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Philip Wylie

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Title: Philip Wylie  
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Subject: Gladiator (novel), List of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, When Worlds Collide, King of the Jungle (1933 film), L.A. 2017
Collection: 1902 Births, 1971 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Dramatists and Playwrights, 20Th-Century American Novelists, American Essayists, American Male Dramatists and Playwrights, American Male Novelists, American Male Screenwriters, American Male Short Story Writers, American Non-Fiction Writers, American Presbyterians, American Science Fiction Writers, American Screenwriters, American Short Story Writers, Male Essayists, Princeton University Alumni, Writers from Florida, Writers from Massachusetts
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Philip Wylie

Philip Wylie
Born Philip Gordon Wylie
(1902-04-12)April 12, 1902
Beverly, Massachusetts
Died October 25, 1971(1971-10-25) (aged 69)
Miami, Florida
Occupation Author, short story writer, screenwriter
Nationality American
Genre science fiction
Notable works When Worlds Collide,
A Generation of Vipers
Spouse Sally Ondek,
Frederica Ballard

Philip Gordon Wylie (May 12, 1902 – October 25, 1971) was a prolific American author of works ranging from pulp science fiction, mysteries, social diatribes and satire, to ecology and the threat of nuclear holocaust.


  • Early life and career 1
  • Personal life 2
  • Death 3
  • Bibliography 4
    • Novels 4.1
    • Short stories 4.2
      • "Crunch and Des" collections 4.2.1
    • Non-fiction 4.3
    • 4.4 Essays/Articles
  • Films 5
  • TV series 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life and career

Born in Beverly, Massachusetts, Wylie was the son of Presbyterian minister Edmund Melville Wylie and the former Edna Edwards, a novelist, who died when Philip was five years old. His family moved to Montclair, New Jersey, and he later attended Princeton University from 1920–1923.

A writer of fiction and nonfiction, his output included hundreds of articles, novels, serials, short stories, syndicated newspaper columns, and works of social criticism. He also wrote screenplays while in Hollywood, was an editor for Farrar & Rinehart, served on the Dade County, Florida Defense Council, was a director of the Lerner Marine Laboratory, and at one time was an adviser to the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee for Atomic Energy which led to the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission.[1] Most of his major writings contain critical, though often philosophical, views on man and society as a result of his studies and interests in biology, ethnology, physics, and psychology.

At least nine movies were made from novels or stories by Wylie. He sold the rights for two others that were never produced.

His wide range of interests defies easy classification, but his earliest work exercised great influence in twentieth-century science fiction pulp magazines and comic books:

  • Gladiator (1930) partially inspired the comic-book character Superman.
  • The Savage Gentleman (1932) may have had some inspiration on the pulp-fiction character Doc Savage.
  • George Pal.

He applied engineering principles and the scientific method quite broadly in his work. His novel The Disappearance (1951) is about what happens when everyone wakes up one day and finds that all members of the opposite sex are missing (all the men have to get along without women, and vice versa). The book delves into the double standards between men and women that existed prior the woman's movement of the 1970s, exploring the nature of the relationship between men and women and the issues of women's rights and homosexuality. Many people at the time considered it as relevant to science fiction as his Experiment in Crime.

During World War II, writing The Paradise Crater (1945) resulted in his house arrest by the federal government; in it, he described a post-WWII 1965 Nazi conspiracy to develop and use uranium-237 bombs,[2] months before the first successful atomic test at Alamagordo – the most highly classified secret of the war.[3] His nonfiction book of essays, Generation of Vipers (1942), was a best-seller during the 1940s and inspired the term "Momism". Some people have accused Generation of Vipers of being misogynistic. The Disappearance shows his thinking on the subject is very complex. (His only child, Karen Wylie Pryor, is the author of a classic book for breastfeeding mothers, Nursing Your Baby, and has commented that her father was far from being a misogynist.) His novel of manners, Finnley Wren, was also highly regarded in its time.

He wrote 69 "Crunch and Des" stories, most of which appeared in the Saturday Evening Post,[4] about the adventures of Captain Crunch Adams, master of the charter boat Poseidon, which was the basis of a brief television series.[5] His "Crunch and Des" stories were an apparent influence on John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee books. In 1941, Wylie became Vice-President of the International Game Fish Association, and for many years he was responsible for writing IGFA rules and reviewing world record claims.[6]

He was also active in writing detective and mystery novelettes for a variety of magazines. Five of them were collected in 2010 as Ten Thousand Blunt Instruments and Other Mysteries, published by Crippen & Landru in its "Lost Classics" series and edited by Bill Pronzini.

