Cyril M. Kornbluth

Cyril M. Kornbluth bigraphy, stories - Science - Other

Cyril M. Kornbluth : biography

July 23, 1923 – March 21, 1958

Cyril M. Kornbluth (July 2, 1923Rich, p. 16 et passim. – March 21, 1958) was an American science fiction author and a notable member of the Futurians. He used a variety of pen-names, including Cecil Corwin, S. D. Gottesman, Edward J. Bellin, Kenneth Falconer, Walter C. Davies, Simon Eisner, Jordan Park, Arthur Cooke, Paul Dennis Lavond and Scott Mariner. The "M" in Kornbluth’s name may have been in tribute to his wife, Mary Byers; Kornbluth’s colleague and collaborator Frederik Pohl confirmed Kornbluth’s lack of any actual middle name in at least one interview.Webster, Bud. . Baen’s Universe, February 5, 2009


  • Asimov, Isaac. In Memory Yet Green (Doubleday, 1979) and I. Asimov: A Memoir (Doubleday, 1994)
  • Knight, Damon. The Futurians (John Day, 1977)
  • Pohl, Frederik. The Way the Future Was: A Memoir (Ballantine Books, 1978) ISBN 978-0-345-27714-5
  • Rich, Mark. C. M. Kornbluth: The Life and Works of a Science Fiction Visionary (McFarland, 2009) ISBN 978-0-7864-4393-2

Personality and habits

Frederik Pohl, in his autobiography The Way the Future Was, Damon Knight, in his memoir The Futurians, and Isaac Asimov, in his memoirs In Memory Yet Green and I. Asimov: A Memoir, all give vivid descriptions of Kornbluth as a man of odd personal habits and vivid eccentricities. Among the traits which they describe:

  • Kornbluth decided to educate himself by reading his way through an entire encyclopedia from A to Z; in the course of this effort, he acquired a great deal of esoteric knowledge that found its way into his stories…in alphabetical order by subject. When Kornbluth wrote a story that mentioned the ancient Roman weapon ballista, Pohl knew that Kornbluth had finished the "A" volume and had started the "B".
  • According to Frederik Pohl, Kornbluth never brushed his teeth, and they were literally green. Deeply embarrassed by this, Kornbluth developed the habit of holding his hand in front of his mouth when speaking.
  • Kornbluth disliked black coffee, but felt obliged to acquire a taste for it because he believed that professional authors were "supposed to" drink black coffee. He trained himself by putting gradually less cream into each cup of coffee he drank, until he eventually "weaned himself" (Knight’s description) and switched to black coffee.


Kornbluth began writing at 15. His first solo story, "The Rocket of 1955," was published in Richard Wilson’s fanzine Escape (Vol 1 No 2, August 1939); his first collaboration, "Stepsons of Mars," written with Richard Wilson and published under the name "Ivar Towers," appeared in the April 1940 Astonishing. His other short fiction includes "The Little Black Bag", "The Marching Morons", "The Altar at Midnight", "MS. Found in a Chinese Fortune Cookie", "Gomez" and "The Advent on Channel 12".

"The Little Black Bag" was first adapted for television live on the television show Tales of Tomorrow on May 30, 1952. It was later adapted for television by the BBC in 1969 for its Out of the Unknown series. In 1970, the same story was adapted by Rod Serling for an episode of his Night Gallery series. This dramatization starred Burgess Meredith as the alcoholic Dr. William Fall, who had long lost his doctor’s license and become a homeless alcoholic. He finds a bag containing advanced medical technology from the future (2098), which, after an unsuccessful attempt to pawn it, he uses benevolently.

"The Marching Morons" is a look at a far future in which the world’s population consists of five billion idiots and a few million geniuses – the precarious minority of the "elite" working desperately to keep things running behind the scenes. Part of its appeal is that readers identify with the beleaguered geniuses. In his introduction to The Best of C.M. Kornbluth, Pohl states that "The Marching Morons" is a direct sequel to "The Little Black Bag": it is easy to miss this, as "Bag" is set in the contemporary present while "Morons" takes place several centuries from now, and there is no character who appears in both stories. The titular black bag in the first story is actually an artifact from the time period of "The Marching Morons": a medical kit filled with self-driven instruments enabling a far-future moron to "play doctor". A future Earth similar to "The Marching Morons" – a civilisation of morons protected by a small minority of hidden geniuses – is used again in the final stages of Kornbluth & Pohl’s Search the Sky.