John Wyndham

John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris (/ˈwɪndəm/; 10 July 1903 – 11 March 1969)[2] was an English science fiction writer best known for his works written using the pen name John Wyndham, although he also used other combinations of his names, such as John Beynon and Lucas Parkes. Some of his works were set in post-apocalyptic landscapes. His best known works include The Day of the Triffids (1951) and The Midwich Cuckoos (1957), the latter filmed twice as Village of the Damned.

John Wyndham
John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris
Born10 July 1903
Dorridge, Warwickshire, England
Died11 March 1969 (aged 65)
Petersfield, Hampshire, England
Other namesJohn Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris[1]
OccupationScience fiction writer
Wonder stories 193105
Wyndham's first published sf story, "Worlds to Barter", was published in the May 1931 issue of Wonder Stories, under his "John Beynon Harris" byline
John B Harris WS 3105
Wyndham/Harris as pictured in the May 1931 Wonder Stories
Amazing stories 193204
Wyndham's second story, "The Lost Machine", was cover-featured on the April 1932 issue of Amazing Stories, also under his Harris byline
Wonder stories 193404
Wyndham's 1934 novelette "The Moon Devils" was the cover story for the April issue of Wonder Stories, also under the Harris byline
10 story fantasy 1951
Wyndham's 1951 novelette "Tyrant and Slave-Girl on Planet Venus" was the cover story for the first and only issue of Ten Story Fantasy, under his "John Beynon" byline

Early life

Wyndham was born in the village of Dorridge near Knowle, Warwickshire (now West Midlands), England, the son of George Beynon Harris, a barrister, and Gertrude Parkes, the daughter of a Birmingham ironmaster.[1]

His early childhood was spent in Edgbaston in Birmingham, but when he was 8 years old his parents separated and he and his brother, the writer Vivian Beynon Harris, spent the rest of their childhood at a number of English preparatory and public schools, including Blundell's School in Tiverton, Devon, during World War I. His longest and final stay was at Bedales School near Petersfield in Hampshire (1918–21), which he left at the age of 18, and where he blossomed and was happy.


After leaving school, Wyndham tried several careers, including farming, law, commercial art and advertising, but mostly relied on an allowance from his family. He eventually turned to writing for money in 1925 and, by 1931, was selling short stories and serial fiction to American science fiction magazines, most under the pen names "John Beynon" and "John Beynon Harris", although he also wrote some detective stories.

World War II

During World War II, Wyndham first served as a censor in the Ministry of Information,[3] then joined the British Army, serving as a Corporal cipher operator in the Royal Corps of Signals.[4] He participated in the Normandy landings, although he was not involved in the first days of the operation.[1]


After the war, Wyndham returned to writing, inspired by the success of his brother, who had four novels published. He altered his writing style; and, by 1951, using the John Wyndham pen name for the first time, he wrote the novel The Day of the Triffids. His pre-war writing career was not mentioned in the book's publicity, and people were allowed to assume that it was a first novel from a previously unknown writer.

The book proved to be an enormous success[3] and established Wyndham as an important exponent of science fiction. During his lifetime, he wrote and published six more novels under the name John Wyndham.

Personal life

In 1963, he married Grace Isobel Wilson, whom he had known for more than 20 years; the couple remained married until he died. He and Grace lived for several years in separate rooms at the Penn Club, London and later lived near Petersfield, Hampshire, just outside the grounds of Bedales School. A collection of his letters to Grace written during the Second World War are held in the University of Liverpool archive. Wyndham explores the issues around women being forced by their biology to choose between careers and love in Trouble with Lichen.


He died in 1969, aged 65, at his home in Petersfield, survived by his wife and his brother.[5] Subsequently, some of his unsold work was published; and his earlier work was re-published. His archive was acquired by Liverpool University.[6]

On 24 May 2015 an alley in Hampstead that appears in The Day of the Triffids was formally named Triffid Alley as a memorial to him.[7]


Early novels published under other pen names

  • The Curse of the Burdens(1927), as John B. Harris. Aldine Mystery Novels No. 17 (London: Aldine Publishing Co. Ltd.).
  • The Secret People (1935), as John Beynon
  • Foul Play Suspected (1935), as John Beynon
  • Planet Plane (1936), as John Beynon. Also known as The Space Machine and Stowaway to Mars.

