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Jack Williamson (1908-2006)

Grand Master and past Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America President, John Stewart Williamson died November 10, 2006 at his home in Portales, New Mexico. Born in 1908 in Arizona, Jack Williamson's family brought him to New Mexico by covered wagon in 1915.

His first publication was "The Metal Man" in 1928. He wrote continuously until shortly before his death, with over 50 novels and at least 15 short story collections. The novel The Stonehenge Gate was published in 2005.

Jack was one of the inaugural inductees in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame and received awards too numerous to list in detail. He was honored as SFWA Grand Master award in 1976 and received the Pilgrim Award from Science Fiction Research Association in 1973. Williamson also served as SFWA President in 1978-80. His autobiographical Wonder's Child: My Life in Science Fiction won a Hugo award in 1985.

John Clute said of Williamson, "In his work and in his life, he has encompassed the field."

Professor Emeritus of English at Eastern New Mexico University, Williamson earned his B.A. and M.A. from ENMU, and joined the English faculty in 1960. He later earned his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado with a dissertation on H.G. Wells. He endowed scholarships in English and modern languages as well as for students in science and the humanities. He underwrote the ENMU literary magazine, El Portal, a publication that he supported as an ENMU faculty member as its advisor. The Jack Williamson Science Fiction Library at ENMU has one of the top science fiction collections in the world.

A memorial service honoring Jack will be held at 2 PM on Thursday, November 16, in the Ballroom of the Campus Union Building at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales. Speakers will include,Connie Willis, Patrice Caldwell and his niece Betty Williamson. A reception will immediately follow to allow family and friends an opportunity to visit.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributing to the Jack and Blanche Williamson Scholarship, ENMU Foundation, ENMU Station #8, Portales, NM 88130 or the Portales Public Library, 218 South Avenue B, Portales, NM 88130.

Obituary in The Albuquerque Tribune.

NPR Audio Segment about Jack Williamson.


He was the father, grandfather, uncle of science fiction all rolled into one. Younger than Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, sure, but older than Isaac Asimov, who was eight years old when Williamson published his first story in 1928.

There are lots of excellent remembrances of Jack Williamson out on the web, by writers and other people who knew him much better than I did. As President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (1998-2001), I of course had the pleasure of meeting and conversing with Jack a good number of times.

But one thing about Jack Williamson really struck me when I first heard about it, and it's never been far from the front of my mind. Some time around, oh, 1998 or 1999, I heard from an editor of a major science fiction magazine that Jack Williamson had sent in a story - out of the clear blue sky, or over the transom (as it's called in the trade). Unsolicited - like someone just starting out as a writer.

Jack Williamson was already in his 90s then, with a list of books and stories and awards and accomplishments that literally spanned the century. And yet here he was, waking up one morning, and sending out a new story! Not resting on his numerous laurels, but writing, and working to get it published in the world.

That's what I call writing and living.

  Paul Levinson


Updated November 15, 2006  

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