The most significant events in the history of books on the 18th of December
1870: Saki is born Hector Hugh Munro. He enlisted after the outbreak of WWI, though he probably could have avoided service altogether. He became a successful writer of very short stories such as ‘The Lumber Room’ and ‘Tobermory’ (about a talking cat) under the pen-name of Saki, which was taken from either the name of a cupbearer in the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám or a type of South American monkey. Munro died when he admonished a fellow officer, ‘Put that bloody cigarette out!’ He was promptly shot by a German sniper.
1913: Alfred Bester is born. This American author’s novel The Demolished Man won the very first Hugo award for science fiction in 1953. The novel is part detective story, part science fiction. Bester’s 1956 novel The Stars My Destination (reprinted earlier this century in the brilliant SF Masterworks series of out-of-print SF classics) has been described as a work of proto-cyberpunk, the genre that writers like William Gibson would later define (and that would lead, eventually, to The Matrix). According to Harry Harrison, ‘Alfred Bester was one of the handful of writers who invented modern science fiction.’
1939: Michael Moorcock is born. A prolific novelist who is famous for being able to write a novel in three days, Moorcock was also the influential editor of New Wave publication New Worlds in the 1960s, publishing many of the great SF and fantasy authors of the era, such as J. G. Ballard and Brian Aldiss.
Moorcock’s own novels include the Elric series, the Dorian Hawkmoon quartet (written at speed during the mid-1960s), and The Dancers at the End of Time, a science-fiction trilogy that tells the last ever love story, published during the 1970s. Much of Moorcock’s fiction is linked by the figure of the Eternal Champion, who comprises many different incarnations, among them Elric and Dorian Hawkmoon.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading these literary calendar posts. We’ve been publishing them since the beginning of October, and this seems like a good point at which to end the series, at least for now. We hope to get round to writing a post for every day of the year we haven’t yet covered, but that is a project for another day…
Image: Hector Hugh Munro, aka Saki; photo from The War Illustrated 31 July 1915; Wikimedia Commons.