Eric Frank Russell

Eric Frank Russell (January 6, 1905 – February 28, 1978) was a British author best known for his science fiction novels and short stories. Much of his work was first published in the United States, in John W. Campbell's Astounding Science Fiction and other pulp magazines. Russell also wrote horror fiction for Weird Tales and non-fiction articles on Fortean topics. Up to 1955 several of his stories were published under pseudonyms, at least Duncan H. Munro and Niall(e) Wilde.[1]

Magazine cover - Unknown no. 1 (1939-03)
Russell's classic "Sinister Barrier" was the cover story for Unknown No. 1 (1939-03)


Russell was born in 1905 near Sandhurst in Berkshire, where his father was an instructor at the Royal Military College.[2][3] Russell became a fan of science fiction and in 1934, while living near Liverpool, he saw a letter in Amazing Stories from Leslie J. Johnson, another reader from the same area.[4][5] Russell met up with Johnson, who encouraged him to embark on a writing career. Together, the two men wrote a novella, "Seeker of Tomorrow", that was published by F. Orlin Tremaine in the July 1937 number of Astounding Stories.[1][a] Both Russell and Johnson became members of the British Interplanetary Society.[3]

Russell's first novel was Sinister Barrier, cover story for the inaugural, May 1939 issue of Unknown[1]Astounding's sister magazine devoted to fantasy. It is explicitly a Fortean tale, based on Charles Fort's famous speculation "I think we're property", Russell explains in the foreword. An often-repeated legend has it that Campbell, on receiving the manuscript for Sinister Barrier, created Unknown primarily as a vehicle for the short novel (pp. 9–94). There is no real evidence for it, despite a statement to that effect in the first volume of Isaac Asimov's autobiography, In Memory Yet Green.[3]

His second novel, Dreadful Sanctuary (serialized in Astounding during 1948) is an early example of conspiracy fiction, in which a paranoid delusion of global proportions is perpetuated by a small but powerful secret society.[6]

There are two different and mutually incompatible accounts of Russell's military service during World War II.[3] The official, well-documented version is that he served with the Royal Air Force, with whom he saw active service in Europe as a member of a Mobile Signals Unit. However, in the introduction to the 1986 Del Rey Books edition of Russell's novel Wasp, Jack L. Chalker states that Russell was too old for active service, and instead worked for Military Intelligence in London, where he "spent the war dreaming up nasty tricks to play against the Germans and Japanese", including Operation Mincemeat. Russell's biographer John L. Ingham states however that "there is nothing, absolutely nothing, in his R.A.F. record to show that he was anything more than a wireless mechanic and radio operator".[3]

Russell took up writing full-time in the late 1940s. He became an active member of British science fiction fandom and the British representative of the Fortean Society. He won the first annual Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1955 recognizing his humorous "Allamagoosa" as the year's best science fiction.[7]

The 1962 novel The Great Explosion won a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 1985[7] — the third naming of two works to the libertarian science fiction hall of fame. The 1957 novel Wasp has been a finalist for the honor, which is now limited to one work per year.[7]

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted Russell in 2000, its fifth class of two deceased and two living writers.[8]

Into Your Tent, a thorough and detailed biography of Russell by John L. Ingham, was published in 2010 by Plantech (UK).[3]


Other worlds science stories 195005
Russell's novelette "Dear Devil" was the cover story in the May 1950 issue of Other Worlds Science Stories
Fantastic 195808
Russell's essay "Satan's Footprints" was cover-featured on the August 1958 issue of Fantastic

Russell's full-length fiction includes the following:

Russell also wrote a large number of shorter works, many of which have been reprinted in collections such as Deep Space (1954), Six Worlds Yonder (1958), Far Stars (1961), Dark Tides (1962) and Somewhere a Voice (1965). His short story "Allamagoosa" (1955), which was essentially a science-fictional retelling of a traditional tall story called "The Shovewood", won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story.[3]

Russell wrote numerous non-fiction essays on Fortean themes, some of which were collected in a compendium of Forteana entitled Great World Mysteries (1957). His second non-fiction book was The Rabble Rousers (1963), a sardonic look at human folly including the Dreyfus affair and the Florida land boom. He also wrote Lern Yerself Scouse: The ABZ of Scouse (1966) under the pseudonym "Linacre Lane".[3]

Two omnibus collections of Russell's science fiction are available from NESFA Press: Major Ingredients (2000), containing 30 of his short stories, and Entities (2001) containing five novels. John Pelan's Midnight House published Darker Tides, a collection of Russell's horror and weird fiction, in 2006.[9]

The 1995 novel Design for Great-Day, published as by Alan Dean Foster and Eric Frank Russell, is an expansion by Foster of a 1953 short story of the same name by Russell.

