Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Williamson, Jack

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Working name of US writer John Stewart Williamson (1908-2006), who for most of the 70 years of his active career concentrated on sf. He won a 1976 Nebula Grand Master award; he was given a 1973 Pilgrim Award for his work in sf scholarship; but he was also given a 1994 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. But fantasy constitutes a small part of his large oeuvre; novels like Dragon's Island (1951) or Demon Moon (1994) are, despite their titles, genuine sf. Darker Than You Think (1940 Unknown; exp 1948), JW's most single famous non-sf tale, hovers between rationalized explanations and pure fantasy. A race of Shapeshifters, homo Lycanthropus, has long lived secretly alongside homo sapiens; but as the tale opens is threatened with exposure. The protagonist – who turns out to be the Child of Night, a Hidden Monarch figure destined to rule the Werewolf race – learns of his fate by falling in love with a woman shapeshifter, a relationship depicted with a tortured (and still haunting) erotic frankness unusual in genre literature of the 1940s.

In his early career, JW was much influenced by the style of Abraham Merritt, and a novel like Golden Blood (1933 Weird Tales; rev 1964) combines Sword and Sorcery and romanticized sf in a manner indebted to that writer. The Reign of Wizardry (1940 Unknown; rev 1964; again rev 1979) similarly transforms Minoan Crete into an arena for exorbitant adventures. In general, JW's impulse was to rationalize tales whose fantasy trappings are ultimately deceptive. [JC]

other works: Lady in Danger (1934 Weird Tales as "Wizard's Isle"; 1945 chap UK), with a tale by E Hoffman Price added; Dreadful Sleep (1938 Weird Tales; 1977 chap).

John Stewart Williamson


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.