Science Fiction Author Biographies

Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh in 1859. He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, where one of his professors, Joseph Bell, drummed into the young Doyle the importance of using his powers of observation to help him deduce the nature of a patient's illness. It was this attention to detail which was to make him such a good writer.

His third novel, A Study in Scarlet, which was published in 1887, introduced the famous detective Sherlock Holmes to the world, and his Sherlock Holmes novels and stories are still as popular as ever.

But Arthur Conan Doyle did not confine himself to Sherlock Holmes. He wrote several popular works of historic fiction, and a series of books featuring the intrepid Professor Challenger. Although The Lost World is by far the best known, Challenger also features in The Poison Belt, The Land of Mist, When the World Screamed and The Disintegration Machine.

Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley (her unmarried name was Mary Godwin) was born in 1797. Her father was the political philosopher William Godwin, and her mother the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary’s mother died when she was just eleven days old, so she and her half-sister Fanny were raised by her father, who provided his daughters with a rich, though informal, education, encouraging them in his liberal political theories.

In 1814 Mary began a romantic relationship with one of her father’s political followers, the poet Percy Shelley. Shelley was married, but left his wife Harriet to travel through Europe with Mary and her stepsister Claire.

In 1816 Mary and Percy Shelley spent a summer near Geneva in Switzerland, where Mary conceived the idea for Frankenstein. In 1822 Percy Shelley drowned when his sailing boat sank during a storm, and a year later Mary returned to England and devoted herself to the upbringing of their only surviving son and a career as a professional author. For many years her writings were not considered important, mostly because she was a woman. Indeed, many people asserted that Frankenstein must have been written by Percy Shelley as Mary couldn’t possibly have written anything so good.

Bram Stoker

Abraham (he called himself Bram) Stoker was born in Clontarf, Ireland, in 1847, a sickly child who was bedridden for much of his boyhood. He went to university at Trinity College, Dublin, then worked for ten years in the Irish Civil Service. He had always wanted to write, and his first novel, The Primrose Path, appeared in 1890.

Ever since his mother had told him traditional stories of ghosts and the supernatural, Bram had been interested in the widely-believed tradition of vampires. He also admired the ‘gothic’ novels of writers like William Polidori and J.S. Le Fanu. He worked hard on his own ‘modern gothic’ novel, and Dracula appeared in 1897. When the book came out some reviewers were horrified. One wrote of ‘the unnecessary number of hideous incidents which could shock and disgust the reader’, while another advised keeping the novel away from children and nervous adults!

H. G. Wells

The youngest of four children, Herbert Wells (he was usually called Bertie) was born into a hard-working but not very well off family in the south London suburb of Bromley. When he was eighteen he was accepted as a student at London’s best science college, where he learned all about biology and evolution from the famous teacher T H Huxley.

In 1887 he became a science teacher, and published his first book, A Textbook of Biology, in 1893. His fertile imagination was hard at work on some of the most exciting scientific developments of the day, and in 1895 he completed The Time Machine, followed the next year by The Invisible Man.

Meanwhile the scientist Percival Lowell was observing what he took to be artificially created canals on the surface of Mars, a theory that captured the public imagination of the time. Wells wondered what it would be like if there were indeed life on Mars, technologically advanced, and hostile. In 1898 he wrote The War of the Worlds, creating one of the most powerful science fiction stories ever written.

R. L. Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson, who was born in Edinburgh in 1850, was one of the most widely-read adventure novelists of the late 1800s. Among his most popular books were Kidnapped, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Treasure Island, featuring the world's most famous pirate Long John Silver. Stevenson also published a much-loved book of poems, A Child's Garden of Verse. He suffered from tuberculosis for much of his life, and spent many years travelling in search of a climate that would help him feel better. He finally settled in Samoa in the South Pacific, where he died in 1894.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is best-known for its vivid portrayal of a split personality, split in the sense that within the same person there is both an apparently good and an evil personality, each being quite distinct from the other. The book's impact was such that the phrase 'a Jekyll and Hyde personality' has become a part of the language.

From Wikipedia