Philip Wylie

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Philip Wylie
Philip Wylie.jpg
BornPhilip Gordon Wylie
(1902-05-12)May 12, 1902
Beverly, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedOctober 25, 1971(1971-10-25) (aged 69)
Miami, Florida, U.S.
OccupationAuthor, short story writer, screenwriter
GenreScience fiction
Notable worksWhen Worlds Collide,
Generation of Vipers
SpouseSally Ondek
Frederica Ballard

Philip Gordon Wylie (May 12, 1902 – October 25, 1971) was an American author of works ranging from pulp science fiction, mysteries, social diatribes and satire, to ecology and the threat of nuclear holocaust.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Beverly, Massachusetts, Wylie was the son of Presbyterian minister Edmund Melville Wylie and the former Edna Edwards, a novelist, who died when Philip was five years old. His family moved to Montclair, New Jersey, and he later attended Princeton University from 1920–1923.

A writer of fiction and nonfiction, his output included hundreds of articles, novels, serials, short stories, syndicated newspaper columns, and works of social criticism. He also wrote screenplays while in Hollywood, was an editor for Farrar & Rinehart, served on the Dade County, Florida Defense Council, was a director of the Lerner Marine Laboratory, and at one time was an adviser to the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee for Atomic Energy which led to the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission.[1] Most of his major writings contain critical, though often philosophical, views on man and society as a result of his studies and interests in biology, ethnology, physics, and psychology.

At least nine movies were made from novels or stories by Wylie. He sold the rights for two others that were never produced.[citation needed]

His wide range of interests defies easy classification, but his earliest work exercised great influence in twentieth-century science fiction pulp magazines and comic books:

He applied engineering principles and the scientific method quite broadly in his work. His novel The Disappearance (1951) is about what happens when everyone suddenly finds that all members of the opposite sex are missing (all the men have to get along without women, and vice versa). The book delves into the double standards between men and women that existed prior the woman's movement of the 1970s, exploring the nature of the relationship between men and women and the issues of women's rights and homosexuality.

During World War II, writing The Paradise Crater (1945) resulted in his house arrest by the federal government; in it, he described a post-WWII 1965 Nazi conspiracy to develop and use uranium-237 bombs,[3] months before the first successful atomic test at Alamagordo – the most highly classified secret of the war.[4] His nonfiction book of essays, Generation of Vipers (1942), was a best-seller during the 1940s and inspired the term "Momism". Some people have accused Generation of Vipers of being misogynistic. The Disappearance shows his thinking on the subject is very complex. (His only child, Karen Wylie Pryor, is the author of a classic book for breastfeeding mothers, Nursing Your Baby, and has commented that her father was far from being a misogynist.) His novel of manners, Finnley Wren, was also highly regarded in its time.[citation needed]

He wrote 69 "Crunch and Des" stories, most of which appeared in the Saturday Evening Post,[5] about the adventures of Captain Crunch Adams, master of the charter boat Poseidon, which was the basis of a brief television series.[6] In 1941, Wylie became Vice-President of the International Game Fish Association, and for many years he was responsible for writing IGFA rules and reviewing world record claims.[7]

His 1954 novel Tomorrow! dealt graphically with the civilian impact of thermonuclear war to make a case for a strong Civil Defense network in the United States, as he told the story of two neighboring cities (one prepared, one unprepared) before and after an attack by missile-armed Soviet bombers. This was adapted on October 17, 1956 by ABC Radio, as a one-hour drama narrated by Orson Welles, produced in cooperation with the Federal Civil Defense Administration.[8]

Wylie was also active in writing detective and mystery novelettes for a variety of magazines. Five of them were collected in 2010 as Ten Thousand Blunt Instruments and Other Mysteries, published by Crippen & Landru in its "Lost Classics" series and edited by Bill Pronzini.

An article Wylie wrote in 1951 in The Saturday Evening Post entitled "Anyone Can Raise Orchids" led to the popularization of this hobby—not just the rich, but gardeners of every economic level began experimenting with orchids.[9]

Wylie's final works dealt with the potentially catastrophic effects of pollution and climate change. Notably, Wylie wrote "L.A. 2017", a 1971 episode of the television series The Name of the Game. The series was normally a contemporary drama; however, in this unique science fiction episode, the lead character awakens in a science-fiction dystopia, centered on a psychiatric/fascist government overseeing the underground-sheltered remnants of humanity, the aftermath of an environmental (pollution) catastrophe. The 90-minute episode was directed by Steven Spielberg, and featured Gene Barry, Barry Sullivan, Edmond O'Brien, Severn Darden and Sharon Farrell. Wylie wrote a near-simultaneous novelization of the story as Los Angeles: A.D. 2017.

Wylie's final novel, The End of the Dream, was published posthumously in 1972 and foresees a dark future where America slides into ecological catastrophe.

Philip Wylie, and now the Philip Wylie estate, is represented by Harold Ober Associates.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Wylie married Sally Ondek, and had one child, Karen. After divorcing his first wife, he married Frederica Ballard, who was born and raised in Rushford, New York; they are both buried in Rushford.[11]

Wylie's daughter, Karen Pryor, is an author who became the inventor of animal "clicker" training; she was the wife of Taylor Alderdyce Pryor, a Marine helicopter pilot who became a Hawaii state senator and a co-founder of Sea Life Park and Oceanic Institute in Hawaii, of which his wife served as director. She later married Jon Lindbergh, Charles Lindbergh's son.[12]

Wylie's niece Janice Wylie, the daughter of his brother Max Wylie, was murdered, along with her roommate Emily Hoffert, in New York in August 1963 in what became known as the "Career Girls murders" case.