An article Wylie wrote in 1951 in The Saturday Evening Post entitled "Anyone Can Raise Orchids" led to the popularization of this hobby—not just the rich, but gardeners of every economic level began experimenting with orchids.[7]

Wylie's final works dealt with the potentially catastrophic effects of pollution and climate change. Notably, Wylie wrote "L.A. 2017", a 1971 episode of the television series The Name of the Game. The series was normally a contemporary drama; however, in this unique science fiction episode, the lead character awakens in a science-fiction dystopia, centred on a psychiatric/fascist government overseeing the underground-sheltered remnants of humanity, the aftermath of an environmental (pollution) catastrophe. The 90-minute episode was directed by Steven Spielberg, and featured Gene Barry, Barry Sullivan, Edmond O'Brien, Severn Darden and Sharon Farrell. Wylie wrote a near-simultaneous novelization of the story as Los Angeles: A.D. 2017.

Wylie's final novel, The End of the Dream, was published posthumously in 1972 and foresees a dark future where America slides into ecological catastrophe.

Philip Wylie, and now the Philip Wylie estate, is represented by Harold Ober Associates.[8]

Personal life

Wylie married Sally Ondek, and had one child, Karen. After divorcing his first wife, he married Frederica Ballard, who was born and raised in Rushford, New York; they are both buried in Rushford.[9]

Wylie's daughter, Karen, is an author who became the inventor of animal "clicker" training; she was the wife of Taylor Alderdyce Pryor, a Marine helicopter pilot who became a Hawaii state senator and a co-founder of Sea Life Park and Oceanic Institute in Hawaii, of which his wife served as director. She later married Jon Lindbergh, Charles Lindbergh's son.[10]


Wylie died from a heart attack on October 25, 1971 in Miami.[11] Some of his papers, writings, and other possessions are in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Princeton University Library.



  • Heavy Laden (1928)
  • Babes and Sucklings (1929)
  • Gladiator (1930)
  • The Murderer Invisible (1931)
  • Footprint of Cinderella (1931)
  • The Savage Gentleman (1932)
  • When Worlds Collide (1933) (with Edwin Balmer) – Earth is destroyed in a collision with the rogue planet Bronson Alpha, with about a year of warning enabling a small group of survivors to build a spacecraft and escape to the rogue planet's moon, Bronson Beta. Filmed, with major changes to the story, as When Worlds Collide (1951).
  • After Worlds Collide (1934) (with Edwin Balmer) – Continues the story of When Worlds Collide, with both exploration of Bronson Beta and conflict with other groups of survivors.
  • The Golden Hoard (1934)
  • Finnley Wren (1934)
  • Too Much of Everything (1936)
  • An April Afternoon (1938)[12][13]
  • The Other Horseman (1942)
  • Night Unto Night (1944), filmed in 1949, starring Ronald Reagan
  • Opus 21 (1949)
  • The Disappearance (1951) – An unexplained cosmic "blink" splits humanity along gender lines into two divergent timelines: from the men's perspective, all the women disappear and from the women's, all men vanish. The novel explores issues of gender role and sexual identity. It depicts an empowered condition for liberated women and a dystopia of an all male world. Wylie's setting allows him to investigate the role of homosexuality in situations where no gender alternative exists.
  • The Smuggled Atom Bomb (1951)
  • Three to be Read (1951). Three suspense novellas from The Saturday Evening Post
  • Tomorrow! (1954) – Nuclear war story centering around the atomic bombing of two fictional Midwest cities adjacent to each other in the mid-1950s; one has an effective Civil Defense program, the other does not.
  • The Innocent Ambassadors (1957)
  • They Both Were Naked (1963)
  • Triumph (1963) – Nuclear war story involving a worst-case USA/USSR "spasm war" where both sides empty their arsenals into each other with extensive use of "dirty" bombs to maximize casualties, resulting in the main characters (in a very deep bomb shelter) being the only survivors in the entire Northern Hemisphere. An excerpt from this novel (or perhaps the whole thing) was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post magazine.
  • The Spy Who Spoke Porpoise (1969) – the President of the United States learns that there is a category of CIA files, code named Zed, to which he is not allowed access.
  • Los Angeles: A.D. 2017 (1971) - A novelization of Wylie's "L.A. 2017", a 1971 episode of the television series The Name of the Game.
  • The End of the Dream (1972)

Short stories

  • "Seeing New York by Kiddie Car" (1926)
  • "Jungle Journey" (1945)
  • "The Paradise Crater" (1945)
  • "Blunder" (1946)
  • "An Epistle to the Thessalonians" (1950)
  • "Philadelphia Phase" (1951)
  • "The Answer: A Fable for Our Times" (1955)
  • Ten Thousand Blunt Instruments and Other Mysteries (2010)

"Crunch and Des" collections

  • The Big Ones Get Away (1940)
  • Salt Water Daffy (1941)
  • Fish and Tin Fish (1944)
  • Selected Short Stories of Philip Wylie (1945)
  • Crunch & Des: Stories of Florida Fishing (1948)
  • The Best of Crunch & Des (1954)
  • Treasure Cruise and other Stories (1956)
  • Crunch & Des: Classic Stories about Saltwater Fishing (1990)


