Fredric Brown

Fredric Brown (October 29, 1906 – March 11, 1972[1]) was an American science fiction 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 somewhat postmodern outlook carried over into his novels as well. One of his stories, "Arena", is officially credited for an adaptation as an episode of the American television series Star Trek.

According to his wife, Fredric Brown hated to write. So he did everything he could to avoid it—he'd play his flute, challenge a friend to a game of chess, or tease Ming Tah, his Siamese cat. If Brown had trouble working out a certain story, he would hop on a long bus trip and just sit and think and plot for days on end.

When Brown finally returned home and sat himself in front of the typewriter, he produced work in a variety of genres: mystery, science fiction, short fantasy, black comedy–and sometimes, all of the above.

"There are no rules. You can write a story, if you wish, with no conflict, no suspense, no beginning, middle or end. Of course, you have to be regarded as a genius to get away with it, and that's the hardest part – convincing everybody you're a genius."

-- Fredric Brown

Fredric Brown
Fredric Brown, date unknown
Fredric Brown, date unknown
BornOctober 29, 1906
Cincinnati, Ohio
DiedMarch 11, 1972 (aged 65)
OccupationNovelist, short story author
GenreMystery, Science fiction, Fantasy
Notable works
Galaxy 195011
Brown's "Honeymoon in Hell" was the cover story in the second issue of Galaxy Science Fiction in 1950


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

His science fiction novel What Mad Universe (1949) is a parody of pulp SF 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 off the funds for it.

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.[5][6]

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

The Screaming Mimi (which became a 1958 movie starring Anita Ekberg and Gypsy Rose Lee, and directed by Gerd Oswald, who also directed the "Fun and Games" episode of The Outer Limits, the plot of which was similar to Brown's short story "Arena"), and The Far Cry are 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 whites 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

His short story "Arena" was voted by Science Fiction Writers of America as one of the top 20 SF stories written before 1965. His 1945 short story "The Waveries"[7] was described by Philip K. Dick as "what may be the most significant—startlingly so—story SF has yet produced". The opening of "Knock" is a complete two-sentence short-short story in itself.

Science fiction and fantasy writer Neil Gaiman has also expressed fondness for Brown's work. In Gaiman's The Sandman: The Kindly Ones, the character Rose Walker reads passages from Brown's Here Comes A Candle.[8]

Brown was one of three dedicatees of Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (the other two being Robert Cornog and Philip José Farmer).[9]

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 into Geometria, a short film by director Guillermo del Toro. Another short story, "The Last Martian", was adapted into "Human Interest Story", an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

In the third episode of the third series of Amazon's adaptation of Philip K. Dick's The Man In The High Castle has Oberstgruppenführer Smith remarking, 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.[10]


  • Seabrook, Jack (1993). Martians and Misplaced Clues: The Life and Work of Fredric Brown. Bowling Green University Popular Press. ISBN 978-0-87972-591-4.


  1. ^ a b Italian short bio at
  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. ^ "Hobbyist". Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  6. ^ 1906-1972., Brown, Fredric, (1982) [1961]. The best short stories of Fredric Brown. Sevenoaks: New English Library. ISBN 0450055019. OCLC 10490737.
  7. ^ "The Waveries synopsis". Jennre. July 2, 2012.
  8. ^ Gaiman, Neil (1985). The Sandman: The Kindly Ones: 10. pp. 21–22.
  9. ^ "Heinlein's Dedications".
  10. ^ "The Man in the High Castle Season 3 - Exclusive: New York Comic Con Sneak Peek" on YouTube

External links


2000X is a dramatic anthology series released by National Public Radio and produced by the Hollywood Theater of the Ear. There were 49 plays of various lengths in 26 one-hour programs broadcast weekly and later released on the Internet. Plays were adaptations of futuristic stories, novels and plays by noted authors. Producer/director Yuri Rasovsky and host/consultant Harlan Ellison won the 2001 Bradbury Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America for their work on this program.

Angels and Spaceships

Angels and Spaceships is a 1954 collection of science fiction and fantasy stories by American writer Fredric Brown. It was initially published in hardcover by E. P. Dutton; a later Bantam paperback edition was retitled Star Shine.

Arena (short story)

"Arena" is a science fiction short story by American writer Fredric Brown, first published in the June 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine. Members of the Science Fiction Writers of America selected it as one of the best science fiction stories published before the advent of the Nebula Awards, and as such it was included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One, 1929-1964.

