Murray Leinster (June 16, 1896 – June 8, 1975) was a nom de plume of William Fitzgerald Jenkins, an award-winning American writer of science fiction and alternate history. He wrote and published more than 1,500 short stories and articles, 14 movie scripts, and hundreds of radio scripts and television plays.
Leinster was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of George B. Jenkins and Mary L. Jenkins. His father was an accountant. Although both parents were born in Virginia, the family lived in Manhattan in 1910, according to the 1910 Federal Census.
He began his career as a freelance writer before World War I; he was two months short of his 20th birthday when his first story, "The Foreigner", appeared in the May 1916 issue of H. L. Mencken's literary magazine The Smart Set. Over the next three years, Leinster published ten more stories in the magazine. During and after World War I, he began appearing in pulp magazines like Argosy, Snappy Stories, and Breezy Stories. He continued to appear regularly in Argosy into the 1950s. When the pulp magazines began to diversify into particular genres in the 1920s, Leinster followed suit, selling jungle stories to Danger Trails, westerns to West and Cowboy Stories, detective stories to Black Mask and Mystery Stories, horror stories to Weird Tales, and even romance stories to Love Story Magazine under the pen name Louisa Carter Lee.
Leinster's first science fiction story, "The Runaway Skyscraper", appeared in the February 22, 1919 issue of Argosy, and was reprinted in the June 1926 issue of Hugo Gernsback's first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories. In the 1930s, he published several science fiction stories and serials in Amazing and Astounding Stories (the first issue of Astounding included his story "Tanks"). He continued to appear frequently in other genre pulps such as Detective Fiction Weekly and Smashing Western, as well as Collier's Weekly beginning in 1936 and Esquire starting in 1939.
Leinster was one of the few science fiction writers from the 1930s to survive in the John W. Campbell era of higher writing standards, publishing over three dozen stories in Astounding and Analog under Campbell's editorship. The last story by Leinster in Analog was "Quarantine World" in the November 1966 issue, thirty-six years after his appearance in the premier January 1930 issue.
Murray Leinster's 1946 short story "A Logic Named Joe" contains one of the first descriptions of a computer (called a "logic") in fiction. In the story, Leinster was decades ahead of his time in imagining the Internet. He envisioned logics in every home, linked through a distributed system of servers (called "tanks"), to provide communications, entertainment, data access, and commerce; one character says that "logics are civilization."
After World War II, when both his name and the pulps had achieved a wider acceptance, he would use either "William Fitzgerald", "Fitzgerald Jenkins" or "Will F. Jenkins" as names on stories when "Leinster" had already sold a piece to a particular issue.
Leinster's career also included popular tie-in fiction based on several science fiction TV series: An episodic 1960 novel, Men into Space, was derived from the series' basic concepts, but Leinster had little knowledge of the series actual content, and none of the book episodes bear any relationship to the filmed episodes. (This odd phenomenon was not uncommon in the pre-VCR era. In the effort to rush a book onto the shelves to coincide with the airing of a new TV series, the commissioned novelist often had only limited source material to work from, such as a series "writer's bible", some production photos and perhaps a pilot script.) Men Into Space was followed, seven years later, by two original novels based on The Time Tunnel (1967); and three based on Land of the Giants (1968–69). (The novels based on The Time Tunnel may have been the first "meta" tie-ins in history, wherein an author wrote novels based on a filmed property based in turn on that author's own work. Leinster's wholly original earlier novel, published in 1964 by Pyramid as Time Tunnel [as opposed to The Time Tunnel], features a wormhole connecting the years 1904 and 1964. It depicts an alternate history in which Napoleon establishes a permanent rule in Europe. The rights to the novel were bought by 20th Century Fox, and the subsequent series was produced by Irwin Allen. Though the series was only very loosely based on the 1964 book, the same publisher, Pyramid, having secured the tie-in publication rights, returned to Leinster for novels set within the series' storytelling universe. Leinster, however, reinvented the origin story and interpreted the series' concept and characters in his own way, setting a precedent with which Pyramid books would continue, when commissioning tie-in series based on other TV dramas, by other writers — among them the first two The Invaders novels by Keith Laumer and The Mod Squad by Richard Deming — throughout the 60s.)
In 2000, Leinster's heirs sued Paramount Pictures over the film Star Trek: First Contact, claiming that as the owners of the rights to Leinster's 1945 short story "First Contact", it infringed their trademark in the term. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted Paramount's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the suit. The court found that regardless of whether Leinster's story first coined the phrase, it had since become a generic and therefore unprotectable term that described the genre of science fiction in which humans first encounter alien species. Even if the title was instead "descriptive"—a category of terms higher than "generic" that may be protectable—there was no evidence that the title had the required association in the public's mind (known as "secondary meaning") such that its use would normally be understood as referring to Leinster's story. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's dismissal without comment.