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Who Is Ian Wallace?

by Malcolm Henderson

as published in Unhinged magazine, 1990.

Reprinted with the author's permission, and with attention given to preserving the original style and typography.

[Skip directly to biography and interview]

You are about to discover one of the best kept secrets in modern science fiction: that an American Clinical Psychologist, Educator and philosopher called John Wallace Pritchard, who writes under the pseudonym of Ian Wallace is one of the finest exponents of this genre. Why? The answer is simple. He is a writer more than an author. By this I mean that he is one of the great stylists of this form of literature. His pen is fluid, tight, exciting, complex, poetic and always original. If he could be compared to any of the big names in the firmament, then it must be Van Vogt and his intriguing 'Null A' series or the classic American fantasist and writer of satire James Branch Cabell with his reckless, humorous heroes and their poignant, allegorical adventures.

Wallace deals in concepts and paradoxes rather than pure scientific facts. However when it comes to scientific accuracy, his research and knowledge are often astonishing - for example, Heller's journey through a black hole in 'Heller's Leap'. This is a richly detailed episode where all the current knowledge of theoretical physics and black hole theory are used to explain the credibility of this unlikely and seemingly impossible situation.

Clues to the success of Wallace's style are his deep characterisation, wit and underlying sympathy for the human condition. The juxtaposition of opposites, the Yin and the Yang and their interdependence and interconnections is often a favourite literary device. Many of his novels are set in the same universe and often involve the time travelling, paradoxical journeys of the God / Hero Croyd. Read any of the Croyd series and you will feel that Croyd is an enigma. The main question being "Who is Croyd?"

In these stories, Croyd's main persona is that of a high ranking official of Sol Galaxy, general cosmic trouble shooter and future time detective. In the novel 'Z Sting', Croyd is referred to in one character change as Croyd / Vishnu, by chance, but as with everything in a Wallace story even things that happen by chance happen within a design. The novel concerns, on one of its levels, a system of computerized indices keeping the balance of world peace called 'Comcord', which, if unbalanced, can activate the ultimate deterrent weapon, the Z-Sting, which could totally enshroud a state using a machine generated curse. It was a youthful Croyd who had brought peace to this corner of the galaxy by 'Comcord', but the threat was added while he slept for 75 years and the menacing power of that parallels his seeming chance assumption of the name of the Indian God of Cosmic balance and justice. In other novels Croyd is referred to as Croyd / Thoth, which brings to mind the ancient Egyptian God of Scribes, wisdom and knowledge. We are constantly reminded of his God nature, which is obviously responsible for his outstanding mental abilities. these enable him to travel through space and time both mentally and physically. He has vast stores of scientific knowledge, powers of telepathy, above average sexual attractiveness, all tinged with compassion and humour.

A hero with these abilities, like the ancient gods of old, has to have equally formidable enemies to match prowess with prowess. Take, instance, Dino Trigg, the villian of 'Megalomania', whom I'll deal with in more detail later, or the bewitching alien, LURLA, whose presence dominates the novel 'Croyd'. The events are always on a scale of cosmic magnitude with the enemy, or villain, trying to take over a world, or even a galaxy as Duke Dzendzel tries in 'A Voyage to Dari'.

One of Croyd's most formidable enemies is Dr. Orpheus from whom one of Wallace's most stylish and compelling novels takes its name. This novel is set in what the author calls a future Earthworld and it concerns a double threat to civilisation. These being an enslavement by invaders from a far galaxy and the more sinister enslavement to the miracle drug Anagonon given by an advance scout of the same invaders to dr. Fellanel (the Dr. Orpheus of the book title), who uses its side effects to set up a world obedient to him. He has a reincarnation of the Orpheus of Greek legend, but with what Wallace calls a "Pythagorean intellect".

One of the books dedications is to Gosseyn, the central character of A. E. Van Vogt's "Null A" novel (these are 2 of the most complex, brain blistering novels ever conceived by the mind of man and this is Wallace's tribute to Van Vogt). Like their inspiration, they contain time travelling paradoxes and breathtakingly swift action involving mind transfers and body transpositions.

In many of Wallace's novels, he uses the terms "downtiming and uptiming" to describe the passage of the mind / body into the past / future. Wallace also invented the terms "nonspace and nontime" to describe a kind of limbo for the mind and body, which is beyond the laws and perceptions of reality, thereby giving the protagonists of the novels a kind of cosmic stage on which to pull off their incredible feats.

The chapter headings of Dr. Orpheus give the reader a clue to where each stage of the action is to take place in space and time, eg.