The Star Trek episode "Arena" had some similarity to this story, so to avoid legal problems, it was agreed that Brown would receive payment and a story credit. An Outer Limits episode, "Fun and Games", also has a similar plot, as does an episode of Blake's 7, titled "Duel" and an episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe titled "The Arena".

Marvel Comics' Worlds Unknown issue 4 (November 1973) featured a faithful adaptation of the story.

Fredric Brown bibliography

The bibliography of American writer Fredric Brown includes short stories, general fiction, mysteries and science fiction stories.

Honeymoon in Hell

"Honeymoon in Hell" is a science fiction short story by American writer Fredric Brown, first published in 1950. It was the title story of a short story anthology published in 1958.

Knock (short story)

"Knock", is a science fiction short story by American writer by Fredric Brown. It starts with a short-short story based on the following text of Thomas Bailey Aldrich:

IMAGINE all human beings swept off the face of the earth, excepting one man. Imagine this man in some vast city, New York or London. Imagine him on the third or fourth day of his solitude sitting in a house and hearing a ring at the door-bell!

Fredric Brown condensed this text to "a sweet little action story that is only two sentences long". "Knock" then goes on to elaborate on those two sentences and build a more complete plot around them.

It was published in the December 1948 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories. There have been three different radio adaptations (Dimension X, X Minus One and Sci Fi Channel's Seeing Ear Theatre). The story was reprinted in The Best Science Fiction Stories: 1949

Letter to a Phoenix

"Letter to a Phoenix" is a science fiction short story by American writer Fredric Brown, about immortality. It was first published in Astounding Science Fiction in August 1949.

Martians, Go Home

Martians, Go Home is a science fiction comic novel by American writer Fredric Brown, published in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction on September 1954 and later by E. P. Dutton in 1955. The novel concerns a writer who witnesses an alien invasion of Earth by boorish little green men from Mars.

Martians Go Home (film)

Martians Go Home is a 1990 comedy film starring Randy Quaid. It was directed by David Odell and written by Charles S. Haas based on the novel of the same name by science fiction author Fredric Brown.


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.

Nightmares and Geezenstacks

Nightmares and Geezenstacks is a short story collection consisting of 47 horror, science fiction and crime stories by American writer Fredric Brown. It was first published in 1961 by Bantam Books and most recently republished by Valancourt Books.

Rogue in Space

Rogue in Space is a science fiction novel by American writer Fredric Brown, first published in 1957. Brown expanded two earlier novelettes ("Gateway to Darkness", published in Super Science Stories in 1949; and "Gateway to Glory", published in Amazing Stories in 1950) to form the novel.

Science Fiction Carnival

Science Fiction Carnival is an anthology of humorous science fiction stories edited by American writers Fredric Brown and Mack Reynolds. It was published by Shasta Publishers in 1953 in an edition of 3,500 copies. Most of the stories originally appeared in the magazines Super Science Stories, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Astounding, Worlds Beyond, Slant, Imagination, Space Science Fiction, Thrilling Wonder Stories and Blue Book.

Screaming Mimi (film)

Screaming Mimi is a 1958 film noir directed by Gerd Oswald, and based on the novel by pulp novelist Fredric Brown. The film features Anita Ekberg, Philip Carey, Gypsy Rose Lee, among others. It has never received an official video release in the United States.

The Fabulous Clipjoint

The Fabulous Clipjoint, first published in book form in 1947 (originally published under the title ``Dead Man's Indemnity`` in Mystery Book Magazine, April 1946), is the first full-length novel by writer Fredric Brown, who had honed his craft by publishing hundreds of short stories in the pulp magazines of the day. The Fabulous Clipjoint is also the first of seven detective novels featuring the nephew/uncle team of Ed and Am Hunter. The subsequent novels in the series are The Dead Ringer, The Bloody Moonlight, Compliments of a Fiend, Death Has Many Doors, The Late Lamented, and Mrs Murphy's Underpants.

The Proofreaders' Page and Other Uncollected Items

The Proofreaders' Page and Other Uncollected Items was an attempt to collect as many uncollected works by Fredric Brown as possible.

The Screaming Mimi (novel)

The Screaming Mimi is a mystery novel by American writer Fredric Brown. It was first published in 1949.

What Mad Universe

What Mad Universe is a science fiction novel, written in 1949 by the American author Fredric Brown.

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