We all know that it’s only the lucky few who can make a living solely from the writing of novels and short stories. Most writers, even critically acclaimed ones, earn a living in some other profession. However, writers can also make a crust by branching out into other forms.
As a child, I loved science fiction series on the TV (I still do!). It was only later that I learned that some of my favourite episodes had been written by some of my favourite writers.
More known for his short stories than his novels (16 collections published during his lifetime). You should try It (1940), Microcosmic God (1941) which was voted one of the best science fiction stories of all time by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1970, Killdozer! (1944) and Slow Sculpture which won the 1970 Nebula Award for Best Novelette and the 1971 Hugo Award for Best Short Story.
Sturgeon wrote two scripts for the original series of Star Trek; Amok Time (where Kirk must fight Spock to the death in an ancient Vulcan ritual) and Shore Leave (the one where McCoy meets the white rabbit).
Another writer more known for his short stories than his novels, perhaps the discipline of writing short stories more easily lends itself to writing scripts for TV… You should try “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman, which won the 1965 Nebula Award and the 1966 Hugo Award, and I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream which won the Hugo in 1968.
Ellison wrote two episodes of The Outer Limits, Soldier and Demon with a Glass Hand, both originally broadcast in 1964. In the 1980s he successfully sued for screen credit in relation to the similarities of the movie The Terminator to his scripts.
He also wrote, what is for me, the best Star Trek episode The City on the Edge of Forever (the one where Kirk falls in love with Edith Keeler (played by Joan Collins) in the 1930’s but must let her die to repair the timeline). This was the most critically acclaimed episode and it won the 1968 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.
There were many more authors who also wrote for TV, but, today, I have concentrated on memories from my own childhood; both authors wrote far more than I have mentioned (and I really do recommend that you search out some of their work!). In Part Two I will be looking at science fiction authors who made a little bit on the side by writing ‘novelisations’ of TV shows and movies.
Do you have your own examples of favourite authors who have written for TV?