Chapter 6 - Tannenport Space Station. 2502 A.D.; then Boston 2496 - 6 A.D.; then Eurydice, New Year's Eve 4 - 5 E.A.
Chapter 7 - Boston 2502 A.D.
Chapter 8 - Entering the Metagalactic Barrier; Date under Enquiry.

The action however takes place mainly in the multple mind and body transfers of Croyd, his lover GRETA GROEN (whom Orpheus sees as his lover taken from Greek legend, EURYDICE) and Dr. Fellanel / Orpheus / a future Dr. No. Orpheus has murdered Greta (or so Croyd believes) and Croyd has to go through a series of complex time manoeuvres to un-murder her and at the same time out manoeuvre invading aliens as well as Dr. Orpheus and his Anagonon enslaved followers.

Wallace handles the mind / body transfers with a deftness, which is totally acceptable to the reader, eg: Croyd re-enters his own body which has been in a state of stasis.

"Having thus assured himself that his original brain knew all that his present brain knew, Croyd - the mind departed his present brain, animating his original body. And now, again, he was HOME wholly Croyd - mentally, neuronically, somatically and spermatically Croyd."

Or when Croyd re-enters from downtime into a private laboratory on board the ULTIMA spacecraft.

"What Croyd was about to do would require about ten minutes of time coasting 0 that is, allowing herself to drift on a sort of diagonal uptime line which would bring him minute by minute ever closer to actuality. The four extra minutes were minimal allowance for error."

In his own words, the author describes this novel as "Leisurely space / time weaving" compared to the novel "CROYD" which he calls, "A swift mind fugue". There are few words wasted and in this "leisurely space time weaving" a character can travel light years or centuries in time in 3 sentences, yet always within the borders of credibility. All in all a highly recommended novel, impossible to put down; what the critics would call a "Space Opera", but on a highly sophisticated and brilliantly conceived level.

If Croyd has any weaknesses, then it is his involvement with females both human and alien. As mentioned earlier, the plot of "Dr. Orpheus" is centred around the murder of his lover, Greta, by Dr. Fellanel. The novel begin: -

"Thoth had never realised his utter personal emptiness until he learned that Dr. Orpheus had knifed his girl."

So from the beginning, the reader knows that Croyd has a weak link in his armour, very like the superhero James Bond.

In the novel "Croyd", the femme fatale, Lurla (the 'gnurl' princess) inflames our hero by hypnosis, however like Bond, he realises her intentions and abstains from her advances at the last moment (though by this time she's stolen his body and left his mind in the body she was using temporarily - this being our introduction to Greta Groen).

If Croyd had no failing or human traits, then he would be boring and any situation he faced could be dealt with immediately - consequently the book would only be 20, or so, pages long. Croyd's willingness to be seduced (as in "Z-Sting") and his romantic yearnings are often triggers which release events of cosmic magnitute, or, as in "A Voyage to Dari", his desire for Djeelian is at the forefront of his mind while an unseen invader enters his head and shuts off all of his godlike powers leaving him with only his human resources of intelligence and character to deal with the threat to the galaxy.

Another intriguing facet of these stories is that, although Croyd is the hero of the action throughout each story (except for "Megalomania", which is mostly concerned with Dino Trigg's revenge, rather than the foiling of it), the battle is more often won by one of the other characters. In "Croyd" the galaxy is saved by Lurla's kamikaze defusing of the megabomb. In "Megalomania" the galaxy can only be saved by Frey Zauberger's musical genius. In "A Voyage to Dari", Dzendzel is overcome in some manner never described by Freya, Pan's consort. While only in "Z-Sting" (the villian the inertial weight of a degenerated political system) and "Dr. Orpheus" does Croyd actually save the game.

His latest Croyd novel "Megalomania" is a rich and many layered novel full of bewildering complexities and juggling of extremes. On the surface it can be read as an amusing but succinct treatise on the use and abuses of power. It concerns a Luciferian character, Dino Trigg, who is first minister to Croyd, the leader of Sol Galaxy (at the time the events here take place). Trigg tries to control the outcomes of the galactic elections and thereby usurp the leadership of Croyd. He fails and takes out his revenge on his mentor and all the civilised worlds by the creation of a machine, which, fuelled by music, will cause a galactic Jet Stream (a recently observed astronomical phenomenon) to engulf the heart of Sol Galaxy. The physics of this process is briefly explained, but this is a case of what Wallace calls his 'creative astrophysical legislating'. To aid himself in this diabolic plot, Trigg engages the help of two fascinating aliens - four limbed bird creatures of the planet Hudibras. The male of this couple (who later turnse out to be female) is Dokktor Frey Zauberger, maestro of the ultra-synthesiser, the power of which Trigg needs to fulfil his mission of demonic revenge. On another level, the author's footnote mentions that it is the readers' privilege to view it as an allegory of the ejection from paradise of the archangel Lucifer. And of course, thre are parallels with the Faust myth.

