"God must hate common people, because he made them so common.""If liberty has any meaning it means freedom to improve.""Material blessings, when they pay beyond the category of need, are weirdly fruitful of headache.""One good teacher in a lifetime may sometimes change a delinquent into a solid citizen."
Born in Beverly, Massachusetts, he was the son of Presbyterian minister Edmund Melville Wylie and the former Edna Edwards, a novelist, who died when Philip was five years old. His family moved to Montclair, New Jersey and he later attended Princeton University from 1920–1923. He married Sally Ondek, and had one child, Karen, an author who became the inventor of animal "clicker" training; she was the wife of Taylor Alderdyce Pryor, a Marine helicopter pilot who became a Hawaii state senator and a co-founder of Sea Life Park and Oceanic Institute in Hawaii, of which his wife served as director. After a divorcing his first wife, Philip Wylie married Frederica Ballard who was born and raised in Rushford, New York; they are both buried in Rushford.
A writer of fiction and nonfiction, his output included hundreds of short stories, articles, serials, syndicated newspaper columns, novels, and works of social criticism. He also wrote screenplays while in Hollywood, was an editor for Farrar & Rinehart, served on the Dade County, Florida Defense Council, was a director of the Lerner Marine Laboratory, and at one time was an adviser to the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee for Atomic Energy which led to the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission. Most of his major writings contain critical, though often philosophical, views on man and society as a result of his studies and interest in psychology, biology, ethnology, and physics. Over nine movies were made from novels or stories by Wylie. He sold the rights for two others that were never produced.
His wide range of interests defies easy classification but his earliest books exercised great influence in twentieth-century science fiction pulp magazines and comic books:
Gladiator (1930) partially inspired the comic-book character Superman.
The Savage Gentleman (1932) may have had some inspiration on the pulp-fiction character Doc Savage.
When Worlds Collide (1933), co-written with Edwin Balmer, inspired Alex Raymond's comic strip Flash Gordon, as well as being adapted as a 1951 film by producer George Pal.
Writing as he did when less potent technology was available, he applied engineering principles and the scientific method quite broadly in his work. His novel The Disappearance (1951) is about what happens when everyone wakes up one day and finds that all members of the opposite sex are missing (all the men have to get along without women, and vice versa). The book delves into the double standards between men and women that existed prior the woman's movement of the 1970s, exploring the nature of the relationship between men and women and the issues of women's rights and homosexuality. Many people at the time considered it as relevant to science fiction as his Experiment in Crime.
The story The Paradise Crater (1945) was cause for his house arrest by the federal government; it describes a post-WWII 1965 Nazi attempt to rule the world with atomic power.
His nonfiction book of essays, Generation of Vipers (1942), was a best-seller during the 1940s and inspired the term "Momism". Some people have accused Generation of Vipers of being misogynistic. The Disappearance shows his thinking on the subject is very complex. (His only child, Karen Wylie Pryor, is the author of a classic book for breastfeeding mothers, Nursing Your Baby, and has commented that her father was far from being a misogynist.) His novel of manners Finnley Wren was also highly regarded in its time.
He wrote 69 "Crunch and Des" stories, most of which appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, about the adventures of Captain Crunch Adams, master of the charter boat Poseidon, which was the basis of a brief television series. His "Crunch and Des" stories were an apparent influence on John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee books. In 1941 Wylie became Vice-President of the International Game Fish Association and for many years was responsible for writing IGFA rules and reviewing world record claims.
He was also active in writing detective and mystery novelettes for a variety of magazines. Five of them were collected in 2010 as Ten Thousand Blunt Instruments and Other Mysteries, published by Crippen & Landru in its "Lost Classics" series and edited by Bill Pronzini.
An article Wylie written in 1951 in The Saturday Evening Post entitled 'Anyone Can Raise Orchids' led to the popularization of this hobby — not just the rich, but gardeners of every economic level began experimenting with orchids
In August 1963, his niece Janice Wylie was murdered, along with her roommate Emily Hoffert, in New York City. The crime, which became known as the "Career Girls Murder Case," led to the — at that time — most expensive criminal investigation in New York's history. The case provided the inspiration for the television movie The Marcus-Nelson Murders, which led to the television series Kojak.
Philip Wylie died from a heart attack on October 25, 1971. Some of his papers, writings, and other possessions are in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Princeton University Library.
Gladiator (1930) - one of the main inspirations for Superman
The Murderer Invisible (1931)
Footprint of Cinderella (1931)
The Savage Gentleman (1932)
When Worlds Collide (1933) (with Edwin Balmer) - Earth is destroyed in a collision with the rogue planet Bronson Alpha, with about a year of warning enabling a small group of survivors to build a spacecraft and escape to the rogue planet's moon, Bronson Beta. Filmed, with major changes to the story, as When Worlds Collide (1951).
