman, Edward J. Bellin, Kenneth Falconer, Walter C. Davies, Simon Eisner, Jordan Park, Arthur Cooke, Paul Dennis Lavond, and Scott Mariner. The "M" in Kornbluth's name may have been in tribute to his wife, Mary Byers; Kornbluth's colleague and collaborator Frederik Pohl confirmed Kornbluth's lack of any actual middle name in at least one interview.
Cyril M. Kornbluth
Cyril Kornbluth c. 1955
|Born||July 2, 1923|
New York City, United States
|Died||March 21, 1958 (aged 34)|
Levittown, New York, United States
|Pen name||Cecil Corwin|
Edward J. Bellin
Walter C. Davies
|Occupation||Novelist, short story author, Editor|
|Alma mater||University of Chicago|
Kornbluth was born and grew up in the uptown Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood, in New York City. He was of Polish Jewish descent, the son of a "second-generation [American] Jew" who ran his own tailor shop. According to his widow, Kornbluth was a "precocious child", learning to read by the age of three and writing his own stories by the time he was seven. He graduated from high school at thirteen, received a CCNY scholarship at fourteen, and was "thrown out for leading a student strike" before graduating.
As a teenager, he became a member of the Futurians, an influential group of science fiction fans and writers. While a member of the Futurians, he met and became friends with Frederik Pohl, Donald A. Wollheim, Robert A. W. Lowndes, and his future wife Mary Byers. He also participated in the Fantasy Amateur Press Association.
Kornbluth served in the US Army during World War II (European 'Theatre'). He received a Bronze Star for his service in the Battle of the Bulge, where he served as a member of a heavy machine gun crew. Upon his discharge, he returned to finish his education, which had been interrupted by the war, at the University of Chicago. While living in Chicago he also worked at Trans-Radio Press, a news wire service. In 1951 he started writing full-time, returning to the East Coast where he collaborated on novels with his old Futurian friends Frederik Pohl and Judith Merril.
Kornbluth began writing at 15. His first solo story, "The Rocket of 1955", was published in Richard Wilson's fanzine Escape (Vol. 1, No 2, August 1939); his first collaboration, "Stepsons of Mars," written with Richard Wilson and published under the name "Ivar Towers", appeared in the April 1940 Astonishing. His other short fiction includes "The Little Black Bag", "The Marching Morons", "The Altar at Midnight", "MS. Found in a Chinese Fortune Cookie", "Gomez" and "The Advent on Channel 12".
"The Little Black Bag" was first adapted for television live on the television show Tales of Tomorrow on May 30, 1952. It was later adapted for television by the BBC in 1969 for its Out of the Unknown series. In 1970, the same story was adapted by Rod Serling for an episode of his Night Gallery series. This dramatization starred Burgess Meredith as the alcoholic Dr. William Fall, who had long lost his doctor's license and become a homeless alcoholic. He finds a bag containing advanced medical technology from the future (2098), which, after an unsuccessful attempt to pawn it, he uses benevolently.
"The Marching Morons" is a look at a far future in which the world's population consists of five billion idiots and a few million geniuses – the precarious minority of the "elite" working desperately to keep things running behind the scenes. In his introduction to The Best of C.M. Kornbluth, Pohl states that "The Marching Morons" is a direct sequel to "The Little Black Bag": it is easy to miss this, as "Bag" is set in the contemporary present while "Morons" takes place several centuries from now, and there is no character who appears in both stories. The titular black bag in the first story is actually an artifact from the time period of "The Marching Morons": a medical kit filled with self-driven instruments enabling a far-future moron to "play doctor". A future Earth similar to "The Marching Morons" – a civilisation of morons protected by a small minority of hidden geniuses – is used again in the final stages of Kornbluth & Pohl's Search the Sky.
"MS. Found in a Chinese Fortune Cookie" (1957) is supposedly written by Kornbluth using notes by "Cecil Corwin", who has been declared insane and incarcerated, and who smuggles out in fortune cookies the ultimate secret of life. This fate is said to be Kornbluth's response to the unauthorized publication of "Mask of Demeter" (as by "Corwin" and "Martin Pearson" (Donald A. Wollheim)) in Wollheim's anthology Prize Science Fiction in 1953.
