Damon Knight

Damon Francis Knight (September 19, 1922 – April 15, 2002) was an American science fiction author, editor and critic. He is the author of "To Serve Man", a 1950 short story adapted for The Twilight Zone.[2] He was married to fellow writer Kate Wilhelm.

Damon Knight
BornDamon Francis Knight
September 19, 1922
Baker, Oregon, United States
DiedApril 15, 2002 (aged 79)
Eugene, Oregon, United States
Pen nameConanight, Stuart Fleming[a]
OccupationAuthor, editor, critic
GenreScience fiction, primarily short stories
Kate Wilhelm (m. 1963)
If 195501
Knight's novella "The Earth Quarter" was the cover story of the January 1955 issue of If
Galaxy 196304
Knight's novella "The Visitor at the Zoo" took the cover of the April 1963 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction


Knight was born in Baker, Oregon in 1922, and grew up in Hood River, Oregon. He entered science-fiction fandom at the age of eleven and published two issues of a fanzine entitled Snide.[3]

Knight's first professional sale was a cartoon drawing to a science-fiction magazine, Amazing Stories.[4] His first story, "The Itching Hour," appeared in the Summer 1940 number of Futuria Fantasia, edited and published by Ray Bradbury.[1] "Resilience" followed in the February 1941 number of Stirring Science Stories, edited by Donald Wollheim.[1] An editorial error made the latter story's ending incomprehensible;[5] it was reprinted in a 1978 magazine in four pages with a two-page introduction by Knight.[1]

At the time of his first story sale, he was living in New York, and was a member of the Futurians.[6] One of his short stories describes paranormal disruption of a science fiction fan group, and contains cameo appearances of various Futurians and others under thinly-disguised names: for instance, non-Futurian SF writer H. Beam Piper is identified as "H. Dreyne Fifer".

Knight's forte was the short story; he is widely acknowledged as having been a master of the genre.[7] To the general public, he is best known as the author of "To Serve Man", a 1950 short story adapted for The Twilight Zone.[2] It won a 50-year Retro Hugo in 2001 as the best short story of 1950.[8] Knight also became well known as a science fiction critic, a career which began when he wrote in 1945 that A. E. van Vogt "is not a giant as often maintained. He's only a pygmy who has learned to operate an overgrown typewriter."[3] He ceased reviewing when Fantasy & Science Fiction refused to publish a review.[9] These reviews were later collected in In Search of Wonder.[6]

Algis Budrys wrote that Knight and William Atheling Jr. (James Blish) had "transformed the reviewer's trade in the field",[10] in Knight's case "without the guidance of his own prior example".[9] The term "idiot plot", a story that only functions because almost everyone in it is an idiot, became well-known through Knight's frequent use of it in his reviews, though he believed the term was probably invented by Blish.[11] Knight's only non-Retro Hugo Award was for "Best Reviewer" in 1956.[8]

Knight was the founder of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA),[12] cofounder of the National Fantasy Fan Federation,[13] cofounder of the Milford Writer's Workshop,[14] and cofounder of the Clarion Writers Workshop.[15] The SFWA officers and past presidents named Knight its 13th Grand Master in 1994 (presented 1995). After his death, the associated award was renamed the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in his honor.[8][6][16] The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in 2003.[17]

Until his death, Knight lived in Eugene, Oregon, with his second wife, author Kate Wilhelm.[18] His papers are held in the University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archive.[19]

Selected works


Short stories and other writings

Literary criticism and analysis

  • In Search of Wonder (1956) (collected reviews and critical pieces)
  • Creating Short Fiction (1981) (advice on writing short stories)
  • Turning Points (editor/contributor: critical anthology)
  • Orbit (editor)
  • The Futurians (1977, memoir/history)

