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KORNBLUTH, C(YRIL) M.
(1923-1958) US writer. A member of the FUTURIANS fan group, he published prolifically during the years 1940-42 in magazines edited by fellow Futurians Donald A. WOLLHEIM and Frederik POHL. His first sf publication was "Stepsons of Mars" with Richard WILSON, writing together as Ivar TOWERS, for Astonishing Stories in 1940; his first solo sf story was "King Cole of Pluto" for Super Science Stories as S.D. GOTTESMAN, also in 1940. He used many other pseudonyms, both for solo work and for work written in collaboration with Pohl (and sometimes others, including Robert A.W. LOWNDES); these included Arthur COOKE, Cecil Corwin, Walter C. Davies, Kenneth Falconer, Paul Dennis Lavond and Scott MARINER. (He also wrote 1 non-sf novel in the early 1950s as Simon Eisner and 4 as Jordan Park.)
After WWII, in which he served as an infantryman and was decorated, CMK went into journalism. He resumed writing sf in 1947, using his own name, and quickly established himself as a brilliant short-story writer. His classic works include "The Little Black Bag" (1950), about the misuse of a medical bag timeslipped from the future ( MEDICINE), and the controversial SATIRE "The Marching Morons" (1951), about a future where the practice of birth control by the intelligentsia has had a spectacularly dysgenic effect ( INTELLIGENCE). Such stories as "With These Hands" (1951) and "The Goodly Creatures" (1952) are delicate and sensitive, but much of his work is deeply ingrained with bitter irony. "The Cosmic Charge Account" (1956) is a black comedy about a little old lady who finds the power to remake her environs. "Shark Ship" (1958) is an early alarmist fantasy about OVERPOPULATION and POLLUTION. The ALTERNATE-WORLD story "Two Dooms" (1958) is one of the better studies of a world in which the Nazis won WWII ( HITLER WINS).CMK wrote two routine novels in collaboration with Judith MERRIL as Cyril JUDD: Outpost Mars (1952: rev vt Sin in Space 1961), about the colonization of MARS, and Gunner Cade (1952), about a future in which WAR is a spectator sport ( GAMES AND SPORTS). His first solo sf novel, Takeoff (1952), is a weak NEAR-FUTURE story about the building of the first Moon ROCKET; but when CMK began working again in collaboration with Frederik Pohl they produced a classic, THE SPACE MERCHANTS (1952 Gal as "Gravy Planet"; 1953), about a world run by advertising agencies in the service of capitalist consumerism. This became the archetype of a whole generation of sf novels which showed the world of the future dominated by one particular institution or power group. Two other collaborations with Pohl - the episodic satirical comedy Search the Sky (1954; rev by Pohl 1985) and Gladiator-at-Law (1955) - belong to the same subspecies. The last novel CMK wrote with Pohl was Wolfbane (1957; rev by Pohl 1986), in which the Earth is moved out of its orbit by ALIENS who capture humans in order to use their bodies in a vast COMPUTER complex. CMK and Pohl also wrote two non-sf novels, A Town is Drowning (1955) and Presidential Year (1956). Collaborative stories continued to appear for four years after CMK's premature death, and Pohl wrote some more stories from CMK's ideas in the early 1970s, one of which - "The Meeting" (1972) - won a HUGO. Some of the collaborative short stories are reprinted in the overlapping collections The Wonder Effect (coll 1962), Critical Mass (coll 1977) Before the Universe (coll 1980) and Our Best (coll 1986). CMK's other solo novels are undistinguished: The Syndic (1953) ironically depicts a future USA run by organized gangsterism in a semi-benevolent fashion; Not this August (1955; vt Christmas Eve 1956 UK; exp by Pohl under first title 1981) describes a revolution in a future USA which has been conquered by communists.The best of CMK's short work is collected in The Explorers (coll 1954; with 1 story cut and 4 added, vt The Mindworm and Other Stories 1955 UK), A Mile Beyond the Moon (coll 1958; paperback omits 3 stories) and The Marching Morons (coll 1959). Eclectic selections from these volumes are Best SF Stories of Cyril M. Kornbluth (coll 1968) and The Best of C.M. Kornbluth (coll 1976), the latter ed Pohl. A selection of early stories originally signed Cecil Corwin is Thirteen O'Clock and Other Zero Hours (coll 1970) ed James BLISH. CMK's essay "The Failure of the Science Fiction novel as Social Criticism" (in The Science Fiction Novel coll 1959 intro by Basil DAVENPORT) is an important early piece of sf criticism, sharply pointing out the genre's shortcomings. His widow, Mary Kornbluth, compiled Science Fiction Showcase (anth 1959) as a memorial. [BS]Other work: Gunner Cade, Plus Takeoff (omni 1983).
Clute & Nicholls - Encyclopedia of Science Fiction