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Dr. Kilcasey in Space:

A Bio-bibliography of James White

By Graham Andrews


According to Isaac Asimov, violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. Violence has certainly become the homepage of too many incompetent popular-fiction writers - in all categories. Asimov's humane lead was followed by James White, who died of an unexpected stroke on August 23, 1999.

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on April 7, 1928, James White spent part of his early life in Canada. White was educated at St. John's Primary School (1935-41) and St. Joseph's Technical Secondary School (1942-43), both in Belfast. He married Margaret ("Peggy") Sarah Martin in 1955. They had three children: daughter Patricia, and sons Martin and Peter.

Until 1955, White worked for several Belfast tailoring firms and was an assistant manager in the Co-Op department store. Then he became a technical clerk (1965-66), publicity assistant (1966-68), and publicity officer (1968-84) with plane-makers Short Brothers, Ltd. He made good use of this varied background material in such works as 'Counter Security' (1963) and Tomorrow is Too Far (1971).

White's introduction to science fiction came with Astounding Science Fiction, in 1941. Astounding- Analog since 1960, dominated the Golden Age of magazine sf (c. 1938-50). During 1941 alone, editor John W. Campbell, Jr. (1910-71) presented such classic novels as Methuselah's Children by Robert A. Heinlein and Second Stage Lensman by E. E. "Doc" Smith. (See A Requiem for Astounding. by Alva Rogers: Advent, Chicago, 1964.)

"E. E. Smith opened my eyes to the fact that there could be good aliens as well as evil ones, while Heinlein demonstrated that it is, after all, possible to write 'hard' sf stories which centre around quite ordinary people. From that point on, I became an inveterate reader of sf. I tried hard to complete my collection of Astounding-- a daunting task, but I eventually succeeded" (from conversation in the good old Blackthorn bar).

Digression. I cry into my Bushmill’s upon thinking about Harry Hall's and the many other second-hand bookshops that once graced the now moribund Smithfield Market, in downtown Belfast. Like Roland Crane, in Kenneth Bulmer's Land Beyond the map (Ace. New York, 1965), my boyhood self "tramped the fascinating byways of Smithfield, amid the noise and bustle, penetrating the quieter, dusty and time-corroded sections . . ." (p. 23). Digression ends.

Six years later, White met the noted Irish fan Walter A. ("Walt") Willis (1919-99) -- both hunting for the same American sf magazines. They would help produce two of the most distinctive -- and collectable -- fanzines: Slant (1948-53) and Hyphen (1952-65: special one-off issue, 1987). Both titles featured fiction and non-fiction by such 'real' authors as John Brunner, A. Bertram Chandler, and fellow Ulsterman Bob Shaw (1931-96). Shaw, author of the classic novel Other Days, Other Eyes (1972), deserves a Paperback-Parade article to himself.

But the young James White had no particular yen to become a professional writer; that came about much later, almost by accident. His artistic energies were directed at producing woodcut illustrations for Slant. There was just one snag -- too much competition from friend Gerard Quinn, who was a frequent cover/interior artist for British prozines. Quinn also did many fine Pan paperback covers, e.g. Arthur C. Clarke's Prelude to Space (No. 301, 1954).

Once White took up authorhood seriously, however, he researched the available markets with all his usual thoroughness. Astounding had fallen into a thematic rut: "Every other story seemed to be a post-HotWar disaster epic, with the human race reduced to pre-technological barbarism and menaced by malignant mutants" (Blackthorn).

The 'home' market at that time was in a bad state of flux, to put it politely. Read Vultures of the Void (Borgo Press, San Bernardino, 1992), by Philip ("Phil") Harbottle and Stephen ("Steve") Holland. But be afraid, be very afraid...

Thankfully, however, there was New Worlds magazine, which--after a false three-issue start during 1946-47 -- began regular publication in 1949. Its original editor, E. John ("Ted") Carnell (1912-72) remained at the helm until 1964, when he handed control over to Michael Moorcock. New Worlds: An Anthology (Flamingo, London, 1983), edited by Moorcock, contains much excellent fiction and non-fiction, plus an issue-by-issue index.

After taking several different approaches, White finally wrote the kind of story that he liked to read. 'Assisted Passage' (an interplanetary spoof on current Anglo-Australian emigration policies) duly saw print in New-Worlds for January 1953. But: "Being accepted by Carnell was sometimes a more traumatic experience than rejection. He waxed eloquent concerning my then somewhat unorthodox syntax and other grammatical deficiencies. Apparently, I had spelt 'manoeuvre' three different ways -- all of them wrong!" (Blackthorn).

