Talk:James Blish

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This article is currently partially written in the first person, and is highly POV in places. In particular, in a section I just removed, it cited a Blish character talking about playing with differential formalisms as an example of "absurd physics": in fact, this sort of formalism-play is not uncommon in mathematics, and is a useful and fruitful notation. -- The Anome 01:21, Mar 24, 2005 (UTC)

I cleaned up some of the worst stuff a few days back. Definitely pretty opinionated (and not exactly mainstream opinion, either.) If you (or anyone) think there is more, post it here (I watch this page) and I'll see what needs done, if anything. In the meantime, I've pulled that NPOV flag off. That kind of thing really isn't very useful, except to annoy readers of the article. That's what the talk pages are for. fyngyrz

A section about themes is probably in order.

Black Easter/The Day After Judgement[edit]

Does so much space need to be devoted to these stories here? It's stuck in the middle of the biography section. The article is supposed to be about a prolific author, not about two short novels he wrote somewhere in the middle of his career. 18:35, 25 May 2006 (UTC)

Blish's personal life[edit]

Blish is said in the Arrowhead SF article to have been married to Virginia Kidd, the literary agent. The only wife mentioned here is fellow science fiction author J. A. Lawerence. Doesn't some mention of divorce and remarriage need to come in here? I don't want to turn Wikipedia into some sort of trashy tabloid, but isn't this a material fact that needs to be covered? Rlquall 12:39, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

The Virginia Kidd article says they were married 1947 to 1963. -- Beardo 03:58, 20 September 2006 (UTC)

Judith Lawrence co-adapted many of the Star Trek stories for the original 12 collections, a fact I believe noted in the Philip Stephensen-Payne bibliography; it should be noted that three stories were singled out for special attention - the Gary Seven episode (intended as an offshoot pilot) which Blish (it appears) just thought was silly, so radically altered.. and the two Harry Mudd stories which, with an original third story, became Mudd's Angels. It has been suggested the venom against the character Mudd in the novel was mainly from Lawrence, though this is not verifiable. (talk) 17:37, 20 March 2010 (UTC) Ian

Works - Cities in Flight[edit]

The 'SF Masterworks' collection gives the year 4104 for the end of the universe, which makes the text concerning 4004 vague and potentially misleading. I do not have knowledge of earlier editions, but perhaps someone more knowledgable could expand the section to give citations relating to a specific edition including the earlier date. Retrograde 01:02, 31 October 2006 (UTC)

The paperback edition gave 4004. This was, I suspect, an intentional allusion to the traditional date, based on Bishop Ussher's chronology, for the creation of the Earth (4004 BC), a date noted in many annotations of the Bible. DES (talk) 15:51, 15 March 2010 (UTC)


The first story's main character is named "Steele", at least in the german translation. Somebody changed the name to "Sweeney" in the article though. I suspect that this is the name given to him in the english text then? Can somebody confirm/check this? 21:34, 24 June 2007 (UTC)

Reply to Pantropy; chronology[edit]

Yes, it's Sweeney in the English (presumably original) version.

NOTE ON CITIES ON FLIGHT: When referring to the novels as first, second, etc, the writer is referring to the internal chronology, not the order of publication. The order of publication was III, I, IV, II. One jarring result is that the sympathetic hero of II is casually killed off at the beginning of III, though what really happened was that Blish took a minor name from III and built an important character around it. CharlesTheBold 04:56, 16 November 2007 (UTC)

Spock must die[edit]

I undid a change to the article that said:

The text in both this article (James Blish) and the Spock Must Die! article both state that it was the first original SF novel. SO, if you are going to change this information here, you should change it in both places and cite your source on the information please. Thanks. David Reiss (talk) 14:41, 3 March 2008 (UTC)

Spock Must Die! is an ungodly mess in need of serious attention, so that's not a good example. However, both articles state that the novel is the first original novel "for adult readers", as Mission to Horatius (published years earlier) was a junior novel. Rhindle The Red (talk) 14:13, 4 March 2008 (UTC)
Mission to Horatius was marketed as a "Young adult" novel, but was IMO no more "junior" than many of the franchised Star Trek novels later marketed to adults. But it was not part of the later series, and has remained obscure to many fans. DES (talk) 15:47, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

An appreciation[edit]

Blish's The Triumph of Time was the first serious science fiction I read as a kid. Later, I got the single-volume Cities in Flight tetralogy and read it straight through.

I just caught this fascinating article about anti-matter in today's paper:

A baffling question is why the universe consists almost entirely of matter and not anti-matter. Scientists think that both substances were created in equal measure at the big bang. "Where is all the anti-matter in the universe?" UC Santa Barbara physicist Benjamin Monreal asked. He speculated that it may be hiding in anti-matter galaxies, even in unseen anti-matter universes. [1]

It was an Aha! moment for me, because back in 1958, James Blish was ruminating on this very subject in 'The Triumph of Time'. The story is about the our universe's encounter with its "anti-matter evil twin," and their mutual annihilation and whether we could survive the catastrophe. This, to me, is science fiction at its purest. It is perhaps the ultimate science fiction because it deals with the ultimate event.

Though written in the late fifties and early sixties, Blish's epic transcends in subject and scope some of the technology in it, which we now regard today as quaint artifacts. But the basic ideas, anti-matter machines used to propel whole cities through deep space, and parallel matter-anit-matter universes, are taken quite seriously 60 years later, by today's scientists and futurists, as the article makes clear. Its headline, Scientists harness anti-matter, ordinary matter's 'evil twin,' is a great tribute to the memory of James Blish.

