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Hugo-winner James Blish was born May 23, 1921 in East Orange, New Jersey, USA. To the current generation of Sci-Fi fans, he’s well known for writing the Star Trek novelizations for Bantam Books, but his legacy is far greater than that.

Jupiter {image via NASA.gov.}

Previous generations of fen knew him as a major award winning science fiction writer and influential literary critic.

It was James Blish who, In 1962, coined the term gas giants to refer to planets such as Jupiter, Neptune, and Uranus. He originally used it to refer to all large non-rocky planetary bodies, but in the years since 1952 our astronomical knowledge has grown and we now make a distinction between gas giants such as Jupiter and ice giants like Uranus and Neptune.

James Benjamin Blish was born May 23, 1921 in New Jersey. He left us on July 30, 1975 at the age of 54 in England. He was married twice, first to writer/editor Virginia Kidd, with whom he had four children, and later remarried J. A. Lawrence (aka Judy Blish). She worked with her husband on the Star Trek adaptations for Bantam, but as often the case with husband-wife collaborations in the day, they were published under his name only. These adaptations were often based on rough drafts of the scripts, and thus did not always match the finished product on the screen.

Blish was married to Kidd from 1947 to 1963, when they divorced. He was married to Judy Ann Lawrence from 1964 until his death in 1975.

James Blish died of lung cancer as a result of cigarette smoking. He passed away in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England, UK, and is buried in Holywell Cemetery, Oxford under a simple white stone that gives his name, the years of his birth and death, and the single word ‘author.’

Of his original work, his Cities in Flight series of novels were his best-known novels.

They are a series of four novels, also called the Okie stories, published between 1955 and 1962

They Shall Have Stars was published in 1956.

A Life for the Stars was published in 1962.

In 1955, the book Earthman, Come Home combined the stories Okie, Bindlestiff, Sargasso of Lost Cities and Earthman, Come Home.

James Blish circa 1950 {image via JamesBlish.com}

1958 saw the publication of The Triumph of Time.

Awards & Nominations

Blish’s awards and nominations were many, and showed the true power of the man’s career as a writer of science fiction.


A Case of Conscience
 won the 1959 Hugo Award for Best Novel. A Case of Conscience explores whether morality can exist without religion. Originally a novella in a 1952 issue of If, Blish expanded it and published it as a novel in 1958.

In 1965, The Shipwrecked Hotel, co-written by James Blish an Norman L. Knight was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novelette.

We All Die Naked was nominated for the Hugo for Best Novella in 1970.

Also in 1970, A Style in Treason was nominated for the Nebula for Best Novella.

Blish won three post-humous Retro-Hugos. In 2001, Blish was awarded the 1951 Retro-Hugo for Best Novelette for Okie. In 2004 he was awarded two Retro-Hugos, for work originally published in 1954, A Case of Conscience for Best Novella, and Earthman Come Home for Best Novelette.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted Blish posthumously in 2002.

1959 Hugo Award for A Case of Conscience Best Novel
1960 Guest of Honor, World Science Fiction Convention
1965 Nebula Award nomination for The Shipwrecked Hotel
Best Novelette (with Norman L. Knight)
1968 Nebula Award nomination for Black Easter, Best Novel
1969 Hugo Award nomination for We All Die Naked, Best Novella
1970 Nebula Award nomination for A Style in Treason, Best Novella
1970 Guest of honor, British Eastercon
1976 BSFA Special Award for Best British SF
1977 Creation of the James Blish award for Criticism
(first winner, Brian Aldiss)
1950/2001 Retro-Hugo Award nomination for Okie, Best Novelette
2002 Elected to Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame
1953/2004 Retro-Hugo Award for Earthman Come Home, Best Novelette
1953/2004 Retro-Hugo Award for A Case of Conscience, Best Novella
{Awards chart via JamesBlish.com}

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Susan Macdonald
Susan Macdonald

Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as short stories in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, “Supernatural Colorado”, “Barbarian Crowns”, “Cat Tails””Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions,  Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.

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