More short stories by James White were published in New Worlds over the next few years: 'Crossfire' (June 1953); 'The Conspirators' (June 1954); 'Starvation Orbit' (July 1954); 'The Star Walk' (March 1955); 'Boarding Party' (July 1955). 'Dynasty of One' appeared in Carnell's Science-Fantasy (September 1955). He also made the small but high-quality Scottish magazine, Nebula, with 'Curtain Call' (August 1954) and 'Pushover Planet' (November 1955).

'Crossfire' became the first James White story to be anthologised, in The Best-of New-Worlds Science Fiction (T.V. Boardman paperback original, London, 1955), edited by John Carnell.

White soon tried to break into the more lucrative American market. Arthur C. Clarke's classic novelette, 'Rescue Party' (Astounding, May 1946) inspired him to write a story based on the premise that: "Sometimes a civilization has got to be rescued -- whether it wants to or not!" Clarke was approached for permission to use this spin-off idea, and he graciously consented.

'The Scavengers' was duly submitted to Astounding, and -- wonder of wonders! -- it met with immediate acceptance (published in the October 1953 issue). White's xenotarian philosophy is here thrown into sharp relief. Captain Spence, the story’s protagonist, reflects upon the emotional state of rookie crewmember Harrison. He decides that Harrison must feel "quite a knight in shining armour":

The captain had felt that way when he was a new boy . . . Somehow, the feeling never quite wore off. It came of belonging to an organization dedicated to the job of protecting, assisting, and keeping the noses clean generally of every race in the galaxy that walked, wriggled, or flew and had intelligence. We’re just a flock of space-going guardian angels, he thought a little cynically, all we need are haloes (The Aliens Among us, p. 158).

One swallow doesn't make a summer, however, and Campbell passed on the next twelve James White submissions. "Judging from Campbell's 'personalized' rejection slips, it was his literally cosmic xenophobia that militated against me. For instance, 'Tableau' (New Worlds, May 1958) was summarily rejected because of its uncompromising anti-war sentiments" (Blackthorn).

Another major breakthrough came in 1957, when Ace Books published White's first novel, The Secret Visitors (serialized in New Worlds the year before, as Tourist Planet). Donald A. Wollheim (1914-90), then the sf editor at Ace, bethought himself that the original ending was too tame. Wollheim 'suggested' the insertion of a slam-bang space battle immediately after the climactic courtroom scene, and White bowed to his editorial wisdom. ("He who pays the piper calls the tune!")

Wollheim also contributed this idiosyncratic CAST OF CHARACTERS:

His patients were half-animal, half spaceship!
He wanted to save a country, but first he had to save a world.
English was his native tongue -- seventeenth century English!
The FBI had trained him to expect almost anything, except an invisible enemy.
Hers was an ideal planet -- almost.
In his hand, a water pistol was a deadly weapon;

(Legend has it that James White, himself, was no mean water pistoleer at 1950s British sf conventions.)

1957 turned out to be a red-letter year in White's burgeoning literary career. Apart from the American publication of his first novel, he had several stories printed in New Worlds: 'Patrol' (January); 'The Lights Outside the Windows' (February); 'False Alarm' (July). Above and beyond all this, however, 1957 marked the inception of a series that became his trademark.

"'Sector General' was the title of a 17,000 word novelette which I submitted to Ted Carnell in 1957," he told me. "Carnell's first reaction was to return the story for a drastic rewrite. But his second reaction was to buy the story, because the upcoming November issue had sprung a 17,000-word hole that had to be filled.

Carnell liked the Sector General concept itself, however, and he quickly asked for more stories in the same vein (pun intended).

Sector Twelve General Hospital -- to give Sector General its full title -- is a huge multi-environment hospital situated far out on the galactic Rim. Its 384 levels accurately reproduce the varied environments of the 69 life forms currently known to the Galactic Federation; a bizarre biological spectrum ranging from the ultra-frigid methane breathers through the more 'normal' oxygen-and-chlorine-breathing types up to the exotic beings who exist by the direct conversion of hard radiation.

