From These Ashes: The Complete Short Sf of Fredric Brown (Anglais) Relié – juin 2001
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"Armageddon" begins with the end of the world.
"Arena" served as the inspiration for the Star Trek episode of the same name, but the savior of humanity confronts a much more formidable task than Captain Kirk did.
"Etaion Shrdlu," a sentient linotype printing press, eagerly absorbs knowledge from its jobs until....
"Knock" sports the shortest title in all science fiction literature and the creepiest beginning: "The last man on Earth sat in a room. He heard a knock on the door."
The stories run the gamut from knee-slappingly funny to disturbingly somber. If you like short science fiction, you'll love Fredric Brown.
This book collects all his SF short stories, (as well as some non-SF material like "Nightmare in Blue" and Yellow") into one hefty volume. More than 100 of his works are in here, some hilarious, some horrifying; some optimistic, some dark. Many stories are already familiar to Fredric Brown fans ("Pi in the Sky," "Puppet Show") while others have been out of print so long that they'll seem new even to fans. (I was happily surprised to see that Mitkey, the rodent hero of "Star Mouse," got a second outing in "Mitkey Rides Again.")
The book is especially remarkable for presenting his work in CHRONOLOGICAL order, so fans can trace his development over the quarter century Fredric Brown was active. Fans can also follow real-world developments through his tales, from the World War II-era patriotism of "The New One" to the warnings of nuclear disaster in "The Weapon" and "Letter to a Phoenix."
Those unfamiliar with his work are welcome to jump around. I recommend the nine titles mentioned above, plus "Nothing Sirius," "Honeymoon in Hell," "Something Green" and "Knock." Also, make sure you read the three "Eustace Weaver" stories back to back, to fully appreciate the lunacy.
Also of special note are "Daymare," which is simultaneously a science fiction story AND a murder mystery, as is "Crisis, 1999." Meanwhile, "Arena" inspired the classic Star Trek episode of the same name.
Brown also pioneered the "short short," and some of the stories are less than a page in length. "The Answer," Voodoo," Pattern," "Solipsist" and "Blood" are classic examples.
As often happens with old science fiction, some of the technology is dated. (Vacuum tubes? Linotype machines?) However, although vacuum tubes may have gone out of style, great writing does not. This book would make a great gift for any science fiction fan, especially an old-school fan.
The weakness of this collection is in the editing. The stories are supposedly grouped by year of their first publication, but there are several cases where they are incorrect, for example "The Joke" is put in the 1961 section, but it was actually first published in October of 1948 under the title "If Looks Could Kill". They also do not include any information regarding the publishing history of the stories. Many of the stories have had multiple titles over the course of their publishing history, but alternate titles are not listed. Despite the subtitle "The Complete Short SF of Fredric Brown", the Editor's Notes at the back indicate that at least two stories were omitted because they were later rewritten in the form of a novel. There is a good Introduction by Barry N. Malzberg, which would be the highlight of the added material.
The most important measure of a collection is the stories themselves, and in that regard there is no complaint. While few of Fredric Brown's stories have received any attention in terms of awards or even in fan polls, there are many excellent stories here which have been long overlooked. The best known story is the novelette "'Arena'", which was the basis for the Star Trek (Original Series) episode of the same name. It was tied for 35th on the Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll in 1971 for short fiction, and tied for 34th on the 1999 Locus All-Time Poll for novelettes. The short story "The Waveries" was nominated for the Retro Hugo for the year 1945 in 1996, as was the Novelette "Pi in the Sky".
Eight of the stories are collaborations with Mack Reynolds, and there is also the wonderful "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" which he collaborated with Carl Onspaugh. Then there are the more than 50 vignettes, which are often overlooked when it comes to awards. All in all there are well over 100 pieces included, and on many of them the reader gets the feel of his mysteries as well as speculative fiction.
Many of these stories are slight-- 1,000 words or less-- bathroom reading! But they all have a sense of fun and wonder that is contagious.
Brown's longer science fiction novels weren't that great... novels like Martians Go Home weren't capable of sustaining their ideas over the length of the story. But his short fiction really shines!