Alfred Bester

1913 - 1987

American writer

Alfred Bester's innovative, ferocious talent has been highly influential upon the science fiction genre. Born in New York City, he entered the field in 1939 with a submission to Thrilling Wonder Stories. His talents were evident from the beginning, and by 1942 his writing displayed the qualities for which he would later be celebrated: cynical, baroque and aggressive, his work evokes hard, bright images in quick succession, and convincingly deals with obsessive states of mind.

For all his influence upon it, however, genre science fiction was rarely Bester's primary career. Yet his many years working with comic book outlines and dialogue, followed by time in radio, gave him an intense course in action plotting that by 1950 highly informed his science fiction writing. His resulting works are now considered some of the greatest in all of genre science fiction, not least among them the novels The Demolished Man (1953) and Tiger! Tiger! (1957, more commonly known as The Stars My Destination).

The science fiction equivalent of the Jacobean revenge drama, these two novels both feature outsiders bitterly cognizant of society's corruption, but partly ruined by it themselves. Blazing with sardonic imagery, they mingle symbols of decay and new life, and feature an extraordinarily thematic passion, staccato pace, and narrative pyrotechnics.

In the late 1950s Bester joined Holiday magazine as a feature writer, and did not publish science fiction again until the 1970s. Even then he remained one of the very few genre-science fiction writers to have bridged the chasm between the old and the new wave, and his work was in many respects a forerunner of cyberpunk. Even before his passing in 1987, his ability to conjure up, with bravura, outer and inner space had made him a legendary figure.

Selected Bibliography:
The Demolished Man (1953)
The Stars My Destination, aka Tiger! Tiger! (1957)
Starlight: The Great Short Fiction of Alfred Bester (1976)

Courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Copyright © John Clute and Peter Nicholls 1993, 1999, published by Orbit, an imprint of the Time Warner Book Group UK.