Short story collections


  1. ^ Futurians Chester Cohen and Knight used the name Conanight jointly for two 1942 illustrations. Knight wrote three 1943–1944 short stories as Stuart Fleming.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Damon Knight at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 2013-04-04.
    Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information.
    Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  2. ^ a b Stanyard, Dimensions Behind the Twilight Zone, p. 51.
  3. ^ a b Battistella, Edwin. "Damon Knight (1922-2002)". The Oregon Encyclopedia. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  4. ^ Knight, "Knight Piece," Brian W. Aldiss & Harry Harrison, Hell's Cartographers, Orbit Books, 1976, p. 105.
  5. ^ Pohl, SFWA Grand Masters Volume Three, p. 202.
  6. ^ a b c "Damon Knight". Gollancz/SFE Ltd. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  7. ^ Malzberg, Barry N., ed. (1976). The Best of Damon Knight. Nelson Doubleday.
  8. ^ a b c "Knight, Damon". The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index to Literary Nominees. Locus Publications. Archived from the original on 2012-10-16. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
  9. ^ a b Budrys, Algis (December 1967). "Galaxy Bookshelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 187–194.
  10. ^ Budrys, Algis (June 1965). "Galaxy Bookshelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 164–169.
  11. ^ Gary K. Wolfe, "Coming to Terms", in Gunn & Candelaria, Speculations on Speculation, p. 18.
  12. ^ "Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America History and Statistics". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. Archived from the original on 3 October 2011. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  13. ^ "The History of N3F". The National Fantasy Fan Federation. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  14. ^ "Milford History". Milford Speculative Fiction Writers. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  15. ^ "Robin Scott Wilson". Gollancz/SFE Ltd. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  16. ^ "Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Archived from the original on 2013-03-08. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
  17. ^ "Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame". Mid American Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions, Inc. Archived from the original on May 21, 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-22. This was the official website of the hall of fame to 2004
  18. ^ "Damon Knight, 79, Writer and Editor of Science Fiction, Dies". The New York Times. 17 April 2002.
  19. ^ http://around.uoregon.edu/story/academics/celebrating-csws-40th-le-guin-feminist-science-fiction-fellowship


  • Aldiss, Brian W.; Harrison, Harry (1976). Hell's Cartographers. London: Futura. ISBN 0-86007-907-4.
  • Gunn, James E.; Candelaria, Matthew (2005). Speculations on Speculation: Theories of Science Fiction. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-4902-X.
  • Pohl, Frederik (2002). The SFWA Grand Masters. 3. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-86876-6.
  • Stanyard, Stewart T. (2006). Dimensions Behind the Twilight Zone: A Backstage Tribute to Television's Groundbreaking Series. Chicago: ECW Press. ISBN 978-1-55022-744-4.

External links

38th World Science Fiction Convention

The 38th World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), also known as Noreascon Two, was held August 29–September 1, 1980, at the Sheraton-Boston Hotel and Hynes Civic Auditorium in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. The supporting organization was Massachusetts Convention Fandom, Inc.

The chairman was Leslie Turek. The guests of honor were Damon Knight (pro), Kate Wilhelm (pro), and Bruce Pelz (fan). The toastmaster was Robert Silverberg. Total attendance was approximately 5,850.

Clarion Workshop

Clarion is a six-week workshop for aspiring science fiction and fantasy writers. Originally an outgrowth of Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm's Milford Writers' Conference, held at their home in Milford, Pennsylvania, United States, it was founded in 1968 by Robin Scott Wilson at Clarion State College in Pennsylvania. Knight and Wilhelm were among the first teachers at the workshop.In 1972, the workshop moved to Michigan State University. It moved again, in 2006, to the University of California, San Diego.

Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award

The Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award is a lifetime honor presented annually by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) to no more than one living writer of fantasy or science fiction. It was inaugurated in 1975 when Robert Heinlein was made the first SFWA Grand Master and it was renamed in 2002 after the Association's founder, Damon Knight, who had died that year.The presentation is made at the annual SFWA Nebula Awards banquet, commonly during May, but it is not one of the Nebulas—which recognize the preceding calendar year's best works of SF and fantasy, selected by vote of all Association members. SFWA officers and past presidents alone submit Grand Master nominations and the final selection must be approved by a majority of that group. The recipient is announced in advance, commonly during the preceding calendar year, which is the publication year and official award year for the Nebulas.

Damon Knight bibliography

This is a bibliography of works by Damon Knight.

The bibliography is in chronological order of first publication of the books. In most cases only first editions are shown for each title. In some cases, multiple editions are shown if the title was changed; this happened for Hell's Pavement, for example. Some other variant titles are listed separately, with notes indicating what the original titles were.

The main bibliographic sources are footnoted from this paragraph and provided much of the information in the following sections. Some footnotes annotating specific points are provided at the appropriate places below.

Far Out (book)

Far Out is a collection of 13 science fiction short stories by American writer Damon Knight. The stories were originally published between 1949 and 1960 in Galaxy Magazine, If Science Fiction and other science fiction magazines. There is an introduction by Anthony Boucher.

The book contains the story "To Serve Man", which was later adapted for television.

Futuria Fantasia

Futuria Fantasia was an American science fiction fanzine created by Ray Bradbury in 1938, when he was 18 years old. Though only 4 issues of the fanzine were published, its list of contributors included Hannes Bok, Forrest J. Ackerman, Henry Kuttner, Damon Knight, and Robert A. Heinlein.

In Search of Wonder

In Search of Wonder: Essays on Modern Science Fiction is a collection of critical essays by American writer Damon Knight. Most of the material in the original version of the book was originally published between 1952 and 1955 in various science fiction magazines including Infinity Science Fiction, Original SF Stories, and Future SF. The essays were highly influential, and contributed to Knight's stature as the foremost critic of science fiction of his generation. The book also constitutes an informal record of the "Boom Years" of science fiction from 1950-1955.

