Lester del Rey

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(June 2, 1915 – May 10, 1993)

Lester del Rey (born Leonard Knapp in Clydesdale, Minnesota) was a fan and a professional science fiction writer and editor. Del Rey is especially famous for juvenile novels, like those that comprise the Winston Juveniles, and for Del Rey Books, the fantasy and science fiction imprint of Ballantine Books, edited by del Rey and Judy-Lynn del Rey, his fourth wife.

He was always outspoken and a great contrarian, being always willing to (ably) defend an unpopular viewpoint. He was one of those people around whom anecdotes collect.

His first stories were in the pulp magazines in the late 1930s. But he first came to prominence with his stories in Astounding Science Fiction in its Golden Age. In the years after the War, behind only Robert A. Heinlein and Andre Norton, he was one of the major writers of sf for the YA market under his own name and some of his many pseudonyms, Erik van Lhin and Philip St. John. (He also used the pennames Wade Kaempfert and Cameron Hall.)

During 1952–53, he edited Space SF, Science Fiction Adventures, Rocket Stories and Fantasy Magazine. His greatest success came as an editor at Ballantine Books with his wife Judy-Lynn del Rey, when they founded Del Rey Books, in 1977.

In 1957, del Rey and Damon Knight co-edited a fanzine named Science Fiction Forum. In response to a debate about symbolism within the magazine, he accepted Knight's challenge to write an analysis of James Blish's story "Common Time" that showed the story was about a man eating a ham sandwich.

He refused to accept a posthumous Hugo Award for Best Editor at Confederation in 1986 on behalf of Judy-Lynn after her death that year, saying that she wouldn’t have wanted it just because of her death.

According to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, del Rey often told people that his real name was Ramon Felipe Alvarez Del Rey, which name he used in the lettercol of Astounding as early as May 1935 (or sometimes even Ramon Felipe San Juan Mario Silvio Enrico Smith Heartcourt-Brace Sierra y Alvarez del Rey y de los Verdes). He also claimed that his whole family was killed in a car accident during 1935. However, his sister confirmed (per Locus, January 2008, p. 8) that his name was really Leonard Knapp and that the accident in 1935 killed his first wife, but not his parents, brother or sister.

His second wife was Helen Schlaz del Rey, who later married Damon Knight. No. 3 was Harry Harrison's ex-wife Evelyn, who died in 1970.

The two volumes of his writings published by NESFA Press include a note of thanks with a listing of 16 known pennames as well as del Rey's birth name.

Entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

Awards, Honors and GoHships:

Person 19151993
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