Judith Josephine Grossman (January 21, 1923 – September 12, 1997),
who took the pen-name
Judith Merril about 1945, was an American and
then Canadian science fiction writer, editor and political activist,
and one of the first women to be widely influential in those roles.
Although Judith Merril's first paid writing was in other genres, in
her first few years of writing published science fiction she wrote her
three novels (all but the first in collaboration with C.M. Kornbluth)
and some stories. Her roughly four decades in that genre also included
writing 26 published short stories, and editing a similar number of
1 Early years
2 American science fiction writing and editing
3 Canadian years
4 Selected works
7 External links
Merril was born in
Boston in 1923  to Ethel and Samuel (Shlomo)
Grossman, who were Jewish. Her father committed suicide in 1929 soon
after she began to attend school. In 1936, her mother found a job at
Bronx House and moved them to the New York City borough of the Bronx.
In her mid-teens, Merril pursued
Zionism and Marxism. According to
Virginia Kidd's introduction to The Best of Judith Merril, Ethel
Grossman had been a suffragette, was a founder of the women's Zionist
organization Hadassah, and was "a liberated female frustrated at every
turn by the world in which she found herself".
In 1939, Judith graduated from Morris High School in the Bronx at
16 and rethought her politics under the influence of the
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact (August 23), shifting to a Trotskyist
outlook. She married Dan Zissman the next year, less than four months
into a relationship that started when they met at a
of July picnic in Central Park. Their daughter Merril Zissman was
born in December 1942. In this period, she also became one of the few
female members of the New York City-based group of science fiction
writers, editors, artists and fans, the Futurians, which included
Kornbluth. The Zissmans separated about 1945; in 1946 Frederik Pohl,
another Futurian, began living with her. After her divorce from
Zissman became final in 1948, she married Pohl on November 25; they
divorced in 1952.
American science fiction writing and editing
The opening installment of Mars Child, by Merril and Cyril Kornbluth,
took the cover of the May 1951 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction
Another Merril–Kornbluth collaboration, the novelette "Sea-Change",
was the cover story for the second issue of
Dynamic Science Fiction
Dynamic Science Fiction in
1953. It has apparently never been reprinted.
Merril's "The Deep Down Dragon" was the cover story for the August
1961 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction
Merril's novelette "The Shrine of Temptation" took the cover of the
April 1962 issue of Fantastic, featuring George Barr's first
professional cover art
Merril's novelette "The Lonely" was the cover story on the October
1963 issue of Worlds of Tomorrow
Under her married name Merril edited a five-page SF fanzine dated May
1945, including a letter "On Ezra Pound" by Don Zissman [sic]. She
edited, and published with Larry Shaw and Dan Zissman, a 20-page
fanzine dated January 1946, Science*Fiction No. 1, including an
editorial by her entitled "The Hills and the Heights". ISFDB notes, "A
single issue fanzine from Judy Zissman (aka Judith Merril). It was
clearly intended to continue, and many of the contents of the next
issue are described, but a 2nd issue was never released—likely as a
result of the collapse of her marriage to Don Zissman."
Judith Merril began writing professionally, especially short stories
about sports, starting in 1945, before publishing her first
science-fiction story in 1948. A number, but by no means all, of her
contributions were to magazines edited by fellow ex-Futurians. She
was a co-founder of the
Hydra Club in this period. Her story "Dead
Center" (F&SF, November 1954) is one of only two stories taken
from any science fiction or fantasy magazine for the Best American
Short Stories volumes edited by
Martha Foley in the 1950s. Groff
Conklin described her first novel, Shadow on the Hearth, as "a
masterly example of sensitive and perceptive story-telling".
Boucher and McComas praised it as "a sensitively human novel,
terrifying in its small-scale reflection of grand-scale
P. Schuyler Miller
P. Schuyler Miller found it a "warm, human novel"
comparable to Earth Abides.
Her second child Ann Pohl was born in 1950; she and Pohl separated in
1952 and their divorce was finalized the next year, during which she
also lived with
Walter M. Miller
Walter M. Miller for six months. Her third marriage
came in 1960, devolved into separation in 1963, but never reached a
final divorce. Ann Pohl's daughter, Merril's granddaughter Emily
Pohl-Weary, writes young adult fiction including science fiction. She
also co-authored Merril's biography after the latter's death, using
access to her drafts, notes and letters.
