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John Wyndham, the best-known pseudonym of John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris Biography

(1903–69), the best-known pseudonym of John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris, The Secret People

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Woking Surrey to Æ

British writer, born in Knowle, Warwickshire. He followed various occupations before embarking on writing as a career. Before the Second World War he wrote under variations of his full name in a variety of genres. His first science fiction story, ‘Worlds to Barter’ (1931), was by ‘John Beynon Harris’; his first novel, The Secret People (1935), by ‘John Beynon’; and a later work, The Outward Urge (1959), appeared as a ‘collaboration’ by ‘John Wyndham and Parkes Lucas’. He is best known as a writer of science fiction, having long been attracted to the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, but he preferred to describe his own work as ‘logical fantasy’. As the creator of what became known as the ‘cosy catastrophe’, in which ordinary people manage to survive a catastrophe or invasion (usually in a rural enclave), for a time Wyndham was the most popular post-war writer of British science fiction. The Day of the Triffids (1951) concerns a catastrophe which leaves most of the human race blind, except for the protagonists whose eyes where protected from the light, and the giant Triffids (a species of plant-like mutants) who begin to take over the world. It was followed by The Kraken Wakes (1953); The Chrysalids (1955), in which Britain is divided by vast radioactive wastelands into ghettos where genetic mutations breed ‘monsters’; and The Midwich Cuckoos (1957), in which all the women of an English village become inseminated by aliens and give birth to beautiful, gifted children with telepathic powers which they use to murderous effect, enslaving the rest of the population to their collective will, before they are finally destroyed. Together, these novels present a distinctly English response to the theme of disaster, whether man-made or natural. Other novels include Trouble with Lichen (1960) and Chocky (1968). His best stories were collected in The Seeds of Time (1956) and Consider Her Ways (1961). Wyndham has considerably influenced such writers as J. Christopher and B. W. Aldiss. He also introduced ‘triffid’ into the language to describe a fantastic and dangerous plant; those depicted in his novel were mobile monsters about 7 feet high who propelled themselves on three-pronged roots.

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