J M Rice (talk) 23:04, 12 March 2009 (UTC)

Deleted extraneous talk[edit]

There was a no-headline mess at the top of this page that was pretty incomprehensible, and in any case messed up the page. It had something to do with hairsplitting about English and American spelling and the letter "e". If the author(s) thinks it's important, please place it in the normal sequence of entries, accompanied by a heading. J M Rice (talk) 23:18, 12 March 2009 (UTC)

Haertel Scholium section OR?[edit]

I've tagged this whole section, added by a single editor last year, as needing sources. For starters, a Google search on "Haertel Scholium" points only to various places to which the text of this section has migrated. The term does not seem to have any currency elsewhere. There is, however, an article on this body of stories--"James Blish's 'Welcome to Mars' and the Haertel Complex", by David Ketterer (Science-Fiction Studies 11, 1984)--which is not referenced in the entry. I need to dig the relevant issue of SFS out of the basement, but I wonder how much of this section's data comes from that essay and how much is the original editor's original research. RLetson (talk) 07:12, 14 January 2010 (UTC)

I think this section is clearly OR and even more clearly incorrect. Even if someone has published such views, I suspect they would be minority if not fringe views. Blish enjoyed making allusions in his works to other works, This need not and does not imply that such works actually take place in the same "universe" or are fully consistent with one another. Indeed he inserted references to his "Cities in Flight" universe into some of his Star Trek novelizations, enough that the kind of reasoning used in this section would conclude that the wold of Star Trek was also the world of "Cities in Flight" (despite the many obvious inconsistencies).
Looking at some specifics:
  • Midsummer Century is listed as part of the "Scholium", but its backstory does not include and does not seem consistent with, the kind of wide-ranging interstellar civilization present in such stories as "Beep".
  • The properties and limitations of the "Haertel Overdrive" as shown in detail in "Common Time" are not consistent with the space travel shown in "Beep", nor with the rather different star drives shown in The Star Dwellers and Mission to the Heart Stars.
  • The society deeply based on "professional certification" shown in The Star Dwellers and Mission to the Heart Stars is not at all consistent with the one shown in "Beep" and The Quincunx of Time. Since the later appears to be much farther from the present, but the former is much more deeply changed from current society, one must assume that society, having undergone a massive shift to that of The Star Dwellers, shifted more or less back for "Beep" and related stories.
  • The extensive contact with the "Angels" and other alien races, and the ability to travel far across the Galaxy shown in The Star Dwellers and Mission to the Heart Stars is not at all consistent with "Beep" and its related stories, where alien races are hardly mentioned, and space travel appears to be confined to a more limited, albeit large, area of the galaxy.
  • The Pantropy stories are not consistent with either the group of stories associated with "Common Time" (such as "Nor Iron Bars" and Welcome to Mars), nor with "Beep" / The Quincunx of Time, nor with The Star Dwellers / Mission to the Heart Stars. The technology of Pantropy, apparently used widely in colonization throughout the Pantropy Universe, is not mentioned in any of the other works, nor do any Adapted Men appear, none are even mentioned. Nor is the far-future vision of a desert and unpopulated earth from the late Pantropy story "Watershed" consistent with the far future visions of either "Beep" or Midsummer Century. For the matter of that the Pantropy stories themselves are not consistent. The limitation on the technique in all the other stories are not consistent with the extreme size reduction of humans (to microscopic scale) in "Surface Tension"/"Sunken Universe". Note that "Surface Tension" was written well before the other Pantropy stories, and it might be that Blish was unwilling to give up its vision of humans in a microscopic world, although it did not fit the rest of the Pantropy stories.
  • The "Matriachy" of "This Earth of Hours" (another story that mentions Dirac Radio, although its space drive is not the "Haertel Overdrive") appears to be the same system as the "Matriachy" of the opening situation of And All the Stars a Stage, but the two fictional universes are quite inconsistent. Further evidence that Blish chose to reuse concepts without making the stories part of the same timeline. Morover the "Central Federation" of aliens in "This Earth of Hours" rather resembles, but is not consistent with, the aliens of Mission to the Heart Stars.
No citations for this piece of Original research and synthesis having been provided in the two months since a {{cn}} tag was placed on the whole section I plan to re-write this section drastically in the near future. DES (talk) 15:44, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

Aside from the above, I would suggest that even if a collection includes one of these stories, that doesn't mean the whole COLLECTION is part of the series; as a long-term reader of Blish, I am not convinced there IS any such series... (talk) 19:45, 20 March 2010 (UTC) Ian

Scientific contributions[edit]

An IP added and then removed the following text:

As a scientific researcher at the Tobacco Institute, Blish did make contributions to the sciences in terms of microbiology, which was his speciality. However, his most significant contribution to the sciences was the coining of the term 'Gas Giant' for Jovian and Saturnian planets. As part of a short story, the term quickly found acceptance and widespread use among astronomers and astrophysicists, and is a term in common use today.

If this can be cited it seems well worth including. DES (talk) 00:28, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

The end?[edit]

I had never realised how short Blish's life was; in fact the article's information about him as a person is sparse. As yet another reader who had been influenced by Blish's writing in my schooldays, I doubt that I am the first to wonder about more in his life. Is much known? Is the exclusion of more detail for lack of citable material? For example, was his death accident, heart, cancer... etc? The article doesn't even mention that he was a microbiologist. I don't mean this as sniping at the authors and editors to date and have no idea where to search for more information myself, but does anyone have suggestions for more material or citable sources? JonRichfield

PS: I have just gone on a brief surfing after more info and found some useful items in the online SF encyclopedia [2]. Would there be objections to including some of the items from there, suitably cited and paraphrased?

(talk) 14:31, 11 June 2016 (UTC)JonRichfield (talk) 14:45, 11 June 2016 (UTC)