Donald A. Wollheim

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Donald A. Wollheim : biography

October 1, 1914 – November 2, 1990

From 1975 Wollheim received several special awards for his contributions to science fiction and to fantasy.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted him in 2002, its seventh class of two deceased and two living persons.

Wollheim as author

Cover art for paperback edition of The Secret of Saturn’s Rings (1966) Wollheim’s first story, "The Man from Ariel", was published in the January 1934 issue of Wonder Stories when he was nineteen. His author photo: Don Wollheim & daughter Betsy (1954) He was not paid for the story, and he learned that other authors hadn’t been paid either and said so in the Bulletin of the Terrestrial Fantascience Guild. Publisher Hugo Gernsback eventually settled with Wollheim and the other authors out of court for $75, but when Wollheim submitted another story to Gernsback under the pseudonym Millard Verne Gordon, "The Space Lens" was published in the September 1935 issue but he was again not paid. His third known story was published in Fanciful Tales of Time and Space, Fall 1936, a fanzine that he edited himself. That year he also published and edited another short-lived fanzine, Phantagraph.

Wollheim’s stories were published regularly from 1940; at the same time he was becoming an important editor. In the 1950s and 60s he wrote chiefly novels. He usually used pseudonyms for works aimed at grownups, and wrote children’s novels under his own name. Notable and popular were the eight "Mike Mars" books for children, which explored different facets of the NASA space program. Also well-received were the "Secret" books for young readers: The Secret of Saturn’s Rings (1954), Secret of the Martian Moons (1955), and The Secret of the Ninth Planet (1959). As Martin Pearson he published the "Ajax Calkins" series, which became the basis for his novel Destiny’s Orbit (1962). A sequel, Destination: Saturn was published in 1967 in collaboration with Lin Carter. One of his most important books, however, was nonfiction; The Universe Makers (1971) is a discussion of themes and philosophy in science fiction.

One of Wollheim’s short stories, "Mimic", was made into the feature film of the same name, released in 1997..

"In true editorial fashion, he was honest about the quality of his own writing", says his daughter Betsy. "He felt it was fair to middling at best. He always knew that his great talent was as an editor."Personal interview with Elizabeth Wollheim. April 27, 2009.