Birthday Reviews: Jack Williamson’s “The Cold Green Eye”

Birthday Reviews: Jack Williamson’s “The Cold Green Eye”

Fantastic March April 1953

Cover by Richard Powers

Jack Williamson was born on April 29, 1908 and died on November 11, 2006.

Williamson famously traveled from Arizona to New Mexico in a covered wagon when he was 7 years old. He went on to publish science fiction, beginning when he was twenty. Over the years, he frequently collaborated with Frederik Pohl and occasionally with James Gunn, Edmond Hamilton, and Miles Breuer.

Williamson received the Hugo Award for his autobiography Wonder’s Child: My Life in Science Fiction. He won a second Hugo, as well as his only Nebula Award, for his story “The Ultimate Earth.” His novel Terraforming Earth received the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

Williamson is also the recipient of numerous lifetime achievement awards. He has received them from the Writers and Illustrators of the Future, the Pilgrim Award, the Forry Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the World Fantasy Award. He received the Skylark Award from Boskone and the Robert A. Heinlein Award from the Heinlein Society. In 1968, he was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame and into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1996. In 1976, he was named the second SFWA Grand Master. Worldcon recognized him with the Big Heart Award in 1994.

“The Cold Green Eye” was originally published in the March/April 1953 issue of Fantastic, edited by Howard Browne. It was reprinted by Mary Kornbluth in Science Fiction Showcase and in the May 1967 issue of Fantastic under the tenure of Joseph Ross. It saw a third magazine appearance in March 1981 in Amazing Stories, edited by Elinor Mavor. Williamson included the story in his collections The Pandora Effect and The Best of Jack Williamson. In the Collected Stories of Jack Williamson, published by Haffner Press, it appears in volume VII: With Folded Hands… And Searching Mind. The story has been translated into German three times, as well as into Italian and French.

“The Cold Green Eye” tells the story of Tommy, a boy born in the Himalayas to American parents. After his parents died, custody is granted to his Aunt Agatha in Kansas and he is taken from the monks who have been raising him. Tommy and Aunt Agatha immediately have a battle over culture shock, presented by Williamson as a clash between the Christian religion practiced by Aunt Agatha and the Eastern beliefs in Tommy’s mind. Although Christianity comes out for the worse in the depiction, Williamson is focusing more on the close-minded bigotry that Aunt Agatha has. Tommy seems to be more accepting, and ecumenical than Aunt Agatha, but in reality, he is as uncompromising as she is, except that Williamson is telling the story from his point of view.

Reprint reviewed in the collection With Folded Hands… And Searcing Mind, by Jack Williamson, edited by Stephen Haffner, Haffner Press, 2010.


Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a sixteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Doing Busines at Hodputt’s Emporium” in Galaxy’s Edge. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 5 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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Rich Horton

I have that issue of Fantastic! The B. Traven story (author of THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE) is pretty good.

Nick Ozment

Them giant bugs ate all that woman’s clothes off!

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