Sam Youd, better known to the science fiction community as John Christopher, died on 3 February, a couple of months short of his ninetieth birthday. He is best known for his classic post-war apocalyptic novel The Death of Grass (1956) and his children’s series The Tripods (original trilogy 1967-1968, with a prequel published in 1988).
Paul Kincaid writes:
The only time I ever actually met John Christopher was at an event in London a few years ago. I remember he looked old, though nowhere near as old as he actually must have been. But what I noticed most was the way the famous authors in attendance kept turning in his direction, drawn to him like a magnet. He meant something to them; more, I think, than younger generations of sf readers might realise. But it indicates how important he was to the genre. Important in two ways. In the post-war years, he and John Wyndham practically re-invented British science fiction as a distinct and literate form. Perhaps even more important, he wrote that vanishingly rare thing, science fiction for children. The Tripods and their ilk were probably the first taste of science fiction for a whole generation of today’s sf writers. He was, in other words, one of the key architects of sf in Britain today, and if you want to see his monument, look around you.
Christopher Priest’s Guardian obituary can be read here.
When I took over the BSFA London meetings in 2007/2008, one of the first names I wanted to book was John Christopher. Sadly, it was clear even then that the journey into London from Rye wasn’t practical for him.