Eric Frank Russell

1905 - 1978

English writer

Although modest in size, the published output of Eric Frank Russell displays a humor and wisdom that has endeared him to generations of readers, earning him the title "The Forgotten Master."

Russell published his first story, "The Saga of Pelican West," in Astounding Science Fiction in 1937, and quickly became the first British writer to become a regular contributor to that magazine. Interested in the works and theories of Charles Fort (who has been called the "Prophet of the Unexplained"), Russell based his first novel, Sinister Barrier (1939), on Fort's suggestion that the human race might be the "property" of invisible parasites that feed on human pain and anguish. His Star Trek-like Jay Score series, about a crew of interplanetary explorers, including a heroic robot, began appearing in Astounding Science Fiction in 1941, and the stories were collected in Men, Martians and Machines (1955).

Some of Russell's best work was done in the years after World War II, including "Metamorphosite" (1946), "Hobbyist" (1947) and "Dear Devil" (1950). A series of bitter anti-war stories, including "Late Night Final" (1948) and "I am Nothing" (1952), culminated in the fine pacifist satire ". . . And Then There Were None" (1951), subsequently incorporated into The Great Explosion (1962).

Russell went on to write other stories in which militaristic humans are confronted by frustrating cultures, including "The Waitabits" (1955), and several in which awkwardly inventive humans confront unimaginative humanoid aliens, as in "Diabologic" (1955), The Space Willies (1956), "Nuisance Value" (1957) and Wasp (1957). Russell's stories of this quirky kind, including the Hugo award-winning satire "Allamagoosa" (1955), made a significant contribution to science fiction humor.

Russell's remaining novels were more earnest than his ironic short fiction. In Sentinels from Space (1951), benevolent, mature souls who have emerged from the chrysalis of corporeality keep watch over our immature species. Three to Conquer (1956) is about an invasion of Earth by parasitic aliens who turn out to be more easily detectable than they had anticipated, as the protagonist is telepathic. With a Strange Device (1964) is a convoluted psychological melodrama cast as a crime story. Russell's short fiction appears in various collections, including: Deep Space (1954), Six Worlds Yonder (1958), Far Stars (1961), Dark Tides (1962), Somewhere a Voice (1965), Like Nothing on Earth (1975) and The Best of Eric Frank Russell (1978).

Selected Bibliography:
Sinister Barrier (1939)
Dreadful Sanctuary (1948)
Sentinels from Space (1951)
Deep Space (1954)
Men, Martians and Machines (1955)
Three to Conquer (1956)
Six Worlds Yonder (1958)
Far Stars (1961)
Dark Tides (1962)
The Great Explosion (1962)
With a Strange Device (1964)
Somewhere a Voice (1965)
Like Nothing on Earth (1975)
The Best of Eric Frank Russell (1978)