Fredric Brown


Continuing my infrequent looks at the authors mentioned by Gary Gygax in Appendix N of the DMG, today I consider Fredric Brown. Fredric Brown is one of the forgotten authors of the mid-twentieth century. He was popular enough, by all accounts. He made a living with his writing alone, quitting his job as a proofreader. And he was influential, a couple of his novels were adapted for film, and one of his stories famously inspired an episode of “Star Trek.”

But we don’t read him now and I think we are missing out. I’ve read only a single collection of his short stories. But now I’m going to keep him in mind whenever I forage through a used book store.

Since I can only speak to his facility as a short story writer, that’s what I’ll limit myself to. Fredric Brown liked to play with ideas. He was a master of the science-fiction short form, the sort of story you’d see televised on “The Twilight Zone” or “The Outer Limits” – an exploration of a novel idea served up with a twist. The man seemed a wellspring of ideas and he presented them cleverly.

In the introduction to “Paradox Lost” Fredric Brown’s wife Elizabeth writes that when struggling with a plot Mr. Brown would take late night bus trips to work through the story, sometimes being gone for days. I like that image – a writer ghosting through dark highways aboard a Greyhound Bus, his penlight beam on a notebook page the only illumination in the cabin. It’s the sort of scene that might appear in one his own stories. He might even look up from his notes to see one of his own characters sitting down next to him.

Completely off topic – hijacking my own web log post – I turned 45 on Friday, and celebrated with a birthday weekend. I guess this Sunday afternoon post counts as part of the festivities. Appropriating the Hobbit tradition of giving gifts on one’s own birthday, here are a few pictures for you.

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