About

This weblog is devoted to the work and life of the important but largely unknown author, George. R. Stewart.  Stewart, a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, who had a strong interest in geography and ecology, published 28 books between 1930 and his death in 1980.

Stewart was the first to write history and fiction from an ecological, Whole Earth perspective, and he was doing so in the 1930s.  His first ecological novel – the first novel in which a natural event, rather than human characters, is the protagonist – was called Storm.  It is from this book that we get the practice of naming storms.  Stewart’s best-known work, which inspired other writers and musicians, is Earth Abides.  Never out of print since its first publication in 1949, the book is available in 20 languages.

Stewart went on to invent several other types of literature. His influence, like that of JS Bach, has been wide.  But, like JS Bach, he is known mainly to those who read his work, and those inspired by it.  The new biography and this weblog attempts to bring Stewart to a wider audience, and to fill out his personal story for those who are already his fans.

***********

Donald Scott is author of The Life and Truth of George R. Stewart,  published in mid-2012 by McFarland.

Scott knew Stewart and his family and worked closely with the family on the book. Family members shared their memories of Stewart, and opened the excellent Anna Evenson family photo collection for use in the book.  Scott’s is the authorized biography of George R. Stewart.

Scott is also a teacher, a ranger, a photographer, and a bit of a wanderer.  His last full-time work was as a traveling Educator for NASA. From 2009 until 2014 he volunteered at U.S. Forest Service sites, National Parks, and similar places.   One of those places was the historic Walking Box Ranch, retirement ranch for movie stars Clara Bow and Rex Bell.  Set in the the largest Joshua Tree Forest on Earth the WBR has an interesting mix of wilderness, dark skies, architecture, and history.

Scott is currently at work on another book and several articles.

THE GREAT HALL OF THE WALKING BOX RANCH

29 thoughts on “About

  1. Hello Mr Scott. My name is Ross Wilson Bogert, son of Caroline Wilson of the Indiana Wilsons. I have some 16mm movie film from about 1929 taken in Pasadena. The film is about 2 minutes and has shots of Ella May Wilson, George Stewart Sr, Andrew Stewart, George Stewart Jr, Harry Wilson Sr, Harry Wilson Jr, my grandfather, Edna Marlin my grandmother, my mother about age 3, my aunt Jane Wilson, and two others unknown to me, maybe George Stewart Jr’s wife.

    My mother and her family also lived in Pasadena. My Dad met my mother when he was attending Cal Tech. This film was put on DVD a few years ago. We have had it for as long as I can remember. My mother talked about the Stewarts put I never met any of them. I have been in the Bay area, Larskpur, since 1971 as I was stationed at NAS Alameda after receiving my Naval Aviator wings. I thought you and maybe the Stewart family would be interested in a copy. Not sure if any copies were made years ago.

    Really enjoyed your book about George Stewart! I discovered it after trying to figure who the people were in the film! I am now reading Earth Abides.

    All the best, Ross Bogert

  2. Hello Mr. Stewart,

    I hope this finds you well. I’m currently teaching a class at Temple University for which we just read Earth Abides, and I thought you’d be interested in seeing what my students had to say about the novel. The general theme of the class is “climate change fiction” or “cli-fi,” and Stewart’s book fit into the class marvelously. 20 students wrote reviews of the book, which you can read here if you’re inclined: http://sites.temple.edu/clifi/book-reviews/.

    Thanks for your time and for building this excellent site.

    Best,

    – Ted Howell

    • Many thanks, Dr. Howell. I’ll read them with bated breath. And if it’s ok, I’ll link to your reviews page when I update the log? Make sure that’s ok with reviewers, please?

      Temple U – Philadelphia? Stewart was born in Sewickley, PA, spent his boyhood in Indiana, PA (a building on the Indiana U campus, the Andrew Wilson Building, is named for Stewart’s maternal grandfather), and spent much of his WWI training time in PA. He also revisited the state in two major works: U.S. 40 and Pickett’s Charge. Your students might be interested in knowing that PA connection.

      Cheers, Thanks.

