On this day in 2002, one of the all-time greats of Science Fiction passed away. Author, editor, critic, fan: few people have had such a great and varied impact on modern SF as Damon Knight. From membership of seminal SF group the Futurians, through years of incisive reviews and criticism, to editorship of the influential Orbit series of anthologies, Knight bestrode 20th-century SF like a colossus.
Knight co-founded the Milford Writers’ Conference, the influential Clarion Workshop and the Science Fiction Writers of America, serving as its first president from 1965-67. Around this time he also made his reputation as one of the field’s foremost anthologists. Beginning with reprint collections, in 1966 he launched the influential Orbit series of original anthologies. Starting with Orbit 1, the series would continue for over a decade, concluding in 1980 with Orbit 21.
Orbit was the longest running and most influential anthology series in SF up to that point, showcasing such important authors as Gene Wolfe, R.A. Lafferty and Knight’s third wife, Kate Wilhelm. A master of short fiction, Damon Knight is best known in wider circles as the author of ‘To Serve Mankind’, which was adapted for The Twilight Zone and later spoofed in a Hallowe’en episode of The Simpsons. He was granted the SFWA’s Grand Master Award in 1995, and in 2002, SFWA renamed it the Damon Knight Grand Master Award in his honour.