  • A Generation of Vipers (1942)
  • An Essay on Morals (1947)
  • Denizens Of The Deep (1953)
  • The Answer (1955)
  • The Magic Animal (1968)
  • Sons and Daughters of Mom (1971)


The following is a partial list:

  • "Why Colleges Fail Students" Saturday Evening Post (December 13, 1930)
  • "The Quitter as Hero" Harper's Magazine (Oct. 1933)
  • "Writing for the Movies" Harper's Magazine (Nov. 1933)
  • "The Illiteracy of Educators" Saturday Review of Literature (June 3, 1944)
  • "Sex and the Censor" Nation (July 8, 1944)
  • "War and Peace in Miami" New Republic (1944)
  • "Memorandum on Anti-Semitism" American Mercury (Jan. 1945)
  • "How To Admire Writers" Atlantic (1950)
  • "We Are Making a Circus of Death" Coronet (September 1959)
  • "Medievalism and the MacArthurian Legend" Quarterly Journal of Speech (1951)
  • "Panic, Psychology, and the Bomb" Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Feb. 1954)
  • "The Mysterious Doctors of Bimini" Saturday Evening Post (1954)
  • "The Crime of Mickey Spillane" Good Housekeeping (1955)
  • "Predictions: 2001 A.D." (1956)
  • "The Career Woman" Playboy (January 1963)
  • "UFOs: The Sense and Nonsense" Popular Science (March 1967)
  • "McNamara's Missile Defense: A Multi-Billion Dollar Fiasco?" Popular Science (Jan. 1968)
  • "Who Killed Mankind?" Today's Health (Oct. 1970)


TV series

  • Crunch and Des was adapted for a syndicated TV series (37 episodes, 1955–1956) starring Forrest Tucker and Sandy Kenyon and filmed in Bermuda.[14]
  • "L.A. 2017", a 1971 episode of the television series The Name of the Game. A science-fiction dystopia, based around a psychiatric/fascist government in the underground-sheltered remnants of humanity, the aftermath of an environmental (pollution) catastrophe. Wylie wrote the novelization as Los Angeles: A.D. 2017.


  1. ^ Keefer. Page 109.
  2. ^ Urbanski 2007. p. 29
  3. ^ Franklin 2008. p. 147.
  4. ^ Wylie. Page viii.
  5. ^ Keefer. Page 94.
  6. ^ IGFA Hall of Fame
  7. ^ Orlean. Page 140.
  8. ^ "Authors". Retrieved October 31, 2014. 
  9. ^ USGenNet
  10. ^ "Gale T. Pryor Is Wed to Karl D. Leabo". The New York Times. July 15, 1985. 
  11. ^ "Author Philip Wylie Dies". Observer-Reporter newspaper. October 25, 1971. 
  12. ^ OCLC 6505489
  13. ^ For commentary on this book, see:  
  14. ^ (1955–) TV Series - 30 min"Crunch and Des". IMDb. 
  • Barshay, Robert Howard. Philip Wylie; The Man and His Work. Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1979.
  • Bendau, Clifford P. Still Worlds Collide: Philip Wylie and the End of the American Dream. San Bernardino: The Borgo Press, 1980. Volume 30 in The Milford Series "Popular Writers of Today", 63 pages. ISSN 0163-2469
  • Breit, Harvey "Talk with Philip Wylie" New York Times Book Review (July 3, 1959)
  • Franklin, H. Bruce (2008). War Stars: The Superweapon and the American Imagination. Univ. of Mass. Press.  
  • Keefer, Truman F. Philip Wylie. Boston: Twain Publishers, 1978.
  • Lupoff, Richard A. "In Search of The Savage: An Introduction"
  • Orlean, Susan. The Orchid Thief. New York: Random House, 1998.
  • Urbanski, Heather (2007). Plagues, Apocalypses and Bug-Eyed Monsters: How Speculative Fiction Shows Us Our Nightmares. McFarland & Co.  
  • "First Burying Ground Cemetery Town of Rushford, Allegany County, NY". USGenNet. Retrieved June 30, 2012. 
  • Wylie, Philip. Crunch & Des: Classic Stories of Saltwater Fishing. New York: Lyons & Burford, 1990.

External links

  • Extensive bibliography
  • Philip Wylie at the Internet Movie Database
  • Philip Wylie at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  • Fantastic Fiction's bibliography of his works
  • Essay on Wylie's writing, by Charlie Courtney
  • Works by Philip Wylie at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Philip Wylie at Internet Archive
  • Works by Philip Wylie at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • "Common Women", excerpt from Generation of Vipers (1942, 1955)
  • Philip Wylie Papers at the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections Princeton University Library
  • Philip Wylie, from Gary Westfahl's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Film
  • Biography, from Allmovie
  • Generation of VipersCritical Article on
  • Philip Wylie interviewed by Mike Wallace 5/12/57
  • Gladiator (1930) by Philip Wylie at the Internet Archive
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