Wylie died from a heart attack on October 25, 1971, in Miami.[13] Some of his papers, writings, and other possessions are in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Princeton University Library.[14]



  • Heavy Laden (1928)
  • Babes and Sucklings (1929)
  • Gladiator (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1930)
  • The Murderer Invisible (1931)
  • Footprint of Cinderella (1931)
  • The Savage Gentleman (New York, Farrar & Rinehart, 1932)
  • When Worlds Collide (1933) (with Edwin Balmer) – Earth is destroyed in a collision with the rogue planet Bronson Alpha, with about a year of warning enabling a small group of survivors to build a spacecraft and escape to the rogue planet's moon, Bronson Beta. Filmed, with major changes to the story, as When Worlds Collide (1951).
  • After Worlds Collide (1934) (with Edwin Balmer) – Continues the story of When Worlds Collide, with both exploration of Bronson Beta and conflict with other groups of survivors.
  • The Golden Hoard (1934)
  • Finnley Wren (1934)
  • Too Much of Everything (1936)
  • An April Afternoon (1938)[15][16]
  • The Other Horseman (1942)
  • Corpses at Indian Stones (1943)
  • Night Unto Night (1944), filmed in 1949, starring Ronald Reagan
  • Opus 21 (1949)
  • The Disappearance (1951) – An unexplained cosmic "blink" splits humanity along gender lines into two divergent timelines: from the men's perspective, all the women disappear and from the women's, all men vanish. The novel explores issues of gender role and sexual identity. It depicts an empowered condition for liberated women and a dystopia of an all-male world. Wylie's setting allows him to investigate the role of homosexuality in situations where no gender alternative exists.
  • The Smuggled Atom Bomb (1951)
  • Three to be Read (1951). Three suspense novellas from The Saturday Evening Post
  • Tomorrow! (1954) – Nuclear war story centering on the atomic bombing of two fictional Midwest cities adjacent to each other in the mid-1950s; one has an effective Civil Defense program, the other does not.
  • The Innocent Ambassadors (1957)
  • They Both Were Naked (1963)
  • Triumph (1963) – Nuclear war story involving a worst-case USA/USSR "spasm war" where both sides empty their arsenals into each other with extensive use of "dirty" bombs to maximize casualties, resulting in the main characters (in a very deep bomb shelter) being the only survivors in the entire Northern Hemisphere. An excerpt from this novel (or perhaps the whole thing) was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post magazine.
  • The Spy Who Spoke Porpoise (1969) – The President of the United States learns that there is a category of CIA files, code named Zed, to which he is not allowed access.
  • Los Angeles: A.D. 2017 (1971) - A novelization of Wylie's "L.A. 2017", a 1971 episode of the television series The Name of the Game.
  • The End of the Dream (1972)

Short stories[edit]

"Crunch and Des" collections[edit]

  • The Big Ones Get Away (1940)
  • Salt Water Daffy (1941)
  • Fish and Tin Fish (1944)
  • Selected Short Stories of Philip Wylie (1945)
  • Crunch & Des: Stories of Florida Fishing (1948)
  • The Best of Crunch & Des (1954)
  • Treasure Cruise and other Stories (1956)
  • Crunch & Des: Classic Stories about Saltwater Fishing (1990)

The Big Ones Get Away, Salt Water Daffy, Fish and Tin Fish and Selected Short Stories of Philip Wylie were published as Armed Services Editions during WWII, as were Night Unto Night and When Worlds Collide.


  • Generation of Vipers (1942)
  • An Essay on Morals (1947)
  • Denizens Of The Deep (1953)
  • The Answer (1955)
  • The Magic Animal (1968)
  • Sons and Daughters of Mom (1971)


The following is a partial list:


TV series[edit]

  • Crunch and Des was adapted for a syndicated TV series (37 episodes, 1955–1956) starring Forrest Tucker and Sandy Kenyon and filmed in Bermuda.[17]
  • "L.A. 2017", a 1971 episode of the television series The Name of the Game. A science-fiction dystopia, based around a psychiatric/fascist government in the underground-sheltered remnants of humanity, the aftermath of an environmental (pollution) catastrophe. Wylie wrote the novelization as Los Angeles: A.D. 2017.


  1. ^ Keefer. Page 109.
  2. ^ Williamson, Al; Poplaski, Peter (1990). "Introduction". Flash Gordon: Mongo, the Planet of Doom. Princeton (Wisconsin): Kitchen Sink Press. p. 5. ISBN 0878161147. Raymond took the basic premise of Philip Wylie's When Worlds Collide, which was being reprinted in Blue Book magazine at the time, and used it as his starting point for adventure.
  3. ^ Urbanski 2007. p. 29
  4. ^ Franklin 2008. p. 147.
  5. ^ Wylie. Page viii.
  6. ^ Keefer. Page 94.
  7. ^ IGFA Hall of Fame Archived 2008-10-16 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^
  9. ^ Orlean. Page 140.
  10. ^ "Authors". Retrieved October 31, 2014.
  11. ^ USGenNet
  12. ^ "Gale T. Pryor Is Wed to Karl D. Leabo". The New York Times. July 15, 1985.
  13. ^ "Author Philip Wylie Dies". Observer-Reporter. October 25, 1971.
  14. ^ "Philip Wylie Papers". Department of Rare Books and Special Collections Princeton University Library. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
  15. ^ OCLC 6505489
  16. ^ For commentary on this book, see: Wild, Peter (2011). Paradise of Desire: Eleven Palm Springs Novels. Tucson, AZ: Estate of Peter Wild. p. 281. OCLC 748584112.
  17. ^ "Crunch and Des (1955–) TV Series - 30 min". IMDb.

External links[edit]