The main theme of the novel stems from the title. It is about power. The abuse of Power. The lust for power. Croyd's control of power and its use for good. The raw powers of nature (the galactic jet stream). The power of mind, which defeats it. How power corrupts and the power of music. There is also the theme of the power of sex running through the novel.

"Ideas began to spurt, to fountain in groin-thrilling jet flow."

This kind of sexual metaphor often appears in the novel and the reader is constantly reminded of the powerful sexual image of the Galactic Jet Stream.

The dominant alien of the novel is Frey and he rules over his timid and put upon wife, Freya, with the power of his superior intellect and caustic tongue. However, our image of sexual stereotypes is shattered when through a series of sexual encounters, the roles of the sexes are completely reversed. We discover that Frey is in fact female and Freya, a male.

I could rave on for pages about the Croyd series, but these are only part of the Wallace universe and there are more gems for the discerning reader. Take for instance the tales of Claudine St. Cyr, super galactic sleuth, who is delicately beautiful, intelligent and often (like Croyd) very vulnerable. Read about her brilliantly detected solutions to even more bewildering murder plots in such fine tales as "Heller's Leap", "The Sign of the Mute Medusa", "Deathstar Voyage" and "The Purloined Prince".

Apart from the Croyd and St. Cyr series, there are also wonderful fantasy / S.F. tales such as "The Rape of the Sun". This is a novel of outrageous concepts in which our sun is stolen by a race of aliens and retrieved by a group of daring and intriguing individuals. Over the top indeed, but deliciously so - one can feel Wallace chuckling to himself as he admirably carries off the tasks of making the reader digest and accept these cosmic concepts. This novel features some particularly engaging characters. Take for instance, the alien Dhurk, who, to win acceptance from his beloved Hreda and to appease her fickle nature, must bring her a star for her museum - unfortunately for Earth, this particular star is Earth's star.

"The Lucifer Comet" combats a Promethean against a Satanic character in an age old struggle taking up the classic theme of the eternal battle between good and evil and is indeed a novel which questions human values in all their extremes of expression.

One of Wallace's strangest novels is "The World Asunder". It is almost impossible to describe this dreamlike masterpiece, because it is about so many thigns. However to say it involves superweapons, conflicts between different time epochs, passion, love, hate, murder and redemption gives a slight insight into the bewilderingly complex layers and sub-plots of this marvellous book - all I can say is, "Read it!"

A very enigmatic character called Pan Sagittarius has a novel named after him. He appears in the Croyd series as Croyd's double (neuronically, somatically and spermatically if not mentally) - a rebel figure, whereas Croyd works as or for governments. In this strange, picaresque tale, he visits the "If Nodes of Antan", which is a kind of crossroads in space / time where he enters the minds of famous historical figures. Here he plays a dangerous game of juggling alternate realities and their outcomes with his enormous ingenuity and intellect; a kind of cosmic Puck. Like Croyd, Pan is brave to the point of recklessness, is imbued with godlike qualities of wit and charm and is altogether a truly memorable character, full of humour and wisdom.

Wallace has channelled possibilities of mental liberation into an exciting narrative flow that is even more stimulating than Van Vogt's "Null A", as strange as Heironymus Bosch and spiced with side references to his own favourite authors like Cabell - for instance in "A Voyage to Dari" where Djeel says to Croyd:

"...And I think you may turn out to be our Kalki redeemer."
Now, this Kalki was a silver stallion."

The silver stallion, Kalki, comes from Cabell's eikosipentology "The Biography of Manuel", as does Antan - in Cabell, Antan is the "goal of all gods", ruled by Master Philologist and the enchantress, Queen Freydis. Indeed, Wallace's bent towards such subtle jokes is very similar to Cabell's own sense of humour. And so part of the fun of reading these books is to trace the allusions and to extrapolate possible meanings such as the co-joint dedication of "Croyd" to Dom Manuel, Hedrock and Bosch. Do, for instance, Wallace's concepts of nonspace and nontime have a parallel in Dom Manuel's perception that all he sees is real only in the glass of his window and if he ever opens the window instead of looking through the glass, he finds there is nothing there.

