James Blish

Easton Press James Blish books

Case of Conscience - Masterpieces of Science Fiction - 1989
The Devil's Day - Masterpieces of Fantasy - 1996


Author James Blish

James Benjamin Blish, born on May 23, 1921, in East Orange, New Jersey, was an American science fiction writer, critic, and literary scholar. His life and career were marked by a profound engagement with speculative fiction, both as a creator and a commentator. Blish's contributions to the genre have left a lasting impact on the world of science fiction literature. Blish's early passion for science fiction led him to become involved in fandom and fanzine writing during his teenage years. His voracious appetite for knowledge and diverse interests extended beyond science fiction to include topics such as linguistics and medieval studies. During World War II, Blish served in the U.S. Army and participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy. His military experience, coupled with his intellectual pursuits, would later influence the thematic depth of his science fiction works.

Blish's writing career began with short stories published in pulp magazines, and he quickly gained recognition for his imaginative narratives and thought-provoking ideas. His first novel, Jack of Eagles (1952), showcased his storytelling abilities, laying the foundation for a prolific career. One of Blish's most notable contributions to science fiction is the Cities in Flight series, which consists of They Shall Have Stars (1956), A Life for the Stars (1962), Earthman, Come Home (1955), and The Triumph of Time (1958). This tetralogy explored themes of space exploration, social dynamics, and the endurance of human civilization.

Black Easter by James Blish

Black Easter was first published in 1968. The novel is also known by its alternate title, Faust Aleph-Null. Black Easter is the first part of a two-book series, with the second book titled The Day After Judgment. The story revolves around a wealthy industrialist named Baines, who hires a black magician named Theron Ware to perform a series of dark rituals to unleash all the demons from Hell on Earth for one night. The purpose of this experiment is to test the effectiveness of modern weaponry against supernatural forces. As a consequence, chaos ensues, and the world is thrown into a maelstrom of demonic activity. The novel explores themes of the supernatural, morality, and the consequences of tampering with forces beyond human comprehension. Blish combines elements of fantasy, horror, and science fiction in a unique and thought-provoking way. If you enjoy speculative fiction that delves into the intersection of the supernatural and the modern world, "Black Easter" might be an intriguing read for you.

Surface Tension by James Blish

Surface Tension is a science fiction short story written by James Blish. It was first published in 1952 and later included in Blish's short story collection of the same name. The collection was published in 1962. The story is set on a distant water-rich planet where microscopic life forms have evolved to live in the air. These microorganisms have developed a kind of communal intelligence and have created miniature ecosystems resembling Earth. The main characters in the story are human explorers who have crash-landed on this planet. To survive, they must adapt to the tiny world of the microorganisms.

One of the central ideas in Surface Tension is the concept of scale and how life can adapt to different environments. The story explores the challenges faced by the human survivors as they navigate and interact with the microscopic world around them. Blish's Surface Tension is often praised for its imaginative take on biology, ecology, and the possibilities of life on other planets. It's a classic example of science fiction exploring the consequences of alien environments on human life and the adaptability of life forms in extreme conditions.

Blish was also known for his critical essays on science fiction, contributing insightful analyses to the understanding of the genre. His non-fiction work, The Issue at Hand (1964), remains influential in the field of science fiction criticism. In addition to his novels and criticism, Blish achieved success as an adapter of other authors' works into novel form. Notably, he adapted episodes of the science fiction television series Star Trek into a series of novelizations. James Blish's versatility as a writer extended beyond the boundaries of traditional science fiction. He experimented with different styles and themes, showcasing his ability to engage with complex ideas and narratives.

Blish's legacy is further enriched by his collaborations with other science fiction luminaries and his impact on the broader literary discussion of the genre. James Blish passed away on July 30, 1975, leaving behind a body of work that continues to be appreciated for its intellectual depth and imaginative exploration of speculative ideas. His contributions to science fiction, both as a creative force and a critical mind, have secured his place among the influential figures in the genre's history.


Case of Conscience - After Such Knowledge Book 4

Father Ruiz-Sanchez is a dedicated man, a priest who is also a scientist, and a scientist who is also a human being. He has found no insoluble conflicts in his beliefs or his ethics . . . until he is sent to Lithia. There he comes upon a race of aliens who are admirable in every way except for their total reliance on cold reason; they are incapable of faith or belief.

The reptilian inhabitants of this distant world appear to be admirable in every way. Untroubled by greed or lust, they live in peace. But they have no concept of God, no literature, and no art. They rely purely on cold reason. But something darker lies beneath the surface: Do the Lithians pose a hidden threat? The answers that unfold could affect the fate of two worlds. Will Ruiz-Sanchez, a priest driven by his deeply human understanding of good and evil, do the right thing when confronted by a race that is alien to its core?

The citizens of the planet Lithia are some of the most ethical sentient beings Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez has ever encountered. True, they have no literature, no fine arts, and don't understand the concept of recreation, but neither do they understand the concepts of greed, envy, lust, or any of the sins and vices that plague humankind. Their world seems darned near perfect. And that is just what disturbs the good Father.
First published in 1959, James Blish's Hugo Award-winning A Case of Conscience is science fiction at its very best: a fast-paced, intelligent story that offers plenty of action while at the same time explores complex questions of values and ethics. In this case, Blish has taken on the age-old battle of good vs. evil. Lithia poses a theological question that lies at the heart of this book: is God necessary for a moral society? The Lithians are nothing if not moral. Not only do they lack the seven deadly sins, they also lack original sin. And without any sort of religious framework, they have created the Christian ideal world, one that humans would be eager to study and emulate. But is it too perfect? Is it in fact, as Father Ruiz-Sanchez suspects, the work of The Adversary? And what role does Egtverchi, the young Lithian raised on Earth, play? Is he an innocent victim of circumstance, or will he bring about the Dies Irae, the day of the wrath of God, upon the earth? The fate of two worlds hinges on the answers to these questions, and will lead to an ancient earth heresy that shakes the Jesuit priest's beliefs to their very core.

Confronted with a profound scientific riddle and ethical quandary, Father Ruiz-Sanchez soon finds himself torn between the teachings of his faith, the teachings of his science, and the inner promptings of his humanity. There is only one solution: He must accept an ancient and unforgivable heresy and risk the futures of both worlds . . .

A Case of Conscience is a brilliant piece of storytelling, and it packs a lot into a scant 242 pages. Most readers will probably finish the book in one sitting, unable to stop until the spectacular denouement. But the questions posed by this little-known gem will stay with you for days afterward. - P.M. Atterberry

The Devil's Day - After Such Knowledge Book 2-3

A cloistered monk desperately tries to close the Pandora's box opened by a mischievous weapons dealer who has recruited a powerful black magician to stir up trouble for humanity on the eve of Judgement Day.

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