RIP Jack Williamson

Jack Williamson, aka the ‘Dean of SF’, is dead at age 98 (see also the NY Times obit). Williams coined the word Android in 1936 and was the first to use it in its modern sense in his 1948 novel, The Humanoids. He coined other science fiction words and phrases such as terraforming, genetic engineering, psionics, spaceport, prime directive, ion drive, Tellurian, neutronium. Many have since been adopted by science during his long writing career, which stretched from 1928 to 2005.

His 1949 novel, The Humanoids, and its 1980 sequel, The Humanoid Touch, speculate on artificial beings and AI. Another Williamson favorite among roboticists is the short story on which the Humanoids series was based, With Folded Hands, about the dangers of creating a robot work force whose only guiding principle is “to serve and obey and guard men from harm”. In his 2001 novel, Terraforming Earth, robots stationed on the Moon attempt to reseed life on Earth after the planet is devastated and thrust into a new ice age by an asteroid impact.

Williamson proved able to adapt to every new Science Fiction genre as it came along, starting with space operas published in the early pulps up cyber punk novels like The Silicon Dagger in his later years. He also ventured outside science fiction into fantasy in 1948 to write one of the most highly regarded werewolf novels, Darker Than You Think.