Novels published in his lifetime as by John Wyndham

Posthumously published novels

Short story collections published in his lifetime

  • Jizzle (1954) (Jizzle; Technical Slip; A Present From Brunswick; Chinese Puzzle; Esmeralda; How Do I Do?; Una; Affair of the Heart; Confidence Trick; The Wheel; Look Natural, Please!; Perforce to Dream; Reservation Deferred; Heaven Scent; More Spinned Against)
  • The Seeds of Time (1956) (Chronoclasm; Time to Rest; Meteor; Survival; Pawley's Peepholes; Opposite Number; Pillar to Post; Dumb Martian; Compassion Circuit; Wild Flower)
  • Tales of Gooseflesh and Laughter (1956), US edition featuring stories from the two earlier collections
  • Consider Her Ways and Others (1961) (Consider Her Ways; Odd; Oh, Where, Now, is Peggy MacRaffery?; Stitch in Time; Random Quest; A Long Spoon)
  • The Infinite Moment (1961), US edition of Consider Her Ways and Others, with two stories dropped, two others added

Posthumously published collections

  • Sleepers of Mars (1973), a collection of five stories originally published in magazines in the 1930s: Sleepers of Mars, Worlds to Barter, Invisible Monster, The Man from Earth and The Third Vibrator
  • The Best of John Wyndham (1973)
  • Wanderers of Time (1973), a collection of five stories originally published in magazines in the 1930s: Wanderers of Time, Derelict of Space, Child of Power, The Last Lunarians and The Puff-ball Menace (a.k.a. Spheres of Hell)
  • Exiles on Asperus (1979)
  • No Place Like Earth (2003)

Short stories

John Wyndham's many short stories also appear with later variant titles or pen names. His stories include:

  • "Worlds to Barter" (1931)
  • "The Lost Machine" (1932)
  • "The Stare" (1932)
  • "The Venus Adventure" (1932)
  • "Exiles on Asperus" (1933)
  • "Invisible Monster" (1933)
  • "Spheres of Hell" (1933) [as by John Beynon]
  • "The Third Vibrator" (1933)
  • "Wanderers of Time" (1933) [as by John Beynon]
  • "The Man from Earth" (1934)
  • "The Last Lunarians" (1934) [as by John Beynon]
  • "The Moon Devils" (1934) [as by John Beynon Harris]
  • "The Cathedral Crypt" (1935) [as by John Beynon Harris]
  • "The Perfect Creature" (1937)
  • "Judson's Annihilator" (1938) [as by John Beynon]
  • "Child of Power" (1939) [as by John Beynon]
  • "Derelict of Space" (1939) [as by John Beynon]
  • "The Trojan Beam" (1939)
  • "Vengeance by Proxy" (1940) [as by John Beynon]
  • "Meteor" (1941) [as by John Beynon]
  • "Living Lies" (1946) [as by John Beynon]
  • "Technical Slip" (1949) [as by John Beynon]
  • "Jizzle" (1949)
  • "Adaptation" (1949) [as by John Beynon]
  • "The Eternal Eye" (1950)
  • "Pawley's Peepholes" (1951)
  • "The Rec Stuff" (1951)
  • "Tyrant and Slave-Girl on Planet Venus" (1951) [as by John Beynon]
  • "And the Walls Came Tumbling Down" (1951)
  • "A Present from Brunswick" (1951)
  • "Bargain from Brunswick" (1951)
  • "Pillar to Post" (1951)
  • "The Wheel" (1952)
  • "Survival" (1952)
  • "Dumb Martian" (1952)
  • "Time Out" (1953)
  • "Close Behind Him" (1953)
  • "Time Stops Today" (1953)
  • "Chinese Puzzle" (1953)
  • "Chronoclasm' (1953)
  • "Reservation Deferred' (1953)
  • "More Spinned Against" (1953)
  • "Confidence Trick' (1953)
  • "How Do I Do?" (1953)
  • "Esmeralda" (1954)
  • "Heaven Scent" (1954)
  • "Look Natural, Please!" (1954)
  • "Never on Mars" (1954)
  • "Perforce to Dream" (1954)
  • "Opposite Numbers" (1954)
  • "Compassion Circuit" (1954)
  • "Wild Flower" (1955)
  • "Consider Her Ways" (1956)
  • "The Day of the Triffids" (1957) [an excerpt from the novel]
  • "But a Kind of Ghost" (1957)
  • "The Meddler" (1958)
  • "A Long Spoon" (1960)
  • "Odd" (1961)
  • "Oh, Where, Now, Is Peggy MacRafferty?" (1961)
  • "Random Quest" (1961)
  • "A Stitch in Time" (1961)
  • "It's a Wise Child" (1962)
  • "Chocky" (1963)
  • "From The Day of the Triffids" (1964)
  • "In Outer Space There Shone a Star" (1965)
  • "A Life Postponed" (1968)
  • "Phase Two" (1973) [an excerpt]
  • "Vivisection" (2000) [as by J. W. B. Harris]
  • "Blackmoil" (2003)
  • "The Midwich Cuckoos" (2005) [with Pauline Francis]

