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November 17, 2008 2:02 PM   Subscribe

John Wyndham: The Invisible Man of Science Fiction (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) - documentary about the British science fiction writer best known for The Day Of The Triffids
posted by fearfulsymmetry (30 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Wow. A lot of great links about English sci fi guys lately. Well, two, but still.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:08 PM on November 17, 2008

Yes, between this and the Kneale links I have a lot of youtube to catch up on. Bravo!
posted by Artw at 2:13 PM on November 17, 2008

Very nice! Thanks for this!
posted by scarello at 2:32 PM on November 17, 2008

Awesome. I love this guy, and Triffids is easily one of my top 10 sci-fi books of all time. I won't say he singlehandedly invented the disaster genre because, well, he didn't - I wonder who did, actually? Shiel? - but for a book about locomoting cabbages he does a heckuva job of keeping you on the edge of your seat. The Wyndham haters can talk to the heel of my boot as it flies towards them like a muddy block of justice.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:40 PM on November 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

man, I feel like I've been aware of the book Day Of The Triffids, but when I checked the wikipedia link I found it was totally unfamiliar to me. I don't think I was confusing it with the somewhat similarly named Star Trek episode, but who knows.
posted by shmegegge at 2:46 PM on November 17, 2008

He’s more known for his cosy catastrophes rather than all out disasters, though it sounds like he didn’t completely invent that (I’m not anyone would want to be known for being the inventor of apocalyptic stories where everyone remains very middle class, and it's a bit of an unfair stab at his work).
posted by Artw at 2:50 PM on November 17, 2008

You can't write stories about aeroplanes. Stories are about large, lumbering, malevolent poisonous nettles.
posted by steef at 3:21 PM on November 17, 2008

You can't write stories about aeroplanes.

I beg to differ.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:24 PM on November 17, 2008

I first read Triffids via a pretty progressive English teacher - though it turned out to be a bowdlerized schools edition. Imagine my surprise when, a few years later, I read an ex-library copy and encountered the mirrors on the ceiling in the posh flat and the, off-screen, bonking.

The Trevor Howard film version is on youtube btw, but I didn't bother linking it as it's utter rubbish (and not in a good way). I recommend the 80s BBC version though.

Oh and there was a sequel, The Night of the Triffids, by Simon Clarke which, though it doesn't quite succeed, isn't bad.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:32 PM on November 17, 2008

28 Days Later is essentially Day of the Triffids, with faux-zombies swapped out. And don't forget the classic Village of the Damned (based on Wyndham's book The Midwich Cuckoos).
posted by asfuller at 3:49 PM on November 17, 2008

He's the guy who wrote The Bloodening? Right?

Nah I kid. John Wyndham is ten kinds of awesome.
posted by seanyboy at 4:06 PM on November 17, 2008

>> You can't write stories about aeroplanes.
> I beg to differ.

Ditto. Pardon the self-link, but Elleston Trevor's The Flight of the Phoenix is also an extremely good novel (the 1965 movie - unlike the remake - was a very close adaptation).
posted by raygirvan at 4:13 PM on November 17, 2008

I'm a big Wyndham fan, though I'd rate The Kraken Wakes, The Chrysalids, or even Trouble With Lichen or The Midwich Cuckoos as much better stories than The Day Of The Triffids. Something about the middle-class stiff-upper-lip comfortableness of them draws me in; a very 50's English version of a modern suburbanite thinking "yeah, sure, I'll do alright after the bomb drops".

My girlfriend is also a big fan of Chocky, though that's more because of the 80's Thames TV series that starred Carol Drinkwater.

asfuller, I've been saying 28 Days Later is the best film adaptation of Triffids ever since I first saw it. I'm glad somebody else sees it too ;-)
posted by Pinback at 4:37 PM on November 17, 2008

I grew up with fifties and sixties sci-fi (Asimov, Clarke, Niven, Heinlein, Bradbury, etc.), but with the exception of the early-eighties BBC adaptation of Day of the Triffids I didn't get exposed to Wyndham until I was an adult. It's very rare to find a copy of any of his books in libraries or bookstores in my part of the world, plus many are out-of-print in the U.S.

I don't think he's the best author ever, but I've slowly been collecting his stories by ordering inexpensive used copies (fifties and early-sixties Penguin editions preferred). I just tracked down a 1962 printing of The Outward Urge (with that cover) and started reading it last night.

Besides the novels, there have been several short story collections. Consider Her Ways and Others and The Seeds of Time include most of his best.

