By Kevin Wilson
With a career spanning nearly 77 years as a writer, it’s no surprise that it would take a few years just to summarize the work of Jack Williamson.
That process has been completed after nearly four years, with the help of more than a few fans and friends.
“Seventy-Five: The Diamond Anniversary of a Science Fiction Pioneer,” avaiable now, chronicles many of the science-fiction writer’s works, from his first published writing (“The Metal Man,” in the December 1928 Amazing Stories) to writing that is making its first appearance in the 602-page collection.
The book includes 11 short stories by Williamson (four printed for the first time), segments from six novels, notes from other science fiction writers and an updated account of his biography (“Wonder’s Child,” written two decades ago).
The book is intended to celebrate 75 years of Williamson’s career, but various delays and the sheer volume of work helped delay its release to August of this year.
“We had hoped to get it out in 2003, but it dragged,” said Rick Hauptmann, a co-editor of the book with Stephen Haffner. “There’s a lot of stuff in the book.”
Hauptmann recently published a bibliography of Williamson, whose credits include 55 novels, about 136 short stories and 88 appearances in collections. His latest work, “The Stonehenge Gate: Part One” will appear in the Jan./Feb. 2005 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine.
Other items in “Seventy-Five” include a segment of his journals as a weather forecaster during World War II and a comic strip that turned out to be a turning point for his life.
An 18-week segment of a “Beyond Mars” comic strip is reprinted in full color in the book. Hauptmann said that the strip’s cancellation was the motivation for Williamson to get an education. After “Beyond Mars” was cancelled, Hauptmann said, Williamson had no steady income and decided that he needed to have some type of career to fall back on.
“It broke my heart at first, but it was a good thing in the long run,” said Williamson, who received his doctorate in 1966 and still teaches a science fiction writing course at Eastern New Mexico University.
During his writing career, Williamson has coined a few phrases (“terraforming” was first published in a Williamson piece) and has contributed to the science community.
As scientific research has progressed, Williamson has felt it was a little easier to come up with ideas for new science fiction.
“Most science fiction is basically an extrapolation of what is known,” Williamson said. “As science expands, that future keeps pushing out and there’s further territory to speculate.”
As far as predicting items, though, most people in the science fiction community know that any predictions that come to fruition are usually coincidence.
“There have been a lot of predictions in the science fiction genre,” Hauptmann said, “but the predictions have been accidental because hundreds more haven’t come true.”
As for predicting his own career, Williamson doesn’t see an end to writing just yet. But there’s no pressing motivation that keeps him going.
“It’s force of habit, I guess,” Williamson said. “I had an isolated childhood and I had a lot of daydreams. I was lucky that I could sell my daydreams.”
The book is available through online retailers, and Williamson will have a book signing Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Southwest Books and More.