Damon Knight

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Damon Knight
Born Damon Francis Knight
(1922-09-19)September 19, 1922
Baker, Oregon, USA
Died April 15, 2002(2002-04-15) (aged 79)
Eugene, Oregon
Pen name Conanight, Stuart Fleming[lower-alpha 1]
Occupation Author, editor, critic
Nationality American
Period 1940–2002
Genre Science fiction, primarily short stories
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, critic and fan. His forte was short stories and he is widely acknowledged as having been a master of the genre.[2] He was married to fellow writer Kate Wilhelm.

Life and career

Damon Knight was born in Baker, 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 entitled 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 Wolheim.[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] He is a Hugo Award winner,[6][7][8] founder of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA),[9] cofounder of the National Fantasy Fan Federation,[10] cofounder of the Milford Writer's Workshop,[11] and cofounder of the Clarion Writers Workshop.[12] Until his death, Knight lived in Eugene, Oregon, with his second wife Kate Wilhelm, also a writer of science fiction and of fantasy, contemporary mimetic and crime fiction.[13]

At the time of his first story, he was living in New York, and was a member of the Futurians.[14] 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".

In a series of reviews for various magazines, he became famous as 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] After nine years, he ceased reviewing when a magazine refused to publish one review exactly as he wrote it. These reviews were later collected in In Search of Wonder.[14]

The SFWA officers and past presidents named Knight its 13th Grand Master in 1994 (presented 1995). After his 2002 death the associated award was renamed in his honor, the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.[6][14][15] The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in 2003.[16]

To the general public, he is best known as the author of "To Serve Man", a 1950 short story that was adapted for The Twilight Zone.[17] It won a 50-year Retro Hugo in 2001 as the best short story of 1950, which predated the Hugo Awards.[6][7] His only Hugo Award was the "Best Reviewer" in 1956.[6][8]

Knight is also known for the term "idiot plot", a story that only functions because almost everyone in it is an idiot; the term was probably invented by James Blish, but became well-known through Knight's frequent use of it in his reviews.[18]

His papers are held in the University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archive.[19]

Selected works


Short stories and other writings

Literary criticism and analysis

  • 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

See also


  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. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Damon Knight 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.
  2. Malzberg, Barry N., ed. (1976). The Best of Damon Knight. Nelson Doubleday.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Battistella, Edwin. "Damon Knight (1922-2002)". The Oregon Encyclopedia. Retrieved 31 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  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. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "Knight, Damon". The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index to Literary Nominees. Locus Publications. Retrieved 2013-04-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Retro Hugo Awards 1951". World Science Fiction Society. Retrieved 1 October 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 "1956 Hugo Awards". World Science Fiction Society. Retrieved 1 October 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America History and Statistics". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. Retrieved 1 October 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "The History of N3F". The National Fantasy Fan Federation. Retrieved 1 October 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Milford History". Milford Speculative Fiction Writers. Retrieved 1 October 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Robin Scott Wilson". Gollancz/SFE Ltd. Retrieved 15 October 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Damon Knight, 79, Writer and Editor of Science Fiction, Dies". The New York Times. 17 April 2002.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 "Damon Knight". Gollancz/SFE Ltd. Retrieved 15 October 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Retrieved 2013-04-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame". Mid American Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions, Inc. Retrieved 2013-03-22. This was the official website of the hall of fame to 2004<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Stanyard, Dimensions Behind the Twilight Zone, p. 51.
  18. Gary K. Wolfe, "Coming to Terms", in Gunn & Candelaria, Speculations on Speculation, p. 18.
  19. http://around.uoregon.edu/story/academics/celebrating-csws-40th-le-guin-feminist-science-fiction-fellowship
  • Aldiss, Brian W.; Harrison, Harry (1976). Hell's Cartographers. London: Futura. ISBN 0-86007-907-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Gunn, James E.; Candelaria, Matthew (2005). Speculations on Speculation: Theories of Science Fiction. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-4902-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Pohl, Frederik (2002). The SFWA Grand Masters. 3. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-86876-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links