Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Name “Gillian”

Born Walter Llewelyn Hughes, he was educated at Dudley Grammar School and Wolverhampton College and lived most of his life in Bilston. He ran his own furniture store, Walter Hughes Ltd in Bradley and became Managing Director of Brasteds Ltd (a contraction of Bradley Bedsteads). In 1931 he married Doris Higgins; they had two children. He was a member of the British Interplanetary Society and British Astronomical Association, and became president of Bilston Rotary Club, and High Chief Ranger of the Ancient Order of Foresters. He was also a member of Bilston Tennis Club, was elected a member of Bilston Borough Council and was in due course was appointed a magistrate.


In 1955 he was asked to talk at Bilston Rotary Club when the scheduled speaker cancelled. He spoke on space and astronomy, and as a result was asked to speak at nearby Coseley library during Science Fiction week. In preparation he read a large number of science fiction books, was not impressed, and thought he could do better. At the age of 47 he wrote his first book in secret under the pseudonym of Hugh Walters. He later said: "As I was also a magistrate and a local councillor, I felt [that writing science fiction] left me open to ridicule. People tend to treat science fiction as a bit of a joke, so I juggled with my name and came up with Hugh Walters."

Of his writing Walters said: "I believe a good SF story should (1) entertain, (2) educate painlessly, and (3) inspire the young people of today to be the scientists and technicians of tomorrow"

His first novels mostly dealt with the exploration of other planets in our solar system. Written for a juvenile audience, they had a scientific foundation, anticipating such advances as ion engines. Walters turned to writing novels concerning alien visits after all the planets had been explored.

The main characters in his novels were two British astronauts, an American, and a Russian. Their names were Chris Godfrey, Tony Hale, Morrey Kant and Serge Smyslov, respectively. Later missions used a pair of telepathic twins, Gill and Gail Patrick, for communication.

The covers of the first 14 books had cover illustrations by the Faber and Faber illustrator Leslie Wood.

His books are still present on the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society recommended reading list for children and young adults.

Two sisters, Gillian and Gail Patrick,
were twins and telepathic. One of them
traveled to the outer solar system
on adventures with young astronaut friends
and although nobody understood why
not even engineers or scientists
the telepathic link required no time
for thoughts to bridge the distance between Earth
and the planets of the outer system
although radio communications
might take, for instance, four hours to travel
one way from Earth to a craft at Neptune.

Gillian Patrick was fiction, of course.

And maybe telepathy isn’t real,
or maybe it is, no one knows for sure.

But thoughts can travel from here to Neptune
something close to instantaneously.

This was a different world. And it is.

I like the name Gillian. And I like
that different world—of adventures, friends,
and distances thoughts bridge in an instant.

The real outer planets are still out there.

Is the real Gillian still out there, too?

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