The 10,000 strong medical staff includes such diverse individuals as Thornnastor, the Diagnostician extraordinaire, the skittish little empath Prilicla, the sometimes all-too-human surgeon Doctor Conway, and Chief Psychologist O'Mara -- the always irascible man in charge. They act out White's three basic literary precepts: the idea, derived from E. E. Smith, that aliens are not necessarily evil; writing 'hard' sf stories about ordinary people, not super-heroes; his deep love of all things medical.

White borrowed, and substantially modified, E. E. Smith's species classification system, which was designed to catalogue all the alien life forms found in his Lensman universe. Smith categorized human beings as A, while alien races were classified from A to Z in each category, depending upon their degree of divergence from the so-called human norm. In Sector General, however, the human beings (classification DBDG) are considered 'alien' by over 90% of the hospital's patients and staff.

Ace once planned to publish some Sector General stories as the 'biggest half' of a Double volume. For twenty-odd years, the Ace Double format showcased early work by such writers as Philip K. Dick, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Dean R. Koontz and Robert Silverberg -- whose Master of Life and Death had been paired with The Secret Visitors. See James A. Corrick's definitive Double Your Pleasure: The Ace SF Double (Gryphon Books, Brooklyn, 1991).

In a parallel universe far, far away, Ace published Scalpels in the Sky, by James White, instead of Keith Laumer's first Jame Retief collection, Envoy to New Worlds (F-223, August 1963: c/w Flight from Yesterday, by Robert Moore Williams). Ed Valigursky's cover painting brought Sector General to unforgettable life. Wollheim did the CAST OF CHARACTERS bit, e.g. "O'MARA/His job was to shrink heads, not swell them." The mind, he boggles.

Ace did not, however, avail themselves of this opportunity. But it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good, because the much more prestigious Ballantine Books were then free to bring out Hospital Station (F595, 1962). "Betty Ballantine had a very strong feeling for sf. It also made British publishers sit up and take notice -- hence my long and profitable association with Corgi" (Blackthorn).

There is, it must be said, a lot more to James White than the fundamentally space-operatic shenanigans of Sector General. Apart from his 'journeyman' effort, The Secret Visitors, three other novels stand out for special attention: The Watch Below (Ballantine, 1966), All Judgement Fled (Rapp & Whiting, London, 1968), and The Dream Millennium (Ballantine, 1976).

Algis Budrys reviewed The Watch Below in Galaxy, August 1966. His concluding paragraph read: "And, just incidentally, this is very nice writing when considered simply as prose and as an attempt to involve the reader's emotions. I had not up to now thought of White as a writer whose work was worth watching for, but we all live and learn."

Budrys was, however, a tad damning-with-faint-praise about All Judgment Fled. From Galaxy, March 1971:

Diagnosing writers at a distance is a mugs' game, but I'll take a stab at it for the sake of White's many attractive gifts: I suspect that he generates so much tension within himself while writing a book that he literally cannot bear to come to grips with crucial scenes. If so - if so - there are a couple of ways of getting around this, particularly once you recognize the problem, and I sincerely hope he does.

The problem, if it existed, had certainly been solved by the time of Millennium... but see my Annotated Bibliography (below) for most complete details about the novels and short-story collections.

James White became the compleat professional, who automatically reached a basic level of competence which many other sf writers might strive to emulate but seldom equal. His works have been translated into several languages, including French, German, Dutch, Swedish, Italian, and Spanish. Above all, however, White's aliens are really alien -- not just biological freaks with human mentalities and over-familiar thought patterns.

(As much as I love Hal Clement's hard-science novel, Mission of Gravity, Barlenna the maritime Mesklinite seems no more alien to me than Captain Horatio Hornblower.)

White had a greater concern with the characters' reaction to the plot than the actual plot itself. In his own conversational words:

"Of course, the plot idea must come first -- but the characters soon take over. Some authors -- Bob Shaw, for example ~- always know where the story is going at any given stage. But I prefer to give my characters more leeway, allowing the story to evolve from their individual natures. You might say that Bob Shaw uses a map to show where he is going, while I use a compass."

White never really hit the Lit-crit Trail, except for a stint as night-school lecturer at the Belfast WEA (Workers Educational Association) in 1980. But 'Reality in Science Fiction', his introduction to Monsters and Medics (Ballantine, March 1977) began with this practical credo: "...a writer should, in addition to possessing the skills associated with the craft, have wide-ranging and personal experience of a great many aspects of the world around him or her" (p. 1).

