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John Wyndham

John Wyndham (July 10, 1903 - March 11, 1969) was the pen name used by the apocalyptically oriented British science fiction writer John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris.



In his earlier writings, Wyndham used various combinations of his names, such as John Benyon or Lucas Parkes. In one example, The Outward Urge, he actually used both the names "John Wyndham" and "Lucas Parkes", pretending to be two collaborating authors.

His book The Day of the Triffids was possibly the origin of the style of British science fiction described as the "cosy catastrophe": a genre in which everyone is killed except for a handful of middle-class survivors, who from the ashes of civilisation secure for themselves a Savile Row wardrobe and a sporty roadster or two. This was his most famous book and gave the word "triffid" to the English language, though several of his other books are proving to be equally durable.

The Midwich Cuckoos depicts a small village in which, during 24 hours when the inhabitants are unconscious and the village is cut off from the outside world, all the women of child-bearing age mysteriously become pregnant, eventually giving birth to golden eyed children with telepathic abilities. It was filmed as Village of the Damned (1960), with (unusually for a science fiction film) the script being fairly faithful to the book. There is also a remake in colour by John Carpenter, starring Christopher Reeve in one of his last film roles before he was paralysed in a riding accident. There have also been several radio adaptations by the BBC, the most recent in 2003. Wyndham began work on a sequel novel, Midwich Main, which he abandoned after only a few chapters.

The Chrysalids, also known as Re-Birth, depicts a rural community in Newfoundland, several centuries after some nuclear war, with a religious obsession about eliminating those born with any genetic abnormalities. It follows a small group of cousins who realize their telepathic abilities have to be hidden, and their troubles when these are discovered. The novel was adapted as a BBC Radio 4 play in the early 1980s.

All of Wyndham's novels have an air of old-fashioned Englishness which is either quaint or stuffy, depending upon one's point of view.


Wyndham was born in the village of Knowle just outside Birmingham, England. His parents, George Beynon Harris and Gertrude Parkes, separated when he was eight years old, after which he and his brother, the writer Vivian Beynon Harris, had no settled home.

He grew up in a series of English boarding schools, staying longest at Bedales (1918-1921), which he left at the age of 18.

Despite this, his brother Vivian says: "He had a wonderful childhood and teenage time."

After leaving school he studied farming for a while, changed his mind about going to Oxford University and tried several ways of earning a living, but mostly relying on an allowance from his family. He eventually turned to writing for money in 1925. Throughout the 1930s he wrote many stories, mainly for American periodicals. He wrote some detective stories as well as science fiction.

Between 1940 and 1943, Wyndham was a civil servant with the British Government, working in censorship. He went into the army, where he was a Corporal Cipher Operator in the Royal Signal Corps, in time to participate in the Normandy landings.

In 1963 he married Grace Wilson. The couple lived out their lives near Petersfield, Hampshire, just outside the grounds of Bedales School .



  • Planet Plane (aka Stowaway to Mars 1987) (1935)
  • The Secret People (short story 1935) (novel 1950)
  • The Day of the Triffids (1951)
  • The Kraken Wakes (aka Out of the Deeps) (1953)
  • The Chrysalids (aka Re-Birth) (1955)
  • The Midwich Cuckoos (aka The Village of the Damned) (1957)
  • Trouble with Lichen (1960) (about man's wish for longevity)
  • The Seeds of Time
  • Chocky (1968) (made into an ITV television series for children in the 1980s)
  • Web (1979 - published by the executors of his estate, ten years after his death)


  • The Wanderers of Time (1933)
  • Exiles on Asperus (1933)
  • Sleepers of Mars (1938) (short stories as "John Beynon")
  • Jizzle (1954)
  • The Outward Urge (1959) (by "John Wyndham" and "Lucas Parkes")
  • Consider Her Ways and Others (1961)

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Last updated: 11-08-2004 04:02:44