So there you are. I hope these few words have given you some insight into a remarkable talent. You rarely see Wallace's name mentioned in Locus, or S.F. Chronicle, or any of the other S.F. fan magazines and I feel this is a crime. Why he has been virtually ignored over the years is a total mystery to me. To my knowledge none of these books are available in British editions, except for a few out of print hardbacks, yet the shelves of my local S.F. bookstore are filled with inferior writings ad nauseum. Let's hope that someday the critics will "discover" him; until then I for one will continue to read and re-read these oddly baroque and contemplative novels.

John Wallace Pritchard was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 12th 1912. He lived in and around Detroit, Michigan from 1913 until his retirement from public education in 1974. It was at that time he moved with his wife Elizabeth and family to North Carolina. His wife and one of his sons are now sadly deceased.

Regarding his education, he has a B.A. in English Literature (Honours), a teaching certificate in special education plus an M.A. in educational philosophy with pre-doctoral studies in general philosophy. The author has also informed me that he has made intensive studies in natural sciences, history, clinical psychology, philosophy of science, relativity and prehistoric archaeology. He was employed by the Detroit Education Board between the years 1934 - 1974. From '34 - '42 he practised as a clinical psychologist, then from '42 - '74 as theif chief editor - publisher and also was a member of Wayne State University's part time faculty of education. He retired in '74 as Divisional Director. The Second World War years were spent as a clinical psychologist in the U.S. Army in France.

To conclude I asked Ian Wallace a few specific questions on his approaches to writing a novel:

"How do your write? For instance, could you mention your regimen, how ideas come and how you expand on them?"

"During many years until my retirement, I wrote eagerly whenever I could find time, habitually from 9 p.m. to 2 or 3 am., often starting with expansion of notes made at solitary lunch. I can't keep this up any more, so daytime writing is beginning to creep in. If I find an idea good enough to use, first expansion will be in terms of characters, their minds and personalities, story goals; later I may expand ideas further, to condense them, or even excise them, as a matter of adjusting pace or story progress."

"Could you tell us a little about your style of writing?"

"My style was influenced heavily by the styles of (odd juxtaposition) those of Cabell and Van Vogt. Both styles are crisp and economical, but in vastly different ways. I would add Thomas Mann for deep diving and allusiveness; and H.G. Wells for social idealism, though I'm not a Wellsian materialist. But I am no longer conscious of styles as I write, except on one point: you should be able to read me aloud without hissing - spraying because of sibilants in sloppy series."

As an afterthought, he also cites Bertram Russell as another influence on his style. He also mentions that type of story and characters influence style. Then I asked him how he goes about plotting.

"I do not start with an outline - not for fiction. A basic idea comes to me and I start writing it; after a bit, the developing characters and central ideas begin reacting on each other and before long I may start all over again. If I find a story beginning to grind, not carrying itself along in a smooth and glowing flow, I will stop and backcheck: somewhere back there I most likely overshot a turning, so I'll diagnose this and start again. What the climax and denouement have to be won't have to be, won't be perfectly clear to me till I'm past the middle. It's the best way for me."

"How real are your characters to you?"

"The central ones, usually five or six, are entirely real to me while I am working on them - their personalities and interactions modify and sometimes entirely redirect the storyline. Until I have brought them to that point, I'd better not submit to editors."

"How quickly do your write?"

"Twenty years ago, a first draft of a novel might be done in a month, or two, or three. Now I'm much slower."

"What is the amount of research proportionate to imagination?"

"Impossible to say, since I write mainly out of background which includes a great deal of past research. Some stories require a lot of calculator work, some don't. I'd say that imagination is in the head. Sometiems I want something to happen that simply ain't going to work in terms of known physics - I may have to do some research to make sure and then, in my nice convenient cosmos which is not electromagnetic, but instead is rekamatic (which behaves like electromagnetics except at some critical turning points). I do a little creative astrophysical legislating."

"What is your opinion of the quality of illustrations and cover art for your novels?"

"Mostly (as far as pro art goes) pretty mediocre and not only in respect to my own books. Two brilliant exceptions: the outstanding and intelligent work on the superb French edition of "The Lucifer Comet" (edited by S.F. author Daniel Walther) and the witty work on the Italian edition of "A Voyage to Dari", on whose cover the artist takes the spaceship Castel Jaloux, described by me as externally "a Rhine-type fortress flying" and renders it as a gadget ornate old shoe (it took a bit of study to see this)."

"Have you had any books out under other names?"

"Yes, but only one has been published, "Every Crazy Wind" under my own name. You may have noticed that I copyrighted "Megalomania" under my own name."

"Lastly, when is the next one due?"

"I have about three going, fighting each other for priorities. Certainly no publication before 1991 - 2."

Here's to you Mr. Wallace - keep on doing it!