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On This Day - December 16

Literary and Innovative People
A celebration of writers and writing on this day through history.

Picture of Laurens Van Der Post

1996 Laurens Van Der Post was born on December 13, 1906 and died on December 16, 1996. Laurens Van Der Post was many things but foremost in his heart was nature and the environment. He conducted many expeditions in various parts of Africa, at the behest of his new found friends in London. Venture to the Interior describes one of these trips.

Picture of Philip K Dick

1928 Philip K Dick was born on December 16. 1928 and died on March 2nd, 1982. Philip K Dick is in a class of his own, within or without the science fiction genre. It was said that science fiction was crass, shallow and only concerned with the dramatic. That it had no depth, that it was fine when it concerned those things which were outside us. Aliens, monsters and catastrophies were the dictum. Once it did not really affect us everything was okay. Philip K Dick almost single-handed changed all that.
He brought the personal into science fiction. It was not all going to rosy, though. He showed us how there was always going to be a price to pay.
Things were not always what they seemed and we could trick ourselves with our own perception of what is going on. But there was still the price to be paid. This was science fiction with a consciounce. It was science fiction with a consciousness of our surroundings. He was saying I'll give you the future, but remember that you are responsible for that future. It is not just going to happen. Enerything that is happening now is contributing to the future. So be careful about what you do now because the future is a progression of the present. And it is down to the individual. This is the individual's place in the scheme of things. The Game Players of Titan is arguably one of his best novels.

Picture of Arthur C Clarke

1917 Arthur C Clarke was born in Minehead, Somerset in 1917. He died in Sri Lanka on March 19, 2008. He was the author of many science fiction novels and books of short fiction. He also wrote books on science and had an engineering background, having served in the Royal Air Force as a radar specialist. His best known work,"2001: A Space Odyssey" was adapted for film by Stanley Kubrick. While the film was rather scant of scientific explanation, preferring to rely on the story and the effects, the book was full of detailed explanation. Clarke had other books adapted into movies, but none as successfully as 2001:A Space Odyssey. Arthur C Clarke is no stranger to Hugo and Nebula Awards having picked up six of them and been nominated a further three times for his fiction and short stories. 2010: Odyssey Two is the follow-up to 2001, A Space Odyssey and is one of the best Arthur C Clarke books.

Picture of James Thurber

1775 Jane Austen(1775 - 1817)
Austen was the daughter of a rector and the sixth child of seven siblings.
She never married nor did anything else out of the ordinary. Water Scott said she had that exquisite touch which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting. Austen was an author of romantic novels who lived in the late eighteenth to nineteenth century. Her novels were very popular in her time and they continue to have appeal.
They are also used as school texts. Her depiction of the landed gentry and her style of writing captures a point in time that will never be repeated or portrayed so delicately. Sense and Sensibility is Austen's first novel. The sketch on the right by Jane's sister, Cassandra, is the only known depiction of Jane Austen from her own time.

Authors who were born on December 16:

  • 1787 – Mary Russell Mitford, English author and playwright
  • 1849 – Mary Hartwell Catherwood, American author and poet
  • 1863 – George Santayana, Spanish philosopher, novelist, and poet
  • 1895 – Marie Hall Ets, American author and illustrator
  • 1901 – Margaret Mead, American anthropologist and author
  • 1905 – Piet Hein, Danish mathematician, author, and poet
  • 1916 – Ruth Johnson Colvin, American author and educator, founded ProLiteracy Worldwide
  • 1917 – Nabi Bux Khan Baloch, Pakistani author and scholar
  • 1927 – Peter Dickinson, Rhodesian-English author and poet
  • 1927 – Randall Garrett, American author and poet
  • 1930 – Bill Brittain, American author
  • 1932 – Quentin Blake, English author and illustrator
  • 1938 – Frank Deford, American journalist and author
  • 1951 – Sally Emerson, English author and poet
  • 1959 – Steve Mattsson, American author and illustrator
  • 1961 - Bill Hicks, American comedian

Authors who died on December 16:

  • 1859 – Wilhelm Grimm, German anthropologist and author
  • 1897 – Alphonse Daudet, French author, poet, and playwright
  • 1928 – Elinor Wylie, American poet and author
  • 1956 – Nina Hamnett, Welsh painter and author
  • 1965 - W Somerset Maugham, English author
  • 1970 - Oscar Lewis, American anthropologist and author
  • 1996 – Quentin Bell, English historian and author
  • 1998 – William Gaddis, American author and academic
  • 2001 – Stefan Heym, German-American soldier and author
  • 2005 – Kenneth Bulmer, English author
  • 2013 – Marta Russell, American journalist, author, and activist
  • 2015 – Peter Dickinson, Rhodesian-English author and poet


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