Biographer Mark Rich describes the 1958 story "Two Dooms" as one of several stories which are "concern[ed] with the ethics of theoretical science" and which "explore moral quandaries of the atomic age":
"Two Dooms" follows atomic physicist Edward Royland on his accidental journey into an alternative universe where the Nazis and Japanese rule a divided United States. In his own world, Royland debated whether to delay progress at the Los Alamos nuclear research site or to help the atomic bomb achieve its terrifying result. Encountering both a slave village and a concentration camp in the alternative America, he comes to grips with the idea of life under bondage.
Many of Kornbluth's novels were written as collaborations: either with Judith Merril (using the pseudonym Cyril Judd), or with Frederik Pohl. These include Gladiator-At-Law and The Space Merchants. The Space Merchants contributed significantly to the maturing and to the wider academic respectability of the science fiction genre, not only in America but also in Europe. Kornbluth also wrote several novels under his own name, including The Syndic and Not This August.
Kornbluth died at age 34 in Levittown, New York. Scheduled to meet with Bob Mills in New York City to interview for the position of editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Kornbluth had to shovel snow from his driveway, which delayed him. Running to meet his train, he suffered a fatal heart attack on the platform of the station.
A number of short stories remained unfinished at Kornbluth's death; these were eventually completed and published by Pohl. One of these stories, "The Meeting" (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November 1972), was the co-winner of the 1973 Hugo Award for Best Short Story; it tied with R. A. Lafferty's "Eurema's Dam." Almost all of Kornbluth's solo SF stories have been collected as His Share of Glory: The Complete Short Science Fiction of C. M. Kornbluth (NESFA Press, 1997).
Frederik Pohl, in his autobiography The Way the Future Was, Damon Knight, in his memoir The Futurians, and Isaac Asimov, in his memoirs In Memory Yet Green and I. Asimov: A Memoir, all give descriptions of Kornbluth as a man of odd personal habits and eccentricities.
Kornbluth, for example, decided to educate himself by reading his way through an entire encyclopedia from A to Z; in the course of this effort, he acquired a great deal of esoteric knowledge that found its way into his stories, in alphabetical order by subject. When Kornbluth wrote a story that mentioned the ballista, an Ancient Roman weapon, Pohl knew that Kornbluth had finished the 'A's and had started on the 'B's.
According to Pohl, Kornbluth never brushed his teeth, and they were literally green. Deeply embarrassed by this, Kornbluth developed the habit of holding his hand in front of his mouth when speaking.
Kornbluth disliked black coffee, but felt obliged to acquire a taste for it because he believed that professional authors were "supposed to" drink black coffee. He trained himself by putting gradually less cream into each cup of coffee he drank, until he eventually "weaned himself" (Knight's description) and switched to black coffee.
Spider Robinson praised this collection, saying "I haven't enjoyed a book so much in years." Mark Rich wrote, "Critics judging Kornbluth by this anthology, edited by Pohl, have seen a growing bitterness in his later stories. This reflects editorial choice more than reality, because Kornbluth also wrote delightful humor in his last years, in stories not collected here. These tales demonstrate Kornbluth's effective use of everyday individuals from a variety of ethnic backgrounds as well as his well-tuned ear for dialect."
Kornbluth's name is mentioned in Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events as a member of V.F.D., a secret organization dedicated to the promotion of literacy, classical learning, and crime prevention.
According to Kornbluth's friend Blish, "The belated appearance of this antique collaboration so upset C.M. Kornbluth...that he wrote a story explaining that the hapless Corwin had been confined in a mental hospital under LSD-25 since around 1950. The story also contains an attack on the agent who sold the collaboration without Kornbluth's permission."
The Space Merchants remains the best-known of his satirical works, and its influence can be seen in a number of subsequent works forecasting futures in which a particular group or institution dominates society.
A Mile Beyond the Moon is a collection of science fiction stories by American writer C. M. Kornbluth, originally published as a Doubleday hardcover in 1958, shortly after Kornbluth's untimely death. A Science Fiction Book Club edition appeared in 1959, with an abridged paperback edition following from Macfadden Books in 1962. Macfadden reissued the collection in 1966 and, as Manor Books, in 1972 and 1976. A German translation (Die Worte des Guru) appeared in 1974, and an Italian translation (Oltre la Luna) in 1987. While no further editions of the collection were published, all the stories are contained in NESFA's 1997 His Share of Glory: The Complete Short Science Fiction of C. M. Kornbluth.Cyril Judd
Cyril Judd was a joint pseudonym used by American writers Cyril M. Kornbluth and Judith Merril for their two novels:
Gunner Cade (1952); serialized in Astounding Science Fiction in 1952.
