Friday, June 7, 2013

More Authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction-Fredric Brown

Fredric Brown
Author, Journalist, Television and Movie Scriptwriter
Born October 29, 1906, Cincinnati, Ohio
Died March 11, 1972, Tucson, Arizona

Like Anthony Boucher, Fredric Brown was a writer of science fiction and mystery stories. Both also used a good deal of humor in their work. One difference is that Brown was supposedly an atheist, while Boucher was a devout Catholic. Boucher was a great admirer of Fredric Brown, as were Philip K. Dick and Mickey Spillane among others. Brown's story "Arena" was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame by the Science Fiction Writers of America. It was also adapted to television in an episode of Star Trek.

Also like Anthony Boucher, Fredric Brown died at a relatively young age (sixty-five for Brown vs. sixty-six for Boucher). The two were rough contemporaries. Though born in Cincinnati, Brown worked in Milwaukee for many years as a newspaperman. Brown joined the Milwaukee Fictioneers Club. Robert Bloch was also a member, as were--at various times--Stanley G. Weinbaum, Ralph Milne Farley, and Raymond A. Palmer. I haven't found a complete source of information on the Milwaukee Fictioneers Club. I suspect other well known authors were involved or connected in some way, including Jim Kjelgaard. Fredric Brown was also associated with the science fiction fans, writers, and artists of Los Angeles.

According to the online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Brown's first published science fiction story was "Not Yet the End" from Captain Future, Winter 1941. (He had published mystery or detective stories before that.) He would go on to write many more science fiction and mystery stories during his thirty-year career. Brown wrote three stories for Weird Tales published between 1943 and 1950. The first is called "The Geezenstacks." The last is called--fittingly--"The Last Train."

You can read about Fredric Brown on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Wikipedia, and other sources. For the full story you will--as always--have to turn to a book.

For Weird Tales
"The Geezenstacks" (Sept. 1943)
"Come and Go Mad" (July 1949)
"The Last Train" (Jan. 1950)

Despite the fact that this is one of the most iconic images in American science fiction, Frank Kelly Freas' cover for Astounding Science Fiction, illustrating Fredric Brown's story "Martians, Go Home," can be hard to find on the Internet. The original was published in September 1954. I've had to resort to the British version from February 1955. This may be a hairless self-portrait. Mr. Spock (who early on had green-tinged skin) may have been an offspring of Freas' Martian. Even by 1955, the image of the Little Green Man was a cliché. The Little Gray Man is a newer incarnation of this very old type.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley


  1. As a bibliographic comment, I have a copy of "Martians Go Home", a mass-market paperback published by Ballantine Books in September 1976. The cover image was of the Freas "Keyhole Martian". The back cover blurb is a hoot: "They were green, they were little, they were bald as billiard balls, and they were everywhere"(!). I may have to read this again as you've piqued my interest.

    For a while, Fredric Brown was a regular contributor to Playboy. His short-short, "Nasty" appears in The Playboy Book of Horror and the Supernatural (Playboy Press, 1967 HB, 1968 PB). A very skilled -- and humorous writer!

  2. John,

    After reading a description of that story and others by Fredric Brown, I'm intrigued as well. I would like to read Martians, Go Home.

    Not knowing much about the plot of Brown's book, I wonder if Visit To A Small Planet by Gore Vidal could have been inspired by Martians, Go Home. By the dates of their respective publication, I would say no. Maybe they were both logical outgrowths of the age of flying saucers or of the Golden Age of Science Fiction.