Katherine MacLean

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Katherine Anne MacLean (born January 22, 1925) is an American science fiction author best known for her short stories of the 1950s which examined the impact of technological advances on individuals and society.

Brian Aldiss noted that she could "do the hard stuff magnificently," while Theodore Sturgeon observed that she "generally starts from a base of hard science, or rationalizes psi phenomena with beautifully finished logic." Her stories have been included in numerous anthologies and a few have had radio and television adaptations.

Born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, MacLean concentrated on mathematics and science in high school. At the time her earliest stories were being published in 1949-50, she received a B.A. in economics from Barnard College (1950), followed by postgraduate studies in psychology at various universities. Her 1951 marriage to Charles Dye ended in divorce a year later. She married David Mason in 1956. Their son, Christopher Dennis Mason, was born in 1957, and they divorced in 1962.

MacLean taught literature at the University of Maine and creative writing at the Free University of Portland. Over decades, she has continued to write while employed in a wide variety of jobs—as book reviewer, economic graphanalyst, editor, EKG technician, food analyst, laboratory technician in penicillin research, nurse's aide, office manager, payroll bookkeeper, photographer, pollster, public relations, publicist and store detective.

It was while she worked as a laboratory technician in 1947 that she began writing science fiction. Strongly influenced by Ludwig von Bertalanffy's General Systems Theory, her fiction has often demonstrated a remarkable foresight in scientific advancements.



MacLean received a Nebula Award in 1971, and she was a Professional Guest of Honor at the first WisCon in 1977. She was honored in 2003 by the Science Fiction Writers of America as an SFWA Author Emeritus.


The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy (Avon, 1962), her first collection of short fiction, includes "The Diploids" (aka "Six Fingers"), "Feedback", "Pictures Don't Lie", "Incommunicado", "The Snow Ball Effect", "Defense Mechanism" and "And Be Merry" (aka "The Pyramid in the Desert").

Her second collection, The Trouble with You Earth People (Donning/Starblaze, 1980) contains "The Trouble with You Earth People", "The Gambling Hell and the Sinful Girl", "Syndrome Johnny", "Trouble with Treaties" (with Tom Condit), "The Origin of the Species", "Collision Orbit", "The Fittest", "These Truths", "Contagion", "Brain Wipe" and her Nebula Award-winning "The Missing Man".

Short stories and novelettes

  • "Defense Mechanism" (1949). This tale of hidden telepathic abilities was Katherine MacLean's first story to see print when it was published in Astounding Science Fiction (October, 1949).

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