Fredric Brown

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Fredric Brown
Fredric Brown, date unknown
Fredric Brown, date unknown
Born(1906-10-29)October 29, 1906
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
DiedMarch 11, 1972(1972-03-11) (aged 65)
Tucson, Arizona, U.S.
OccupationNovelist, short story author
GenreMystery, science fiction, fantasy, horror
Notable works
Brown's "Honeymoon in Hell" was the cover story in the second issue of Galaxy Science Fiction in 1950

Fredric Brown (October 29, 1906 – March 11, 1972[1]) was an American science fiction, fantasy, and mystery writer.[2] He is known for his use of humor and for his mastery of the "short short" form—stories of 1 to 3 pages, often with ingenious plotting devices and surprise endings. Humor and a postmodern outlook carried over into his novels as well. One of his stories, "Arena", was adapted to a 1967 episode of the American television series Star Trek.

According to his wife, Fredric Brown hated to write, and did whatever he could to put it off: play his flute, challenge a friend to a game of chess, or tease Ming Tah, his Siamese cat. When Brown would have trouble with a certain story, he would take a long bus trip in order to sit and think for days on end. When he would finally return home to sit himself in front of the typewriter, he produced work in a variety of genres: mystery, science fiction, short fantasy, black comedy, and all of the above.


Brown was born in Cincinnati.[1][3] He began to sell mystery short stories to American magazines in 1936.[3] His first science fiction story, "Not Yet the End", was published in the Winter 1941 issue of Captain Future magazine.[4][2]

His science fiction novel What Mad Universe (1949) is a parody of pulp sci-fi story conventions. Martians, Go Home (1955) is both a broad farce and a satire on human frailties as seen through the eyes of a billion jeering, invulnerable Martians who arrive not to conquer the world but to drive it crazy.

The Lights in the Sky Are Stars (1952) tells the story of an aging astronaut who is trying to get his beloved space program back on track after Congress has cut its funding.

The short story "Answer" (1954)[5] is thought to be the earliest representation[6] of the "Yes, now there is a God." science fiction work that inspires a common myth or legend of a supercomputer that releases itself from human control. The story was originally published in Angels and Spaceships and the entire collection was later re-published as Star Shine for paperback adaptation.

Brown's flash fiction short story "The Hobbyist" (1961) is about a man named Sangstrom, who is in a desperate search for an undetectable poison but winds up getting more than he bargained for.[7][8]

The short story "Arena" was used as the basis for the episode of the same name in the original Star Trek series.[2] It was also adapted in 1973 for issue 4 of the Marvel Comics title Worlds Unknown.

Brown's first mystery novel, The Fabulous Clipjoint, won the Edgar Award for outstanding first mystery novel.[3] It began a series starring Ed and Ambrose Hunter depicting how a young man gradually ripens into a detective under the tutelage of his uncle, an ex–private eye now working as a carnival concessionaire.[3]

Many of his books make use of the threat of the supernatural or occult before the "straight" explanation comes at the end. For example, "Night of the Jabberwock" is a humorous narrative of an extraordinary day in the life of a small-town newspaper editor.[9]

The Screaming Mimi became a 1958 film starring Anita Ekberg and Gypsy Rose Lee. It was directed by Gerd Oswald, who also directed the "Fun and Games" episode of The Outer Limits. Its plot was similar to Brown's short story "Arena" and The Far Cry, noir suspense novels reminiscent of the work of Cornell Woolrich. The Lenient Beast experiments multiple first-person viewpoints, among them a gentle, deeply religious serial killer, and examines racial tensions between Anglos and Latinos in the US state of Arizona. Here Comes a Candle is told in straight narrative sections alternating with a radio script, a screenplay, a sportscast, a teleplay, a stage play, and a newspaper article.