Outpost Mars (1952, reprinted as Sin in Space in 1961; serialised as Mars Child in Galaxy Science Fiction in 1951.)Gladiator-At-Law
Gladiator-At-Law is a satirical science fiction novel by American writers Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth. It was first published in 1955 by Ballantine Books and republished in 1986 by Baen Books.Gunner Cade
Gunner Cade is a science fiction novel by American writers Cyril M. Kornbluth and Judith Merril (the second and last written together under their Cyril Judd pseudonym), originally serialized in Astounding Science Fiction in 1952. It was issued in hardcover by Simon & Schuster later that year, with an Ace Double paperback following in 1957. Gollancz issued a British hardcover in 1964, with a Penguin paperback following in 1966. The Science Fiction Book Club published an edition in 1965, with a Dell paperback appearing in 1969. Reprint editions (in various languages) continued to appear in the 1970s and 1980s. NESFA Press included the novel in a 2008 omnibus of Kornbluth and Merril novels, Spaced Out.Gunner Cade began as a synopsis, "Time of Troubles", written entirely by Kornbluth. The co-authors broke the story down into planned 5000-word segments, which they wrote alternately. "Cyril would write what was supposed to be a five-thousand-word section in about three thousand words. I would then go back and rewrite his section to make it five thousand words", Merril remembered. "Then I would write the next five-thousand-word section in eight thousand words. He would rewrite my section to shorten it". They completed the novel in six weeks, writing quickly because both were "desperately broke".The novel deals with the transformation of Cade, the title character, from a loyal member of the elite police force of an authoritarian interplanetary regime into an individualistic rebel. Kornbluth and Merril crafted the novel to appeal to Astounding SF editor John W. Campbell, using Fritz Leiber's Gather, Darkness! as their model. "We did a really interesting analytical breakdown of what Campbell would and wouldn't buy", Merril later wrote. "The scientific stuff had to be there, but the sort of spiritual fantasy element had to be there as well. Also, the novel had to contain the sort of humor that made sense to Campbell".Kornbluth
The name Kornbluth or Kornblut (German: Kornblüte, "grain blossom") may refer to:
Anne Kornblut (born 1973), American journalist
Cyril M. Kornbluth (1923–1958), American science fiction author
Josh Kornbluth (born 1959), American comedic monologuistList of works by Frederik Pohl
This is a complete list of works by American space opera and science fiction author Frederik Pohl.Search the Sky
Search the Sky is a satirical science fiction novel by American writers Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth, first published in 1954 by Ballantine Books.Slave Ship (Pohl novel)
Slave Ship is a 1956 short science fiction novel by American writer Frederik Pohl, originally serialized in Galaxy. The scene is a world in the throes of a low-intensity global war, which appears to be an amplified representation of the Vietnam War, in which the U.S. was just beginning to be involved. The plot involves telepathy, speaking to animals, and, in the last few pages, an invasion by extraterrestrials.
The nominal adversaries in the novel are known as "cow-dyes", a corruption of Caodai, a religion of Vietnamese origin. On the American side, telepaths, who are used in espionage and other covert activities, are falling victim to "the glotch", a fatal affliction which is believed to be a Caodai bio-weapon, transmitted telepathically.The Explorers (collection)
The Explorers is a collection of science fiction stories by American writer C. M. Kornbluth, originally published in paperback by Ballantine Books in 1954. Ballantine reissued the collection, which was Kornbluth's first, in 1963. While no further editions of the collection were published, six of its nine stories were included in Ballantine's 1977 The Best of C. M. Kornbluth, and all the stories are contained in NESFA's 1997 His Share of Glory: The Complete Short Science Fiction of C. M. Kornbluth.The Little Black Bag
"The Little Black Bag" is a science fiction short story by American Cyril M. Kornbluth, first published in the July 1950 edition of Astounding Science Fiction. It is a predecessor of sorts to the story "The Marching Morons". It won the 2001 Retroactive Hugo Award for Best Novelette (of 1951) and was also recognized as the 13th best all-time short science fiction story in a 1971 Analog Science Fact & Fiction poll, tied with "Microcosmic God" by Theodore Sturgeon. It was among the stories selected in 1970 by the Science Fiction Writers of America as one of the best science fiction short stories published before the creation of the Nebula Awards. As such, it was published in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One, 1929-1964.
