I had a nice little surprise the other day. I thought I’d collected everything there was to be had by Eric Frank Russell, but happily I turned out to be mistaken. I found a copy of Deep Space (a collection of short stories) at a used book store that’s never yielded pay dirt before. This time I struck gold, there are one or two tales in that collection I’ve never seen before.
Russell is always a treat. If you’ve never had the pleasure of laughing at yourself in the mirror, its high time you learned how. His award winning short Allamagoosa will give you the perfect opportunity and its even available on line here. The title of this piece is a reference to that story.
Sinister Barrier is probably is most well-known novel, and was his first. Originally published in the first issue of John W. Campbell’s Unknown Worlds, it was also reprinted as one of the Galaxy Novel series and issued numerous times by various publishers. Based on Russell’s reading of Charles Fort’s prognostications, it is the original ‘what if humans are property’ story. Just about every alien invasion and supernatural horror film owes at least a little something to Russell and this story.
Personally, EFR hits me right in the funny bone – again and again and again. There’s something to be said for an author who can write jokes that make you laugh out loud even when you already know the punchline. (His series of Jay Score tales are a perfect example of this; I’m tempted to sumn them up as the ‘keystone cops in space’, but then I’d be giving short shrift to his intellectual side, which is nothing to be given short shrift to).
The first story I ever read by Russel was Hobbyist, collected in Astounding Tales of Space and Time (an excellent introduction to classic SF if ever there was one) and, like Weinbaum before him, Eric Frank Russell rose to Campbell’s challenge of creating aliens that didn’t think or act like humans. Laura the parrot remains one of the most endearing non-human terran characters ever created.
If you’ve never read EFR, do yourself a favor and pick up something, anything, by him. You’re sure to gain a new appreciation for what it means to be human and you just might save yourself some time with the paperwork…
This site is devoted to a biography of the author.