L. Sprague de Camp

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Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Lyon Sprague de Camp was born on November 27, 1907 in New York City to Lyon and E. Beatrice (nee Sprague) de Camp. He seemed destined as a young man for a career in the applied sciences. In 1930, he received his bachelor's degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology, and in 1933, he received his master's degree in engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. During World War II he was an assistant mechanical engineer at an aircraft factory, and he served as a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Naval Reserve. Even his first book was a technical one, Inventions and their Management (1937 co-authored with Alf K. Berle; revised as Inventions, Patents, and Their Management, 1959).

His first short story "The Isolinguals" (1937) gave a hint of the career to come. This began his relationship with two famous periodicals edited by John C. Campbell, the fantasy magazine Unknown and the science fiction magazine Astounding Science Fiction. Another important influence on his writing career was his marriage in 1939 to Catherine Crook, an English teacher, with whom he has two children, Lyman and Gerard. It is difficult to assess the effect his wife has had on de Camp's writings, but she has collaborated with him on several books, and she has over the years handled most of his business affairs. During the 1940s, de Camp attracted a large following of young readers with his strikingly original plots and situations. He also developed in his fiction at this time the signature lighthearted humor, careful characterizations, and keen attention to details that make even the most outlandish situations vivid and believable. His short stories and the novels Lest Darkness Fall and The Incomplete Enchanter were successful enough to allow him to devote himself full time to free-lance writing after World War II.

Since that time he has written nearly one hundred books, including nonfiction as well as fiction. He has also published about four hundred articles and stories. His works have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Throughout his career he has focused first and foremost on entertaining his readers, and he has succeeded not only in retaining the readership he cultivated in the 1940s but also in winning new readers from each following generation. His nonfiction discussions of literature and science are held in high esteem among science fiction writers.

De Camp's first...

(The entire section is 589 words.)