It was the basis of episodes (using the same title) in three television series: Tales of Tomorrow in 1952, Out of the Unknown in 1969 and Night Gallery in 1970.The Marching Morons
For the Kornbluth short story collection, see The Marching Morons (collection)
"The Marching Morons" is a science fiction story by American writer Cyril M. Kornbluth, originally published in Galaxy in April 1951. It was included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two after being voted one of the best novellas up to 1965.
The story follows John Barlow, who was put into suspended animation by a freak accident involving a dental drill and anesthesia. Barlow is revived hundreds of years in the future. The world seems mad to Barlow until he discovers the 'Problem of Population': due to a combination of intelligent people not having children and excessive breeding by less intelligent people and coupled with the development of more sophisticated machinery that makes it less important to possess intelligence in one's working life (see Fertility and intelligence), the world is full of morons, with the exception of an elite few who work slavishly to keep order. Barlow, who was a shrewd real estate con man in his day, has a solution to sell to the elite, in exchange for being made World Dictator.The Marching Morons (collection)
The Marching Morons (and Other Famous Science Fiction Stories) is a collection of stories by Cyril M. Kornbluth, originally published in paperback by Ballantine Books in 1959. Ballantine reissued the collection in 1963. A Spanish translation, Desfile de Cretines, appeared in 1964. In 1972, the novella from which the collection takes its name was selected by SFWA members as one of the ten best novellas published in the genre before 1966.The Meeting (short story)
"The Meeting" is a 1972 science fiction short story by Frederik Pohl, based on an unfinished draft by Cyril Kornbluth. It was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; an audio version was read by Bradley Denton.The Mindworm
"The Mindworm" is a short story by science fiction author Cyril M. Kornbluth, first published in 1950. It combines the themes of mutant power, telepathy and ancient superstition.The Space Merchants
The Space Merchants is a science fiction novel by American writers Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth in 1952. Originally published in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine as a serial entitled Gravy Planet, the novel was first published as a single volume in 1953, and has sold heavily since. It deals satirically with a hyper-developed consumerism, seen through the eyes of an advertising executive. In 1984, Pohl published a sequel, The Merchants' War. In 2012, it was included in the Library of America omnibus American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels 1953-1956. Pohl revised the original novel in 2011 with added material and more contemporary references.The Syndic
The Syndic is a 1953 science fiction novel by Cyril M. Kornbluth.The Wonder Effect
The Wonder Effect is a collection of science fiction stories by American writers Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth, published by Ballantine Books in 1962.
The first novelette, "Critical Mass", is a science fiction piece by Pohl and Kornbluth first published in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine in February 1962, almost four years after Kornbluth's death. According to a foreword by Pohl in the later collection Critical Mass, the story was assembled from notes Kornbluth made for three story ideas, plus one of Pohl's own from 1954. After Kornbluth's death, his widow turned over his story notes and drafts to Pohl, who completed a dozen or so stories based on this material, most of which were eventually collected in this volume and in the later Critical Mass.Wolfbane (novel)
Wolfbane is a science fiction novel by American writer Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth, published in 1959. It was serialized in Galaxy in 1957, with illustrations by Wally Wood.
In his review column for F&SF, Damon Knight selected the novel as one of the 10 best genre books of 1959.Worlds Beyond (magazine)
Worlds Beyond was an American digest magazine of science fiction and fantasy fiction in 1950 and 1951. The magazine only issued three monthly issues, from December 1950 to February 1951, but is notable for having printed stories by Cyril M. Kornbluth, Jack Vance, Mack Reynolds, Graham Greene, John Christopher, Lester del Rey, Judith Merril, and others.
Worlds Beyond was published by Hillman Periodicals and was edited by Damon Knight. The cover price was 25 cents and each edition had 128 pages.
The first two issues of the magazine were styled Worlds Beyond Science-Fantasy Fiction. In its final issue, it was styled Worlds Beyond: A Magazine of Science-Fantasy Fiction.