Inventor of modern science fiction Alfred Bester
Alfred Bester, an American science fiction writer who managed to try himself in dozens of different projects on television, radio, in magazines and comics. In the early 50s, Bester published his main novels, which brought him wide fame and recognition among science fiction lovers.
Briefly about the writer
Alfred Bester was born December 18, 1913, died September 30, 1987 – an American science fiction writer, scriptwriter for television and radio shows, magazine editor and comic book writer. But, despite the wide front of his activity, he was best known precisely as a science fiction writer who received the very first ever Hugo Prize in 1953 for the novel “A Man Without a Face”.
The great Harry Harrison wrote: “Alfred Bester was one of the few writers who invented modern science fiction.”
In the series “Babylon 5” there is a character named after the writer – psi-surveillance agent Alfred Bester. Moreover, the serial concept of telepathy is generally similar to that described by Bester himself.
Also in the series Firefly, among many references to eminent science fiction writers, there is Alfred – one of the mechanics of the Serenity ship was named in his honor.
Alfred Bester was born December 18, 1913, died September 30, 1987 – an American science fiction writer, scriptwriter for television and radio shows, magazine editor and comic book writer.
Childhood and youth
Alfred Bester was born in New York, December 18, 1913, on the island of Manhattan. His father, James J. Bester, owned a shoe store and was a first-generation American whose parents were Austrians. Alfred’s mother, Belle (née Silverman), was born in Russia and spoke Yiddish before emigrating to America. Alfred was the second child in the family (his older sister Rita was born in 1908). Alfred himself recalled that an atmosphere free of any religious dogma and teachings reigned in their house.
Bester studied at the University of Pennsylvania, studied the exact and humanities, including psychology. Then he attended Columbia Law School, but left it in favor of a literary career. He married Rolly Gulko in 1936, who became a successful actress on Broadway, as well as in film and television.
Creative activity and the path to fame
Bester had a very eventful career in which many stages can be distinguished. We will try to focus on the most important thing.
After graduating from university, Alfred, 25, worked for some time in the public relations department before turning to science fiction.
The first published work was the story “Broken Axiom”, published in April 1939 in the journal Thrilling Wonder Stories. In order to get the publication, one had to win a competition in which he almost participated, at that time unknown to anyone, Robert Heinlein. However, Heinlein considered that the $ 50 prize was not worth it, and sold his story to Astounding Science Fiction for $ 70. According to Alfred, when years later he interviewed Heinlein (at that time both were already respected writers), the latter recalled the incident. Bester jokingly answered him:
You son of a bitch. I won that contest, but you still cost me twenty dollars.
However, winning the competition allowed Bester to meet the same young science fiction writers: Henry Kuttner, Edmond Hamilton, Otto Binder, Malcolm Jameson and Manny Wade Wellman. Over the next two years, three more Bester stories were published in Thrilling Wonder Stories and Stling Stories.
In the early forties, comic books experienced a heyday. Then the most popular characters appeared – Batman, Superman, Flash and others. Many science fiction writers had a hand in writing comics anyway, and Bester was no exception. In 1942, Alfred got a job at DC (Detective Comics), first writing comic book stories about Superman and the Green Lantern, and then other characters.
Bester is considered the creator of the supervillain Solomon Grandi, one of Batman’s enemies, and the famous Green Lantern oath, which sounds like this:
In the darkness of the night, in the light of day
Evil cannot hide from me.
Those evil thoughts reign in whom
Fear the Lantern Light!
However, in an interview in 1979 at the World Fantastic Conventions in Brighton, England, Bester stated that the oath “On a Bright Day” had already been written before he had a hand in the series.
Then there was work on the radio, where he was brought by his wife Rolly, where he wrote scripts for radio shows such as Shadow, Charlie Chan, Niro Wolfe and others. In 1948, Bester turned to television, but most of these projects are now forgotten.
In 1950, after an eight-year hiatus, Bester returned to science fiction. However, Alfred was forced to stop collaborating with Astounding Science Fiction, as his editor became interested in the Hubbard work that we wrote about earlier. Finally, he joined the previously mentioned Hydra Club.