Merril began editing science fiction short story anthologies in
1950—especially a popular "Year's Best" story-anthology series that
ran from 1956 to 1967—and published her last in 1985. In her
editorial introductions, talks and other writings, she actively argued
that science fiction should no longer be isolated but become part of
the literary mainstream. Early in her editing career, Anthony Boucher
described her as "a practically flawless anthologist". She also
had an important role as Books Editor for The Magazine of Fantasy and
Science Fiction (F&SF) from 1965 until 1969.
According to science fiction scholar Rob Latham, "throughout the
1950s, Merril, along with fellow SF authors
James Blish and Damon
Knight had taken the lead in promoting higher literary standards and a
greater sense of professionalism within the field." In particular they
established the annual Milford Writers' Conference in Milford,
Pennsylvania, where Merril then lived [as did Knight and his wife Kate
Wilhelm]. Manuscripts were workshopped at these avid gatherings, thus
encouraging more care in the planning of stories, and a sense of
solidarity was promoted, eventually leading to the formation of the
Science Fiction Writers Association."[verification needed] However,
"disaffected authors began griping about a 'Milford Mafia' that was
endangering SF's unique virtues by imposing literary standards
essentially alien to the field."
One anthology project Merril began in the early 1960s under contract
to Lion Books in Chicago was aborted, but inspired her publisher's
Harlan Ellison to go forward with his own version of the
project, which yielded
Dangerous Visions (Doubleday, 1967). As an
initiator of the New Wave movement, she edited the 1968 anthology
England Swings SF, whose stories she collected while living in England
for a year.
In 1966 Ellison wrote an episode entitled "The Pieces of Fate Affair"
The Man from UNCLE
The Man from UNCLE using the names of friends as characters. One
of these was a THRUSH agent who was also a literary critic named
"Judith Merle" played by Grayson Hall. Merrill's daughter saw the
episode and brought a lawsuit against the series for defamation of
character. The audio track was later adjusted renaming Hall's
character "Jody Moore" and the episode was kept out of syndication for
Merril was among those who in 1968 signed an anti-Vietnam War
advertisement in Galaxy Science Fiction. In the late 1960s, Merril
moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, citing what she called undemocratic
suppression of anti-Vietnam War activities by the U.S. government. She
was a founding resident of Rochdale College, an experiment in
student-run education and cooperative living, very much part of the
zeitgeist of the era. At Rochdale, she was the "Resource Person on
Writing and Publishing" with her extensive personal collection of
books and unpublished manuscripts.
In 1970 she began an endowment at the
Toronto Public Library for the
collection of all science fiction published in the English language.
She donated all of the books and magazines in her possession to the
library, which established the "Spaced Out Library" (her term) with
Merril in a non-administrative role as curator. The library has had
its own physical space from the onset. During her last decade it was
renamed the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and
Fantasy. She received a small annual stipend as curator and, when
short of money, she lived in her office at the library, sleeping on a
From 1978 to 1981 Merril introduced Canadian broadcasts of Doctor Who.
As the "Undoctor", Merril presented short (3-7 minute) philosophical
commentaries on the show's themes.
Merril was an active organizer and promoter of science fiction in
Canada. For example, she founded the Hydra North network of
writers. In 1985 she launched and edited the first Tesseract an
occasional anthology of Canadian science fiction from Press Porcépic
(Toronto) that helped to define a particularly Canadian version of the
In the early 1980s, Merril donated to the National Archives of Canada
her voluminous collection of correspondence, unpublished manuscripts,
and Japanese science-fiction material – eventually the Judith Merril
Merril became a Canadian citizen in 1976 and became active in its
Writers' Union. When the Union debated at its annual meeting whether
people could write about other genders and ethnic groups, she
exclaimed "Who will speak for the aliens?", which closed the
From the mid-1970s until her death, Merril spent much time in the
Canadian peace movement, including traveling to Ottawa dressed as a
witch in order to hex Parliament for allowing American cruise missile
testing over Canada.
She also remained active in the SF world as a commentator and mentor.
Her lifetime of work was honoured by the International Authors
Festival at the Harbourfront Centre, Toronto. She spent much time
working on her memoirs.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA renamed) made
Author Emeritus for 1997 and the Science Fiction and
Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted her in 2013.
