Claims that John Wyndham‘s classic science fiction eco-thriller The Day of the Triffids passes out of copyright next year (in fact, apparently it is only the 1962 film that is out of copyright, and has been for some years, due to an incorrect renewal), led to discovery of the recently-published Hidden Wyndham: Life, Love, Letters by journalism lecturer and writer Amy Binns.
John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris (1903-1969) is regarded as one of the most important and widely read British writers of science fiction. He began publishing science fiction in the 1930s but it was only after World War Two, following refinements to his writing style and subject matter, that he gained critical and popular acclaim.
Wyndham achieved particular success with The Day of the Triffids (1951), The Kraken Wakes (1953) (also known as Out of the Deeps), The Chrysalids (1955) and The Midwich Cuckoos (1957, also known as Village of the Damned). These carefully crafted stories instantly captured the imagination of the public worldwide and have since become classics of science fiction.
Despite his popularity, Wyndham’s obsessive need for privacy, detailed here in Christopher Priest’s review of Amy’s book, led to him being known as “the invisible man of science fiction”. In Hidden Wyndham, Amy Binns reveals Grace Wilson, the woman who was the inspiration for his strong-minded heroines. Their secret love affair sustained this gentle and desperately shy man through failure, war, and, ultimately, success.
Hidden Wyndham, published by Grace Judson Press, also shows how Wyndham’s own disturbing war experiences – witnessing the destruction of London in the Blitz then as part of the invading British army in France and Germany – inspired and underlay his dystopian masterpieces. It provides an insight into the lives of men and women who refused to live by the oppressive rules of society in the mid-20th century.
Many extracts from his surviving letters are included by Amy, a lecturer in journalism at the Preston-based University of Central Lancashire, along with his own photographs.
TRAVEL DOWNTHETUBES – WEB LINKS
• The University of Liverpool holds The John Wyndham Archive – the only collection of John Wyndham’s literary papers and manuscripts. The Archive also contains one of the very few sets of correspondence that the author did not destroy. The Archive was acquired by The University of Liverpool in May 1998 with assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund, together with the support of The Friends of The University of Liverpool, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Iain M. Banks and many writers and fans of science fiction
• BBC Archives – 6th September 1960 – Watch John Wyndham discuss his work (Facebook Link)
• John Wyndham book on AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)
The original version of this story suggested Day of the Triffids passed into the public domain in 2020. This was incorrect and I apologise for any confusion I may have caused. The article was corrected on 25th February 2020 to insert mention for the status of the 1962 film which it has been suggested is out of copyright due to a flawed renewal – confirmation welcome!