Judith Merril
"The Little Mother of Science Fiction"
1923-1997


Time Chronology: Important Events in Judith's Life

1923: Judith Josephine Grossman is born on January 21 in Boston to parents Ethel and Samuel (Shlomo) Grossman.

1929: The Great Depression begins, lasts to the end of the 1930s. Her father Shlomo Grossman commits suicide.

1933: Judy, an avid young Zionist, starts sixth grade at the Girls' Latin School.

Fall 1936: Moves with her mother Ethyl to the Bronx, New York City, because Ethyl gets a job at The Bronx House. 
Judy starts high school at Morrows High.

Summer 1937: Goes to Zionist summer camp, reads the Communist Manifesto.

1937-39: Forms an inseparable trio with her best friends Saul and Willy at Morrows High School. Graduates from high school in June 1939.

1939: The Soviet Union makes a pact with the Nazis. Zionism begins to lose its appeal for her.

Summer 1940: Meets first husband Dan Zissman at a Trotskyist Fourth of July Picnic. They marry on October 26.

1940-41: Judy and Dan live with his parents in Philadelphia. She has several different jobs ranging from waitress to curtain examiner. 

1942-43: Gets pregnant with first daughter, Merril, who is born in December 1942. Dan is drafted. 

1943- 44: A camp-following navy wife and mother, Judy moves seven times to army bases in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, among others. Merril starts at a nursery school for very young children.

1944: Dan's Trotskyist background catches up with him and the army sends him overseas, into action.

1945: In New York city, Judy meets Johnny Michel, Bob "Doc" Lowndes and literary agent and editor Virginia Kidd, among other literary figures. Shares a railroad flat with Kidd (then Emden) and her daughter Karen, who is the same age as Merril. Judy gets a job as a researcher/ghostwriter.

1945-46: Judy becomes involved as president of Merril's school Parent-Teacher Association. Fights for broad access to public nursery schools. Moves with Dan into an unheated apartment on 19th Street
There is increasing trouble in Judy and Dan's marriage, and they separate. Judy becomes friends with Jay Stanton and Ted Sturgeon. Judy takes Merril's name as her penname.

1945-48: Judy is in agent Scott Meredith's stable. She supports herself as a single mother by writing nineteen sports-related short stories for pulp magazines under pennames.

1946: Judy meets Frederik Pohl when he returns from overseas. He moves into her apartment.

Feb 1948: Divorce from Dan is finalized.

May 1948: Judy's first science fiction story "That Only a Mother" is published in Astounding magazine.

1948: Becomes engaged to Fred Pohl. They marry on November 25.

1949: Writes her first novel, Shadow on the Hearth.

1950: The "McCarthy Era" begins in the U.S., comprising wide-spread sensationalist investigations into suspected U.S. Communists, blacklisting and political persecution. Judy's first novel Shadow On the Hearth is published, so is her first anthology Shot in the Dark. Her second daughter, Ann, is born in September and she writes her second novel, Mars Child (later Outpost Mars) with Cyril Kornbluth.

1951-52: Her novel, Gunner Cade (with C.M. Kornbluth, as "Cyril Judd") is serialized in Astounding, and then published by Simon and Schuster. She separates from Fred Pohl. 

1953: Judy lives with Walter Miller for six months. Divorce from Fred Pohl is finalized. 

1954: The Communist Party in the U.S. is virtually outlawed. Motorola TV Playhouse produces a television dramatization of Shadow on the Hearth under the title "Atomic Attack."

1956: The first SF: The Year's Greatest anthology is published.

1956-60: Organizes the first Milford Science Fiction Writers' Convention, with Damon Knight and James Blish. Continues to act as director and board member until 1960.

1960: Pyramid, New York, publishes her short story collection entitled Out of Bounds. Marries merchant mariner and union organizer Dan Sugrue on September 24.

1963: Pyramid publishes her novel The Tomorrow People. Separates from Dan Sugrue, but divorce is never finalized.

1965: U.S. bombs North Vietnam. 

1965-69: Book review editor for Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine.

1967: Moves to England for one year. Edits the anthology England Swings SF.

1968: Total number of U.S. troops in Vietnam reaches 550,000. Judith attends the Chicago Democratic Convention with her daughter Ann, where Vietnam War opponent Eugene McCarthy campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination, but loses the race to Hubert Humphrey.

August 1968-69: Judy emigrates, with daughter Ann, to Canada to become a Resource Person in Writing and Publishing for Rochdale College, Toronto's "free university."

1969: Doubleday, New York, publishes her short story collection Daughters of Earth. Judy helps organize the Committee to Aid Refugees from Militarism (CARM).

1970: Donates her collection of science fiction literature to the Toronto Public Library System, to found the Spaced Out Library.

1971: Lecturer for science fiction course at University of Toronto. Organizes major international science fiction convention, Secondary Universe (Secon IV) in Toronto.

1971-83: Writes 25.5 hours of documentaries for CBC Radio Ideas, Kaleidoscope, and Radio International

1972: Spends several months in Japan. A collection of her essays on SF is published in Japanese.

1972-73: Ran a weekly science fiction seminar at SEED alternative high school.

1973: Vietnam War ends. The Writers' Union of Canada is founded.

1976: Warner publishes a reprint of short stories, The Best of Judith Merril. Judy becomes a Canadian citizen.

1977: Kakabeka, Toronto, publishes short story collection Survival Ship.

1978-81: Creates 108 mini-documentaries of three to seven minutes each, to be played following broadcast episodes of Dr. Who on TVOntario.

Approx 1983-1995 (summer months): Spends her summer months in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

1983-84: Runs writing workshops at SEED alternative high school.

1985: Organizes the Hydra Club North for Canadian science fiction writers. Edits Tesseracts, the first-ever anthology of contemporary Canadian science fiction and fantasy. Runs "Out of This World" reading series at the International Authors Festival, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto.

1986: McClelland & Stewart in Toronto, republishes a collection of her short stories under the title Daughters of Earth and Other Stories. 

1991: Toronto Public Library System's Spaced Out Library officially renamed The Merril Collection of Speculative Fiction and Fantasy. Judith has triple bypass heart surgery.

1992: Moves into the Performing Arts Lodge (PAL) near St Lawrence Market in downtown Toronto. Tribute to her life held in October at Harbourfront Centre, Toronto.

1994: Writes "Message to Some Martians" for a CD Rom, the Visions of Mars, which is sent by space shuttle to Mars.

1996: Judy attends Wiscon: the feminist science fiction conference as the Guest of Honour.

1997: Dies from heart failure on September 12.

About Judith Merril and Better to Have Loved

"Judith Merrill was not only a vital member of the literary community, but a vital person, in the largest sense of that word. She lived her times and places thoroughly, and enriched us all."
--Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaidís Tale and Blind Assassin

"I loved Judy....I didn't care a fig about her taste, but I loved her effect. She was an extraordinary catalyst, a perfect editor."
--Michael Moorcock, author of Gloriana and Mother London

"Merril's science fiction purposely eschewed the...escape for which science fiction is so notorious. Rather, here were a progression of sentences as clean and balanced as sentences could be and they were wielded together into deeply wise stories."
--Samuel Delany, author of Empire Star, Triton, and Babel-17

"The strongest woman in a genre for the most part created by timid and weak men."
--J.G. Ballard, author of Crash and Empire of the Sun

"Without Judith Merril, neither science fiction nor Canadian science fiction nor Canadian literature nor the world at large would exist in their present form. Better to Have Loved is essential reading for anyone who's interested in How Science Fiction Got This Way."
--Spider Robinson, author of The Free Lunch.

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