Stuart James Byrne (1913-2011)

William Lundigan in Men Into Space.

Stuart James Byrne died September 23, 2011 according to the Social Security Administration, although so far as Andrew Porter can tell this is just now coming to the attention of fandom.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Byrne’s stories were published in Science Stories, Amazing Stories, Imagination, and Other Worlds. In the mid-1950s he wrote a novel called Tarzan on Mars that the Burroughs estate would not authorize to be published, a minor controversy stoked by Ray Palmer, Other Worlds’ editor. In the 1970s, Byrne also worked as a translator on the Perry Rhodan series from German to English.

What especially caught my eye in Byrne’s Wikipedia entry is that he wrote for Men Into Space, which aspired to be a realistic weekly drama about near-future space exploration. It aired in 1959 and 1960 – my 7-year-old self watched it the same season The Flintstones premiered (see Yabba Dabba Doo Time from the other day.)

What would I think of it today? Impossible to guess, though from an effects and design standpoint the show’s producers seem to have invested a lot of effort, using Navy pressure suits in the premiere, taking inspiration from Von Braun’s proposed spacecraft, and hiring Chesley Bonestell to contribute some of the imagery.

Byrne wrote the series’ episode entitled “Quarantine” (1959) and the story for “Contraband” (1960).

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

10 thoughts on “Stuart James Byrne (1913-2011)

  1. That show was on too late for me to stay up and watch … nontheless, I managed to sneak viewings, and remember it being pretty good. It would be slow by contemporary standards, and the props and ideas about space would be badly dated. One guesses the acting would seem wooden too. But I like to think that “Men Into Space” would have held up well, considering. Hardly anyone remembers it though.

    I have a vivid recall of a spaceship trying to match velocities with a drifting asteroid. The asteroid was craggy, angular and start black and white. Perhaps we will find asteroids like this in the near future, but how wrong we were about the lack of elements to erode these bodies into smooth shapes! It was the other way around … the lack of elements to erode bodies into alpine shapes is why asteroids are like potatoes. Oh well … it wasn’t for the lack of thinking about it that old Chesley Bonestell paintings aren’t accurate either.

  2. Another show I never saw because my father was stationed overseas. Reruns allowed me the TWILIGHT ZONE, but this example has never been given that kind of post life syndication. There doesn’t seem to be any DVD release available. No doubt Forry Ackerman knew of it, since he launched SPACEMEN magazine around the same time.

    I’d probably be curious to know if the show was prompted by the launch of Sputnik.

  3. Robert – it’s one of the strange bits of overseas postings “back then” – various bits & pieces of topical American stuff are missing from my life. Every so often some will ask about something and then I realize, “Oh, I was out of the country then.”

  4. I watched Men Into Space, too. I remember a circular space station undergoing high-g due to a thruster stuck open, making it rotate faster and faster, and a lunar astronaut mostly-buried under a collapse of lunar dust which had to be blown off him with the gas spraying from an oxygen tank.

  5. Yes. My sister recently told me that often people will ask/tell, “of course you remeber that show–around 1959–when it was on”….and it was one of those gaps. I missed the rock and roll of the time, several dozen movies, a lot of comic strips, some comic books….

    There was a game played by the kids overseas: find the year. Which was to be the first to have a coin minted that year. The gap was once almost till May when a coin with the current year showed up.

  6. I can scarcely believe how often Men into Space has come to my attention this month!

    Paul Gilster was writing about it in his interstelllar-flight blog, Centauri Dreams.

    Then I started reading Gary Westfahl’s new book The Spacesuit Film, in which MIS features quite prominently. Here’s his online essay about the series.

    This show is pretty obscure, and one can go years without hearing it mentioned.

    At the time that it aired, I was too young to watch it. And its run of 38 episodes was too short to be aired in Sixties syndication. I’ve only seen one episode, on videotape. But it sure sounds like my kind of show: a noble attempt to stick to hard SF in a TV drama. There never have been very many of those.

  7. In France and Germany, access to Amercian based stores were given over the the families of the servicemen, so there was some comic book purchases. My sister and brother bought 45 rpm discs (made in England), and traffic flow between the states and Europe was quite open. So change was available. I’d never heard of script being used post 1950. Though England remained with food rationing towards the end of the 1950’s, which caused my father to not go to England as initially suggested (uh–ordered–), but chose to three years in Europe veses two in England.

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