George R. Stewart: The Man Who Named the Storms
These pages are dedicated to the work of George R. Stewart, best-selling novelist, historian, inventor of book-types, and author of Earth Abides.
Stewart also worked out a new paradigm for literature. He wove human and natural sciences and history into his books, thus creating works with a multi-disciplinary perspective on events and places. And long before humans had actually seen it, Stewart’s books often included the view from space. So although the first Earth Day was not celebrated until 1969, Stewart was writing “Whole Earth” books decades earlier.
He had a great influence on other authors and artists, and scientists. Authors Stephen King, Greg Bear, Kim Stanley Robinson, Page Stegner, Ivan Doig, and Keith Ferrell have acknowledged Stewart’s influence on their work. Creative people in other fields, including NASA-JPL’s Dr. James D. Burke, painter and Stewart scholar Steve Williams, Bancroft Library Archivist Anthony Bliss, Grammy-nominated composer and pianist Philip Aaberg, and Geographer Paul F. Starrs comment on Stewart’s role in shaping their work. (Aaberg even composed “A Soundtrack for Earth Abides.”) William Least Heat Moon includes several chapters about Stewart’s U.S. 40 in The Road to Quoz: An American Mosey. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wallace Stegner wrote a definitive essay,“George R. Stewart and the American Land,” about Stewart’s work. And poet-novelist James Sallis has written a fine essay about Stewart’s great ecological novel: "Earth Abides: Stewart’s dark eulogy for humankind.”
Stewart wrote in the mid-twentieth century. Several of his books have become literary classics and continue to sell well. Stewart’s great post-apocalyptic novel Earth Abides has been in continuous print (and twenty languages) since its first publication in 1949. The novel won the 1951 International Fantasy Award (the classic Chesley Bonestell/Willy Ley The Conquest of Space won the award in the non-fiction category). Recently, it was number eight on the Amazon sales list for twentieth century U.S. fictional literature.
U.S. 40: Cross Section of the United States of America
Stewart’s U. S. 40 is a fine example of his work. It uses the highway as a self-guiding interpretive trail to the geography of a “cross-section of the United States.” Click here for our discussion of this book, and its importance to Stewart.
Stewart’s Hammer: Earth Abides, His Best-Known Book
“Earth Abides is a 1949 post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by American writer George R. Stewart. It tells the story of the fall of civilization from deadly disease and its rebirth. Beginning in the United States in the 1940s, it deals with Isherwood “Ish” Williams, Emma, and the community they founded. The survivors live off the remains of the old world, while learning to adapt to the new. Along the way they are forced to make tough decisions and choose what kind of civilization they will rebuild.”
What gives George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides its force? Let’s investigate.
Donald Scott's biography of Stewart: The Life and Truth of George R. Stewart
Information Links: George R. Stewart
All uncredited or unattributed material on this website © Donald M. Scott.
Update history: This page created 10 March 2011; latest update 5 November 2016.
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Books by George R. Stewart