In the opening chapter, Knight states his "credos", two of which are:

That science fiction is a field of literature worth taking seriously, and that ordinary critical standards can be meaningfully applied to it: e.g., originality, sincerity, style, construction, logic, coherence, sanity, garden-variety grammar.

That a bad book hurts science fiction more than ten bad notices.

One essay in the book is "Cosmic Jerrybuilder: A. E. van Vogt", a review of the 1945 magazine serialization of A.E. Van Vogt's The World of Null-A, in which Knight "exposed the profound irrationality lying at the heart of much traditional science fiction".In 1956 Knight was awarded a Hugo as "Best Book Reviewer" based largely on the essays reprinted in this book.

Kate Wilhelm

Kate Wilhelm (June 8, 1928 – March 8, 2018) was an American author. She wrote novels and stories in the science fiction, mystery, and suspense genres, including the Hugo Award–winning Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, and she established the Clarion Workshop with her husband Damon Knight and writer Robin Scott Wilson.

Larry Niven

Laurence van Cott Niven (; born April 30, 1938) is an American science fiction writer. His best-known work is Ringworld (1970), which received Hugo, Locus, Ditmar, and Nebula awards. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America named him the 2015 recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award. His work is primarily hard science fiction, using big science concepts and theoretical physics. It also often includes elements of detective fiction and adventure stories. His fantasy includes the series The Magic Goes Away, rational fantasy dealing with magic as a non-renewable resource.

Not with a Bang (short story)

"Not with a Bang" is a science fiction short story by American writer Damon Knight. It first appeared in the winter 1949 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and has been reprinted a number of times, including in Far Out (1961), The Best of Damon Knight (1976), 50 Short Science Fiction Tales, and The Eureka Years (1982).

Off Center

Off Center is a collection of five science fiction short stories by Damon Knight. The stories were originally published between 1952 and 1964 in Galaxy, If and other science fiction magazines.

The first printing, by Ace, was bound dos-à-dos with Knight's The Rithian Terror, as Ace Double M-113. In 1969 the book was re-issued in the UK by Gollancz with the title Off Centre; the novella was omitted and three additional stories were included: "Dulcie and Decorum", "Masks", and "To Be Continued".

Orbit (anthology series)

Orbit was an American long-running series of anthologies of new fiction edited by Damon Knight, often featuring work by such writers as Gene Wolfe, Joanna Russ, R. A. Lafferty, and Kate Wilhelm, who was married to Knight. The anthologies tended toward the avant-garde edge of science fiction, but by no means exclusively; occasionally the volumes would feature some nonfiction critical writing or humorous anecdotes by Knight. Inspired by Frederik Pohl's Star Science Fiction series, and in its turn an influence on Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions volumes and many others, it ran for over a decade and twenty-one volumes, not including a "Best-of" collection which covered the years 1966-1976.

Peter S. Beagle

Peter Soyer Beagle (born April 20, 1939) is an American novelist and screenwriter, especially fantasy fiction. His best-known work is The Last Unicorn (1968), a fantasy novel he wrote in his twenties, which Locus subscribers voted the number five "All-Time Best Fantasy Novel" in 1987. During the last twenty-five years he has won several literary awards, including a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2011. He was named Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master by SFWA in 2018.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, or SFWA ( or ) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization of professional science fiction and fantasy writers. While SFWA is based in the United States, its membership is open to writers worldwide. The organization was founded in 1965 by Damon Knight under the name Science Fiction Writers of America, Inc. The president of SFWA as of 2015 is Cat Rambo.

SFWA has about 1,900 professionally published writer members worldwide.SFWA Active members vote for the Nebula Awards, one of the principal English-language science fiction awards.

Special Delivery (short story)

"Special Delivery" is a science fiction short story by American writer Damon Knight. It first appeared in the April 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction and has been reprinted a number of times, in Operation Future (1955), Far Out (1961), and The Best of Damon Knight (1976).

Tin Soldier (novella)

"Tin Soldier" is a 17,500-word science fiction novella by American writer Joan D. Vinge, her first published work.

It was originally published in Orbit 14, edited by Damon Knight, in 1974. "Tin Soldier" was first reprinted in the 1977 anthology Women of Wonder, edited by Pamela Sargent.

To Serve Man

"To Serve Man" is a science fiction short story by American writer Damon Knight. It first appeared in the November 1950 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction and has been reprinted a number of times, including in Frontiers in Space (1955), Far Out (1961), and The Best of Damon Knight (1976).

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