In contemplation of her death, she left a sizable sum of money to hold
a celebratory/memorial party at the Bamboo Club in Toronto. An
organized editor to the end, she prepared detailed lists of who should
call whom when she finally died.
Human? (Chicago: Lion Books, 1954), anthology
SF: The Year's Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy (1956)
SF '57: The Year's Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy (1957)
SF '58: The Year's Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy (1958)
SF '59: The Year's Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy (1959)
The 5th Annual of the Year's Best S-F (1960)
The 6th Annual of the Year's Best S-F (1961)
The 7th Annual of the Year's Best S-F (1962)
The 8th Annual of the Year's Best S-F (1963)
The 9th Annual of the Year's Best S-F (1964)
The 10th Annual of the Year's Best S-F (1965)
The 11th Annual of the Year's Best S-F (1966)
England Swings SF (Doubleday, 1968)
Tesseracts, (Toronto: Press Porcépic, 1985) – volume 1 in the
series Tesseracts: Canadian Science Fiction
"That Only a Mother", Astounding (June 1948); anthologized in The
Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One (1970), Women of Wonder
Space Mail (1980)
Shadow on the Hearth
Shadow on the Hearth (1950)
Outpost Mars (Abelard Press, 1952), as by Cyril Judd (C. M. Kornbluth
and Merril) – from the 1951 serial Mars Child[a] – later title,
Sin in Space LCCN 52-10246
Gunner Cade (Simon & Schuster, 1952), Cyril Judd
"Survival Ship", Worlds Beyond (January 1951); anthologized in
Tomorrow, the Stars (1952)
Out of Bounds: Seven Stories (Pyramid Books, 1960)
The Tomorrow People (Pyramid, 1960)
"The Deep Down Dragon"
Galaxy Science Fiction
Galaxy Science Fiction (August 1961)
Worlds of Tomorrow (magazine)
Worlds of Tomorrow (magazine) (October 1963);
Space Mail (1980)
Daughters of Earth: Three Novels (1968); later issued with subtitle
Three Short Novels and with title Daughters of Earth and Other
Survival Ship and Other Stories (1973)
The Best of
Judith Merril (1976), stories
Homecalling and Other Stories: The Complete Solo Short SF of Judith
Merril (NESFA, 2005), edited and introduced by Elisabeth Carey,
including "Judith Merrill's Legacy" by Emily Pohl-Weary
Shadow on the Hearth
Shadow on the Hearth and both Cyril Judd novels were reissued in an
omnibus edition, Spaced Out: Three Novels of Tomorrow, ed. Elisabeth
Carey (NESFA, 2008)
Merril wrote the "Books" column of the monthly Magazine of Fantasy and
Science Fiction, March 1965 to February 1969.
^ "A version of this story" Outpost Mars was published as Mars Child
in three parts, Galaxy, May to July 1951.
Gunner Cade was first
published in three parts, Astounding, March to May 1952.
^ Jonas, Gerald (September 17, 1997). "Judith Merril, 74, Science
Fiction Editor and Writer". The New York Times.
^ a b c d e f g Merril, Judith;
Emily Pohl-Weary (2002). Better to
Have Loved: the life of Judith Merril. Toronto: Between the Lines
Books. ISBN 1-896357-57-1.
^ Merril, Judith (1976). The Best of Judith Merril. New York: Warner
Books. ISBN 0-446-86058-1. Page 7.
^ Weiss, Alan (April 1997). "Not Only A Mother: An Interview with
Judith Merril". Sol Rising. Friends of the Merril Collection. Archived
from the original on 2008-09-07. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
^ Webster, Bud (February 2010). "Merrily We Roll Along or, That's
Funny, You Don't Look Judith". Jim Baen's Universe. Galactic Central
(philsp.com), reprint. Retrieved 2013-04-21.
^ "Bibliography: Science*Fiction – 1946". ISFDB. Retrieved
^ Cummins, Elizabeth (1992). "Short Fiction by Judith Merril".
Extrapolation. 33 (3): 202–14.
^ Cummins, Elizabeth (1999). "American SF, 1940s–1950s: Where's the
Book? The New York Nexus". Extrapolation. 40 (4): 214–19.
^ "Galaxy's Five Star Shelf", Galaxy Science Fiction, October 1950, p.