Popularity and influence[edit]

His short story "Arena" was voted by Science Fiction Writers of America as one of the top 20 science fiction stories written before 1965. His 1945 short story "The Waveries"[10] was described by Philip K. Dick as "what may be the most significant—startlingly so—story sci-fi has yet produced".[11] The opening of "Knock" is a complete two-sentence short-short story in itself.

Brown was one of three dedicatees of Robert A. Heinlein's 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land (the other two being Robert Cornog and Philip José Farmer).[12]

In his non-fiction book Danse Macabre (1981), a survey of the horror genre since 1950, writer Stephen King includes an appendix of "roughly one hundred" influential books of the period: Fredric Brown's short-story collection Nightmares and Geezenstacks is included, and is, moreover, asterisked as being among those select works King regards as "particularly important".

Brown's short story "Naturally" was adapted as Geometria, a short film by director Guillermo del Toro. Another short story, "The Last Martian", was adapted as "Human Interest Story", an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In Spain, his short story "Nightmare in Yellow" was adapted as El cumpleaños (The Birthday), the debut episode of Historias para no dormir.

In The Annotated Alice (1960), Martin Gardner refers to Brown's Night of the Jabberwock as a "magnificently funny mystery novel ... an outstanding work of fiction that has close ties to the Alice books."[13]

In the third episode of the third season of Amazon's adaptation of Philip K. Dick's The Man In The High Castle Oberstgruppenführer Smith remarks, when told of the possibility of travel between worlds, that "this is like something out of Fredric Brown", implying that Brown's work is known in the German-occupied areas of the former United States.[14]

His novel The Lights in the Sky Are Stars gives its name to the final episode of 2007 anime Gurren Lagann.[15]

Philosopher and novelist Umberto Eco in his book On Ugliness describes Brown's short story "Sentry" as, "one of the finest short stories produced by contemporary science fiction" and uses its twist ending as an example of how ugliness and aesthetics are relative to different cultures.[16]

Brown's The Lights in the Sky Are Stars was referred to in Taishi Tsutsui's manga We Never Learn (ぼくたちは勉強ができない), at the end of Chapter 39.[17]



  1. ^ a b "Italian short bio at". Archived from the original on 2018-12-29. Retrieved 2016-07-19.
  2. ^ a b c D. J. McReynolds, "The Short Fiction of Fredric Brown" in Frank N. Magill, (ed.) Survey of Science Fiction Literature, Vol. 4. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem Press, 1979. (pp. 1954–1957). ISBN 9780893561949
  3. ^ a b c d Introduction to Rogue in Space, Italian edition, Urania Collezione n. 135, by Giuseppe Lippi
  4. ^ "Bibliography page at".
  5. ^ "Fredric Brown - "Answer"". Retrieved 2023-01-25.
  6. ^ Thomas Anderson (2017-10-01). ""Answer"". Schlock Value. Retrieved 2023-01-25.
  7. ^ "Hobbyist". Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  8. ^ Brown, Fredric (1982) [1961]. The Best Short Stories of Fredric Brown. Sevenoaks: New English Library. ISBN 0450055019. OCLC 10490737.
  9. ^ Brown, Fredric (December 2010). Night of the Jabberwock. Langtail Press. ISBN 978-1-78002-000-6.
  10. ^ "The Waveries synopsis". Jennre. July 2, 2012.
  11. ^ May, Andrew (2016). Pseudoscience and Science Fiction. p. 77.
  12. ^ "Heinlein's Dedications".
  13. ^ Gardner, Martin (1960). The Annotated Alice. Clarkson N. Potter. ISBN 0-517-02962-6.
  14. ^ "The Man in the High Castle Season 3 – Exclusive: New York Comic Con Sneak Peek" on YouTube
  15. ^ "Tengen toppa gurren lagann (2007) – The Lights in the Sky Are Stars".
  16. ^ Eco, Umberto (2011). On Ugliness. Rizzoli. p. 12. ISBN 978-0847837236.
  17. ^ "We Never Learn about Fredric Brown".


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