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Thomas Scortia, Best-Selling Writer of Science Fiction Stories, Dies at 59

Thomas Scortia, an aerospace chemist and executive who parlayed his knowledge of science into a series of best-selling short stories and science fiction books, died Tuesday of leukemia.

The author of “The Glass Inferno,” “What Mad Oracle,” “The Prometheus Crisis” and several other books and screenplays was 59. He died in Pomona Valley Community Hospital.

Scortia was a chemist with a degree from Washington University of St. Louis who spent the 1950s and ‘60s working for a variety of aerospace-related firms on both coasts.

He teamed with Frank Robinson in 1970 and began writing full time. Their initial effort was “The Glass Inferno,” which with another book formed the basis for the film “The Towering Inferno.”

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They sold “Ten Days to Zero” to Universal Studios and it was made into a television movie, and then Scortia joined with Dalton Trumbo to write “The Endangered Species,” a tale of Soviets and Americans cooperating in space for the survival of the human race.

“Prometheus Crisis” was based on a near-disastrous fire at the Browns Ferry nuclear reactor plant in Decatur, Ala. Scortia changed the locale to the West Coast, and the book became one of six best sellers he had written at his death.

His son, Nicholas, who is Scortia’s only survivor, said his father also held the patent on the fuel used in the U.S. Jupiter flyby mission.


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