On this day, in 1996, the body of Walter M. Miller, Jr was discovered, at his home in Florida (according to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction; other sources place the date earlier). He took his own life, shortly after the death of his wife, Anna.
Miller was never prolific, publishing only about three dozen stories – the best of which are collected in Dark Benediction (available as an SF masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook, with a new introduction by none other than Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author Pat Cadigan) – and a single novel in his lifetime (and a sequel published posthumously). But what a novel: the extraordinary post-apocalyptic religious SF epic A Canticle for Leibowitz, winner of the 1961 Hugo Award for best novel.
Available in our SF Masterworks list in hardback, with a stunning new cover by the wonderful Dominic Harman and a typically fascinating introduction from Ken MacLeod, A Canticle for Leibowitz – described by The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction as ‘one of the relatively few attempts in US sf to deal with formal religion, and one of the very few to do so successfully’ – is an acknowledged masterpiece of modern SF.
In the depths of the Utah desert, long after the Flame Deluge has scoured the earth clean, the rediscoveries of science are secretly nourished by cloistered monks dedicated to the study and preservation of knowledge.
By studying the Holy Relics of the past, the Order of St Leibowitz hopes to raise humanity from its fallen state to one of grace.
But is such knowledge the key to salvation? Or the certain sign that we are doomed to repeat our most grievous mistakes…?
You could do much worse than read Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s insightful analysis, which we published last March (with thanks to our friends at SFX magazine). Of course, if you really want to know what everyone’s raving about, you could always read the book itself. We can promise you it’s time well spent.