Wolfgang Jeschke (1936-2015)

Wolfgang Jeschke in 2008.

Wolfgang Jeschke in 2008.

Wolfgang Jeschke, one of Germany’s most acclaimed science fiction writers and a former Worldcon guest of honor, passed away June 10 at the age of 78.

Jeschke was one of the first members of SFCD (Science Fiction Club Deutschland), founded in 1955. He contributed stories to fanzines and semiprozines, and co-edited a fanzine of his own, Ad Astra, with Peter Noga.

He grew up wanting to be an aircraft designer and to work for NASA, but once out of high school his love of literature proved stronger than those earlier ambitions. He studied philosophy and German literature at a Munich university, then left school to take a job as an assistant editor with Kindlers Literaturelexikon, an encylopedia publisher.

When Kindler proved willing to open a new science fiction paperback line, Jeschke became involved. His work on “Science Fiction für Kenner” (“Science Fiction for Connoisseurs”) brought him to the attention of Germany’s leading sf publisher, Heyne Verlag. In 1973 they hired him as a consultant, and in 1979 made him their sole sf editor.

At Heyne Verlag he was allowed to publish unabridged translations of foreign novels, which up to that time was not the policy. That required marketing the books at a higher price, which was successful because he published important novels like John Brunner’s Stand On Zanzibar. Heyne Verlag eventually increased its schedule from 4 titles a month in 1973 to 12 a month in 1984. He worked at Heyne until his retirement in 2002.

One of his specialties was editing anthologies — ISFDB lists 71, SF Encyclopedia puts the number at over 100.

He wrote numerous short stories and penned five novels. Most of the novels won top German awards — in 2014 his Dschiheads won the Deutscher Science Fiction Preis and the Kurd Laßwitz Preis for the Best German-language Novel. Altogether he won the Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis 18 times in various categories.

He received the Harrison Award from World SF in 1987.

Jeschke was a Guest of Honor at ConFiction, the 1990 Worldcon in The Hague.

And last year the European Science Fiction Society inducted him to the society’s Hall of Fame.

5 thoughts on “Wolfgang Jeschke (1936-2015)

  1. Unless he had access to a time machine, he didn’t live from 1936 to 2015 and then die at the age of 68. Someone who was born in 1936 is now either 78 or 79. Assuming Wikipedia is correct, he was 78 when he died.

  2. Mike Scott: I’m glad I am awake enough to read your correction. And since it’s now past midnight local time, I can recognize your efforts with another award as File 770 Hero Proofreader of the Day!

  3. Wolfgang Jeschke was born in the same Bohemian town where my grandparents lived before WW II.

    Strangely enough, although I recognized Jeschke as the great editor he was, I could never get into his fiction. As a writer, he belonged to the ‘it’s mostly about good genre stories’ faction in German SF (as opposed to the ‘make SF more literary!’ faction), and maybe I simply found his work too clichéd. All the more important that he brought daring, experimental, international SF to the attention of German readers.

  4. I knew Jeschke from the mid 1950s, when brother Jim & I beat him by a few months, as I recall, in publishing the first real fanzine in Deutschland–ours in English, his for SFCD. I’ve forgotten if he was at the Wetzler con, first in Germany, for which I think Jim & I are the sole surviving attendees. He was a good solid editor (ie bought all my books) and his novel of 2 years back was his best. I recommend it.
    A solid intellect, as well. I’ll miss him.

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