Creator / Alfred Bester
A highly influential science fiction author, Alfred Bester (December 18, 1913 – September 30, 1987) was pretty much the Orson Welles of the literary world: an overweight, gregarious man who took chances with the format like nothing seen before. His works include The Demolished Man
(the first winner of the Hugo Award), The Stars My Destination
, and stories in comics like The Phantom
and several DC
characters. The latter gave us easily his most famous pop culture contribution in the Green Lantern
oath. His short-story "Fondly Fahrenheit" was turned into a made-for-TV movie, Murder and the Android
He loved Painting the Medium
, using illustrations, different fonts, and changes in point of view to enhance the story being told, plus the stories were always incredible on their own. Sadly, his career was hampered by failing eyesight in the mid-1970s, and he died in 1987 from complications from a broken hip.
He was the namesake of characters in two later classic sci-fi TV shows, Babylon 5
and a character in one of the Callahan's Crosstime Saloon
Works with a page on this wiki:
Other works include:
- Who He? (aka The Rat Race)
- The Computer Connection
- The Deceivers
- Tender Loving Rage
- Psychoshop (with Roger Zelazny)
Tropes in other works:
- Adam and Eve Plot: Played with in "Adam and No Eve"; the protagonist would be happy to fulfill the plot, but no woman is available as he is the last human alive. At the end of the story he drowns himself so that his bacteria will survive in the ocean and hopefully evolve into a new sentient species one day—needing no Adam and no Eve.
- After the End: The seriocomic novella "They Don't Make Life Like They Used To" features the last man and woman on earth—at least, they think they might be—trying to carry on with their daily lives in a decimated midtown Manhattan.
- Amputation Stops Spread: In The Deceivers, mine workers who steal "novaseed" gems — a sort of universal catalyst — must then have their hand amputated to prevent the novaseed-triggered matter-to-energy reaction from slowly consuming their entire body. Novaseed gems are so valuable on the black market there is apparently no shortage of miners willing to trade a hand for economic security.
- Anachronistic Clue: In "Disappearing Act", a few people during a war develop what seems to be an ability to teleport. Further investigation shows that they apparently travel in time. However, when a historian is brought in to research, it turns out all the stories are obvious Anachronism Stews... because these people have found a way to literally spend time in their Happy Place, even one which is a piece of Hollywood History.
- Born in the Wrong Century: "Hobson's Choice" deconstructs the hell out of this trope. The main character lives in the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse. He believes he lives in the worst time ever and dreams of escaping to the past. He discovers time travelers appearing from a small town and finds out that they are being sent there as a form of therapy because they believe that his time period is a Golden Age. The time travel technicians point out to him that in real life it would be nearly impossible for anyone to adapt adequately to live in a past time period. The time travelers are being sent back as a form of therapy to get them to readjust to life in their present, and most soon come back after finding they can't live in that time period. It is also pointed out that there is probably no point in time that someone, somewhere, and somewhen doesn't think is a golden age.
- Break Out the Museum Piece: "The Probable Man" has a traveler to an After the End world reviving a forgotten Diesel dump-truck "tractor" that had been preserved in a museum, using it as a makeshift armored fighting vehicle.
- But What About the Astronauts?: In "Adam and No Eve", a scientist develops a prototype spaceship using a kind of atomic engine, and poo-poos his colleagues fears that it will kill all life on Earth when he fires it up. He goes into orbit and returns to find that he's killed all life on earth.
- Earth All Along: In the short story "Adam and No Eve", an experimental space flight sets off a chain reaction that devastates and sterilized the world, leaving the pilot of the spaceship as the last survivor. The story ends with the reveal that the planet will be reoccupied by life evolved from the pilot's gut microbes, and that present-day Earth is the result.
- Fiction 500: In The Computer Connection, the character nicknamed 'the Greek Syndicate' owns 15% of the whole world. Well, "fourteen point nine one seven percent, but who counts?"
- For Want of a Nail: "The Push of a Finger" is built around this trope: a future-predicting machine reveals that the Universe will be destroyed in one thousand years unless the protagonists find and avert the single event that'll put everything in motion. it turns out to be a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
- Future Imperfect: "The Flowered Thundermug" is a story about a future where the entire world was rebuilt from the only area left intact after a nuclear war - Hollywood.
- God Is Inept: In "Hell is Forever", five people are given the chance to mold reality to their liking. It doesn't go well for any of them, though the one for the character Digby Finchley fits the trope the best; it turns out that if you want to create a universe, a firm working knowledge of thermodynamics may be important.
- Inn Between the Worlds / The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: Psychoshop has a sort of pawnshop that exists in the same place in nearly all universe, "where you can dump any unwanted aspect of your spirit as long as you exchange it for something else".
- Lonely Doll Girl: Linda Nielsen in "They Don't Make Life Like They Used To" is one of the last humans on earth After the End, and is competent and practical, but cherishes her dolls as companions.
- Lotus-Eater Machine: In the short story "5,217,009", Jeffrey Halsyon is dumped into successive science-fiction-themed juvenile fantasies: in the first, he's the last fertile man on Earth, with all that implies. This turns out to be an unorthodox method of psychiatric treatment.
- Mad Scientist: Professor Henry Hassell, the protagonist of "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed", whose response to finding his wife in the arms of another man is to whip up a time machine so he can go and kill the other man's grandfather. The story also cites Ampere and Boltzman as examples of Real Life "mad professors".
- Temporal Paradox: "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed" involves a professor burning with rage over his wife's affair, who decides to eliminate the other man. He does this by first killing the man's father before he was born, to no effect, he then goes and kills his grandfather. Again nothing. Soon, he's gone on a killing spree against many key figures in history, all in the hopes that one of them would end the existence of his wife's lover. He discovers that no matter how much he changes history, it all continues to make no change in the present. All he succeeds in doing is erasing himself from history.
- Mutants: The escapism inherent in this trope was subverted as early as 1954, in the short story "5,271,009." Here, the main character is put in a Lotus-Eater Machine and experiences multiple juvenile fantasies, each of which is explained by "a mysterious mutant strain in his makeup that makes him different."
- Only You Can Repopulate My Race: The short story "5,271,009" explores this scenario (and a few other cliched-even-in-1954 sf wish-fulfillment scenarios) for the sole purpose of poking holes in it.
- Projected Man: The Computer Connection apparently used this technique to replace both telephones (called "projecting") and advertising. The latter reversed the traditional payment scheme of advertising in that consumers could pay a monthly fee to maintain the insulation in their homes to keep the advertising out.
- What Did I Do Last Night?: Golem100 has a place where two characters take drugs. The next ten pages or so are freaky concept art with minimal text. Then the regular text restores, and a policeman explains to them just what they were doing that time (each art piece represents about an hour of debauchery, such as streaking an entire city block).
- Which Me?: "Fondly Fahrenheit", in which a man and his android duplicate can't tell which of them he is, nor which of them is a murderer.