James White (author)

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James White (7 April 1928 - 23 August 1999) was a Northern Irish author of science fiction novellas, short stories and novels. He was born in Belfast and returned there after spending his early years in Canada. After a few years in the clothing industry, he worked at Short Brothers Ltd. from 1965 until taking early retirement in 1984 as a result of diabetes. White married Margaret Sarah Martin, another science fiction fan, in 1955 and the couple had three children.

He became a fan of the genre in 1941 and co-wrote two fanzines, from 1948 to 1953 and 1952 to 1965. Encouraged by other fans, White began publishing short stories in 1953, and his first novel appeared in 1957. His best-known novels were the twelve in the Sector General series, the first appeared in 1962 and the last after his death of a stroke. White also published nine other novels, two of which were nominated by major awards, unsuccessfully.

White abhorred violence, and medical and other emergencies were the sources of dramatic tension in his stories. He was regarded as a second-rank writer, who occasionally produced first-rank works, and his plots and writing were often formulaic. However, the "Sector General" series is regarded as defining the genre of medical science fiction, and as introducing "the most memorable crew of aliens ever created". Although narrowly missing winning four times in the most prestigious honours, White gained other awards for specific works and for contributions to science fiction. He was also was Guest-of-Honour at many conventions.



James White was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 7 April 1928, and spent part of his early life in Canada.[1] He was educated in Belfast at St. John's Primary School (1935 – 1941) and St. Joseph's Technical Secondary School (1942 – 1943).[2] As a teenager he lived with foster parents.[3] He wanted to study medicine but financial circumstances prevented this. Between 1943 and 1965 he worked for several Belfast tailoring firms and then as assistant manager of a Co-op department store. He married Margaret ("Peggy") Sarah Martin, another science fiction fan,[4] in 1955 and the couple had three children: daughter Patricia, and sons Martin and Peter. White later worked for the aeroplane builders Short Brothers Ltd. as a technical clerk (1965 – 1966), publicity assistant (1966 – 1968), and publicity officer (1968 – 1984).[2][5]

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