Eric Frank Russell was a British Science Fiction
author of the mid-twentieth century, though he wrote primarily for an American audience, and filled his work with Americanisms, and was often mistaken for an American by his readers.
His most popular work is the 1957 futuristic spy-thriller, Wasp
, about a lone spy injected onto a hostile alien planet to cause as much disruption as possible. Other well-known novels include 1939's Sinister Barrier
, where mankind is secretly owned and controlled by aliens, and the humorous Next of Kin
(aka The Space Willies
), where a lone misfit captured by aliens conducts psychological warfare on them. He also wrote a large number of short stories, including "Alamagoosa", which won the first-ever Hugo Award
for Best Short Story.
Tropes in his works:
- Achievements in Ignorance: The Blieder Drive of The Great Explosion was invented in this manner. Blieder was trying to invent a magic trick, but he had no idea what he was doing, and ended up launching a penny through the roof of his house at what later turned out to be many times the speed of light.
- After the End: "Dear Devil" takes place after a nuclear and biological holocaust, when humanity is reduced to isolated pockets of survivors. A benign Martian visitor, equipped with a flying sled and a food machine, is able to gather many of the survivors together and relaunch civilization over the course of several years. By the time more Martians arrive, the humans worship their "devil" as their hero and savior.
- Agent Provocateur: James Mowry, the hero of Wasp, is sent down alone to an alien planet to stir up as much trouble as he possibly can.
- Dwindling Party: In Somewhere a Voice, a group of people shipwrecked in hostile alien jungle are trying to reach an Earth outpost. Only the dog is alive when rescuers find them. The story is more about bigotry and What Measure Is a Non-Human?, with the viewpoint character initially considering most of the characters (all Earth humans) inferior.
- Heel-Face Turn: In "I am Nothing", a planetary dictator calls off his invasion of a neighboring planet after seeing the devastating effect the war has had on one little girl.
- I Want My Jet Pack: Sinister Barrier (first serialized in 1939) had people in the late 20th century making audio recordings on Blattnerphones. You know... Blattnerphones?
- Ladies and Germs: In the anthology Men, Martians, and Machines, chronicling the adventures of the crew of the spaceship Upskadaska City, the Martian members of the crew start speeches to the (all-male) crew with "gentlemen and adults." Since the Martians are male too, this is not a gender distinction but a piece of Martian snark.
- La Résistance: Wasp involves a man named James Mowri being sent to a hostile alien world in order to cause dissent and chaos and prepare it for an imminent invasion by Terran forces. The planet is part of the large Sirian Empire, whose fascist-like government rules with an iron fist and its State Sec Kaitempi is feared by all. Mowri's primary task is to make it appear as if La Résistance exists in the form of Dirac Angestun Gesept (the Sirian Freedom Party). This involves sending threats signed by D.A.G., lists of people killed (most names are made up), and stickers with anti-government slogans. He then starts hiring local contract killers to take out government and Kaitempi officials and placing fake wire taps on government buildings to build up paranoia. By this point, the Kaitempi is convinced La Résistance is real and a major threat to Imperial stability. The final phase of the plan (which Mowri is forced to speed up due to the imminent invasion) involves diverting the attention of the government and Kaitempi away from space by sabotaging naval ships. After the successful invasion, Mowri finds out that many others like him have been sent to other Sirian worlds. In fact, he is being immeately reassigned to a world where the "wasp" sent there has gone silent.
- Penal Colony: One of the worlds visited in The Great Explosion is a former penal colony which has evolved a very dog-eat-dog society.
- Space Pirates: Discussed and averted in the short story, "And Then There Were None": interstellar travel is so prohibitively expensive that a would-be pirate has to become a millionaire first.
- Talking Your Way Out: Next of Kin is all about this trope. John Leeming is the only human being on alien planet (inhabited by stocky reptiles and is a part of union, which is in war with Earth), imprisoned, stripped of all weapons and gadgets, he does not know their language (initially)... and he manages to talk his way out. Moreover - he manages to make all the government of this planet believe that humans have distinct spiritual companions, he is given a spaceship, he is given the means to change it for a more advanced one and reach Earth... and the planet prepares to leave the anti-Earth union and encourage other planets to do it. Such is the power of diplomacy.
- Towers of Hanoi: In the short story "Now Inhale", the protagonist is sentenced to death on an alien world. Traditionally, the condemned plays a game with the warder, and when it ends (win or lose) he is executed. To stretch the game out until rescuers arrive, our hero chooses the Towers of Hanoi. When the aliens discover they've been duped, they change the rules so that offworld games are not allowed.
- Ultraterrestrials: In Sinister Barrier, Earth is populated by Vitons, Energy Beings who exist outside visible spectrum and feed upon human pain and anguish. