Richard C. Meredith
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A Brief Biography of Richard C. Meredith (1937-1979)
Richard Carlton Meredith was born on 21 October 1937, in Alderson, a small town in West Virginia, in the United States. He was the eldest son of Joseph and LaVon Meredith. The family moved several times in the late '30s and early '40s, before eventually settling in St. Albans, West Virginia late in 1942 or early in 1943, when Joseph Meredith, a pipe-fitter by trade, found employment at a chemical plant involved in the manufacture of synthetic rubber. The family was blessed with a new baby after they arrived, a daughter they named Sandra. St Albans would be the Meredith family's home until 1956.
During these years, while attending high school and one year at college, Meredith encountered science fiction for the first time. He began with Superman and Planet Stories comic books, and then moved on to pulp magazines such as Fantastic, Famous Fantastic Mysteries and Super-Science Tales. Later Meredith would recall: "a portion of myself, of my 'soul', if you wish, became firmly committed to science fiction. I fell in love with Heinlein's juveniles and bought my first copy of John W. Campbell's Astounding in July of 1950 - I still have that copy and a copy of virtually every other issue published until after Campbell's death" [in 1971]. Around this time Meredith began to write his own stories, but his intention was to become an astronomer - an ambition that was thwarted by, as Meredith put it, "a total lack of a mathematical aptitude". He was also interested in rockets and as a teenager even built his own chemically powered models.
Due to worsening economic conditions in West Virginia and the Appalachian area in general, the family moved to Pensacola in Florida in 1956. Job opportunities were better for his father, but not so for Meredith Jr who, disillusioned with his employment prospects, decided to join the Army and learn a trade. Around this time, either before or after the move to Florida, Meredith married his high school sweetheart. Sadly it was short lived and ended in divorce. Meredith put this down to marrying too early.
While in the Army Meredith specialised in microwave radio theory and practice, and received extensive training. He spent the rest of his time in the army as a microwave systems technician and as a trainer for microwave radio theory and later also for aircraft navigation and communication theory. After leaving the Army, Meredith rejoined his family in Pensacola and began to study at Pensacola Junior College. This was cut short when he was recalled to active duty in 1961. due to the Berlin Crisis and escalating tensions between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. He served with a helicopter rescue unit in the Mississippi National Guard but did not see any action.
Eventually Meredith was released from the Army and returned again to civilian life in Pensacola. He did not return to college to complete his studies, preferring instead to find employment with an electronics wholesale and retail company called Grice Electronics. In time Meredith rose to become advertising manager and met a girl from Alabama. Her name was Joy Gates. The couple married in 1963 and in 1965 Joy gave birth to their first child - a daughter named Kira Chimene.
Meredith had developed his writing and had started to successfully submit stories to some of the "male-orientated" magazines that had appeared following the success of Playboy. The first story, called The Renegades, was set during the American Civil War and appeared in the April 1962 issue of Sir Knight magazine. This was followed up in the November issue of the rebranded Knight magazine with The Slugs, a science fiction story about a man on the run from shape-shifting slugs! If is unclear if any more of Meredith's stories appeared in Knight or similar magazines, but it seems unlikely that Meredith published nothing more until he made it into the SF magazines in 1966.
After the birth of Kira, Meredith began to write with the intention of selling his stories to the science fiction magazines. Joy Meredtih recalls: "I knew he would be a science fiction writer someday. This was only a dream at the time. He had written several short stories but had no agent. For the first eighteen months [after they were married] there were a lot of rejections. Stories would be sent and stories would return with rejection slips, but this did not stop Richard. He would keep writing until he found a story that would sell. Finally Scott Meredith Agency liked his writing and accepted him as a client. This was good."
Meredith was bursting with ideas. Despite having a full-time eight-to-five job advertising electronics and a growing family, he would often get up at four in the morning to write. Joy remembers: "He would get so excited about the stories he was writing and about life and oh anything. He knew about any subject you could want to talk about. He was self read I guess you would say, even though he did go to college later. He knew a lot about history, about wars, military events, using this later to invent a whole civilization, even to a language."
By 1969 the family had grown and Meredith was now also father to three sons (twins, Jefferson Conan and Derek Carlton, and another boy, Rand Calvin). Some of his stories had appeared in Worlds of Tomorrow and Fantastic, and the January and March issues of Amazing Stories serialised We All Died At Breakaway Station. Momentum was beginning to build, and later in the year Ballantine Books bought and published his first two paperback novels, The Sky is Filled with Ships and We All Died at Breakaway Station. Meredith considered We All Died... to be his best writing so far and dedicated the book to his children and to Joy:
"To Kira, Jeff, Derek and Rand
and to Joy who suffered the destruction of
Meredith also reported on the flight of Apollo 11 and the moon landing for Galaxy magazine and the Pensacola News-Journal in July 1969. Joy recalls: "Years back then he had wanted to buy a ticket to go to the moon, which was a big thing. We went to the moon launch at Cape Canaveral, spent the 3 days with Joe Green on Banana River. Had a TV interview. Witnessed the moon launch. Saw Robert A. Heinlein and the author of the movie 2001 [Arthur C. Clarke]." (Joseph L. Green is a science fiction writer and for many years worked for NASA.)
