Damon Knight

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Damon Knight
BornDamon Francis Knight
(1922-09-19)September 19, 1922
Baker City, Oregon, United States
DiedApril 15, 2002(2002-04-15) (aged 79)
Eugene, Oregon, United States
Pen nameConanight, Stuart Fleming[a]
  • Author
  • editor
  • critic
GenreScience fiction, primarily short stories
(m. 1963)
Knight's novella "The Earth Quarter" was the cover story of the January 1955 issue of If
Knight's novella "The Visitor at the Zoo" took the cover of the April 1963 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction

Damon Francis Knight (September 19, 1922 – April 15, 2002) was an American science fiction author, editor, and critic. He is the author of "To Serve Man", a 1950 short story adapted for The Twilight Zone.[2] He was married to fellow writer Kate Wilhelm.


Knight was born in Baker City, Oregon, in 1922, and grew up in Hood River, Oregon. He entered science-fiction fandom at the age of eleven and published two issues of a fanzine titled Snide.[3]

Knight's first professional sale was a cartoon drawing to a science-fiction magazine, Amazing Stories.[4] His first story, "The Itching Hour", appeared in the Summer 1940 number of Futuria Fantasia, edited and published by Ray Bradbury.[1] "Resilience" followed in the February 1941 number of Stirring Science Stories, edited by Donald A. Wollheim.[1] An editorial error made the latter story's ending incomprehensible;[5] it was reprinted in a 1978 magazine in four pages with a two-page introduction by Knight.[1]

At the time of his first story sale he was living in New York and was a member of the Futurians.[6] One of his short stories describes paranormal disruption of a science fiction fan group and contains cameo appearances of various Futurians and others under thinly-disguised names; for instance, non-Futurian SF writer H. Beam Piper is identified as "H. Dreyne Fifer".

Knight's forte was the short story; he is widely acknowledged as having been a master of the genre.[7] To the general public he is best known as the author of "To Serve Man", a 1950 short story adapted for The Twilight Zone.[2] It won a 50-year Retro-Hugo in 2001 as the best short story of 1950.[8] Knight was also a science fiction critic, a career which began when he wrote in 1945 that A. E. van Vogt "is not a giant as often maintained. He's only a pygmy who has learned to operate an overgrown typewriter."[3] He ceased reviewing when Fantasy & Science Fiction refused to publish his review of Judith Merril's novel The Tomorrow People.[9][10] These reviews were later collected in In Search of Wonder.[6]

Algis Budrys wrote that Knight and "William Atheling Jr." (James Blish) had "transformed the reviewer's trade in the field",[11] in Knight's case "without the guidance of his own prior example".[9] The term "idiot plot", a story that only functions because almost everyone in it is an idiot, became well known through Knight's frequent use of it in his reviews, though he believed the term was probably invented by Blish.[12] Knight's only non-Retro-Hugo Award was for "Best Reviewer" in 1956.[8]

Knight was the founder of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA),[13] cofounder of the National Fantasy Fan Federation,[14] cofounder of the Milford Writer's Workshop,[15] and cofounder of the Clarion Writers Workshop.[16] The SFWA officers and past presidents named Knight its 13th Grand Master in 1994 (presented 1995). After his death, the associated award was renamed the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in his honor.[8][6][17] The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in 2003.[18]

Until his death, Knight lived in Eugene, Oregon, with his second wife, author Kate Wilhelm.[19] His papers are held in the University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archive.[20]

Selected works[edit]


Short stories and other writings[edit]

Literary criticism and analysis[edit]

  • In Search of Wonder (1956) (collected reviews and critical pieces)
  • Creating Short Fiction (1981) (advice on writing short stories)
  • Turning Points (editor/contributor: critical anthology)
  • Orbit (editor)
  • The Futurians (1977, memoir/history)

Short story collections[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Futurians Chester Cohen and Knight used the name Conanight jointly for two 1942 illustrations. Knight wrote three 1943–1944 short stories as Stuart Fleming.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Damon Knight at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 2013-04-04.
  2. ^ a b Stanyard, Dimensions Behind the Twilight Zone, p. 51.
  3. ^ a b Battistella, Edwin. "Damon Knight (1922-2002)". The Oregon Encyclopedia. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  4. ^ Knight, "Knight Piece," Brian W. Aldiss & Harry Harrison, Hell's Cartographers, Orbit Books, 1976, p. 105.
  5. ^ Pohl, SFWA Grand Masters Volume Three, p. 202.
  6. ^ a b c "Damon Knight". Gollancz/SFE Ltd. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  7. ^ Malzberg, Barry N., ed. (1976). The Best of Damon Knight. Nelson Doubleday.
  8. ^ a b c "Knight, Damon". The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index to Literary Nominees. Locus Publications. Archived from the original on 2012-10-16. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
  9. ^ a b Budrys, Algis (December 1967). "Galaxy Bookshelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 187–194.
  10. ^ Knight, Damon (2016). "Author's Notes; To the Second Edition". In Search of Wonder: Essays on Modern Science Fiction (3rd ed.). Golden, Colorado: ReAnimus Press. pp. 20, 260. ISBN 9781539833697. I resigned as F&SF's book reviewer in 1960 because the then editor, now my agent and a good friend, declined to publish one of my reviews as written. (The review in question appears here for the first time, in Chapter 10 [The Tomorrow People].)
  11. ^ Budrys, Algis (June 1965). "Galaxy Bookshelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 164–169.
  12. ^ Gary K. Wolfe, "Coming to Terms", in Gunn & Candelaria, Speculations on Speculation, p. 18.
  13. ^ "Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America History and Statistics". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. Archived from the original on 3 October 2011. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  14. ^ "The History of N3F". The National Fantasy Fan Federation. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  15. ^ "Milford History". Milford Speculative Fiction Writers. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  16. ^ "Robin Scott Wilson". Gollancz/SFE Ltd. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  17. ^ "Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Archived from the original on 2013-03-08. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
  18. ^ "Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame". Mid American Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions, Inc. Archived from the original on May 21, 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-22. This was the official website of the hall of fame to 2004
  19. ^ "Damon Knight, 79, Writer and Editor of Science Fiction, Dies". The New York Times. 17 April 2002.
  20. ^ "Celebrating CSWS 40th with the le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship". 7 July 2013.


  • Aldiss, Brian W.; Harrison, Harry (1976). Hell's Cartographers. London: Futura. ISBN 0-86007-907-4.
  • Gunn, James E.; Candelaria, Matthew (2005). Speculations on Speculation: Theories of Science Fiction. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-4902-X.
  • Pohl, Frederik (2002). The SFWA Grand Masters. Vol. 3. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-86876-6.
  • Stanyard, Stewart T. (2006). Dimensions Behind the Twilight Zone: A Backstage Tribute to Television's Groundbreaking Series. Chicago: ECW Press. ISBN 978-1-55022-744-4.

External links[edit]