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29 November 2011

J. T. McIntosh (born Feb. 14, 1925 in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland) was a pseudonym used by Scottish writer and journalist James Murdoch MacGregor. MacGregor used the pseudonym for all his science fiction work, which was the majority of his output, though he did publish some books under his own name.
I think that his book, One in Three Hundred, is his best work. It appeared in 1954, and was reissued by the UK SF Book club two years later in hardcover. It’s in three novellas, and may originally have appeared in one of the pulpzines although I can find no record of that, it may alternatively have been written that way in hopes of pulp publications and when his first two books sold he then sold One in Three Hundred as a book without further attempts to sell it in sections. In section one of the book One in Three Hundred Bill Easson has the unenviable task of choosing ten people to live from a town of three thousand. The sun is about to flare and scientists have warned that everything on earth will die, however Mars will not only survive, it would improve and it will be possible to live there. By a combination of desperate effort, and a fair amount of fudging the truth and stretching possibilities, Governments announce that they can save one in three hundred of the population. So Bill is sent to Simsville to choose those whom he will take in his tiny lifeslip (spaceship.) This section is riveting, how would people behave under these circumstances? How would someone, a fairly ordinary man, manage to choose who is to survive and by what criteria? What will sway his choices and how will those in the town, knowing his choice is their life or death, behave towards others, or towards him?
The second section is the journey to Mars, looking at the compromises the passengers must make, (the discussion on morality is amusing now, but in the 1950s it would have been valid then) gradually Bill realizes there is a major problem that could mean everyone in the lifeslip will die despite their apparent escape. How that is dealt with both physically and emotionally, as the passengers understand the dilemma, is psychologically believable and still relevant.
Section three is wryly clever. Over and over it shows how basic human nature hasn’t and isn’t changed even by a catastrophe that’s wiped out all but twenty thousand people. They become tired of cramped conditions, poor food, nothing more then water to drink, inadequate clothing, unrelenting hard and dirty work, and uncongenial companions and they do silly, desperate, dangerous, or illegal things. There is huge pressure on the surviving women to pair off even temporarily and breed. So much so that rape, so long as the woman isn? beaten or otherwise injured as well, appears to be winked at. And savagely beating a man who doesn? want to labour fourteen hours a day under appalling conditions is not only condoned but ordered. The final section shows that people are people; on earth, Mars, or anywhere else and there will always be those who are wolves, sheep, jackals, or sheepdogs, and each will act according to his nature even if temporarily, s/he’s appeared in different garb for the duration of the worst of the emergency. Even close to sixty years after this book was written it stacks up quite well. That’s because the author looked at people and not just at technology, and the nature of people changes a lot more slowly, something for later SF writers to consider.
Film credit
Along with John Mather, J. T. McIntosh is credited for the screenplay for the color feature film Satellite in the Sky (1956). He has not published anything since 1980.

Partial bibliography
World out of Mind (1953)
Born Leader (1954)
One in Three Hundred (1954)
The Fittest (1955)
Incident Over the Pacific (1960)
Two Hundred Years to Christmas (1961)
The Million Cities (1963)
The Noman Way (1964)
Out of Chaos (1965)
Take a Pair of Private Eyes (1968) This has been listed in a number of places as a book and it may have been published in 1968 as a TV series tie-in. However it was originally a 6 episode UK TV series. Derek Fowlds (Heartbeat, Yes Minister, et al) starred as the husband of a husband and wife team of private detectives. The series appeared on BBC2 from April 10th to May 15th 1966. For those who like Modesty Blaise, note that the series was created by Peter O’onnell.
Time for a Change (1967) aka Snow White and the Giants
Six Gates from Limbo (1968 novel)
Transmigration (1970 novel)
A Coat of Blackmail 1970)
Flight from Rebirth (1971 novel)
The Space Sorcerers (1972)
The Cosmic Spies (1972)
Galactic Takeover Bid (1973)
Ruler of the World (1976)
Norman Conquest 2066 (1977)
This is The Way The World Begins (1977)
A Planet Called Utopia (1979)

Short Stories
The Curfew Tolls 1950 (Astounding)
Machine Made (1951)
“Selection,” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January 1955
“You Were Right, Joe” short story, Galaxy Science Fiction, November 1957
“Unit.” New Worlds, 1957
“Tenth Time Around,” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May 1959
“The Wrong World,” Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1960
“Planet of Fakers,” Galaxy Science Fiction, October 1966

a number of McIntosh’s works are available here and there in free downloads.

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