1995: Wynne Whiteford

Wynne Whiteford

Wynne Whiteford
Wynne Whiteford

Melbourne author of books including
Breathing Space Only
Thor’s Hammer (Cory & Collins)
The Hyades Contact (Ace)
Lake Of The Sun (Ace)
Winner of the 1995 Chandler Award.

Wynne Whiteford’s Science Fiction

by Sean McMullen
from The Instrumentality 1995

When 19 year old Wynne Whiteford sold “Beyond the Infinite” to Adam and Eve magazine in 1934, A. Bertram Chandler and Arthur C. Clarke were still a decade away from selling their first stories. At that time a dozen or so other Australian authors had managed to participate in the explosion of SF creativity and wonder taking place overseas, but young Wynne found that scene too daunting. After selling “Automaton” to The Bulletin in 1935 he gave up writing SF for twenty years and concentrated on earning a living.

When Wynne returned to fiction it was 1952. Chandler and Clarke were now promising newcomers in SF and, of the Australian authors of the thirties, only North was still active. Wynne was now writing crime fiction and he sold stories to Australian Journal, Squire and Saint. When “Ancestral Home” appeared in the local commercial magazine Science Fiction Monthly in June 1956, Wynne was back on a path that would lead to sales overseas to Amazing, Fantastic Universe, New Worlds, If, Super Science Fiction and Science Fiction Adventures. “Who Rides the Tiger” even made the front cover illustration of Science Fiction Adventures #12, 1959, an almost unheard of honour for an Australian author back then.

In 1960 Wynne again left SF to concentrate on journalism, and it was a pivotal year for Australian SF in many other ways. Imported SF magazines were beginning to flood into the country after the lifting of wartime(!) trade restrictions, Australian SF manuscripts from the likes of Lee Harding and John Baxter were flooding out to overseas magazines and Chandler was beginning his Rimworld series of novels. In the years that followed, New wave SF washed in and receded, the first manned spaceflights and lunar landings took place, and Australia hosted its first World SF Convention. When the young and enterprising Paul Collins launched his Worlds series of anthologies with Envisaged Worlds in 1978, Wynne again returned to SF with “Beyond Aldebaran”, from his Kesrii series.

Wynne’s first novel, Breathing Space Only, was published by Collins in 1980. The next ten years were Wynne’s most prolific. Another five of his novels were published and his work was translated into French, German and Japanese. Thor’s Hammer (Cory & Collins, 1982), with echoes of his earlier crime fiction was placed equal sixth in Van Ikin’s 1985 poll of the best Australian SF ever and also gained a Ditmar nomination. Lake of the Sun (Ace, 1989) postulated an ingenious underground Martian civilization and won the 1990 Ditmar for novel length SF.

Wynne’s SF is undeniably popular with Australian fans: five out of his six novels have had Ditmar nominations, and all three of his novels published in 1985 made it into Van Ikin’s ‘best ever’ poll. Perhaps this is because his style has remained thoughtful, yet hardware and adventure orientated throughout changes in literary fashion and these three elements have been perennially important to a great many SF readers. Most importantly of all, Wynne frequently achieved his overseas successes during very bleak times for local SF, showing his fellow Australians that getting published there was not beyond their reach and thus helping to keep Australian SF alive.