Hal Clement

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Hal Clement
Born Harry Clement Stubbs
(1922-05-30)May 30, 1922[1]
Somerville, Massachusetts
Died October 29, 2003(2003-10-29) (aged 81)
Milton, Massachusetts, USA
Pen name George Richard (as artist)
Occupation Novelist, military pilot, science teacher
Nationality American
Period 1942–2003
Genres Science fiction
Literary movement Hard science fiction
Notable work(s)

Harry Clement Stubbs (May 30, 1922 – October 29, 2003) better known by the pen name Hal Clement, was an American science fiction writer and a leader of the hard science fiction subgenre. He also painted astronomically oriented artworks under the name George Richard.[2]

In 1998 Clement was inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame[3][a] and named the 17th SFWA Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (presented in 1999).[4][5]


Stubbs was born in Somerville, Massachusetts and died in Milton, Massachusetts.

He went to Harvard, graduating with a B.S. in astronomy in 1943. While there he wrote his first published story, "Proof", which appeared in the June 1942 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, edited by John W. Campbell; three more appeared in later 1942 numbers.[6] His further educational background includes an M.Ed. (Boston University 1946) and M.S. in chemistry (Simmons College 1963).

During World War II Clement was a pilot and copilot of a B-24 Liberator and flew 35 combat missions over Europe with the 68th Bomb Squadron, 44th Bomb Group, based in England with 8th Air Force. After the war, he served in the United States Air Force Reserve, and retired with the rank of colonel. He taught chemistry and astronomy for many years at Milton Academy in Milton, Massachusetts.

From 1949 to 1953, Clement's first three novels were two-, three-, and four-part Astounding serials under Campbell: Needle (Doubleday, 1950), Iceworld (Gnome Press, 1953), and Mission of Gravity (1954), his best-known novel, published by Doubleday's Science Fiction Book Club (established 1953). The latter novel features a land and sea expedition across the superjovian planet Mesklin to recover a stranded scientific probe. The natives of Mesklin are centipede-like intelligent beings about 50 centimeters long. Various episodes hinge on the fact that Mesklin's fast rotational speed causes it to be considerably deformed from the spherical, with effective surface gravity that varies from approximately 3 gn at the equator to approximately 700 gn at the poles.

Clement's article "Whirligig World" describes his approach to writing a science fiction story:

"Writing a science fiction story is fun, not work. ... the fun ... lies in treating the whole thing as a game. ... [T]he rules must be quite simple. They are; for the reader of a science-fiction story, they consist of finding as many as possible of the author's statements or implications which conflict with the facts as science currently understands them. For the author, the rule is to make as few such slips as he possibly can ... Certain exceptions are made [e.g., to allow travel faster than the speed of light], but fair play demands that all such matters be mentioned as early as possible in the story ..."

Clement was a frequent guest at science fiction conventions, especially in the eastern United States, where he usually presented talks and slide shows about writing and astronomy.

Clement died in Milton Hospital at the age of 81. He died in his sleep, most likely due to complications of diabetes.

Awards and honors[edit]

Clement has been honored several times for his cumulative contributions including 1998 Hall of Fame induction, when Clement and Frederik Pohl were the fifth and sixth living persons[a] honored, and the 1999 SFWA Grand Master Award.[3][4][5]

For the 1945 short story "Uncommon Sense" he received a 50-year Retro Hugo Award at the 1996 World Science Fiction Convention. Mission of Gravity, first published as a serial during 1953, was named best foreign novel by the Spanish Science Fiction Association in 1994 and it was a finalist for a 50-year Retro Hugo Award in 2004.[5]

The Hal Clement Award for Young Adults for Excellence in Children's Science Fiction Literature is presented in his memory at Worldcon each year.[7]

Wayne Barlowe illustrated two of Clement's fictional species, the Abyormenites and the Mesklinites, in his Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials.


Compared with contemporary science fiction authors like Isaac Asimov or Poul Anderson, Clement was parsimonious in naming fictional planets. Those that he created as settings include a number of notably unusual worlds. They include:

  • Abyormen – A planet circling a dwarf star (Theer), which in turn circles a blue giant. This produces a hot and a cold season, each of 65 years' duration. The native intelligent life forms undergo a seasonal mass death. From Cycle of Fire.
  • Dhrawn – A high-gravity world settled by Mesklinites in Star Light.
  • Habranha - A planet that is tidally locked with its sun, such that the far side is a mix of solid CO2, solid methane, and ice, and the other side completely ocean, in Fossil.
  • Hekla – An ice-age planet in Cold Front (short story, Astounding July 1946).
  • Kaihapa – An uninhabited ocean planet, twin of Kainui, in Noise.
  • Kainui – An inhabited ocean planet in Noise.
  • Mesklin — A planet with ultra-high gravity (up to 700 g) in Mission of Gravity. Clement later corrected his model of Mesklin and determined that the maximum surface gravity would be "only 250 gravities".
  • Sarr – An extremely hot planet with an atmosphere of gaseous sulfur, and little liquid (the natives occasionally need to drink a bit of molten copper chloride), in Iceworld
  • Tenebra – A high-gravity world with a corrosive atmosphere in Close to Critical.
  • Enigma 88 - A small planet near η Carinae in Still River. The interior of the object is honeycombed with caves, due to evaporation of accreted ice-rich planetoids. Unusually for Clement, Enigma's structure is not fully consistent with the laws of physics.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b As living inductees Clement and Frederik Pohl were preceded in the Hall of Fame by A. E. van Vogt and Jack Williamson, Arthur C. Clarke and Andre Norton.[3]


  1. ^ "Henry Clement Stubbs". Rosetta Books (rosettabooks.com). Archived 2008-07-20. Retrieved 2013-03-23.
  2. ^ "Hal Clement, 81, craftsman of sci fi novels". Tom Long. The Boston Globe. October 31, 2003.
  3. ^ a b c "Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame". Mid American Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions, Inc. Retrieved 2013-03-23. This was the official website of the hall of fame to 2004.
  4. ^ a b "Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Retrieved 2013-03-23.
  5. ^ a b c "Clement, Hal". The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index to Literary Nominees. Locus Publications. Retrieved 2013-03-23.
  6. ^ Hal Clement at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 2013-04-04. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  7. ^ Guidelines, Golden Duck Awards, SuperConDuckTivity.[dead link]

External links[edit]