The fact that a story must incorporate physical or emotional conflict set some knotty ethical problems for the anti-violence White. He went on to explain why so many of his characters are medics and not monsters in human form who kill other sentient beings, no matter how justifiably':

In a medical sf story, the violence and bloodshed usually come about as the result of a natural or technological catastrophe -- Lester del Rey's Nerves of the early forties made a deep impression on me... But if there is a war situation in such a story, then the leading characters are fighting to save lives, and doctors and nurses do not as a rule admire the 'heroes' on either side who are making so much medical repair work for them.

Another reason why I prefer medical characters is that I wanted to be a doctor myself, but I had to go out to work instead... This was probably for the best, since writing enables me to enjoy all the drama and excitement that go with the practice of medicine without actually risking anybody's life in the process... (ibid. p. 6).

White was subjected to much adverse criticism from readers who like their vicarious violence served up raw. But he viewed such attacks with philosophical detachment: "I usually respond well to editorial criticism, and I invariably take notice of a constructive review. Generally speaking, however, those people who like my stories show great sensitivity and intelligence -- those you don't, don't"


For three whole decades, White did his bread-and-butter jobs during the day and then came home (Riverdale Gardens, Andersonstown, Belfast.) to spend another few hours slaving over a hot typewriter. He started off working in a garden shed, A la Roald Dahl, but eventually scaled the dizzy heights of a loft conversion that could only be reached by rope ladder. ("Stand by to repel boarders"). Nor did White neglect his fannish duties. Apart from innumerable convention attendances, he seldom missed the regular Thursday night meetings of the Belfast Science Fiction Group -- held in White's (no relation) Tavern. The late 1960s/early 1970s were a magic time for Northern Irish fandom: Jim and Peggy White, Bob and Sadie Shaw, Walt Willis, George Charters, Frank McKeever, and -- among many others -somebody calling himself Graham Andrews.

Then some alphabet-soup terrorist organization blew up White's Tavern and the Ulster Troubles began in earnest. (I made that last part up -- or did I?) Things were never quite the same again, until... but that's another three-pint story.

The best monument to James White is on all our bookshelves. Here comes a chronological Annotated Bibliography of his novels and story collections. Some magazine title abbreviations: ASF Astoundinq; F & SF = Fantasy & Science Fiction; NW New Worlds; NWISF = New Writings in SF (book-magazine series); SF Science Fantasy; SFA = Science Fiction Adventures.

