EC Tubb: Seminal writer who was a mainstay of the British science fiction scene for half a century

With his work translated into more than a dozen languages, EC Tubb was well known to readers of science fiction the world over. He was extraordinarily prolific. Beginning in 1951, he published over 130 novels and more than 230 short stories in such magazines as Astounding/Analog, Authentic, Galaxy, Nebula, New Worlds,Science Fantasy, Vision of Tomorrow, and more recently in Fantasy Adventures. Many of his short stories were reprinted in various "World's Best SF" anthologies, and his story "Lucifer" won the Europa Prize in 1972. Tubb was appointed editor of Authentic Science Fiction in 1956, and edited it with great panache until its unnecessary demise in 1957.

Edwin Charles Tubb was born in London in 1919. His writing ambitions had been born shortly before the Second World War when he became a fan of American science fiction pulp magazines. In his early teens he became an avid collector and began to make contact with fellow enthusiasts, eventually joining the pre-war British Science Fiction Association. The outbreak of the war put paid to his early writing ambitions, but after the war the members of the old BSFA, including Tubb's fellow enthusiasts Arthur C Clarke, John Beynon Harris (John Wyndham), Frank Arnold, Sydney J Bounds, John Carnell, Walter Gillings and William F Temple, began to reform. This group of fans and fledgling professionals eventually launched their own SF magazine, New Worlds, to which Tubb became a regular contributor.

Within a year of his debut as a short story writer, Tubb began producing novels. His early books were exciting adventure stories, written in the prevailing fashion of the early 1950s, which demanded that stories should be fast moving and, above all else, entertaining. Yet from his first novel, Saturn Patrol (1951), Tubb's work was characterised by a sense of plausibility, logic, and human insight.

These qualities were even more evident in his short stories, which tended to a more thoughtful, psychological type of narrative, and by 1956 they had begun to be reprinted in Judith Merril's prestigious "Year's Best Science Fiction" series of anthologies; many of them continued to be reprinted in various later "World's Best SF" anthologies. His haunting story "Little Girl Lost" (1955) was adapted for American television for Rod Serling's Night Gallery series in 1972, while in 1988, his 1955 novelette Kalgan the Golden was adapted as a graphic novel by myself and the artist Ron Turner

Tubb's first major SF novels were Alien Dust (1955) a gritty story of Martian colonisation, and The Space-Born (1956), a highly original take on the "generation starship" theme that anticipated by decades the central theme of Logan's Run – the elimination of those over a certain age in order to conserve resources. In 1962, The Space-Born was adapted as a 90-minute television play by Radio Television Française.

When the British market for SF novels slumped in 1956, Tubb diversified into writing pseudonymous paperback western novels. Many of them were based on historical events during and after the Civil War and were considered notable enough to earn the author an entry in Twentieth Century Western Writers (St James Press, 1991) and to be reprinted 50 years later in both hardcover and paperback. Tubb later became interested in Roman history, and many consider that some of his best work was contained in his "The Gladiators" historical trilogy, Atilus the Slave (1975), Atilus the Gladiator (1975), and Gladiator (1978).

Because many of his SF shortstories of the 1950s and early 1960s were under pseudonyms they tended to be overlooked at the time, so that despite continued commercial success, Tubb never received the critical recognition he deserved. Many of his ideas were seminal, and were later reused by other writers to popular acclaim – most notably his story "Precedent" (1952), which posited the grim and logical solution to the problem of stowaways in spaceships, appearing more than two years before Tom Godwin's "The Cold Equations".

This was compounded when Tubb became renowned in the US and the rest of the world for his long-running "Dumarest of Terra" series, beginning with The Winds of Gath in 1967. The galaxy-spanning saga concerned Earl Dumarest and his search to find his way back across the stars to the legendary lost planet where he was born – Earth. The book's worldwide commercial success caused Tubb to more or less abandon the short-story form.

Following the death of the American editor and publisher Don Wollheim, who had commissioned the series, "The Dumarest Saga" came to a premature end after 31 novels, with The Temple of Truth (1985). The 32nd, The Return, had already been written, but at first was only published in a French translation. It first appeared in English in 1997 through Gryphon Books, a New York small press. The series seemed to have ended on an inconclusive note, and it was not until Tubb, at the age of 90, wrote a final novel at the urging of his agent, that the saga was brought to a conclusion with Child of Earth (2009).

The Tall Adventurer, a comprehensive, worldwide annotated bibliography compiled by myself and Sean Wallace, was published by Beccon Publications in 1998. This sparked a further wave of reprints by several publishers in the US and UK, and throughout Europe in translation. Belated European critical recognition came in July this year when I Posseduti, the Italian translation of his novel The Possessed (1959, revised 2005) won the Premio Italia Award as best international novel.

Despite failing health Tubb continued both to revise old work and to produce new novels. Among his later titles were Death God's Doom (1999) and The Sleeping City (1999), which featured Malkar, Tubb's Conan-style hero, and Earthbound, a new Space 1999 novel (2003), Footsteps of Angels (2004), The Life Buyer (2006), Dead Weight (2007), and Starslave (2010).

A dystopian novel, To Dream Again, was accepted on the day Tubbs died, and is to be published by Ulverscroft next year. His final, and possibly his most outstanding novel, Fires of Satan, is under consideration. New collections of short stories include The Best Science Fiction of EC Tubb (2003, US), and Mirror of the Night (2003, UK). A definitive French-language collection, Dimension, edited and translated by Richard F Nolane, is set to be published by Riviere Blanche in 2012.

Edwin Charles Tubb, writer: born London 19 October 1919; married 1944 Iris Smith (two daughters); died London 11 September 2010.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP & MVC Frameworks

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing company in Belvedere ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant - IT

£25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior PHP Developer

£24000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking to work in a sm...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Specialist - HR Team

£26000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders