Today, I’m spotlighting another of my literary influences, William Tenn, aka Philip Klass. Another master of the short-short or flash story (Tenn’s curriculum vitae includes over 60 short stories, but only two novels), Tenn has a keen eye for social satire and has written some very biting and amusing pieces, including one of my favorites, The Liberation of Earth (available in the anthology Immodest Proposals), in which Earth gets caught in the crossfire of a war between two interstellar empires, and becomes a banana republic…and worse.
A 2004 collection of Tenn’s interviews and essays, Dancing Naked, was nominated for the Hugo Award, and he was named Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 1999.
Before writing this post, I wasn’t familiar with much of Tenn’s personal history, other than the fact he was a professor at Penn State University (hence the punny pen name). Turns out he’s the child of European immigrants, and his father was a pacifist activist in England during World War I. Tenn’s family fled to the U.S. to escape persecution and prosecution for his father’s alleged “treasonous” activity, including desertion after being drafted into the British Army.
Tenn served as a combat engineer with the U.S. Army during World War II, with the reluctant blessing of his father, which is the subject of the story, actually an essay by William Tenn, that I’m highlighting this week. It’s called Constantinople, and if you’re not a little misty-eyed by the end of it, you’ve no heart at all.
Okay, that’s a bit harsh. It’s a moving story, and you’ll enjoy it. Go read it.