Critical reception

John Wyndham's reputation rests mainly on the first four of the novels published in his lifetime under that name.[a] The Day of the Triffids remains his best-known work, but some readers consider that The Chrysalids was really his best.[8][9][10]

He also wrote several short stories, ranging from hard science fiction to whimsical fantasy. A few have been filmed: Consider Her Ways, Random Quest, Dumb Martian, A Long Spoon, Jizzle (filmed as Maria) and Time to Rest (filmed as No Place Like Earth).[11] There is also a radio version of Survival.

Most of Wyndham's novels are set in the 1950s among middle-class English people. Brian Aldiss, another British science fiction writer, disparagingly labelled some of them "cosy catastrophes", especially The Day of the Triffids,[12] but the critic L.J. Hurst pointed out that in Triffids the main character witnesses several murders, suicides and misadventures, and is frequently in mortal danger himself.[13]



  1. ^ For example, around 2000 they were all reprinted as Penguin Modern Classics.


  1. ^ a b c Aldiss, Brian W. "Harris, John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  2. ^ Online birth records show that the birth of a John Wyndham P. L. B. Harris was registered in Solihull in July–September 1903.
  3. ^ a b Liptak, Andrew (2015-05-07). "John Wyndham and the Global Expansion of Science Fiction". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  4. ^ "John Wyndham". The Guardian. 2008-07-22. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  5. ^ "John Wyndham". Literary Encyclopedia. 7 November 2006. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  6. ^ "John Wyndham Archive". Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  7. ^ "Triffid Alley, Hampstead". Triffid Alley. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  8. ^ "The Chrysalids – Novel". h2g2. BBC. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  9. ^ Aldiss 1973, p. 254.
  10. ^ "Jo Walton's review of The Chrysalids".
  11. ^ IMDb
  12. ^ Aldiss 1973, p. 293.
  13. ^ Hurst, L. J. (Aug–Sep 1986), ""We Are The Dead": The Day of the Triffids and Nineteen Eighty-Four", Vector, Pipex, 113: 4–5, archived from the original on 10 August 2013


  • Aldiss, Brian W (1973), Billion year spree: the history of science fiction, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, ISBN 978-0-297-76555-4
  • Harris, Vivian Beynon. "My Brother, John Wyndham: A Memoir." Transcribed and ed., David Ketterer, *Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction* 28 (Spring 1999): 5–50.
  • Ketterer David,. "Questions and Answers: The Life and Fiction of John Wyndham." *The New York Review of Science Fiction* 16 (March 2004): 1,6–10*
  • Ketterer, David. "The Genesis of the Triffids." *The New York Review of Science Fiction* 16 (March 2004): 11–14.
  • Ketterer, David. "John Wyndham and the Sins of His Father: Damaging Disclosures in Court." *Extrapolation* 46 (Summer 2005): 163–88.
  • Ketterer, David. "'Vivisection': Schoolboy John Wyndham's First Publication?" *Science Fiction Studies* 78 (July 1999): 303–311; expanded and corrected in *Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction* 29 (Summer 2000): 70–84.
  • Ketterer, David. "'A Part of the . . . Family': John Wyndham's *The Midwich Cuckoos* as Estranged Autobiography." In *Learning From Other Worlds: Estrangement, Cognition and the Politics of Science Fiction and Utopia*, ed Patrick Parrinder (Liverpool: University of Liverpool Press, 2001), 146–77.
  • Ketterer, David. "When and Where Was John Wyndham Born?" *Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction" 42 (Summer 2012/13): 22–39.
  • Ketterer, David. "John Wyndham (1903[?]–1969)." *The Literary Encyclopedia* (15 pages, online, 7 November 2006).
  • Ketterer, David. "John Wyndham: The Facts of Life Sextet." In *A Companion to Science Fiction*, ed. David Seed (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), 375–88.
  • Ketterer, David. "John Wyndham's World War III and His Abandoned *Fury of Creation* Trilogy." In *Future Wars: The Anticipations and the Fears, ed. David Seed (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012), 103–29.
  • Ketterer, David. "John B. Harris's Mars Rover on Earth." *Science Fiction Studies 41 (July 2014); 474-75.

