I was recently reminded of John Wyndham, after stumbling across the brilliant Dr Amy Binns on Twitter.
As a teenager, I devoured Wyndham books, from child-friendly Chocky to the rather more terrifying Day of the Triffids (I still get nervous around huge plants, just in case). My favourite Wyndham book is one of his less famous titles, Trouble With Lichen. It’s about beauty, sustainability, power and love, among other things.
Dr Amy Binns is a Wyndham expert and has written a book that is now on my Christmas list, Hidden Wyndham.p
She explains, “John Wyndham redefined science fiction. Yet despite his popularity, his obsessive need for privacy led to him being known as “the invisible man of science fiction”.”
In Hidden Wyndham, Dr Binns reveals the woman who was the inspiration for his strong-minded heroines. The secret love affair sustained this gentle and desperately shy man through failure, war, and, ultimately, success.
Hidden Wyndham shows how Wyndham’s own disturbing war experiences – witnessing the destruction of London in the Blitz then as part of the invading British army in France and Germany – inspired and underlay his dystopian masterpieces.
It provides an insight into the lives of men and women who refused to live by the oppressive rules of society in the mid-20th century. Many extracts from his letters are included, along with his own photographs.
Dr Amy Binns was kind enough to choose her favourite Wyndham quotes for this week’s Wednesday Wisdom:
“How foolish they all were nowadays – trying to tidy everything up, make life secure, while behind, back in everyone’s past, stretched the chance-studded line of women who had said ‘yes’ or ‘no’, as the fancy took them…”
Stitch in Time, from Consider Her Ways and Others
“Your work is to survive. Neither his kind, nor his kind of thinking will survive long. They are the crown of creation, they are ambition fulfilled – they have nowhere more to go. But life is change, that is how it differs from the rocks, change is its very nature… soon they will attain the stability they strive for, in the only form it is granted – a place among the fossils… We have a new world to conquer: they have only a lost cause to lose.”
“Felicity and Marielle gathered little bunches of the doomed flowers. They still looked as delicately beautiful and still had their poignant scent…
“They’re very lovely – and they’ve gone. But the important thing is that they came. That’s the wonderful thing. There’ll be some more – someday – somewhere…”
Wild Flower, in Seeds of Time
“Our deadliest susceptibility is conformity, and our deadliest virtue is putting up with things as they are.”
“If you just go on taking what they tell you without thinking about it, you’ll turn into advertisers’ meat.”
“Diana agreed about cricket. “Very dull,” she said. “It’s a vestige of emancipation. Freedom for girls meant having to do what boys did, however boring.”
All from Trouble with Lichen
“It is true that the institution of marriage as it is proclaimed by Church and state displays a depressingly mechanistic attitude of mind towards partnership – one not unlike, in fact, that of Noah. The human spirit, however, is tough, and it quite often happens that love is able to survive this coarse, institutional thumbing.”
“What is a planet, but an island in space?”
“There is some improvement: humour and compassion are the most important of human inventions: but they are not very firmly established yet, though promising well.”
All from The Midwich Cuckoos
“I ruminated a little on the ways of purposeful, subversive-minded women like Florence Nightingale and Elizabeth Fry. You can’t do anything with such women – and they so often turn out to have been right after all.”
“There is an inability to sustain the tragic mood, a phoenix quality of the mind.”
“Children have a different convention of the fearful until they have been taught the proper things to be shocked at.”
All from The Day of the Triffids
Thanks to Dr Amy Binns for sharing her knowledge. I’ll add my favourite quote from The Midwich Cuckoos.
“Knowledge is simply a kind of fuel; it needs the motor of understanding to convert it into power.”
If you’d like to win a copy of Hidden Wyndham, just leave a comment below with your favourite Wyndham quote or piece of Wyndham trivia. A winner will be chosen at random on 1st January.