Author: Thomas M. Barrett

a professor at Saint Mary's College of Maryland in Saint Mary's City

Will F. Jenkins (1896–1975)

Will F. Jenkins was one of the most prolific fiction writers of the twentieth century. He published in several genres, but was best known for his pioneering science fiction writing under the penname of Murray Leinster. He published approximately 1,800 stories in more than 150 periodicals and 74 novels and collections in a career that began in 1913 and ended in 1974. An avid inventor whose gadgets sometimes appeared in his stories, Jenkins wrote about mad scientists, criminal masterminds, alien invasions, and time travel. A 1946 story imagined personal computers and a network that closely resembles today’s Internet. “First Contact” (1945) depicts a tense standoff between two spaceship crews, each fearing the other’s intent. Jenkins was born in Gloucester County, and some of his stories were set in Virginia. In “Sidewise in Time” (1934), a Fredericksburg professor encounters time shifts and a parallel universe in which the Confederacy won the American Civil War (1861–1865). During the Cold War, Ivan Efremov, a science fiction writer from the Soviet Union, attacked Jenkins’s writing in his story “The Heart of the Serpent” (1959), in which aliens read “First Contact” and judge it to be warmongering. Jenkins, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, died in Gloucester in 1975.