John Howard Carpenter is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, editor, composer, and occasional actor. Although Carpenter has worked in numerous film genres in his four-decade career, his name is most commonly associated with horror and science fiction. Carpenter was born in Carthage, New York, the son of Milton Jean (née Carter) and Howard Ralph Carpenter, a music professor. He and his family moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky in 1953. He was captivated by movies from an early age, particularly the westerns of Howard Hawks and John Ford, as well as 1950s low budget horror and science fiction films, such as Forbidden Planet and The Thing from Another World and began filming horror shorts on 8 mm film even before entering high school. He attended Western Kentucky University where his father chaired the music department, then transferred to the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts in 1968, but later dropped out to make his first feature.
Isaac Asimov was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. His works have been published in all ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal System (although his only work in the 100s — which covers philosophy and psychology — was a foreword for The Humanist Way). Isaac Asimov is widely considered a master of hard science fiction and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, he was considered one of the “Big Three” science fiction writers during his lifetime. Asimov’s most famous work is the Foundation Series; his other major series are the Galactic Empire series and the Robot series, both of which he later tied into the same fictional universe as the Foundation Series to create a unified “future history” for his stories much like those pioneered by Robert A. Heinlein and previously produced by Cordwainer Smith and Poul Anderson. He wrote many short stories, among them “Nightfall”, which in 1964 was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America the best short science fiction story of all time. Asimov wrote the Lucky Starr series of juvenile science-fiction novels using the pen name Paul French. The prolific Asimov also wrote mysteries and fantasy, as well as much non-fiction. Most of his popular science books explain scientific concepts in a historical way, going as far back as possible to a time when the science in question was at its simplest stage. He often provides nationalities, birth dates, and death dates for the scientists he mentions, as well as etymologies and pronunciation guides for technical terms. Examples include his Guide to Science, the three volume set Understanding Physics, Asimov’s Chronology of Science and Discovery, as well as numerous works on astronomy, mathematics, the Bible, William Shakespeare’s works and chemistry subjects. Asimov was a long-time member and Vice President of Mensa International, albeit reluctantly; he described some members of that organization as “brain-proud and aggressive about their IQs.” He took more joy in being president of the American Humanist Association. The asteroid 5020 Asimov, a crater on the planet Mars, a Brooklyn, New York elementary school, and one Isaac Asimov literary award are named in his honor.
Stan Lee is an American comic book writer, editor, actor, producer, publisher, television personality, and the former president and chairman of Marvel Comics. In collaboration with several artists, most notably Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, he co-created Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, and many other fictional characters, introducing complex, naturalistic characters and a thoroughly shared universe into superhero comic books. In addition, he headed the first major successful challenge to the industry’s censorship organization, the Comics Code Authority, and forced it to reform its policies. Lee subsequently led the expansion of Marvel Comics from a small division of a publishing house to a large multimedia corporation. He was inducted into the comic book industry’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1995.
Rodman “Rod” Edward Serling was an American screenwriter, television producer, and narrator best known for his live television dramas of the 1950s and his science fiction anthology TV series, The Twilight Zone. Serling was active in politics, both on and off the screen and helped form television industry standards. He was known as the angry young man of Hollywood, clashing with television executives and sponsors over a wide range of issues including censorship, racism, and anti-war politics. No Christmas This Year was a script written early in Sterling’s career, around 1950, but was never produced. It told of a place that no longer celebrated Christmas, although none of the residents know why it has been canceled. Meanwhile, in the North Pole the audience sees Santa Claus dealing with striking elves. Rather than creating toys and candy, the North Pole manufactures a diversity of bombs and offensive gases. Santa has been shot at on his route, and an Elf was hit by shrapnel.
Fritz Reuter Leiber, Jr. was an American writer (of German extraction) of fantasy, horror and science fiction. He was also a poet, actor in theatre and films, playwright, expert chess player and a champion fencer. Possibly his greatest chess accomplishment was winning clear first in the 1958 Santa Monica Open. With writers such as Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock, Leiber can be regarded as one of the fathers of Sword and Sorcery fantasy. But he excelled in all fields of speculative fiction, writing award-winning work in horror, fantasy and science fiction. Leiber was heavily influenced by H. P. Lovecraft and Robert Graves in the first two decades of his career. Beginning in the late 1950s, he was increasingly influenced by the works of Carl Jung, particularly by the concepts of the anima and the shadow. From the mid-1960s onwards, he began incorporating elements of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. These concepts are often openly mentioned in his stories, especially the anima, which becomes a method of exploring his fascination with, but estrangement from, the female. Leiber liked cats, which feature prominently in many of his stories. Tigerishka, for example, is a cat-like alien who is sexually attractive to the human protagonist yet repelled by human customs in the novel The Wanderer. Leiber’s “Gummitch” stories feature a kitten with an I.Q. of 160, just waiting for his ritual cup of coffee so that he can become human, too.
Edwin Abbott Abbott, English schoolmaster and theologian, is best known as the author of the satirical novella Flatland (1884). Abbott’s best-known work is his 1884 novella Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions which describes a two-dimensional world and explores the nature of dimensions. It has often been categorized as science fiction although it could more precisely be called “mathematical fiction”. With the advent of modern science fiction from the 1950s to the present day, Flatland has seen a revival in popularity, especially among science fiction and cyberpunk fans. Many works have been inspired by the novella, including novel sequels, short films, and a feature film called Flatland. He was educated at the City of London School and at St John’s College, Cambridge, where he took the highest honors in classics, mathematics and theology, and became a fellow of his college. In particular, he was 1st Smith’s prizeman in 1861. In 1862 he took orders. After holding masterships at King Edward’s School, Birmingham, he succeeded G. F. Mortimer as headmaster of the City of London School in 1865 at the early age of twenty-six. Here he oversaw the education of future Prime Minister H. H. Asquith. He was Hulsean lecturer in 1876.
Philip Kindred Dick was an American novelist, short story writer and essayist whose published work is almost entirely in the science fiction genre. Dick explored sociological, political and metaphysical themes in novels dominated by monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments and altered states. In his later works Dick’s thematic focus strongly reflected his personal interest in metaphysics and theology. He often drew upon his own life experiences in addressing the nature of drug abuse, paranoia and schizophrenia, and transcendental experiences in novels such as A Scanner Darkly and VALIS. The novel The Man in the High Castle bridged the genres of alternate history and science fiction, earning Dick a Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1963. Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, a novel about a celebrity who awakens in a parallel universe where he is unknown, won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel in 1975.