Writing style and themes

Russell had an easy-going, colloquial writing style that was influenced in part by American "hard-boiled" detective fiction of the kind popularized by Black Mask magazine.[10] Although British, Russell wrote predominantly for an American audience, and was often assumed to be American by readers.[4]

Much of Russell's science fiction is based on what might be described as fortean themes, with Sinister Barrier and Dreadful Sanctuary the most notable examples.[6] Another common theme is the single resourceful human pitted against a ponderous alien bureaucracy, as in the novels Wasp and Next of Kin, as well as several shorter works.

Russell is sometimes categorized as a humorous writer, and Brian Aldiss describes him as John W. Campbell's "licensed jester".[11] However, Russell's humour generally has a satirical edge, often aimed at authority and bureaucracy in its various forms. On other occasions, for example in the short stories "Somewhere a Voice" and "The Army Comes to Venus", his work has a deeper and more serious tone, in which the spiritual aspects of humanity's endeavours and aspirations shine through.

Critical reception

Scott Connors, reviewing Russell's book Darker Tides, stated that " Russell's prose displays a rare sense of irony and wit...and does the reader the compliment of presenting the story in an indirect fashion so that he has an investment in the tale." [9] Carl Sagan wrote that Russell's stories were examples of "desperately need[ed] exploration of alternative futures, both experimental and conceptual".[12]

Cultural influences

Russell's short story "Jay Score" (1941) is unusual amongst the pulp fiction of its time in presenting a black character, the ship's doctor, without any racial stereotyping. Indeed, this story and its sequels (collected in Men, Martians and Machines) may be considered an early example of the science fiction subgenre in which a spaceship is crewed by a multi-ethnic, mixed human/non-human, complement (cf. the much later Star Trek).

Russell also appears to have originated the colloquial initialism "MYOB" for "mind your own business", which appears frequently in the novella "... And Then There Were None" (Astounding, June 1951) and in the novel The Great Explosion based upon it.

In 1970, Russell was paid £4689 by the Beatles's company Apple Corps for the motion picture rights to his novel Wasp, the contract being signed on behalf of Apple by Ringo Starr. The film was never made, but it remained one of the most lucrative deals Russell ever made.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Two novelettes by Russell alone preceded "Seeker for Tomorrow", in the February and April numbers of the monthly, and a shortstory followed in December, the third issue after Campbell succeeded Tremaine as editor.[1] One more of his stories was published that year, by Walter H. Gillings in Tales of Wonder #1, the first issue of Britain's first professional SF magazine (1937, no month).[1]
      Johnson had not yet published any speculative fiction. He and Russell also collaborated on one story published decades later, "Eternal Rediffusion" (Weird Tales, September 1973).[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e Eric Frank Russell at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 2013-04-20. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  2. ^ "Handlist of the Eric Frank Russell Collection 1937–1984". Archived from the original on 2012-12-22.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ingham, John L. (2010). Into Your Tent: The Life, Work and Family Background of Eric Frank Russell. Plantech (U.K.). ISBN 978-0-9564576-0-8.
  4. ^ a b Ashley, Michael (1975). The History of the Science Fiction Magazine, Volume 2. Henry Regnery Company. ISBN 0-8092-8002-7.
  5. ^ a b "Leslie J. Johnson – Summary Bibliography". ISFDB. Retrieved 2013-04-20.
  6. ^ a b Langford, David (1996). "SF Books of the Damned". Originally published in Fortean Times.
  7. ^ a b c "Russell, Eric Frank" Archived 2010-10-25 at the Wayback Machine. The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index of Literary Nominees. Locus Publications. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  8. ^ "Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame" Archived May 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Mid American Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions, Inc. Retrieved 2013-03-26. This was the official website of the hall of fame to 2004.
  9. ^ a b Scott Connors, Review of "Darker Tides by Eric Frank Russell". Weird Tales,October–November 2006. (p.13)
  10. ^ Carr, Terry (1979). Classic Science Fiction: The First Golden Age. Robson Books. ISBN 0-86051-070-0.
  11. ^ Aldiss, Brian W. (1973). Billion Year Spree. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-76555-8.
  12. ^ Sagan, Carl (1978-05-28). "Growing up with Science Fiction". The New York Times. p. SM7. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-12-12.

Further reading

External links


"Allamagoosa" is a science fiction short story by English author Eric Frank Russell, originally published in the May 1955 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and collected in The Best Of Eric Frank Russell (1978) and Major Ingredients: The Selected Short Stories of Eric Frank Russell (2000).