External links


Chocky is a science fiction novel by British writer John Wyndham. It was first published as a novelette in the March 1963 issue of Amazing Stories and later developed into a novel in 1968, published by Michael Joseph. The BBC produced a radio adaption by John Tydeman in 1967. In 1984 a children's television drama based on the novel was shown on ITV in the United Kingdom.

Consider Her Ways

Consider Her Ways is a 1956 science fiction novella by John Wyndham. It was published as part of a 1961 collection with some short stories called Consider Her Ways and Others (where it forms over a third of the book). The title is from Proverbs, Chapter 6, verse 6: "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise".

Foul Play Suspected

Foul Play Suspected is a 1935 novel by British science fiction writer John Wyndham. It is a detective story, published by Newnes under the nom de plume of John Beynon.

The novel's protagonist, Detective-Inspector Jordon, also appears in two other 1930s novels by Wyndham, which remain unpublished: Murder Means Murder and Death Upon Death.

John Pope-Hennessy

Sir John Wyndham Pope-Hennessy (13 December 1913 – 31 October 1994), was a British art historian and Director of the British Museum (1974 – 1976). He was a scholar of Italian Renaissance art. Many of his writings, including the tripartite Introduction to Italian Sculpture and his magnum opus, Donatello: Sculptor, are regarded as classics in the field.

John Wyndham (1558–1645)

Sir John Wyndham (1558 – 1 April, 1645), JP, of Orchard Wyndham in the parish of Watchet in Somerset, was an English landowner who played an important role in the establishment of defence organisation in the West Country against the threat of Spanish invasion.

No Place Like Earth

No Place Like Earth (ISBN 978-0-9740589-0-0) is a collection of science fiction short stories by British writer John Wyndham, published in July 2003 by Darkside Press.

Plan for Chaos

Plan for Chaos is a science fiction novel by John Wyndham first published in 2009. Wyndham was working on it about the same time as The Day of the Triffids, but it was rejected by publishers on both sides of the Atlantic and never published in his lifetime. Wyndham himself abandoned it, telling Frederik Pohl in 1951: "I've messed about with the thing so much that I've lost all perspective".

It was eventually re-discovered after the John Wyndham Archive was acquired by the University of Liverpool in the UK and was published on the fortieth anniversary of the author's death, under the planned US title Plan for Chaos; the planned UK title had been Fury of Creation.

Shardlow Hall (school)

For the 17th-century country house see Shardlow Hall, DerbyshireShardlow Hall was a school in Shardlow, a village seven miles south of Derby in the English Midlands. It was founded by B.O.Corbett, who had played football for England, as a preparatory school for boys. One of its notable students was John Harris, who wrote under the name John Wyndham.

Stowaway to Mars

Stowaway to Mars is a science fiction novel by John Wyndham. It was first published in 1936 as Planet Plane (Newnes Limited, London), then serialised in The Passing Show as Stowaway to Mars and again in 1937 in Modern Wonder magazine as The Space Machine. The novel was written under one of Wyndham's early pen names, John Beynon. It was published by Coronet Books in 1972 as "Stowaway to Mars by John Wyndham". ISBN 0-340-15835-2. Reviewer Groff Conklin described the first American edition as "an interesting adventure story."The title novella of the collection Sleepers of Mars was a sequel.

Tales of Gooseflesh and Laughter

Tales of Gooseflesh and Laughter is a collection of science fiction short stories by John Wyndham, published in 1956 by Ballantine Books.

The collection contains:

"Chinese Puzzle"


"The Wheel"


"Heaven Scent"

"Compassion Circuit"

"More Spinned Against"

"A Present from Brunswick"

"Confidence Trick"

"Opposite Numbers"

"Wild Flower"Opposite Numbers, Wild Flower, and Compassion Circuit also appear in The Seeds of Time, the rest of the material is also contained in Jizzle.

The Best of John Wyndham

The Best of John Wyndham is a paperback collection of science fiction short stories by John Wyndham, published after his death by Sphere Books, first in 1973. Michael Joseph Limited has published the book as a hardcover under the title The Man from Beyond and Other Stories in 1975. For the 1977 Sphere paperback edition it was split into 2 parts, both containing the full bibliography and the introduction by Leslie Flood.

