Walter M(ichael) Miller, Jr. 1923–
American novelist, short story writer, and scriptwriter.
Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960) is generally regarded as one of the outstanding achievements of speculative literature. This novel is set in the future and depicts the gradual reestablishment of civilization following nuclear catastrophe. The novel generated much popular and critical attention upon publication, and the continuing relevance of its themes has helped sustain its popularity among both young adult and adult readers.
A Canticle for Leibowitz employs a three-part structure which parallels the development of Western civilization from the Dark Ages to modern times and emphasizes the cyclical nature of history. One of the principal themes of the novel, which Miller explores through allusions to the traditions of Roman Catholicism, is the role of religion in society. In addition, Miller details the impact on society of advances in science and technology. For these reasons, critics have variously categorized Canticle as historical, religious, or science fiction. Many agree that the scope of Canticle extends beyond these areas, since Miller's blending of themes results in a wealth of interpretations. Miller's focus on the responsibility of individuals in shaping the course of society gives the novel a moral perspective as well. Canticle won the Hugo Award in 1961.
Miller began his literary career in the early 1950s by contributing tales to various science fiction magazines. Many of these stories were later collected in The Science Fiction Stories of Walter M. Miller, Jr. (1978) and The Best of Walter M. Miller, Jr. (1980). As a whole, Miller's short fiction has inspired relatively little critical interest. "The Darfsteller," however, won a Hugo Award in 1955 as best novelette. This story is representative of Miller's short fiction in its examination of both the constructive and destructive effects of new technology.
(See also CLC, Vol. 4; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 85-88; and Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 8.)