Ray Nelson

For the baseball player, see Ray Nelson (baseball).
Ray Nelson
Born Radell Faraday Nelson
(1931-10-03) October 3, 1931
Schenectady, New York
Nationality American
Other names R. Faraday Nelson, R. F. Nelson, Jeffrey Lord, California Ray and the "Old Beatnik"
Occupation Author, cartoonist
Known for "Eight O'Clock in the Morning"
Spouse(s) Perdita Lilly, Kirsten Enge
Website http://www.raynelson.com

Radell Faraday "Ray" Nelson (born October 3, 1931) is an American science fiction author and cartoonist most famous for his 1963 short story "Eight O'Clock in the Morning", which was later used by John Carpenter as the basis for his 1988 film They Live.

Personal life

Nelson was born October 3, 1931 in Schenectady, New York, the son of Walter Hughes Nelson and Marie Reed. He became an active member of science fiction fandom while still a teenager at Cadillac High School in Cadillac, Michigan. After graduation, he attended the University of Chicago (studying theology), then spent four years studying in Paris, where he met Jean-Paul Sartre, Boris Vian and Simone de Beauvoir, as well as Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, William Burroughs and other Beat Generation icons. In Paris, he worked with Michael Moorcock smuggling then-banned Henry Miller books out of France. While there, he also met Norwegian Kirsten Enge, who became his second wife October 4, 1957. Their only child, Walter Trygve Nelson, was born September 21, 1958 in Paris.[1] He had previously been married to fellow fan Perdita Lilly,[2][3] subject of his first book, the 23-page poetry collection Perdita: Songs of Love, Sex and Self Pity,[4] who would later marry John Boardman.[5]


Nelson began his career writing and creating cartoons for science fiction fanzines. Later Nelson wrote many professionally published short stories including "Turn Off the Sky" and "Nightfall on the Dead Sea". His best known story "Eight O'Clock in the Morning" was published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (November 1963). Ray Nelson and artist Bill Wray adapted the story as their graphic comic "Nada" published in the comic book anthology Alien Encounters (No. 6, April 1986) and director John Carpenter adapted it as his film They Live (1988).[6]

Nelson collaborated with Philip K. Dick on the 1967 alien invasion novel The Ganymede Takeover. Nelson was friends with Philip K. Dick starting in childhood, and in a documentary about Dick, Nelson says that the only times that Dick tried LSD were the two times that he gave it to him.[7] That biographical documentary about Dick, in which Nelson is a featured interviewee, is The Penultimate Truth About Philip K. Dick produced in 2007.

In the early 1970s. Nelson ran a writers' workshop at a Unitarian church in the San Francisco area. One of his students was Anne Rice.[8]

His 1975 book Blake's Progress, in which the poet William Blake is a time traveler, has been the author's greatest critical success. Richard A. Lupoff described it as "a revelation," saying "Nelson's style is sharply focused and carefully colored... His plotting is exactly as complex as it ought to be [and] his characters are nicely drawn."[9] It was rewritten and republished as 1985's Timequest.

At the 1982 Philip K. Dick Awards, Nelson's novel The Prometheus Man gained a Special Citation (runner-up).[10]

Propeller beanie

A propeller beanie hat

Ray Nelson has professed that his greatest claim to fame is to be the creator of the iconic propeller beanie as emblematic of science fiction fandom while a 10th-grader at Cadillac High School. He also claims to have invented the "Beany" character in a 1948 contest for what would become Time for Beany while visiting relatives in California. "I think it's probably my best bet of being remembered," Nelson says. "I've never been on the New York Times best seller list."[11]



  1. "Radell Faraday Nelson: A Brief Biography" on his website
  2. 1951 cover of fanzine Fanvariety #9 by "Perdita Nelson"
  3. Vegas Fandom Weekly #103, with 1952 photo of Nelson and Lilly on p. 11
  4. Worldcat listing for Perdita: Songs of Love, Sex and Self Pity
  5. Fanzine Index listing for 1967–1968 fanzines by "John & Perdita Boardman"
  6. Steve Swires, "John Carpenter and the Invasion of the Yuppie Snatchers", Starlog, Nov, 1988, pp.37-40 and 43
  7. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1461696/ IMDb listing for The Penultimate Truth About Philip K. Dick
  8. "Richard Lupoff's Book Week," Algol 17, 1977, p.29
  9. "Lupoff's Book Week", Algol 28, 1977, p.48.
  10. The Official Philip K. Dick Awards Home Page: List of all works nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award March 8, 2003
  11. Killingbeck, Dale. "Local spin on propellor beanie", Cadillac News, October 13, 2005.


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