Annotated Bibliography

The Secret Visitors (Ace D-237, August 1957: doubled with Master of Life and Death by Robert Silverberg.)
Novel. Magazine version: NW, 3 parts, October-December 1956, as Tourist Planet. Exceptional first novel that still leaves a good taste in the mind. "They put our world on trial!" (blurb). Flying saucers landing at Port Ballintrae, in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland? Perhaps it should be reprinted as The XXX Files.
Other collectable editions: Digit D479, London 1961 (Emsh cover 'lifted' from Milton Lesser's Recruit for Andromeda: Ace D-358, April 1959) & R725, 1963; Ace G-675 (White knew nothing about this edition until he found a copy in Woolworth's remaindered book bin!); NEL, London, 1971; White Lion (hardcover), London, 1974.
Hospital Station (Ballantine F595, May 1962.
Sector General: Book the First. Collection (outstanding stories marked*): 'Medic'*-(NW, January 1960, as 'O'Mara's orphan'); 'Sector General' (NW, November 1957); 'Trouble with Emily'* (NW, November 1958); 'Visitor at Large'* (NW, June 1959); 'Out-Patient' (NW, June 1960). Anon's cover painting makes the ultimate polyclinic look like a mutated wedding cake.
"Ballantine Books is proud and happy to present James White, already much admired in England, to what, we have no doubt, will be an equally delighted American audience" (blurb). Bit of a cheek, really, considering that 'The Scavengers' and The Secret Visitors had both previously appeared in the U.S. of A.
Other collectable editions: Corgi GS7651, London, 1967 & 10214-8 ('SF Collectors Library'); Ballantine 02027, 1970; Macdonald hardcover London, 1986.
Second-Ending (Ace F-173, December 1962: doubled with The Jewels of Aptor by Samuel R. Delany).
Novel. Magazine version: Fantastic, 2 parts, June-July 1961. "...I wanted to write a story about the last man on Earth, and not just on Earth but the very last representative of the race of Man, which had an upbeat ending" (Author's Note). Second Ending was short-listed for a Hugo, but something called Stranger in a Strange Land won the award that year. Reprinted in Out of This World 8 (Blackie, London, 1970), edited by Amabel Williams-Ellis & Mably Owens and Monsters and Medics (q.v.)
Star Surgeon (Ballantine F709, March 1963).
Fix-up novel: 'Resident Physician' (NW, September 1961) and Field Hospital (NW, 3 parts, January-March 1962). Sector General 2. Dr. Conway goes to war, in his own non-violent way. Cover artist Richard Powers did his usual surrealistic best on Sector General. Not to be confused with Alan E. Nourse's juvenile novel of the same title (David McKay, New York, 1960).
Other collectable editions: Corgi GS7702, 1967 & 10213-X, 1976 ('SF Collectors Library'); Ballantine U2866, 1968 & 02028, 1970; Macdonald hardcover, 1987).
Deadly Litter (Ballantine U2224, October 1964).
Collection (outstanding stories marked*): 'Grapeliner'* (NW, November 1959 & US edition, June 1960); 'The Ideal Captain' (NW, August 1958); 'The Lights Outside the Windows' (NW, February 1957); 'Deadly Litter'* (SFA, February 1960).
Other collectable editions: Corgi 08052-7,1968.
Open Prison (Four Square 1228, London, April 1965). As The Escape
Orbit (Ace F-317, same year).
Novel. Magazine version in NW, 3 parts, February-April 1964 (as Open Prison). What might have been The Great Escape rewritten by Eric Frank Russell turns out to be more than just another space-war epic. The Bugs dump human POWs on a bleak planet, without tools or weapons to defend themselves against native predators. Tom Boardman, Jr introduced the Four Square edition.
Other collectable editions: Corgi 08591-X, December 1970.
The Watch Below (Ballantine U2285, February 1966).
A survival-kit novel that 'anticipated' the awful made-for-TV movie, Goliath Awaits, by fifteen years. In the first plotline, a Second World War British tanker is torpedoed and sunk -- but not all the way down. Some few people survive and even thrive in a huge air-pocket, knocking together their own life-support system. Much later, aquatic aliens from a dead planet splash down in the Atlantic and help free their unfortunate counterparts.
Other collectable editions: Whiting & Wheaton hardcover, London, 1966; Corgi GS7759, 1967; Walker hardcover, New York, 1969.
All Judgement Fled (Rapp & Whiting, London, 1968).
Novel. Magazine version in If, 3 parts, December 1967-February 1968. Winner of the 1979 Europa Prize. Six Earthmen board a huge alien spacecraft passing through the Solar System. They must decide which of its multi-alien crew/passengers are sentient enough for meaningful communication. " . .develops remorselessly and with an authenticity of detail that seems to belie the fictional basis" (Books and Bookmen). For the ending alone, it knocks Rendezvous with Rama into a cocked space helmet.
Other collectable editions: Corgi 08198-1, July 1969; Walker hardcover, 1969 (also Large Print edition); Ballantine 02016, September 1970; Macdonald hardcover, 1987.
The Aliens Among Us (Ballantine 01545, March 1969).
Collection (outstanding stories marked*): 'Countercharm' (NW, November 1960: Sector General); 'To Kill or Cure'* (NW, April 1957); 'Red Alert' (NW, January 1956); 'Tableau' (NW, May 1958); 'The Conspirators'* (NW, June 1954); 'The Scavengers'* (ASF, October 1953 & UK edition, March 1954); 'Occupation: Warrior' (SFA, March 1959).
Other collectable editions: Corgi 08461-1, June 1970; Ian Henry hardcover, Hornchurch (Essex), 1978.
Major Operation (Ballantine 02149~5, February 1971