Avalon Books

Avalon Books was a small New York-based book publishing imprint active from 1950 through 2012, established by Thomas Bouregy. Avalon was an important science fiction imprint in the 1950s and 60s; later its specialty was mystery and romance books. The imprint was owned by Thomas Bouregy & Co., Inc.. It remained a family firm, with Thomas's daughter Ellen Bouregy Mickelsen taking over as publisher in 1995.On June 4, 2012 it was announced that had purchased the imprint and its back-list of about 3,000 titles. Amazon said it would publish the books through the various imprints of Amazon Publishing.

Deep Space (collection)

Deep Space is a collection of science-fiction short stories by the British writer Eric Frank Russell. It was first published by Fantasy Press in 1954 in an edition of 2,257 copies. The stories originally appeared in the magazines Thrilling Wonder Stories, Other Worlds, Astounding, Galaxy Science Fiction, Imagination and Bluebook.

Dreadful Sanctuary

Dreadful Sanctuary is a science fiction novel by British author Eric Frank Russell. After its serialization in the American magazine Astounding Science Fiction in 1948, it was first published in book form in 1951 by Fantasy Press in an edition of 2,975 copies. Russell rewrote the novel for the first American paperback edition, published by Lancer Books in 1963. Editorial interference forced Russell to replace the original ending with a more tragic conclusion in this edition. A British hardcover was issued in 1953, with a paperback incorporating further "minor revisions" following in 1967. Italian translations of Dreadful Sanctuary were published in 1953 and 1986; a German translation appeared in 1971, and a French translation in 1978.Partly inspired by Fortean ideas, the novel concerns an international conspiracy to prevent humanity from achieving space travel.

Fantasy (1938 magazine)

Fantasy was a British pulp science fiction magazine which published three issues in 1938 and 1939. The editor was T. Stanhope Sprigg; when the war started, he enlisted in the RAF and the magazine was closed down. The publisher, George Newnes Ltd, paid respectable rates, and as a result Sprigg was able to obtain some good quality material, including stories by John Wyndham, Eric Frank Russell, and John Russell Fearn.

Men, Martians and Machines

Men, Martians and Machines is a collection of science fiction short stories by the British writer Eric Frank Russell. It was first published in 1955.

Mind your own business

"Mind your own business" is a common English saying which asks for a respect of other people's privacy. It can mean that a person should stop meddling in what does not concern that person, etc. Its initialism is MYOB.


NESFA Press is the publishing arm of the New England Science Fiction Association, Inc. The NESFA Press primarily produces three types of books:

Books honoring the guest(s) of honor at their annual convention, Boskone, and at some Worldcons and other conventions.

Books in the NESFA's Choice series, which bring back into print the works of deserving classic SF writers such as James Schmitz, Cordwainer Smith, C. M. Kornbluth, and Zenna Henderson.

Reference books on science fiction and science fiction fandom.

Next of Kin (novel)

Next of Kin, also known as The Space Willies, is a science fiction comic novel by English writer Eric Frank Russell. It is the story of a military misfit who successfully conducts a one-man psychological warfare operation against an alien race and its allies, with whom humans and allied races are at war. It was published under the title Next of Kin in 1959. A novella-length version was published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1956 as "Plus X", then published in somewhat expanded form by ACE Books as The Space Willies in 1958.


Plus-X or Plus X may refer to

Kodak Plus-X, a discontinued black-and-white camera film

Venus Plus X, a 1960 science fiction novel written by Theodore Sturgeon

"Plus X", a 1956 science fiction novella by Eric Frank Russell, later expanded into Next of Kin

+×, a logo for EDM artist Martin Garrix

+x, adding execute permission with the system call chmod as used in Unix-like operating systems.

Sentinels From Space

Sentinels From Space is a science fiction novel by English writer Eric Frank Russell, first published in 1952 by American company Bouregy & Curl, Inc.. It was adapted from a story that appeared in the November 1951 issue of Startling Stories.

Sinister Barrier

Sinister Barrier is an English language science fiction novel by British writer Eric Frank Russell. The novel originally appeared in the magazine Unknown in 1939, the first novel to appear in its pages. It was first published in book form in 1943 by The World's Work, Ltd. Russell revised and expanded the book for its first US publication by Fantasy Press in 1948. Most subsequent editions were based on the Fantasy Press version.


Sirian or Sirians may refer to:

Sirians, human adversaries in Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids and other Lucky Starr novels by Isaac Asimov writing as Paul French

Sirians, citizens of the Sirian Empire in The Sirian Experiments by Doris Lessing

Sirians, an alien race in The Age of the Pussyfoot by Frederik Pohl

Sirians, an alien race in Wasp by Eric Frank Russell

Sirians, an alien race in Serious Sam

Sirians, alien invaders in XF5700 Mantis

Strange Stories

Strange Stories was a pulp magazine which ran for thirteen issues from 1939 to 1941. It was edited by Mort Weisinger, who was not credited. Contributors included Robert Bloch, Eric Frank Russell, C. L. Moore, August Derleth, and Henry Kuttner. Strange Stories was a competitor to the established leader in weird fiction, Weird Tales. With the launch, also in 1939, of the well-received Unknown, Strange Stories was unable to compete. It ceased publication in 1941 when Weisinger left to edit Superman comic books.

