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.
• Hidden Wyndham: Life, Love, Letters is available here from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link) and from all good bookshops
TRAVEL DOWNTHETUBES – WEB LINKS
• Follow Amy Binns on Twitter @AmyB_writer
• 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!
Categories: Books, downthetubes News, Other Worlds
Having been born in 1941, and living in south Devon from 1947 to 1958, I saw no television until 1954, when the North Hessary Tor mast began transmitting the BBC TV programmes, just in time for Christmas that year. My parents had bought a 17″ Murphy, ready for the big day; prior to that we could hear the sound from the south Wales Wenvoe TV transmitter, and I “listened” to George Orwell’s 1984.
Even with the wonder of TV, I was still very much a radio listener; and I recall the 1957 BBC radio adaptation of The Day of the Triffids. I can still hear in my head the sound effect created for the swish of the stinger! In the story, the use of honey to disable the armoured car was a version of using sugar for the same purpose – which I already knew about for some reason.
So – The Day of the Triffids was the first sci-fi serial I recall hearing, or watching.
The Wonder Stories letter – rejecting Wyndham’s Men Who Returned – shows how American publishers have long been more inclined to offer constructive criticism than British ones. Someone has read the manuscript, and the handwritten addition to the standard rejection letter is positive and encouraging.
In my ‘short story writing days’, I had many a bland “not for us” slip in with the returned typescript.
The 1957 radio adaptation of “Day of the Triffids” is available on the Internet Archive https://archive.org/details/DayoftheTriffids1957
Many thanks, John, for that handy info. I am just about to hit the hay after a night out (?!). but I had to listen to the opening of Episode One. The announcer sounds as if it might have been John Snagge – when the BBC WAS the BBC. On my way home in my car, I turned on the World Service, only to hear some fatuous woman telling me it is,”The World’s radio station”!!!! Dream on, Lord Hall.
I’m interested to know why you think the US copyright on Day of the Triffids is due to expire. By my understanding it has a good few years’ protection yet. Thanks.
John, I can only put this error down to a mis-reading of online sources when I first wrote this item last year. You are correct and I apologise for any confusion I may have caused. I have corrected the article 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 on that welcome!