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".[1]

The Outward Urge
First edition
AuthorJohn Wyndham
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreScience fiction
PublisherMichael Joseph
Publication date
Media typeprint (hardback & paperback)
Preceded byThe Midwich Cuckoos 
Followed byTrouble with Lichen 

Plot summary

The novel is a future history, set from 1994 to 2194. It tells the story, with chapters at 50-year intervals, of the exploration of the solar system, with space stations in Earth orbit, then moon bases, and landings on Mars in 2094, Venus in 2144, and the asteroids. This is told through the Troon family, several members of which play an important part in the exploration of space, since they all feel "the outward urge", the desire to travel further into space. They all "hear the thin gnat-voices cry, star to faint star across the sky", a quote from The Jolly Company by Rupert Brooke.[2]

In 1994, "Ticker" Troon is killed foiling a Soviet missile attack on a British space station, and is later awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

In 2044, a major nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the West wipes out most of the Northern Hemisphere. Inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere—virtually the only survivors of humanity—call it the "Great Northern War", the far earlier war of the same name seeming very minor in comparison. Only after hundreds of years, with radioactivity going down, do expeditions from the south start carefully exploring and preparing to re-colonise the ravaged northern hemisphere.

Brazil is left as the main world power, which then claims that "Space is a province of Brazil". However, Australia eventually emerges as a serious rival. Consequently, English and Portuguese become contenders for the position of the major worldwide (eventually, Solar System-wide) language.

Eventually, space explorers break away from the tutelage of both earthbound powers and establish themselves as a major third power, called simply "Space"; the Troon Family plays a major role in this as in many other events.

Major themes

Like many science fiction works of the period, this one became superseded by later developments after it was written. In this account, the first space stations in Earth orbit are built in the 1990s, and the first moon landings take place in the 2020s. Mars is described fairly accurately as a desert planet with no Martians, but there are plant forms in the bottom of the canali (which are implied to be a natural phenomenon). Venus is a watery planet with some primitive life forms, the most advanced of which are lungfish.

Also a curious feature for someone reading it at the start of the 21st century, is that Wyndham assumes that by the early-to-mid 21st century little will have changed politically since the 1950s (another fairly common assumption in the science fiction of the time). The USSR still exists, capable of fighting a major nuclear war with the West. Britain is trying to keep up with the USA and USSR as a superpower, lagging slightly behind, but is their only rival worth mentioning. White minority rule still exists in South Africa, although most of the whites are massacred in an uprising in 2045, and around 2120 there is a second rising which forces out the Indians.

Military conflict in space plays an important part in the novel, first between the Soviet Union and the West, and later between Brazil and Australia.


In his review column for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Damon Knight selected the novel as one of the 10 best genre novels of 1959.[3]


  1. ^ Liv, UK
  2. ^ Brooke, Rupert Chawner (1908–1911), The Jolly Company (poem), Amherst.
  3. ^ "Books", F&SF, April 1960, p. 98.
21st century in fiction

Many science fiction works have been set in the 21st century (years 2001 to 2100). With humanity now in the 21st century, many of the predictions of these works have so far been proven obsolete. This page lists only predictions regarding the 21st century, as opposed to contemporary accounts of the actual 21st century, which would be too numerous to list.

22nd century in fiction

The 22nd century (years 2101–2200 CE) is a common setting for fiction.


A fix-up (or fixup) is a novel created from several short fiction stories that may or may not have been initially related or previously published. The stories may be edited for consistency, and sometimes new connecting material, such as a frame story or other interstitial narration, is written for the new work. The term was coined by the science fiction writer A. E. van Vogt, who published several fix-ups of his own, including The Voyage of the Space Beagle, but the practice (if not the term) exists outside of science fiction. The use of the term in science fiction criticism was popularised by the first (1979) edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by Peter Nicholls, which credited Van Vogt with the creation of the term.

The name comes from the modifications that the author needs to make in the original texts to make them fit together as though they were a novel. Foreshadowing of events from the later stories may be jammed into an early chapter of the fix-up, and character development may be interleaved throughout the book. Contradictions and inconsistencies between episodes are usually worked out.

Some fix-ups in their final form are more of a short story cycle or composite novel rather than a traditional novel with a single main plotline. Examples are Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles and Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, both of which read as a series of short stories which may share plot threads and characters but which still act as self-contained stories. By contrast, van Vogt's The Weapon Shops of Isher is structured like a continuous novel although it incorporates material from three previous Van Vogt short stories.

Fix-ups became an accepted practice in American publishing during the 1950s, when science fiction and fantasy—once published primarily in magazines—began appearing increasingly in book form. Large book publishers like Doubleday and Simon & Schuster entered the market, greatly increasing demand for fiction. Authors created new manuscripts from old stories to sell to publishers. Algis Budrys in 1965 described fixups as a consequence of the lack of good supply during the "bad years for quality" of the mid-1950s, although citing The Martian Chronicles and Clifford D. Simak's City as among exceptions.