In 1970, Meredith attended DeepSouthCon 8 (a.k.a. Agacon '70) in Atlanta Georgia, where he was awarded the first Phoenix Award for professional contributions to southern science fiction fandom. He acted as Master of Ceremonies for the event, which was also attended by his friend Joe Green from NASA.
At the start of a new decade, Meredith felt the need for change in his life and decided to return to his studies - first at Pensacola Junior College and later at the University of West Florida. To help support his family he took on freelance writing and graphic design work (he had also studied art and was a talented artist). This together with an Army pension allowed the family to muddle through until 1972 when Meredith had to drop out of his university course just short of gaining a degree in English.
Meredith started working at the Press Gazette, a weekly magazine published in nearby Milton. There, as production supervisor, he was responsible "for editorial page cartoons, a regular 'human interest' column and graphic design, as well as supervising the overall production of the newspaper." Meredith was especially proud of his cartoons, for which he received several commendations.
In the meantime Meredith continued to write and sell stories, and in 1973 his first hardback novel At the Narrow Passage was published by G.P. Putnam's Sons. This was the first volume of what would become known as The Timeliner Trilogy. The title comes from an Arabian proverb: "At the narrow passage, there is no brother, no friend." Soon after Meredith began work on the sequel No Brother, No Friend and a time travel story called Run, Come See Jerusalem.
In Autumn (Fall) 1974 Meredith encountered health problems and had to undergo surgery for a spinal complaint. The convalescence period lasted until January 1975. This gave him the opportunity to write and design a book of erotic poetry. It included some of his own poetry and art and was later privately published.
When Meredith returned to work in January it was to help found a new weekly newspaper called the Santa Rosa Free Press where although he was officially the Editor, he also served as writer, cartoonist, photographer and graphic designer. He remained there until differences of opinion with the Publisher forced him to move on to freelance work with advertising agencies, printers, magazines and a TV channel (a programme based on one of his short stories). This combined with a tragedy that struck on July 1st, 1975 when his son Jeff was accidentally drowned, lead to Meredith taking a short sabbatical 'back home' in the hills of West Virginia where he worked on revisions to No Brother, No Friend and Run, Come See Jerusalem. He also began to write Vestiges of Time, the final volume in The Timeliner Trilogy.
1976 saw the publication of Run, Come See Jerusalem by Ballentine Books and No Brother, No Friend by Doubleday. The latter book was dedicated to his son:
"This book is dedicated to the memory of Jefferson Conan Meredith, May 1966-July 1975.
The run of successes continued with Cold the Stars Are, Cold the Earth in the August 1978 issue of Amazing Science Fiction and Vestiges of Time was published by Doubleday in the same year.
Beyond writing stories and reading science fiction and popular science, Meredith's interests included painting and drawing. From the mid-60s to around 1970 he exhibited and sold his paintings and drawings at a number of shows. He was also a history enthusiast, with an especial interest in post-Roman Britain and the Arthurian legends.
On 8 March 1979, aged only 41, Richard C. Meredith died unexpectedly following a stroke brought on by a brain haemorrhage.
After his death, St. Martin's Press published The Awakening. A departure from his usual fare, this was an "old-fashioned ghost story" and is perhaps the author's most accomplished work. The narrative runs along two timelines. One is set during the American Civil War and contains echoes of The Renegades, while the other is set in 1970s Virginia, where the lead character shares a surprising number of parallels with Meredith himself.
The three volumes of The Timeliner Trilogy were issued in paperback by Playboy Press late in 1979. Sadly, without Meredith to continue to produce new books, his existing titles were allowed to slip out of print, and other than paperback reprints of We All Died At Breakaway Station, Run, Come See Jerusalem, The Timeliner Trilogy and The Sky Is Filled With Ships in the mid-80s, his books have been unavailable, other than on the secondhand market, for many years.
Robert H. Gwinn of Rampant Entertainment has announced plans to make films of the three books of The Timeliner Trilogy and the books themselves may be back in print at some stage, as noted in the following post on Facebook on 25 March 2011:
[Note1: I had intended merely to reproduce the Wikipedia entry here with a suitable credit, but it proved to be unsatisfactory on a number of counts. Therefore I have put together a biography using the sources noted above. Mercenari Del Tempo includes what appears to be a translation into Italian of an autobiographical statement composed by Richard C. Meredith. I translated it back into English using online resources and it became apparent that it was the source for much of the Wikipedia entry. The other primary source of information was another autobiographical statement, written by Meredith and published after his death in the Summer 1979 issue of Starship magazine. Both the Italian biography and the Wikipedia entry appear to suffer from errors and misunderstandings in translation (and no doubt more were introduced by my own less than perfect translation), so where there are contradictions I have preferred to follow the Starship biography.]
[Note 2: Since writing this biography in 2011, the Wikipedia entry has been significantly expanded and corrected.]
A list of Richard C. Meredith's published novels and short stories appears below.
Text © Neil Holford and SFandFantasy.co.uk 2011-2017 --- Images and quoted text remain copyright of the publishers, artists and authors