Fix-up novel. Sector General 3. All episodes taken from NWISF: 'Invader' (No. 7, 1966); 'Vertigo' (No. 12, 1968); 'Blood Brother' (No. 14, 1969); 'Meatball' (No. 16, 1969); 'Major Operation' (No. 18, 1971). Reads like an A. E. van Vogt novel that makes perfect sense -if you can imagine such a thing.
Other collectable editions: Ballantine 24229-7, October 1974; Orbit, London, 1987).
Tomorrow is Too Far (Ballantine 02150-9, February 1971).
Novel. "Perhaps mankind's time space is as limited as his living space …" (Blurb). This deep -think mystery novel considers the possible psychological as well as the physical effects of time/space travel, with particular reference to psycho-biological time paradoxes. It's set in a large aerospace company, Hart-Ewing, not unlike Short Brothers, Ltd, where White was working at the time.
Other collectable editions: Michael Joseph hardcover, London, 1971, (Corgi 09134-0, January 1973).
Lifeboat (Ballantine 02797-3, September 1972).
Humans-against-space novel. Magazine version in Galaxy, 2 parts, January & March 1972, as Dark Inferno. "The passengers were the usual varied lot, some nervous, some boisterous, some smart-aleck, some quiet... It was a routine trip. And so was the safety drill. Until the disaster call went out..." (Blurb). The American editions lack a few early, scene-setting paragraphs.
Other collectable editions: Michael Joseph hardcover, 1972, as Dark Inferno; Corgi 09438-2, February 1974 (as Dark Inferno).
The Dream Millennium (Ballantine 24012-X, June 1974).
Novel. Magazine version in Galaxy, 3 parts, October-December 1973. White's inner-space take on the Orphans of the Sky sub-genre. John Devlin, M.D. intermittently escorts cryonic colonists fleeing the hell-bound Earth in a slowcoach starship. While in coldsleep mode, he dreams/nightmares the entire history of humanity via the Jungian race memory. The current Ulster Troubles rate a dishonourable mention.
Other collectable editions: Michael Joseph hardcover, 1974; Corgi 10062-5, January 1976.
Monsters and Medics (Ballantine/Del Rey 25623-9, March 1977).
Collection (outstanding stories marked*): Introduction: 'Reality in Science Fiction' (original); Second Ending (see above); 'Counter Security'* (F & SF, February 1963 & Venture, UK edition, September 1963); 'Dogfight'* (NW, March 1959 & US edition, April 1960); 'Nuisance Value' (Analog. October 1975); 'In Loving Memory' (Nebula, January 1956); 'The Apprentice'* (NW, October 1960); 'Answer Came There None' (Galaxy, January 1974).
Other collectable editions: Corgi 10462-0, May 1977 (omits the last two stories).
Ambulance Ship (Ballantine/Del Rey 28513-1, October 1979).
Sector General 4. Original fix-up novel: Introduction: 'The Secret History of Sector General' (FOKT No. 3, 1978); 'Contagion'; 'Quarantine'; 'Recovery'. FOKT stands for (a) the Friends of Kilgore Trout, i.e. the Glasgow Science Fiction Group and (b) the dour alien Gogleskans, who speak through what can only be described as bagpipe drones.
Other collectable editions: Corgi 11511-8, December 1980; Orbit, 1986; Macdonald hardcover, 1987. Corgi edition adds 'Spacebird' (NWISF 22, 1973).
Underkill (Corgi 10996-7, February 1979).
Novel. A sideways sequel to The Dream Millennium (see above), describing the Belfast-writ-large Earth left behind by the colonists. Dr. Malcolm and his wife, Ann, find out that aliens are killing off most of humanity for what they consider to be its general good. This Swifter than Swift modest proposal made Ballantine and several other American publishers reject Underkill because it was not a 'real' James White novel. The more fool them.
Dr. Malcolm was named after Don Malcolm, the Scottish sf writer (The Unknown Shore and The Iron Rain: both Laser Books, 1976). No relation to Dan Malcolm, a Robert Silverberg pseudonym.
Futures Past (Ballantine/Del Rey 30433-0, August 1982).
Grab-bag collection (outstanding stories marked*): 'Spacebird' (NWISF 22, 1973); 'Assisted Passage' (NW, January 1953: the first 'Allen Drive' story); 'Curtain Call'* (Nebula, August 1954); 'Boarding Party' (NW, July 1955); 'Patrol' (NW, January 1957); 'Fast Trip'* (F & SF, April 1963 & UK edition, August 1963); 'Question of Cruelty' (NW, February 1956); 'False Alarm'* (NW, July 1957: the last 'Allen Drive' story); 'Dynasty of One' (SF, September 1955: slightly revised for Extro, April-May 1982, as 'Long Will Live the King'); 'Outrider' (NW, May 1955).
Other collectable editions: Orbit, 1988 (omits 'Spacebird' and adds 'Custom Fitting': Stellar 2, Ballantine/Del Rey, 1976). Not to be confused with A. E. van Vogt's collection of the same title (Tachyon Publications, San Francisco, 1999).
Sector General (Ballantine/Del Rey 30851-43 March 1983).
Guess What 5. Original collection (outstanding stories marked*): 'Accident'*'(the Sector General origin story, as they say in all the best comic books); 'Survivor'; 'Investigation'; 'Combined Operation'*. Dedicated to the Friends of Kilgore Trout, "who treat the impossible with the contempt it deserves."
Other collectable editions: Orbit, 1987.
Star Healer (Ballantine/Del Rey 32089-1, January 1985).
The sixth and most hard-to-find Sector General first edition: I bought my copy in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Great cover by Rick Sternbach. This title makes me think about somebody who goes around picking sunspots. But that's my problem, not yours.
Other collectable editions: Orbit, 1987.
The Interpreters (Birmingham SF Group booklet, November 1985: doubled with A Novacon Garland by David Langford.)
Novacon 15 freebie: limited edition of 600 copies. 'Baby Talk' would have been a better, if too-obvious, title. It was reprinted in F & SF, March 1987. The Langford collection features a Sector General parody entitled 'Outbreak' (medical pun intended), by J*m*s Wh*t*.