Future history

A future history is a postulated history of the future and is used by authors of science fiction and other speculative fiction to construct a common background for fiction. Sometimes the author publishes a timeline of events in the history, while other times the reader can reconstruct the order of the stories from information provided therein.

Hard science fiction

Hard science fiction is a category of science fiction characterized by an emphasis on scientific accuracy. The term was first used in print in 1957 by P. Schuyler Miller in a review of John W. Campbell's Islands of Space in the November issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The complementary term soft science fiction, formed by analogy to hard science fiction, first appeared in the late 1970s. The term is formed by analogy to the popular distinction between the "hard" (natural) and "soft" (social) sciences. Science fiction critic Gary Westfahl argues that neither term is part of a rigorous taxonomy; instead they are approximate ways of characterizing stories that reviewers and commentators have found useful.Stories revolving around scientific and technical consistency were written as early as the 1870s with the publication of Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1870 and Around the World in Eighty Days in 1873, among other stories. The attention to detail in Verne's work became an inspiration for many future scientists and explorers, although Verne himself denied writing as a scientist or seriously predicting machines and technology of the future.

John Wyndham

John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris (; 10 July 1903 – 11 March 1969) 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.

List of fictional astronauts (early period)

The following is a list of fictional astronauts as imagined before the Space Age. The astronauts on this list appear in stories released prior to or shortly after the inception of Project Mercury in 1958.

List of nuclear holocaust fiction

This list of nuclear holocaust fiction lists the many works of speculative fiction that attempt to describe a world during or after a massive nuclear war, nuclear holocaust, or crash of civilization due to a nuclear electromagnetic pulse.

List of stories set in a future now past

This is a list of fictional stories that, when written, were set in the future, but the future they predicted is now present or past. The list excludes works that were alternate histories, which were composed after the dates they depict. The list also excludes contemporary or near-future works (e.g. set within a year or two), unless it deals with some notable futuristic event as with the 2012 phenomenon. It also excludes works where the future is passively mentioned and not really depicting anything notable about the society, as with an epilogue that just focuses on the fate of the main characters. Entries referencing the current year may be added if their month and day were not specified or have already occurred.

Mars in fiction

Fictional representations of Mars have been popular for over a century. Interest in Mars has been stimulated by the planet's dramatic red color, by early scientific speculations that its surface conditions might be capable of supporting life, and by the possibility that Mars could be colonized by humans in the future. Almost as popular as stories about Mars are stories about Martians engaging in activity (frequently invasions) away from their home planet.

In the 20th century, actual spaceflights to the planet Mars, including seminal events such as the first man-made object to impact the surface of Mars in 1971, and then later the first landing of "the first mechanized device to successfully operate on Mars" in 1976 (in the Viking program by the United States), inspired a great deal of interest in Mars-related fiction. Exploration of the planet has continued in the 21st century on to the present day.

Moon landings in fiction

Because of its extreme difficulty and otherworldly nature, a successful Moon landing is viewed as being among humanity's greatest achievements. A Moon landing combines three essential elements: science, a description of "what" to do that conforms to the physical laws of the universe; technology, a means of "how" to do it using engineering and machines; and finally imagination, the human compulsion of "why" to do it.

Particularly in the United States, works of fiction helped to create the will to go the moon by creating a narrative that allowed people to feel good about themselves and their country in the face of the turbulent events of the 1950s and 1960s, when the Cold War was at its height. There was Soviet interest in science fiction literature and cinema, too, during the first half of the 20th Century—but it tended to focus on Mars landings rather than Moon landings. Key examples include the novel Red Star (1908) by Alexander Bogdanov and the film Aelita (1924) by Yakov Protazanov.

Well before the technology and knowledge of physical laws became sufficiently advanced to allow manned space-flight, going to the Moon was the dream of many people. With the passage of time, the idea of a Moon landing became a common trope in science fiction literature and cinema. Below is a partial list of notable "Moon landings" depicted in works of art.

Neil Gall

Neil Gall (born 1967 in Aberdeen, Scotland) is a London-based painter. He works with a number of processes including modelling, assemblage, photography and painting. He received his BA in painting at Gray's School of Art and then attended Slade School of Art in London in 1991. He has received numerous awards including the Abby Major Award in 1993 from The British School at Rome, the Jerwood Painting Prize in 1999 and was the artist in residence at Durham Cathedral in 1993.

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 Secret People

For the Audrey Hepburn film of the same title, see Secret People (film).

The Secret People (1935) is a science fiction novel by English writer John Wyndham. It is set in 1964, and features a British couple who find themselves held captive by an ancient race of pygmies dwelling beneath the Sahara desert. The novel was written under Wyndham's early pen name, John Beynon.

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.