Don Wilcox

Don Wilcox was the best known pen name of U.S. writer Cleo Eldon Wilcox (1905-2000), who taught creative writing at Northwestern University. Most of his work, sometimes as Cleo Eldon (once), Miles Shelton or Max Overton (twice), was for Ray Palmer’s Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures, where he published his first story, “The Pit of Death”, in July 1939. A good and pioneering generation-starship tale, “The Voyage that Lasted 600 Years” (October 1940 Amazing), soon followed. At one time he was Palmer’s most prolific and popular contributor, averaging over 40,000 words a month of published stories.

Wilcox used the house name Alexander Blade at least once, and also published a novelette, “Confessions of a Mechanical Man” (May 1947 Amazing), as Buzz-Bolt Atomcracker. The Ebbtide Jones stories beginning with “Whirlpool in Space” (November 1939 Amazing) – the rest appearing in Fantastic Adventures from January 1940 to June 1942 – were published as by Miles Shelton; Jones is a junk dealer who often comes across odd and unusual inventions such as an atom constrictor that converts things into two dimensions to save space.

His given name and academic background are apparently the subject of ongoing conversation: according to Clute and Nicholl’s The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (and Knox’s own claim in sf circles) the author’s given name was Cleo Eldon Knox, and according to Tuck’s Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Wilcox did post-graduate work in journalism and drama. According to his daughter, however, neither of these facts are correct. She adds that Wilcox spent many years in Chicago when he did teach at Northwestern, and also spent some years in N.Y. He had attended University of Kansas where he studied Sociology, not journalism or drama.

According to Fancyclopedia, Wilcox taught English, creative writing, history, and sociology in several junior and senior high schools, at the Chicago campus of Northwestern University, and at The University of Kansas — and later he edited newspapers. In 1932 he and his wife began writing plays for high school classes, and he began writing feature articles for the Kansas City Star. He was also a painter, but early in his career gave up painting in order to have more time to write. Wilcox also wrote scripts for television programs, including Captain Video. In explaining his science fiction writing, he told genre historian Mike Ashley that he seldom read other science fiction authors, but got his ideas for stories from museums, planetariums, ancient histories, and sociology textbooks.

Almost forgotten today, at one time Don Wilcox was a mainstay of the Ziff-Davis science fiction magazines and very popular with readers of both Amazing and Fantastic Adventures. He was said to write science fantasy rather than science fiction, but he had many readers who thought of themselves as science fiction fans. One of these fans was future science fiction writer and editor Terry Carr. “Give Us More Wilcox, Please!” begged Carr in a letter to Fantastic Adventures in the early 1950s.

(Edited from Wilcox’s entries at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Fancyclopedia and Author Wars. Click for more details.)


Don Wilcox's Futures Past Editions eBooks