Wollheim, Donald A. (1914–1990)

Donald A. Wollheim wrote a substantial body of
science fiction, but his primary influence on the
field was as an editor. He started in the amateur
press, later edited pulp science fiction magazines,
and eventually worked for Avon Books, where he
edited the first all-original SF anthology. In the
1950s he moved to Ace Books, where, during the
course of two decades, he published the early
novels of Roger Z
Philip K. D
ICK, Ursula K. LE GUIN, and many
other now prominent writers. In the 1970s he
founded DAW Books, which provided a similar
service for C. J. C
HERRYH and others. He also
edited numerous anthologies for various publishers over the course of his career, including an annual best-of-the-year series that started at Ace
Books and continued at DAW.
Although Wollheim began selling short fiction
in the 1930s, his only story of particular note
is “Mimic” (1942), in which insects evolve into
a form that can imitate humans under certain
circumstances. The story became the inspiration

for the film Mimic (1995) and its two sequels. A
good sampling of his short fiction can be found in
Two Dozen Dragon Eggs (1969), The Men from Ariel
(1982), and Up There and Other Strange Directions
(1988). His half-dozen science fiction novels for
adults all appeared as by David Grinnell. In
(1957) an effort to capture a flying saucer
backfires and a man from our time finds himself in
the far future.
Edge of Time (1958), the most interesting of the six, describes what happens when scientists create a pocket universe in which time
passes at millions of times the rate in our world,
enabling them to study changes that would otherwise be impossible within a single lifetime.
Martian Missile
(1959) involves a mission to that
planet, and
Destiny’s Orbit (1961) pits a plucky entrepreneur against the government as he tries to
buy his own planet.
Destination: Saturn (1968),
written with Lin Carter, is an interplanetary conspiracy adventure. In
To Venus! To Venus! (1970)
the first expedition to Venus discovers that conditions on the surface are not as expected.
Wollheim was much more effective in his
novels for young adults. Three of these with similar titles are not, in fact, a series.
The Secret of Saturn’s Rings (1954) mixes a story of interplanetary
exploration with a war in space.
The Secret of the
Martian Moons
(1955) strands the first expedition
to Mars, possibly because of a saboteur, possibly
because of action by hidden Martians. The most
ambitious was
The Secret of the Ninth Planet
(1959). Some mysterious force is draining energy
from the sun, so an expedition sets out to search
the solar system and find out who or what is responsible.
One Against the Moon (1956), the story
of a young astronaut trapped on the lunar surface,
is also quite good.
The most popular of his young adult books
were the Mike Mars series, which started with
Mike Mars: Astronaut (1961) and ended with Mike
Mars Around the Moon
(1964), the character’s
eighth adventure. Each of the novels dealt with
another step in the development of a space
program. They were much more realistic than
Wollheim’s other novels, emphasizing plausibility
and scientific accuracy. During the course of his
eight adventures, Mike Mars visits the Moon, deals
with a rogue satellite, rescues a stranded astronaut,
defeats spies and saboteurs, and escapes Soviet
troops in Antarctica. Although Wollheim will
certainly be remembered as an editor rather than
a writer, it would be unfortunate if his wellconceived and ably written young adult fiction was
completely forgotten.