Author of Children of the Atom
Wilmar House Shiras was born in 1908 in Boston, Massachusetts, where she spent her formative years before moving west to attend the University of California at Berkeley. After completing four years of graduate studies in history, she settled in the neighboring city of Oakland with her husband Russell, where they proceeded to raise five children. It was for her family’s entertainment that Shiras first began to create stories. In 1948, at the insistence of her small but loyal audience, she submitted the story “In Hiding” to editor John W. Campbell, Jr.’s groundbreaking magazine Astounding Science Fiction, which published it in that year’s November issue. “In Hiding” proved to be one of those rare works with which readers felt a deep identification, and over the next two years Shiras built on her success with the sequels “Opening Doors” and “New Foundations” (both also published in Astounding Science Fiction). Those three pieces became the first three chapters of Children of the Atom, published by Gnome Press in 1953. Over the decades that followed, this eloquent portrait of gifted children confronting a hostile world proved itself to be an enduring classic. (It has also been credited — though never officially confirmed — with providing the inspiration for Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s world-famous comic book creation, The Uncanny X-Men.) And although it was to be the only book that Shiras would publish in the genre, Children of the Atom has earned its author an honored place among science fiction’s pantheon of creators — in 2002, the Science Fiction Book Club named it one of the Most Significant Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of the Last 50 Years. Shiras passed away in 1990.
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