(1906 — November 1963)
Trained as a teacher, Mark Irvin Clifton spent twenty-five years in industry in different aspects of personnel work, compiling 200,000 case histories using an approach based on the one Kinsey used in his investigations of human sexual behavior.
Opportunity Unlimited: What Management is Looking For in You, his first book, was published by Chilton in 1959. Clifton began writing SF part-time in the 1950s, and produced three books during his lifetime. A collection of his stories, The Science Fiction of Mark Clifton (Southern Illinois University Press), edited by Barry N. Malzberg and Martin H. Greenberg with an appreciation by Judith Merril, was published in 1980.
First published story: “What Have I Done?” in Astounding (May, 1952); First novel: They’d Rather Be Right, with Frank Riley (Gnome Press, 1957); First short story collection: Eight Keys to Eden (Ballantine, 1960).
He received the 1955 Best Novel Hugo for They’d Rather Be Right, (a win which baffles most readers, as the novel was a perfectly ordinary piece of mid-50s SF.)
Today Clifton’s works are known for their psychological insights, their dark views of human nature, and the recurring theme that we see only what we are prepared to see. In his brief ten-year writing career, he created two memorable SF series, with most of his stories in Astounding: the “Joey” (later Bossy) series, that led to his and Riley’s Hugo-winning novel about a super-computer that helped humans to evolve psi powers and immortality; and the “Ralph Kennedy” series, about an extra-terrestrial psychologist, that resulted in Clifton’s last novel, When They Come From Space (Doubleday, 1962).