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.

Fredric Brown
Fredric Brown, date unknown
Born(1906-10-29)October 29, 1906
Cincinnati, Ohio
DiedMarch 11, 1972(1972-03-11) (aged 65)
OccupationNovelist, short story author
GenreMystery, Science fiction, Fantasy
Notable works

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.


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.

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).[8]

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 Oberstgruppenführer Smith remarks, 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.[9]

His novel The Lights in the Sky Are Stars gives its name to the final episode of 2007 anime Gurren Lagann.[10]



  1. Italian short bio at
  2. 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. 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. "Heinlein's Dedications".
  9. "The Man in the High Castle Season 3 - Exclusive: New York Comic Con Sneak Peek" on YouTube
  10. "Tengen toppa gurren lagann (2007) - The Lights in the Sky Are Stars".


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