The Best Short Stories Of Fredric Brown (book review).

December 15, 2021 | By | Reply More

If you’re wondering who Fredric Brown is, remember the Frank Kelly Freas picture of the green Martian cynically looking through a keyhole. Brown wrote the SF/comedy novel, ‘Martians, Go Home’, where they were everywhere on Earth.

This paperback, ‘The Best Short Stories Of Fredric Brown’, features his best material 55 short stories. I did wonder if they were all in here, but when the third story ended around the 70-page mark, realised they couldn’t all be in there, but then realised some were only a few pages long and yep, they are, although the list at the front is neither in book order or a proper story index.

Keeping track is a nuisance. Fredric Brown (1906-1972) does the introduction, pointing out that he wrote detective stories as well as Science Fiction, finding the latter an honest genre to write in.

He also has a taste for humour and absurdity which comes out in his material, dated to his time period, although the opening stories are drier but no less intriguing. Like the stranded astronaut losing sense of time and fantasising, and doesn’t believe his rescuer in the opening story, ‘Something Green’. I should point out that after some research, these short stories were originally released as a 2 volume set and explains how Brown wrote an introduction after his death. He didn’t and was happily alive on their first release.

It isn’t long before Brown does a title called ‘Nothing Sirius’, where a travelling spaceship family finds a previously missed planet in orbit around Sirius. He even does a detective story although I thought it a tad too long. ‘All Good BEMS’ where five aliens possess animals while they attend to their damaged spaceship has been noted as a classic has some great dialogue lines.

There are a few stories that are novella-length but the majority are short stories, often with telling messages when it comes to invisibility, invulnerability and immortality, not quite giving the expected solution with a wry humour. I can see some similarities to my own sense of humour looking for the absurdity to a situation. Don’t underestimate Brown as a serious SF writer. He does explore the situation and gets many of his stories over well.

‘Expedition’ is a trip or rather several trips to Mars and the problems of propagation with the imbalance of male to female crew. Obviously, when it was written, the Pill hadn’t been invented.

Nothing is off-limits, Indeed, time travellers from the future might die in the southern American states for their black routes, so read ‘Dark Interlude’, a collaboration with Mack Reynolds with caution. He wrote three of the stories with Mack Reynolds and it’s a bit difficult to decide who did what on all but one, but looks a lot like some elements of research.

Oh, there’s a fair bet that Brown was one of the earliest one page story writers and ‘The End’ is a classic of word control.

As with all short story anthologies, especially those who move towards comedy, not all of them are going to appeal. Brown was very productive and at least 4 stories over his career had his own profession of journalist/writer for his lead characters rather than ignore it. Considering he invariably shows them grubbing around for ideas and work, he doesn’t hold his blushes.

You’ll probably have to grub around to get this book from 1982, but there are various Fredric Brown books still out there, so worth having a look.

GF Willmetts

December 2021

(pub: New English Library, 1982. 447 page paperback. Price: ?? ISBN: 0-450-05501-9)

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Category: Books, Scifi


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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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