Born on June 16, 1896, Will F. Jenkins, often writing as Murray Leinster,
was among the most prominent writers of science fiction for nearly fifty years. He began with The Runaway Skyscraper, which appeared in 1919 when he was in his early twenties. He published more than 1,500 short stories, novellas, and novels, writing variously as Will F. Jenkins, Murray Leinster, William F. Jenkins, William Fitzgerald, and even Louisa Carter Lee and Florinda Martel. His output was not only huge, but varied. As well as science fiction, he wrote love stories, murder mysteries, adventure stories, westerns, fantasy, television and film scripts, and mainstream fiction.
Some of his earliest efforts were published in H. L. Mencken and George G. Nathan’s The Smart Set magazine. His first short story, My Neighbor, was printed in the February 1916 issue under the name “William F. Jenkins.” He appeared regularly in the most popular magazines of his time, adapting his writing to new markets as they developed. His stories are in textbooks, in endless anthologies, and in translations all over the world.
Will often said, “I think of something impossible, and then write a story about it.” In this way, he initiated new fictional concepts: “Sidewise in Time,” the first parallel universe story (Astounding Stories, June 1934); First Contact, confronting the implications of the first contact between human and alien spaceships (Astounding Science-Fiction, May 1945); and “Symbiosis,” presenting a novel but effective weapon against biological warfare (Collier’s, June 1947).
He was a frustrated scientist. His father’s job loss when he was 13 ended the possibility of college and the career in chemistry he wanted. He tinkered throughout his life, endlessly inventing and leaving bits of experiments all over the house, to his wife’s frequent dismay. The most successful result of his tinkering was a filming method, front projection, patented in 1955. Throughout his life, however, Will remained sensitive to the fact that his formal education ended in the 8th grade. Articulate and intelligent though he was, he never gave himself full credit for his extensive knowledge of an enormous variety of subjects acquired over the years from voracious reading and conversations with people in all walks of life. Most importantly, he dreamed. He once said to his youngest daughter, “I couldn’t live without my fantasies.” His imagination—and constant study of philosophy, theology, history and science—fueled his writing for all of his life. — Murray Leinster: His Life and Works by Billee J. Stallings and Jo-an J. Evans | McFarland and Company, Inc., 2011
Honors and Awards
Liberty Award in 1937 for "A Very Nice Family"
1956 Hugo Award for Best Novelette for "Exploration Team"
Retro Hugo awarded in 1996 for Best Novelette for "First Contact."
Murray Leinster (Will F. Jenkins) was the Guest of Honor at the 21st Worldcon in 1963.
In 1995, the Sidewise Award for Alternate History was established, which was named after Leinster's story "Sidewise in Time."
The Virginia State Legislature named June 27, 2009 Will F. Jenkins Day in Virginia in recognition of the author's creative genius and his numerous literary achievements. The full text may be found here.