After Worlds Collide (1934) (with Edwin Balmer) - Continues the story of When Worlds Collide, with both exploration of Bronson Beta and conflict with other groups of survivors.
The Golden Hoard (1934)
Finnley Wren (1934)
Too Much of Everything (1936)
An April Afternoon (1938)
The Other Horseman (1942)
Night Unto Night (1944), filmed in 1949, starring Ronald Reagan
Opus 21 (1949)
The Disappearance (1951) - An unexplained cosmic "blink" splits humanity along gender lines into two divergent timelines: from the men's perspective, all the women disappear and from the women's, all men vanish. The novel explores issues of gender role and sexual identity. It depicts an empowered condition for liberated women and a dystopia of an all male world. Wylie's setting allows him to investigate the role of homosexuality in situations where no gender alternative exists.
The Smuggled Atom Bomb (1951)
Three to be Read (1951). Three suspense novellas from The Saturday Evening Post
Tomorrow! (1954) - Nuclear war story centering around the atomic bombing of two fictional Midwest cities adjacent to each other in the mid-1950s; one has an effective Civil Defense program, the other does not.
The Answer (1955)
The Innocent Ambassadors (1957)
They Both Were Naked (1963)
Triumph (1963) - Nuclear war story involving a worst-case USA/USSR "spasm war" where both sides empty their arsenals into each other with extensive use of "dirty" bombs to maximize casualties, resulting in the main characters (in a very deep bomb shelter) being the only survivors in the entire Northern Hemisphere. An excerpt from this novel (or perhaps the whole thing) was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post magazine.
The Spy Who Spoke Porpoise (1969) - the President of the United States learns that there is a category of CIA files, code named Zed, to which he is not allowed access.
The Sons and Daughters of Mom (1971)
The End of the Dream (1972) - foresees a dark future where America slides into ecological catastrophe.
"Seeing New York by Kiddie Car" (1926)
"Jungle Journey" (1945)
"The Paradise Crater" (1945)
"An Epistle to the Thessalonians" (1950)
"Philadelphia Phase" (1951)
"The Answer" (1955)
Ten Thousand Blunt Instruments and Other Mysteries (2010)
"Crunch and Des" collections
The Big Ones Get Away (1940)
Salt Water Daffy (1941)
Fish and Tin Fish (1944)
Selected Short Stories of Philip Wylie (1945)
Crunch & Des: Stories of Florida Fishing (1948)
The Best of Crunch & Des (1954)
Treasure Cruise and other Stories (1956)
Crunch & Des: Classic Stories about Saltwater Fishing (1990)
A Generation of Vipers (1942)
An Essay on Morals (1947)
The Magic Animal (1968)
The following is a partial list:
"Why Colleges Fail Students" Saturday Evening Post (Dec. 13, 1930)
"The Quitter as Hero" Harper's Magazine (Oct. 1933)
"Writing for the Movies" Harper's Magazine (Nov. 1933)
"The Illiteracy of Educators" Saturday Review of Literature (June 3, 1944)
"Sex and the Censor" Nation (July 8, 1944)
"War and Peace in Miami" New Republic (1944)
"Memorandum on Anti-Semitism" American Mercury (Jan. 1945)
"How To Admire Writers" Atlantic (1950)
"We Are Making a Circus Of Death" Coronet (September, 1959)
"Medievalism and the MacArthurian Legend" Quarterly Journal of Speech (1951)
"Panic, Psychology, and the Bomb" Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Feb. 1954)
"The Mysterious Doctors of Bimini" Saturday Evening Post (1954)
"The Crime of Mickey Spillane" Good Housekeeping (1955)
"Predictions: 2001 A.D." (1956)
"UFOs: The Sense and Nonsense" Popular Science (March 1967)
"McNamara's Missile Defense: A Multi-Billion Dollar Fiasco?" Popular Science (Jan. 1968)
"Who Killed Mankind?" Today's Health (Oct. 1970)
"L.A. 2017" (also known as "Los Angeles: A.D. 2017"), directed by Steven Spielberg and featuring Gene Barry, Barry Sullivan, and Edmond O'Brien; an episode of the television series The Name of the Game. A science-fiction dystopia, based around a psychiatric/fascist government in the underground-sheltered remnants of humanity, the aftermath of an environmental (pollution) catastrophe. Wylie wrote the novelization as Los Angeles: A.D. 2017.
Crunch and Des was adapted for a syndicated TV series (37 episodes, 1955-1956) starring Forrest Tucker and Sandy Kenyon and filmed in Bermuda.