The Year of the Quiet Sun Analysis
The Year of the Quiet Sun, which won a retrospective John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 1976, came out in paperback six years earlier as an Ace Science Fiction Special edited by Terry Carr. The novel owes something to H. G. Wells’s classic The Time Machine (1895), both in the fact that a mechanical time traveling device is used (rather than a dream or divine intervention, as in some earlier stories) and in the outcome for the protagonist. It covers a shorter time span and, perhaps for that reason, seems more realistic despite the lack of detailed explanation of how the time machine works. Wilson Tucker provides so much detail in his description of its appearance, its operation, and his characters’ reactions to it that the reader tends to accept it at face value.
The Year of the Quiet Sun comes late in Tucker’s writing career, which began with magazine science fiction in the 1940’s. He had published fanzines for a decade prior to that, served as president of the National Fantasy Fan Federation, and was honored as a fan, rather than a writer, at several world science-fiction conventions. His first novel, The Chinese Doll (1946), was a mystery. His first science-fiction novel was The City in the Sea (1951). He continued to write in both genres, but even in his mysteries he used the names of science-fiction fans and writers for some of his characters. These became known as “Tuckerisms.”
His novel of a man with extrasensory perception and other psi abilities, Wild Talent (1954), predated Frank M. Robinson’s better-known novel on the same theme, The Power, by two years. Tucker also wrote space opera and other forms of science fiction, but he concentrated on the ramifications of time travel more than on other topics.
Besides The Year of the Quiet Sun, Tucker produced The Lincoln Hunters (1958), in which a twenty-sixth century time traveling researcher shares the same fate as Chaney, the difference being that this one becomes trapped in the mid-nineteenth century. In Ice and Iron (1974), visitors from the future come back to an icebound United States. The Time Masters (1953) involves long-lived space voyagers stranded on Earth ten thousand years ago and living hidden among its inhabitants; it touches on time travel in their twentieth century references to witnessing fights in the Roman arena or living in ancient Egypt. Its surviving protagonist appears in Time Bomb (1955; published as Tomorrow Plus X, 1957), which has some time hopping. All these novels show Tucker’s fascination with history.