Thanks for the post; now I'll settle-in to watch the documentary.
posted by D.C. at 5:07 PM on November 17, 2008

The Day of the Triffids, the movie, scared the living hell out of me as a child; the scenes of London full of the newly blind, and particularly (as I remember it) the airplane where the flight attendant was gamely trying to reassure the passengers were just horrific to me. But I can't tell you how many times I read and reread The Chrysalids; I can remember every event in that book, often verbatim. This is a fantastic post, thank you.
posted by jokeefe at 5:24 PM on November 17, 2008

My girlfriend is also a big fan of Chocky, though that's more because of the 80's Thames TV series that starred Carol Drinkwater.

Which someone has posted to Youtube. I'd recommend MeFites see it, if they can't read the book, before Stephen Spielberg adds it to his homogenized oeuvre.

The "world destroyer" Wyndham had a remarkable run. His posthumous Web, although his shortest novel, still has the punch of The Kraken Wakes ... which I found myself rereading with extra disquiet after the latest global warming prediction of rising sea levels.
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:37 PM on November 17, 2008

kismet, i just started reading the trouble with lichen which i bought purely for its great cover, another early 60's penguin edition in fact, and it's pretty good, unexpectedly feminist in places
posted by doobiedoo at 6:04 PM on November 17, 2008

Wow, thanks for this! John Wyndham is one of my favorite authors and I rarely encounter anyone in the US who knows his work. I hope that will change if Spielberg does the Chocky remake after all.

You can also be his fan on Facebook with about 140 other die-hard devotees.
posted by Locative at 6:21 PM on November 17, 2008

The good people at NYRB Classics, who just keep doing amazing work, have just brought out The Chrysalids in a new edition, with an intro by Christopher Priest.
posted by BT at 6:22 PM on November 17, 2008

I loved The Chrysalids when I was a kid. Great book on so many levels.

I also enjoyed collecting his (Penguin) books because the cover art was so well done.

Thanks for the post.
posted by mattoxic at 6:30 PM on November 17, 2008

I notice that the « Older link goes to "Luxo Jr. goes blind." That's gotta be somethingysterical, innit? Must've been that meteor shower.

the 80's Thames TV series [of Chocky]

Nooo! They didn't?!

read the book, before Stephen Spielberg adds it to his homogenized oeuvre


I rather liked the old Triffids movie, even the added lighthouse subplot / War of the Worlds plot point. But there's no way I'll have my own personal psychedelic visualization of Chocky stomped on by a cheesy Spielberg movie.
posted by Herodios at 8:03 PM on November 17, 2008

The Thames series was great, in my memories at least.
posted by Artw at 8:42 PM on November 17, 2008

True, Artw - don't worry Herodios, it's surprisingly good in a typical 80's UK low-budget children's sci-fi TV way. It even sticks pretty much to the plot of the book, and where it deviates it's for good reason.

Perhaps surprisingly, despite having nothing to do with Wyndham, the sequels (Chocky's Children & Chocky's Challenge) aren't too bad either, though in true sequel style they get progressively less good.

Can't say I'm a great fan of Web; I'd rank it below Triffids. It shows all the signs of being nearly - but not quite - finished. Nothing a good editor wouldn't have pointed out (the pre-voyage bit is a tad too long and detailed, and the on the mountain stuff needs tightening), but then it would also need some other themes & ideas fleshed out to make a book-sized book. But, given the circumstances, that's not surprising.

...before Stephen Spielberg adds it to his homogenized oeuvre.


I thought Obama was supposed to be curing all of America's ills?
posted by Pinback at 1:10 AM on November 18, 2008

When I first read Wyndham as a preteen I loved how nuanced his women were, an aberration in most of the male written sci-fi I had read until then. I loved the Trouble with Lichen. I thought I had a pretty complete collection of his works, I am crushed that their are a few I am still missing (how did I miss Jizzle? I looks awesome!). I have never bothered to see any of the movie adaptations but maybe I should.
posted by saucysault at 3:54 AM on November 18, 2008

I bought Jizzle earlier this year. The stories are a bit weaker than the later collections I mentioned above. One of them ("The Wheel") is the origin of The Chrysalids novel.

I thought the 1962 film of Triffids was horrible; it strays far from the book and is poorly-done all around. The 1981, made-for-TV, BBC version is low-budget but fairly true to the book.
posted by D.C. at 5:31 PM on November 18, 2008

I'm getting the fear!
posted by Artw at 8:22 PM on November 27, 2008

I'm getting the fear!

But look at the new Survivors...! Oh, er, yeah, I take your point - dodgy CGI triffids, ahoy!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:31 AM on November 28, 2008

Save Me From The Triffids
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:38 AM on November 28, 2008

I love that poster of the triffid abductin a naked woman and, as far as I can tell, shooting a laser beam(!?!) out of it's eye (!?!?!???!).

Phoo fighters IS an adaptation, as the various comments point out - bit of a pitty to see it strangled in it's crib, though I suspect it was for the best.
posted by Artw at 3:10 PM on November 28, 2008

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