      Please let me know if it’s ok to link to your reviews.

      Don Scott, GRS Biographer

  3. I’d love it if you linked to the reviews! I’ve been encouraging the students to imagine themselves writing for a wider audience, so I’d be thrilled with a link.

    I did mention the PA connection in my brief intro to Stewart in class last night, as well as the Pickett’s Charge book. I’m just becoming familiar with Stewart and his work myself: reading your biography, looking into Storm and Fire especially, and giving a brief presentation at a conference here in March. It’s all very exciting stuff.

    Thanks again.

  4. Dear Mr. Scott,

    Thank you for this website. I finished up a dissertation on post-World War II science fiction about a year ago, and I have a long first chapter on Earth Abides. As I revise the manuscript, I keep wondering if Stewart had read science fiction and if he saw himself working in that tradition. There are a ton of stories in the pulp magazines of Stewart’s day that share the basic plot devices of Earth Abides (if not its eloquence), and of course there is a much longer tradition of post-plague narratives in the pre-history of science fiction. For example, there is John Ames Mitchell’s The Last American, and I wonder if Stewart read it because he uses that title in the book. Do you know if Stewart read SF, and if any SF stories were particularly important to the composition of Earth Abides? I’m sure the answer is there in the Bancroft library archives, but it’s a long and expensive flight from Germany, where I’m currently teaching, to California. I’d appreciate any insights you might have.

    Thanks for reading!

    Best wishes,
    Jesse

    • Dear Mr. Ramirez,

      A good topic! Thanks for the thanks for the site, too.

      As to GRS and sci fi:

      Most of what we call sci fi is more properly spec-tech fiction – spaceships, ray guns, transporters – and the “science” is more what the Trek folks call technobabble. Stewart’s 4 ecological novels (Storm, Fire, EA, and Sheep Rock), on the other hand, are all true science fiction – that is, fiction based on serious science. EA adds speculation to hard science, but the focus is still on ecology and geography and related disciplines. If you look at Stewart’s Papers in the Bancroft, every fact is based on deep research in the sciences. No technobabble there.

      As to whether or not he read science fiction, I can’t say. There’s nothing about that in any of his papers or his oral history, and I approached the subject other than to ask if he’d read The Scarlet Plague, which has similarities. He thought he might have, as a boy, since he read most of London, but could (or at least would not) recall that specifically.

      He did read many detective novels, and then wrote his own (never published; in the Papers), as practise when he decided to write a novel. He may well have done the same with sci fi, since he also wrote a practise speculative fiction novel, again never published, which was more in line with traditional spec-tech fiction.

      In most tech-spec fiction, the focus is on the human drama. There’s much of that in EA, but the real focus is on the science of the ecosystem.

      EA stands on its own, both within his work and traditional “science fiction.” And it stands the test of time very well – never out of print, in 20 languages, now published for 65 years. There’s an edition in German, which you might to review: Leben Ohne Erde, I think.

      Best of luck. Let me know if I can help in any other way.

      Cheers,

      Don Scott

      • Thank you for such a generous, thoughtful reply. Yes, we have Leben ohne Ende in the university library in Frankfurt, along with Sturm and others. What really interests me though are the research notes and unpublished novels that you mention. This makes me want to visit the Bancroft even more. Thanks again, Jesse

    • Yes, Mr. Frost, you may do so. But I do copyright these posts, and we should note that you’re using with my enthusiastic permission. Also, please let me review the portion that you’d like to use.

      Many thanks for considering this. (I know two Disney legends, grew up with one, and so have always had a soft spot for things Disney.)

      Cheers,

      Donald M. Scott

    • Yes, indeed, and many thanks. It appears both of us were inspired to write, in part, by George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides.

      A couple of comments: I consider Stewart to be a science fiction writer in this, the purest sense of the term – most of his novels were fiction about scientific events (a storm, a forest fire, planetary ecology, and an ecological fictionalization of a real place) based on solid scientific research which he conducted on site, often with his colleagues from UC Berkeley. In fact, I now think we need a new term for what is traditionally called science fiction – I use the word “techspec” since most of our popular science fiction is fairly conventional drama or melodrama set in alternate or future technologies. However, I am not going to hold anyone else to this idea; it simply helps me understand Stewart.

