This Goodly Land

Homer Hickam (February 19, 1943–present)

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Biographical Information

Homer Hickam was born and raised in Coalwood, W.Va., a coal mining town. He wrote stories as a boy and read extensively, especially science fiction. One of Hickam’s boyhood heroes was the rocket scientist Dr. Wernher von Braun. After the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik in 1957, Hickam and a group of friends began building and launching their own rockets. Hickam attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute, writing for the college newspaper and graduating with a BS in Industrial Engineering in 1964. He served for six years in the US Army, including a tour of duty in Vietnam in the 1960s and an assignment in Puerto Rico where he learned to scuba dive. From 1971 to 1981, Hickam worked for the US Army Aviation and Missile Command in Huntsville, Ala., and in Germany. From 1981 until his retirement in 1998, he worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, where his duties involved spacecraft design and astronaut training.

Hickam began his professional writing career in the 1970s and 1980s with magazine articles about scuba diving. Torpedo Junction, published in 1989, was inspired by the wrecks of ships he observed while scuba diving off the coast of North Carolina. In the mid-1990s, Hickam wrote a magazine article about his boyhood rocket experiments. The enthusiastic response led him to write Rocket Boys, which was published in 1998. A movie version, October Sky, was released in 1999. Since his retirement from NASA, Hickam has devoted his time to writing. He has published two more memoirs and several novels, the first of which, Back to the Moon, appeared in 1999. Hickam lives in Huntsville and the Virgin Islands.

Interests and Themes

Homer Hickam’s nonfiction work includes three memoirs of his boyhood in Coalwood, W.Va., a collection of oral histories from Coalwood residents, and a history of the World War II U-boat attacks on US shipping. His first novel was a thriller about a NASA scientist, and the protagonist of his most recent novels is a World War II Coast Guard officer.

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Photo courtesy of Homer Hickam.

Last updated on May 30, 2008.

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