Monday, February 23, 2015

Science Fiction and Fantasy by John D MacDonald

This morning I’m launching another list in the Trap of Solid Gold Resources section of this blog: a bibliography of all of the science fiction and fantasy short stories, novellas and novels written by John D MacDonald.

Every MacDonald fan is aware of his three science fiction novels, Wine of the Dreamers, Ballroom of the Skies and The Girl, The Gold Watch & Everything. The fans whose interest in JDM extends to his short fiction are no doubt knowledgeable of the fact that he wrote a lot of science fiction stuff back in the early days of his career, published mostly in the sf pulps of the day. Many of the best of those tales were collected in a 1978 anthology titled Other Times, Other Worlds, which is now out of print. The editor of that indispensable collection, the peerless Martin H Greenberg, included an appendix to the book, a bibliography of MacDonald’s science fiction. It was culled from the obvious magazines like Thrilling Wonder Stories, Super Science Stories and Astounding Science Fiction. It also included the latter-day Playboy story “The Annex,”  a 1964 story published in Cosmopolitan titled “The Legend of Joe Lee,” (both included in the anthology) and an obscure early work published in Spectator Club called “The Spiralled Myth.” The entries on this list totalled fifty-three.

But there were several stories that were missed. I guess if even Martin H Greenberg isn't infallible there’s hope for the rest of us.

There were at least three stories that predated any of the work MacDonald published in the standard sf pulps, and in somewhat unlikely publications. His first was a golfing fantasy titled “Hole in None” that appeared in a January 1947 issue of Liberty. Following that was a Bluebook tale about an unusual invention titled “The Pendans Box.” And near the end of that year he wrote a futuristic novella about nuclear proliferation in Doc Savage called “Or the World Will Die.” Only then, in 1948, did JDM see his first sf pulp story published, “Cosmetics” in the February issue of Astounding Science Fiction.

This began the author’s great spurt of sf writing, with ten stories published in 1948, 17 in 1949, 14 in 1950, eight in 1951, three in 1952 (including Ballroom) and one in 1953. But that was only the end of MacDonald appearances in sf magazines; he continued to write the occasional sf or fantasy story, and they appeared in other kinds of publications. In 1955 he wrote a straight-up science fiction story that was published in Bluebook, called “Virus H.” Its theme was one that the author came to embrace more fervently as he grew older, the ecology of the planet. The story even has aliens in it!

The remaining works are more fantasy than science fiction, with the exception perhaps of The Girl, The Gold Watch & Everything. These include some I have already written about: “A Dark People Thing,” “The Straw Witch,” “The Annex,” and “The Reference Room.”

And there may be more out there. As is evidenced by the early Doc Savage entry, some of the stuff he wrote for that magazine and its sister publication The Shadow may have fantasy or science fiction elements to them. I either don’t own these stories or haven’t read them in several decades, so if in the process of writing this blog I come across any, I will update the list when the posting appears.

As before, I want to thank J.J. Walters for creating the web page and making it readable and easy to use. We’ve put the list together in two different formats: entries listed alphabetically and then chronologically.

I would also like to thank Trap of Solid Gold reader Eric Gimlin for providing some very helpful advice as to what should be included and what should not. His prompting inspired me to dig out some of the early unlisted stories to determine their genre and to sit down and put this list together.

What I didn’t do here was segregate the science fiction from the fantasy. That’s a pothole I don’t want to drive over. I’ll simply finish with what I’ve always thought was the best quote on the subject, written by Rod Serling for the 1962 episode of The Twilight Zone titled “The Fugitive”:

Science fiction [is] the improbable made possible; fantasy, the impossible made probable.


  1. Thanks for this listing. I'm curious about the 30,000 word novella in DOC SAVAGE and will have to keep an eye out for it. By the way I see that # 46 and #47 both discuss the same story, "Hands From the Void".

    1. Thanks for the heads up Walker. The link has been fixed.

      "Or the World Will Die" is good, not great MacDonald. It's way too long and loses focus several times, as if the author was getting paid by the word... oh wait, he was! Still, his handling of the subject matter was insightful and, in places, prescient.

  2. As Steve says, "Or the World Will Die" is good but not great MacDonald. If you can find the issue it's a fun one, though; with three stories by JDM taking up pretty much half the issue.

    Glad I could help out on the list. One thing that I find very interesting about this version of the list (as opposed to the shorter version in OTOW) is it shows just how much JDM really kept SF/ Fantasy in his toolbox throughout his career. It became a lesser element when the pulps (as opposed to the digests) died, but he never quite stopped the way the OTOW list suggests. Then again, at that time he was selling much more of his short work to the slicks; and even people like Heinlein and Bradbury only got a few stories into those.

  3. Of all the J.M. books I have read, this was the least engaging and entertaining. However, I enjoy the Astor so much that I plan to read all his books.