      And I’m ashamed to note here that since Stewart, through his books, drew me away from traditional science fiction, I was not familiar with your work before this message sent me to Google. I now intend to read it, as time permits during the construction of my new book, and I am deeply grateful for this education.

      Cheers,

      Don Scott

  5. Dear Mr Scott

    I have spent most of my adult life grappling with the problem of the phrase ‘science fiction’. It creates so many prejudices, on both sides. ‘Science’ means ‘knowledge’, of course, but that takes us nowhere. Some writers prefer ‘speculative fiction’, but again that is a bit of a blind alley as all fiction is to some extent speculative. A few years ago I coined ‘visionary realism’, which I still believe is about as accurate, inclusive and non-judgemental as possible — but no one else has ever bothered with it.

    These days I just say I write novels. My current novel, The Adjacent, is about as far from traditional science fiction as it is possible, yet it is still fantastic in subject and treatment, while being (excuse me) visionary and realist.

    I take your point about Stewart’s work as a scientist, though. Fascinating man and writer.

    Christopher Priest

    • Dear Mr. Priest,

      Yes. Good name, “Visionary realism.”

      Most “science fiction,” however, seems to put humans (or aliens that are human in behavior) into advanced technological settings, but the interactions are as old as literature and story-telling. In other words, it’s the same old set of stories, told in a new setting. The Roddenberry Star Trek and some other works have done a good job of changing the story set, but generally it’s kisskissbangbang.

      Stewart’s great achievement, I think, was to introduce a very different type of protagonist – the ecosystem. It’s familiar to us, yet behaves in ways we can’t fully understand. His first big seller was *Ordeal By Hunger*, ( which not only introduces the ecosystem as protagonist, but with its opening view from orbit (written in the 1930s) might also be called the first Whole Earth work) is usually read as history, but it is the first book in my experience to consider Earth’s ecosystem as a player in the story. In *Storm*, he expands this idea, naming the ecosystem event, the storm, to show that it is the chief protagonist, but naming only a few human characters.

      At any rate, many thanks for taking the time to share your ideas about these topics.

      One question – which of your books should I read first?

      Cheers,

      Donald M. Scott

      On Fri, Apr 10, 2015 at 1:08 AM, the EARTH ABIDES project wrote:

      >

      • Dear Mr Scott

        Yes, GRS’s work definitely qualifies as visionary.

        I am having trouble with my internet link today — keep losing it, so I’ll keep this brief. My stuff (thanks for asking — but I am greatly in GRS’s shade): the best-known of my novels is THE PRESTIGE, which was filmed a few years ago by Christopher Nolan. It has just been released as an ebook. My ‘key’ novel (i.e. not claimed by me as my best, but it was the novel where I really found what I wanted to write — but that was 35 years ago!) is called THE AFFIRMATION, and that too is on ebook. (Also paperback.) My most recent novel is called THE ADJACENT. It is in paperback, but not yet, I think) ebook.

        The article I wrote about GRS was called ‘Standing on Shoulders’, which is all the claim I can make for any link with his wonderful work.

        Best wishes

        Chris Priest

  6. Dear Mr. Priest,

    Many thanks.

    One more question – may I report on our correspondence on the GRS weblog? I’m happy to run it by you first, if you’d like.

    I’d include links to your work, and the GRS article.

    Many thanks,

    Don Scott

    • Dear Mr. Priest,

      The post is up, if you’d like to take a look.

      By the way, I suggest in the post that readers might read Sheep Rock. If you’ve not done so, and have the time, I’d recommend it. It’s been called the first post-modernist novel. The book is rich, complex, layered – and not easy to read. Not hard, just unconventional in structure. You may enjoy it.

      Again, many thanks for joining our small Fellowship of GRS.

