Walter Michael Miller, Jr. (January 23, 1923 New Smyrna Beach, Florida – January 9, 1996) was an American science fiction author primarily known for a single novel, A Canticle for Leibowitz, the only novel he published in his lifetime.
Miller grew up in Florida. Educated at the University of Tennessee and the University of Texas, he worked as an engineer. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps as a radioman and tail gunner, flying 53 bombing missions over Italy. He took part in the bombing of the Benedictine Abbey at Monte Cassino, which proved a traumatic experience for him.
Between 1951 and 1957, Miller published over three dozen science fiction short stories, winning a Hugo Award in 1955 for the story "The Darfsteller". Late in the 1950s, Miller assembled a novel from three closely related novellas he had published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1955, 1956 and 1957. The novel, entitled A Canticle for Leibowitz, was published in 1959.
A Canticle for Leibowitz is a post-apocalyptic novel and is considered a masterpiece of the genre. It won the 1961 Hugo Award for Best Novel. The novel is also a powerful meditation on world history and Roman Catholicism, a faith its author espoused in 1947.
After the success of A Canticle For Leibowitz, Miller never published another new novel or story in his lifetime, although several compilations of Miller's earlier stories were issued in the 1960s and 70s. As well, a radio adaptation of A Canticle for Leibowitz was produced by WHA Radio and NPR in 1981 and is available on CD.
Miller had four children. In his later years, he became a recluse, avoiding contact with nearly everyone including family members. He shot himself after having written most of a sequel to A Canticle for Leibowitz, titled Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman. It was finished by Terry Bisson and published in 1997.