Study in Still Life

Study in Still Life is a witty satirical short story by science fiction author Eric Frank Russell. It depicts one man's struggle to outwit a choking bureaucracy, and come out ahead. It was first published in Astounding Science Fiction magazine in January 1959.

Tales of Wonder (magazine)

Tales of Wonder is a British science fiction magazine published from 1937 to 1942, with Walter Gillings as editor. It was published by The World's Work, a subsidiary of William Heinemann, as part of a series of genre titles that included Tales of Mystery and Detection and Tales of the Uncanny. Gillings was able to attract some good material, despite the low payment rates he was able to offer; he also included many reprints from U.S. science fiction magazines. The magazine was apparently more successful than the other genre titles issued by The World's Work, since Tales of Wonder was the only one to publish more than a single issue.

Arthur C. Clarke made his first professional sale to Tales of Wonder, with two science articles. Gillings also published William F. Temple's first story, some early material by John Wyndham, and "The Prr-r-eet" by Eric Frank Russell. American writers who appeared in the magazine included Murray Leinster and Jack Williamson; these were both reprints, but some new material from the U.S. did appear, including Lloyd A. Eshbach's "Out of the Past", and S.P. Meek's "The Mentality Machine". With the advent of World War II, paper shortages and Gillings' call up into the army made it increasingly difficult to continue, and the sixteenth issue, dated Spring 1942, was the last. Tales of Wonder was not the first British science fiction magazine, but it was the first one aimed at an adult market, and its success made it apparent that a science fiction magazine could survive in the UK.

The Great Explosion

The Great Explosion is a satirical science fiction novel by English writer Eric Frank Russell, first published in 1962. The story is divided into three sections. The final section is based on Russell's 1951 short story "...And Then There Were None". Twenty-three years after the novel was published, it won a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award.

Unknown (magazine)

Unknown (also known as Unknown Worlds) was an American pulp fantasy fiction magazine, published from 1939 to 1943 by Street & Smith, and edited by John W. Campbell. Unknown was a companion to Street & Smith's science fiction pulp, Astounding Science Fiction, which was also edited by Campbell at the time; many authors and illustrators contributed to both magazines. The leading fantasy magazine in the 1930s was Weird Tales, which focused on shock and horror. Campbell wanted to publish a fantasy magazine with more finesse and humor than Weird Tales, and put his plans into action when Eric Frank Russell sent him the manuscript of his novel Sinister Barrier, about aliens who own the human race. Unknown's first issue appeared in March 1939; in addition to Sinister Barrier, it included H. L. Gold's "Trouble With Water", a humorous fantasy about a New Yorker who meets a water gnome. Gold's story was the first of many in Unknown to combine commonplace reality with the fantastic.

Campbell required his authors to avoid simplistic horror fiction and insisted that the fantasy elements in a story be developed logically: for example, Jack Williamson's "Darker Than You Think" describes a world in which there is a scientific explanation for the existence of werewolves. Similarly, L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt's Harold Shea series, about a modern American who finds himself in the worlds of various mythologies, depicts a system of magic based on mathematical logic. Other notable stories included several well-received novels by L. Ron Hubbard and short stories such as Manly Wade Wellman's "When It Was Moonlight" and Fritz Leiber's "Two Sought Adventure", the first in his Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series.

Unknown was forced to a bimonthly schedule in 1941 by poor sales, and cancelled in 1943 when wartime paper shortages became so acute that Campbell had to choose between turning Astounding into a bimonthly or ending Unknown. The magazine is generally regarded as the finest fantasy fiction magazine ever published, despite the fact that it was not commercially successful, and in the opinion of science fiction historian Mike Ashley it was responsible for the creation of the modern fantasy publishing genre.

Wasp (novel)

Wasp is a 1957 science fiction novel by English author Eric Frank Russell. Terry Pratchett (author of the Discworld series of fantasy books) stated that he "can't imagine a funnier terrorists' handbook." Wasp is generally considered Russell's best novel.The title of Wasp comes from the idea that the main character's actions and central purpose mimic that particular insect; just as something as small as a wasp can terrorise a much larger creature in control of a car to the point of causing a crash and killing the occupants, so the defeat of an enemy may be wrought via psychological and guerrilla warfare by a small, but deadly, protagonist in their midst.

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