      Cheers,

      Don Scott

  7. Don:
    Just finished your biography of George R. Stewart. Enjoyed it immensely — a very fine book. Like all good biographies, it gives a sense of the times and the place as well as the individual — especially the UC Berkeley milieu of that era. (In short, I learned a lot.)

    I’m a Canadian writer and teacher, born in 1947, currently in my 12th year of teaching creative writing at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada (this London is a city of some 300,000, 2 hours south-west of Toronto). Before that, I spent 30 years teaching high school English, primarily in Toronto. I’m also the author of 8 books (7 novels and a collection of short stories).

    I bought and read the Ace paperback of EARTH ABIDES back in the early 60s (62? 63?) as a high-school teenager, and was duly impressed… So impressed, I might add, that I still have that particular 50-cent edition (more than 50 years now) on a bookshelf here in my office — an old favorite, and probably a collector’s item of sorts. I rank it with A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ — also never out of print — as transcending any genre, moving people, and opening eyes — touching the mind and the heart, as the best literature does.

    When I spotted the trade paperback edition published by Del Rey about a decade ago, I bought it and re-read it. I was impressed once again. It more than held up. And just recently, I read it for the 3rd time, still moved and impressed — enough to search the internet for more information on Stewart. This is how I found and ordered your book.

    I just wanted you to hear yet another story of how far-reaching his work has been, and by extension, how far-reaching your own appreciation has been.

    Many thanks for scholarship (and work) involved in spreading the word. I like to think there’s a potential, significant, continuous groundswell for the book, and that it will indeed abide long into the future, like Ish’s hammer. And you’ve helped.

    All Best Wishes,
    Terence M. Green
    (Terry, informally)

  8. Dear Mr. Scott,

    We had a brief exchange about a year ago on this page. Back then you mentioned that Stewart wrote “a practice speculative fiction novel, again never published, which was more in line with traditional spec-tech fiction.” Do you happen to remember the title of this unpublished novel?

    I still haven’t made it to the Bancroft, but I have finally organized for a researcher to go for me. Since I can’t visit the archive in person, I have to order specific materials from the archive for my researcher. I’m focusing on the relevant papers for Earth Abides, which are easy to identify with the finding aid, but it would be very helpful if I could direct my researcher to the unpublished “spec-tech” novel, too, which isn’t clearly listed in the finding aid. Could it perhaps be called “If” (Carton 10, Folders 27-29)?

    Thanks again, Jesse

    • (Sent this to your email but will also send it here to insure you receive it.)

      Dear Jesse,

      Very good to hear from you, and to hear that your work is progressing.

      As I recollect, that speculative novel, never published, is called The Dry Lands. From internal references and clues it’s set in Berkeley and the northern Nevada desert, and details the protagonists’ role in helping to destroy an enemy airfield in the desert in a future war.

      Carton 10, Folder 13

      The Dry Country undated

      Scope and Content Note
      Typescript, draft

      This is in the following collection: BANC MSS C-H 13

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers, Merry Christmas,

      Don Scott

  9. Dear Mr Scott

    Before all apologize my poor american langage… Independent publisher settled in Lyon in France (Fage éditions), I would like to know the situation of the rights of translation for France of George R. Stewart’s book “Earth Abides”, a real very good one.
    A translation appeared in 1951 (Le Pont sur l’abîme, Hachette, by Jeanne Fournier-Pargoire, deceased), and was republished in 1980 by Robert Laffont in an SF collection and out of print for a long time (La Terre demeure).
    I’m thinking about a “new life” for this book in France, a book which cannot in my mind be reduced to SF… Problem is: How to enter in touch with his family and to obtain their authorization? I hope you can help me. Best regards. Philippe Grand
    philippe.grand@fage-editions.com

    • Dear Mr. Grand,

      A new translation, aimed at a general literary audience rather than or in addition to science fiction readers is a fine idea. It’s timely, also, because there is a plan to create a TV mini-series of Earth Abides. If successful, that will increase the interest in Stewart’s fine book, and thus expand the market for your publication.

      I will contact the family and let them know of your interest. With their OK I’ll send them your email address.

      Cheers,

      Donald M. Scott

      PS Your English is fine.

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