Code Blue - Emergency (Ballantine/Del Rey 34172~4, July 1987).
Novel. Sector General 7. Introducing Cha Thrat, Sector General's answer to Xena - Warrior princess and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. I wouldn't call her a jinx, but "time after time, her best intentions caused only catastrophe" (blurb).
Other collectable editions: Severn House hardcover, London, 1990.
Federation World (Ballantine/Del Rey 35263-7, June 1988).
Fix-up novel (all from Analog): 'Federation World' (August 1980); 'The Scourge' (January 1982); 'Something of Value' (February 1985). "As new planets and species were discovered and assessed, the deserving of their populations were invited to move en masse to the Federation World, a modified Dyson Sphere in the galactic core" (blurb). Volume One of a Series That Never Was.
The Silent Stars Go By (Ballantine/Del Rey 37110-0, September 1991).
Novel. "From the project's inception it had been realized that Aisling Gheal, the Bright Vision, would have to be Earth's first starship rather than the exclusive property of the Hibernian Empire (p. 12). We're in the Celtic Twilight Zone, here; a parallel universe that is more like Riverdance than Pavane. White's magnum opus, not least by page count (441 pp), the best companion piece I've found for it is a half bottle of Blackbush. Its protagonist, Healer Nolan, was named after Joe Nolan of the Belfast Science Fiction Group.
The Genocidal Healer (Ballantine/Del Rey 37109-7, February 1992).
Novel. Sector General 8. Tarlan BRLH trainee psychologist (later Padre) Lioren must deal with terminal illness, euthanasia, and honest mistakes that can cause patients harm. Peggy White suggested the basic idea. Sector General the Best, in my opinion.
The Galactic Gourmet (Tor hardcover 86167-2, August 1996).
Sector General 9. 'Potboiler' novel, showing the sunny-side-up of hospital food. Tralthan FGLI Gurronsevas is a conceited chef de cuisine who, after many misadventures, becomes the chief dietician for Sector General. But the Dedication refers to a family tragedy: FOR PETER/MY ONCE AND FUTURE SON.
The White Papers (The NESFA Press 915368, 1996).
Edited by Mark Olson and Bruce Pelz. Dust jacket illustration ('Orbital Hospital') by Vincent Di Fate.
Collection: published on behalf of L.A.con III, the 1996 World Science Fiction Convention (August 26-September 2), for their G-o-H James White. Introduction, by Mike Resnick. "James White" by Walt Willis.
Fiction (all A's): 'Custom Fitting'; 'Commuter'; 'House Sitter' (original); 'Sanctuary' (Analog, December 1988); ‘Christmas Treason’ (F & SF, January 1962); 'Accident'; 'Medic'; ‘Countercharm’; 'Visitor at Large'.
Fan writing (ditto): 'An Introduction to Real Virtuality' (by Bruce Pelz); 'The Last Time I Saw Harris' (Hyphen 2, September 1952); 'The Beacon' (Hyphen 4, October 1953); 'The Not-So-Hot Gospeller' (Hyphen 16, August 1956); 'The Long Afternoon of Harrowgate' (Hyphen 32, March 1963); 'The History of IF' (Hyphen 18, May 1957: IF = Irish Fandom); 'The Quinze-y Report' (Hyphen 19, January 1958); 'Fester on the Fringe' (Hyphen 28, 29, 30, and 31: May 1961-March 1962); "The Exorcists of IF' hen 37, Autumn 1987); 'The Unreal George Affair' (Trapdoor 9, January 1990).
More about Sector General (scholarly monographs): 'Sector General Timeline' (Gary Louie); 'Notes on the Classification System'; 'The Classification System' (Gary Louie).
And all that for a mere $25.00!
Final Diagnosis (Tor hardcover 86148-6, May 1997).
Novel. Sector General 10. It's long been an article of faith at Sector General that infections can't pass from one alien species to another. But now, suddenly, all bets are off. "A first-class medical puzzle... with always a twinkle in the author's eye: thoroughly enjoyable" (Kirkus Reviews).
Mind Changer (Tor hardcover 86663-1, November 1998).
Novel. Sector General 11. My preferred title is O'Mara's Book. Chief Psychologist O'Mara runs Sector General like a sometimes-benevolent dictator - then he comes up for mandatory retirement - it's well-nigh unthinkable, like Chicago Hope firing Hector Elizondo.
Double Contact (Tor hardcover 87041-8, October 1999).
Novel. Sector General the Twelfth and Last: I write those words, but my mind and heart find it hard to accept them. Prilicla commands a task force responding to several near-simultaneous distress beacons. First contact is duly made with two new alien races - hence the title.
The First Protector (Tor hardcover 84890-0/trade paperback 87409-X, February 2000.
The second tie-inner based upon Gene Roddenberry's ‘posthumous’ TV series, Earth: Final Conflict (closely following The Arrival, by Fred Saberhagen). White's last completed novel ~- not, repeat not, a novelization -- moves the human-Taelon relationship back to Ireland, in and around 300 A.D. If cross-life form love doesn't conquer all, it's through no want of trying.
Uncollected stories, apart from general anthologies:
'Crossfire' (NW, June 1953); 'Starvation Orbit' (NW, July 1954); 'Suicide Mission' (NW, September 1954); 'The Star Walk' (NW, March 1955); 'Pushover Planet' (Nebula, November 1955); 'Dark Talisman' (Nebula, October 1958); 'The High Road' (NW, October 1959 & US edition, May 1960); ‘Type "Genie" and Run’ (The Gate, May 1989); 'Un-Birthday Boy' (Analog, February 1996: Hugo nominee).
'Biologies and Environments' (The Visual Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction, edited by Brian Ash: Pan, London, 1977). Working Bibliography: James White: Doctor to Aliens (Galactic Central, Leeds & Albuquerque, no date), by Phil Stephenson-Payne & Gordon Benson, Jr.

