Damon Knight

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(September 19, 1922 – April 15, 2002)

Damon Francis Knight (or damon knight — early on he affected the lowercase style) was a fan who had a major fannish career and then turned with even greater success to prodom. Knight was a Hugo-winning SF writer, fan, critic, editor, and inspired two of the most durable sf organizations ever: N3F and SFWA. (He later said that they were his two biggest mistakes.)


He found sf at age 10 in Amazing and became a fan after receiving a copy of Bob Tucker's Nova.

In his youth, he published the fanzine Snide. He was a member of the Futurians which he described in detail in his memoir The Futurians. He published It with Larry Shaw. He was also a fan artist of some note in the 1940s. He wrote an autobiography at 17 in which he noted:

I have sold one cartoon to Ziff-Davis and hope to sell more. My favorite authors are Cabell, Charteris, Wodehouse, Thorne Smith, and Ernest Bramah, my favorite movie actor is Donald Duck, and I don't like eggs, neckties, or preachers.

He may be most famous as one of the earliest — and most incisive — critics of SF with his fanzine columns collected in In Search of Wonder published by Advent.

Probably his most famous critical piece was also one of the earliest. In 1945, he demolished A. E. van Vogt's revered World of Null-A. (Van Vogt was one of the Big Three and Null-A had up to that point had a huge reputation.) The criticism, while entirely valid, was so uncharitable that it diminished Knight's own reputation.

For more about some episodes of his early fannish career, see General fan organization, Futurian Houses, Vanguard, Nicknames, Quote-cards, and X Document.


He began selling his SF writing in 1941. He was the founding editor of the SFWA Bulletin. With James Blish and Judith Merril he also founded the Milford Science Fiction Writers' Conference in 1956 (and directed it for its first twenty years), and in 1968 helped to found the Clarion SF Writers' Workshop.

He began his editing career in 1943 with Popular Publications, worked for a while for a literary agency, then returned to Popular Publications and assisted Ejler Jakobsson at Super Science Stories. He left Super Science Stories in 1950 to become editor of Worlds Beyond. He wrote for television, including Captain Video and His Video Rangers, and returned to professional editing with IF in 1958. He is credited with creating the original anthology with his influential Orbit series starting in 1966 and also began the Nebula Award Winners series from SFWA. His influential short story “To Serve Man” became a Twilight Zone episode.

He used the pseudonyms Donald Laverty (with James Blish), Ritter Conway, and Stuart Fleming.


Orbit was a series of original anthologies edited by Knight starting in 1966. The stories ranged from great to too experimental for most fans and was more than a bit controversial for that reason. At its best it marked a major turning point in SF.

Entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

See disambiguation for other orbits.

Personal Life[edit]

He was married three times: His second wife was Helen Schlaz del Rey (a former wife of Lester del Rey’s). He married author Kate Wilhelm in 1963 and they remained together until his death.

InfinityBox Press was created to present the new and legacy works of Wilhelm and Knight in hardcover and ebook formats. The Knight Manuscript Collection is held at the George Arents Research Library, Manuscript Division, Syracuse University.

More Reading:

Fanzines and Apazines:

Awards, Honors and GoHships:

Person 19222002
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