Brown, Fredric

Tagged: Author

(1906-1972) US author of detective novels and much sf, and for many years active in journalism. He is perhaps best known for such detective novels as The Fabulous Clipjoint (1947), which won an Edgar Award, but is also highly regarded for his sf, which is noted for its elegance and Humour, and for a polished slickness not generally found in the field in 1941, the year he published his first sf story, "Not Yet the End" (Winter 1941 Captain Future). Many of his shorter works are vignettes and extended jokes: of the 47 pieces collected in Nightmares and Geezenstacks (coll 1961), 38 are vignettes of the sort he specialized in (they feature sudden joke climaxes whose ironies are often cruel); this collection (plus additional stories) was assembled with Honeymoon in Hell (coll 1958) as And the Gods Laughed (omni 1987). Typical of somewhat longer works utilizing the same professional economies of effect are "Placet is a Crazy Place" (May 1946 Astounding), "Etaoin Shrdlu" (February 1942 Unknown) and "Arena" (June 1944 Astounding). The latter was adapted for the original Star Trek television series as "Arena" (1967) and was among the sf stories selected by Science Fiction Writers of America members for inclusion in Science Fiction Hall of Fame (anth 1970) edited Robert Silverberg. It tells of the settling of an interstellar Future War through single combat between a human and an Alien. Brown is possibly at his best in these shorter forms, where his elegant and seemingly comfortable wit, its Iconoclasm carefully directed at targets whose defacing sf readers would appreciate, had greatest scope; a posthumous collection, From these Ashes: The Complete Short SF of Fredric Brown (coll 2001), assembles all his short work in one volume.

Brown's sf novels are by no means without merit. The first and most famous of them, What Mad Universe (September 1948 Startling; exp 1949), is a cleverly complex Alternate-History story in which various Pulp sf conventions turn out – it is a nice Satirical touch – to be true history (see Recursive SF). The Lights in the Sky are Stars (1953; vt Project Jupiter 1954) depicts mankind at the turn of the twenty-first century and on the verge of star travel; the true subject of the tale might, movingly, be thought to be the Sense of Wonder itself. Martians, Go Home (1955) describes the infestation of Earth by Little Green Men who drive everyone nearly crazy, until the sf writer who has perhaps imagined them into existence imagines them gone again; however, he is himself a figment of a larger imagination, so that in the end it is reality itself that dissolves into a higher, claustrophobic solipsism. In The Mind Thing (1961) a stranded alien attempts to get back home using its ability to ride human minds piggyback; the experience is fatal for those possessed.

None of these novels is negligible, and their unfailing cynicism about the nature of sf and of the creative act itself are bracingly corrosive; but it is perhaps the case, at least in Brown's sf writing, that his short stories, with their natty momentum and the sudden flushes of humane emotion that transfigure so many of them, have proved more successful in the long run. Brown was a kind of internal exile in the field of sf, but in the end his gaze is marginally warmer than might have been expected. [JC]

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Fredric William Brown

born Cincinnati, Ohio: 29 October 1906

died Tucson, Arizona: 11 March 1972

works

series

Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps

A mixture of sf and fantasy, but mostly associational; listed for convenience.

  • Homicide Sanitarium (San Antonio, Texas: Dennis McMillan, 1984) [coll: #1: Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/]
  • Before She Kills (San Diego, California: Dennis McMillan, 1984) [coll: #2: Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/]
  • Madman's Holiday (Volcano, Hawaii: Dennis McMillan, 1984) [coll: #3: Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/William L McMillan]
  • The Case of the Dancing Sandwiches (Volcano, Hawaii: Dennis McMillan, 1985) [coll: #4: contains The Case of the Dancing Sandwiches (New York: Dell Books, 1951): Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/William L McMillan]
  • The Freak Show Murders (Belen, New Mexico: Dennis McMillan, 1985) [coll: #5: Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/William L McMillan]
  • Thirty Corpses Every Thursday (Belen, New Mexico: Dennis McMillan, 1986) [coll: #6: Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/William L McMillan]
  • Pardon my Ghoulish Laughter (Miami Beach, Florida: Dennis McMillan, 1986) [coll: #7: Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/William L McMillan]
  • Red is the Hue of Hell (Miami Beach, Florida: Dennis McMillan, 1986) [coll: #8: Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/William L McMillan]
  • Brother Monster (Miami Beach, Florida: Dennis McMillan, 1987) [coll: #9: Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/Joe Servello]
  • Sex Life on the Planet Mars (Miami Beach, Florida: Dennis McMillan, 1986) [coll: #10: Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/Phil Foglio]
  • Nightmare in Darkness (Miami Beach, Florida: Dennis McMillan, 1987) [coll: #11: Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/Joe Servello]
  • Who Was that Blonde I Saw You Kill Last Night? (Miami Beach, Florida: Dennis McMillan, 1988) [coll: #12: Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/Joe Servello]
  • Three-Corpse Parlay (Missoula, Montana: Dennis McMillan, 1988) [coll: #13: Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/Joe Servello]
  • Selling Death Short (Missoula, Montana: Dennis McMillan, 1988) [coll: #14: Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/Joe Servello]
  • Whispering Death (Missoula, Montana: Dennis McMillan, 1989), [coll: #15: Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/Joe Servello]
  • Happy Ending (Missoula, Montana: Dennis McMillan, 1990) [coll: #16: Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/Joe Servello]
  • The Water-Walker (Missoula, Montana: Dennis McMillan, 1990) [coll: #17: Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/Joe Servello]
  • The Gibbering Night (Hilo, Hawaii: Dennis McMillan, 1991) [coll: #18: Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/Joe Servello]
  • The Pickled Punks (Hilo, Hawaii: Dennis McMillan, 1991) [coll: #19: Fredric Brown in the Detective Pulps: hb/Joe Servello]

individual titles

collections and stories

works as editor

about the author

links

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