James White, a diabetic (awarded a medal after fifty years on insulin) with progressively impaired vision, took early retirement from Short Bros. in 1984 and moved to the north Antrim resort town of Portstewart. But although the quantity of his writing was necessarily curtailed, its quality would remain higher than the authorial average. He never wrote a bad story, by any reasonable critical standards.

"… I always liked writing as a hobby, and now I can do it all day. So my hobby has become a full-time occupation" (Locus interview, March 1993). "No problem," as he might have told me (but didn't, not even in the Blackthorn). "Every man, or alien, needs a hobby." And did I mention that the Sector General books are optioned for filming?

Big Jim -- 6' 2" tall and counting, which prompted him to form the 'Society for People of Average Height' - was Guest-of-Honour at many conventions. For example: two Novacons (United Kingdom); three Beneluxcons (Belgium/Holland/Luxembourg); Octocon (Eire); ditto Nicons (Northern Ireland) and, of course, the 1996 Worldcon. He would contribute to any fanzine for the price of a pint - or half pint, if needs must.

White was a long-serving Council Member of the British Science Fiction Association, and - with Harry Harrison and Anne McCaffrey - a Patron of its Irish counterpart, the ISFA. In 1998, he received the NESFA (North Eastern Science Fiction Association) Skylark Award -named after his old hero, E. E. "Doc" Smith. More personally, I recall this ironical event from Jim's 1984 G-o-H stint in Ghent:

We passed under an arrow-sign that read something along the lines of SF CONVENTION THAT-A-WAY. The sign abruptly slipped and hit said G-o-H on the cranium. While I asked myself what Dr. Conway would have done in similar circumstances, Jim lost no time in saying: "The 39 Steps is an organization of spies…"

The Belfast Science Fiction Group, which James White co-founded all those years ago, is still going from strength to strength. It meets every other Thursday night in the Monico Bar happily traditional downtown bar.

I envy readers who come to the works of James White for the first time.

Slán leat, a chara.

Goodbye, old friend.


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The James White Award