The edition I have–Richard Powers cover art.

Wilson Tucker was active in science fiction fandom long before comic book concentions became a big deal for movie studios. Now, people pay hundreds of dollars to dress up like little kids on Halloween and watch commercials for movies made by massive corporations. Except kids don’t go out on Halloween anymore.

He devoted his life to SF fandom in its very early days, which is why it’s hard to find much on him online. He coined the term “space opera.” He published fiction, but not a lot of it. Someone like, say, Roger Zelazny, who died too soon, left behind a large body of written work. He is remembered for that. When you do a search, you find a lot more about RZ.

Tucker didn’t publish many books. When he died in 2006 at the age of 91, he left behind more than 20 novels, but few resonated with many readers. He made his living as a film projectionist, and had five kids from two wives. His second marriage lasted over fifty years. He is remembered by older fans for ‘Tuckerisms,’ which was the use of fan names in his fiction. Which is not much to be remembered by, really, is it?

Not great, but I’ll allow it.

Luckily, several of his novels are still readable by modern fans of good genre writing. One of my favorite novels is Wilson’s THE YEAR OF THE QUIET SUN, a tale of race war and time travel. I enjoyed it so much I was hesitant to read more of his work.

Having read only one other of his books, I can say, “So far, so good.”

THE LONG LOUD SILENCE (what a great title) is about a post-apocalyptic America, cut in half. A biological and nuclear attack has left America split, with anyone trying to escape the quarantined zone: the eastern half of the US. Our hero realizes he’s in the quarantine zone permanently. Various adventures follow, which I won’t spoil.

TLLS is not full of mutants and survivalists, which puts it ahead of its time. It’s a forerunner of THE ROAD in its focus on a handful of characters and not action and suspense. Originally published in 1952, it’s a break from what we think of as that old quaint stuff: sections dealing with cannibalism were removed from an ending that anticipates a famous Harlan Ellison novella.

A cover that has zilch to do with the contents.

Most of the violence comes later in the book, after we’ve gotten to know our hero, and it is appropriate. Our hero tries to get back to free America and learns some hard truths. In the end, well, that’d be telling, but it reminded me a little of a more famous, equally well-written end of the world novel.

I’m recommending TLLS because it comes from an era before post-apocalypse novels became so formulaic. It’s worth finding if you enjoy low-key, character-centric apocalyptic fiction. And it has some connections to the era of COVID. But don’t let that chase you off from this good novel from a writer who quietly rose above genre expectations.