Friday, March 13, 1970

Author - Miller Jr., Walter M.

Birth: January 23, 1923.

Death: January 9, 1996.

Comments: Walter M. Miller, Jr. was a science fiction writer best known for his only novel, the Hugo award winning A Canticle for Liebowitz. Miller is something of an enigma, with a life that can be defined as split into two parts: before Canticle, and after Canticle. Educated as an engineer at the University of Tennessee and the University of Texas, Miller served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II as a bomber radioman and tail gunner. Miller was part of the flight wing that famously bombed the monastery at Monte Cassino, an event that seems to have influenced his signature work of fiction.

After the war, Miller converted to Catholicism, got married, and began a successful career as a science fiction author, turning out three dozen published short stories in six years. In 1959, he produced A Canticle for Liebowitz, the only novel he published during his lifetime. Set in a post-apocalyptic world and focused on the struggles of a group of monks to preserve knowledge, Canticle is considered one of the classics of science fiction. But following Canticle, Miller stopped writing and became a recluse. The only new fiction of his published subsequent to Canticle was the novel Saint Liebowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, which was completed by Terry Bisson and published after Miller's death.

Miller seems to have been afflicted with depression. With the cessation of his writing career Miller became a recluse, refusing to even meet with his literary agent in person. According to Norman Spinrad, Miller also drifted away from Catholicism, having become disillusioned with the faith at some point after Canticle. In 1996, shortly after his wife's death, Miller took his own life. How Miller went from the successful author who Isaac Asimov described as having a pleasant lunch at a French restaurant with him and Robert P. Mills in 1956, to a shut in who cut himself off from even some of his own family members is a tragedy. One cannot reason with depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder, but one can curse what they seem to have robbed from men like Miller.

My reviews of Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s books:

Other books by Walter M. Miller, Jr. that I have read but not reviewed:
A Canticle for Liebowitz

Short fiction by Walter M. Miller, Jr. appearing in works that I have reviewed:
The Darfsteller found in The Hugo Winners, Volume 1

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