AUTHOR : JAMES GUNN : [1923-2020]

In 1949, when he was in his mid-20s and studying for his master's degree in English, James E. Gunn submitted a piece of science fiction to a pulp magazine.

''One day I got a letter saying, 'I like your story ''Paradox,'' and I'll pay you 80 for it,'' he recalled in a 2008 interview. ''My wife says it was probably the most transforming experience of our lives, when we realized someone would actually pay me to sit in front of my typewriter.''

He remained particularly proud of the ploy - about a drunken bum abducted by telepathic aliens, who once they read his delirious mind, abandon their plans to subjugate humanity.

Mr. Gunn's 1962 story : ''The Immortals,'' about people who discover the secret to eternal life, was adapted into an ABC-TV movie, ''The immortal,'' in 1969 and a series in the 1970-71 season.

His novels include ''The Listeners'' [1972], which Carl Sagan described as ''one pf the very best fictional portrayal of contact with extraterrestrial intelligence ever written,'' and which was credited with encouraging research by the SETI Institute into a the search of life beyond Earth.

Mr. Gunn was name a grand master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2015. He earned a Hugo Award for his critical study ''Usaac Asimov : The Foundations of Science Fiction'' [1983] and edited ''The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction'' [1988]

Despite the incentive provided by that first paycheck, Mr. Gunn said in an interview with the University of Kansas in 2017, ''I have often made the point that writing is really hard work.''

''Lots of times,'' he said, ''I've sat in front of my typewriter or computer and felt really I'd rather be out mowing the lawn, doing manual labor, then trying to wrench ideas out of my head. But there is also the feeling that sitting there and turning concepts into language that is suitable is what I was cut out  to do.''

''I've told people,'' he added, ''That I feel I earn my place here on Earth each day when I am able to create something that wasn't  there before, and. in turn, some of these things enter stories that influence people.''

Mr. Gunn told The New York Times in 2011 that science fiction could speed the future by sparking the imagination of young students. But he also acknowledged that, as Arthur C. Clark said, ''The future isn't what it used to be.''

''The science fiction writer's task grows increasingly more difficult as science and technology catch up to the science-fictional imagination and as old tropes get worn out,'' he told Electric Spec magazine in 2007.

The World Students Society thanks author Sam Roberts.


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