^ "Recommended Reading", F&SF, December 1950, p. 104.
^ "Book Reviews", Astounding Science Fiction. March 1951, p. 145.
^ "Recommended Reading", F&SF, September 1954, p. 93.
^ a b c d e f "
Judith Merril – Summary Bibliography". Internet
Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2014-07-24. Select a title to
see its linked publication history and general information. Select a
particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a
front cover image or linked contents.
^ Latham, Rob (2005). "The New Wave". In David Seed. A Companion to
Science Fiction. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. 202–16. See
especially pp. 203–04.
^ pp. 102–103 Jamison, R J Grayson Hall: A Hard Act to Follow
iUniverse, 7 Aug 2006
^ Among the 72 who agreed that "the United States must remain in
Vietnam" were Poul Anderson, Leigh Brackett, Marion Zimmer Bradley,
Fredric Brown, John W. Campbell, Hal Clement, L. Sprague de Camp,
Robert Heinlein, R. A. Lafferty, P. Schuyler Miller, Larry Niven,
Jerry Pournelle, Fred Saberhagen, G. Harry Stine, and Jack Vance.
Among the 82 who said they "oppose the participation of the United
States in the war" were Forrest J. Ackerman, Isaac Asimov, James
Blish, Anthony Boucher, Ray Bradbury, Samuel R. Delany, Lester del
Rey, Philip K. Dick, Thomas M. Disch, Harlan Ellison, Philip Jose
Farmer, Harry Harrison, Damon Knight, Ursula K. LeGuin, Fritz Leiber,
Barry Malzberg, Judith Merril, Gene Roddenberry, Robert Silverberg,
Norman Spinrad, and Donald A. Wollheim.
Frederik Pohl discussed the
ads in an editorial following them, and announced a contest offering
the cost of the ads as prizes to the five readers with the best ideas
for what the US should do in the war. "Paid Advertisement". Galaxy
Science Fiction. June 1968. pp. 4–11.
^ McCann, Joane (2006). The Love Token of a Token Immigrant: Judith
Merril's Expatriate Narrative, 1968–1972. Vancouver: University of
^ Conroy, Ed (September 3, 2012). "That time when
Doctor Who educated
^ Sawyer, Robert J. (1992). "
Ontario Hydra". SFWriter.com. Retrieved
^ Newell, Dianne; Jenea Tallentire (Winter 2007). "For the Extended
Family and the Universe:
Judith Merril and Science Fiction
Autobiography". Biography. 30 (1): 1–27.
^ Newell, Dianne; Jenea Tallentire (2005). "Co-Writing a Life in
Judith Merril as a Theorist of Autobiography".
Further Perspectives on the Canadian Fantastic: Proceedings of the
2003 Conference on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy. Toronto:
^ Robinson, Spider (2002-05-18). "The Godmother of Canadian SF".
Toronto Globe and Mail. pp. D7, D19.
^ "Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame: EMP welcomes five major
players" Archived 2013-08-18 at the Wayback Machine.
"Judith Merril". EMP Museum (empmuseum.org). Retrieved
^ "Judith Merril". Science Fiction Awards Database (sfadb.com). Mark
R. Kelly and the Locus Science Fiction Foundation. Retrieved
What If? A Film about Judith Merril. full-length documentary.
Writer/director: Helene Klodawsky. Producer: Imageries, Montreal.
First shown on Canadian Space Channel, February 1999.
Knight, Damon (1967). In Search of Wonder. Chicago: Advent.
Ontario Dr. Who
Judith Merril 1978 – audio-video, with Merril
extro to a Dr Who episode
Judith Merril 1978 – AV, with Merril extro to an
Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy at
Toronto Public Library
Judithmerril.com, evidently by the Merril Estate and its literary
Judith Merril: An Appreciation by Robert J. Sawyer
Judith Merril at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
Judith Merril at
Library of Congress
Library of Congress Authorities, with 14 catalogue
records (under 'Merril, Judith, 1923–', previous page of browse
Cyril Judd[permanent dead link] at LC Authorities with 3 records
(joint writing by C.M. Kornbluth and Merril)
Judith Merril at Project Gutenberg
Works by or about
Judith Merril at Internet Archive
ISNI: 0000 0001 1476 1351
BNF: cb12625248n (data)