The Chrysalids

The Chrysalids (United States title: Re-Birth) is a science fiction novel by British writer John Wyndham, first published in 1955 by Michael Joseph. It is the least typical of Wyndham's major novels, but regarded by some as his best. An early manuscript version was entitled Time for a Change.The novel was adapted for BBC radio by Barbara Clegg in 1982, with a further adaptation by Jane Rogers in 2012. It was also adapted for the theatre by playwright David Harrower in 1999.

The Day of the Triffids

The Day of the Triffids is a 1951 post-apocalyptic novel by the English science fiction author John Wyndham. After most people in the world are blinded by an apparent meteor shower, an aggressive species of plant starts killing people. Although Wyndham had already published other novels using other pen name combinations drawn from his real name, this was the first novel published as "John Wyndham". It established him as an important writer and remains his best-known novel.

The story has been made into the 1962 feature film of the same name, three radio drama series (in 1957, 1968 and 2008), and two TV series (in 1981 and 2009). It was nominated for the International Fantasy Award in 1952, and in 2003 the novel was listed on the BBC's survey The Big Read.

The Midwich Cuckoos

The Midwich Cuckoos is a 1957 science fiction novel written by the English author John Wyndham. It tells the tale of an English village in which the women become pregnant by brood parasitic aliens.

The book has been praised by many critics, but was famously branded a "cosy catastrophe" by Brian Aldiss. This label has been rebutted by the dramatist Dan Rebellato, who called it a searching novel of moral ambiguities, and the novelist Margaret Atwood, who called the book Wyndham's chef d'oeuvre.

It has been filmed twice as Village of the Damned, with releases in 1960 and 1995. The book has been adapted for radio in 1982, 2003, and 2017.

The Outward Urge

The Outward Urge is a science fiction fix-up novel by British writer John Wyndham. It was originally published with four chapters in 1959. A fifth chapter was included in later versions, which was originally published in 1961 as a separate short story "The Emptiness of Space".

The novel's stated authorship has a peculiar history. It was published as co-written by John Wyndham and Lucas Parkes, but they were different pen-names for the same writer. He had used the pen-name Lucas Parkes earlier in his career. Unlike most of Wyndham's novels, The Outward Urge was conventional hard science fiction and his publishers decided that they wanted to use the Wyndham and Parkes byline because it was "not your usual Wyndham style".

The Seeds of Time

The Seeds of Time is a collection of science fiction short stories by John Wyndham, published in 1956 by Michael Joseph. The title is presumably from Macbeth, Act I Scene III.

The collection contains:

a foreword by John Wyndham

"Chronoclasm", a time-travelling romantic comedy.

"Time To Rest", depicting the life on Mars of a human survivor of the destruction of Earth. A sequel "No Place Like Earth" appears in the collection No Place Like Earth (2003), which contains both; both also appeared dramatised together in 1965 as “No Place Like Earth”, the first episode of the BBC2 series, Out of the Unknown.

"Meteor", in which alien visitors to Earth find themselves on a very different scale to humans.

"Survival", set on a spacecraft marooned in orbit around Mars. A BBC Radio 4 adaption was broadcast in 1989 with Stephen Garlick, Susan Sheridan, and Nicholas Courtney. It was released as an Audiobook in 2007 with the 1981 version of The Chrysalids.

"Pawley's Peepholes", another time travel story, this time playing it as comedy.

"Opposite Number", which plays with the concept of parallel universes.

"Pillar To Post" The central character is a paraplegic who was badly injured in a road accident. Frequently taking drugs to cope with the pain, he finds himself in a healthy body very far in the future. A complex plot of body-swapping and time travel ensues. It is considered by some people to be the best story in the collection.

"Dumb Martian", a satire on racism, featuring an Earthman who buys a Martian wife.

"Compassion Circuit", a horror story on the subject of robotics.

"Wild Flower", which explores the tension between nature and technology.

Wanderers of Time

Wanderers Of Time is a collection of five science fiction short stories by John Wyndham, published in Coronet Books in 1973. The stories were early works, originally published in magazines in the 1930s and written under the name of John Beynon.

Web (novel)

Web is a science fiction novel written by the English science fiction author John Wyndham. The novel was published by the estate of John Wyndham in 1979, ten years after his death.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.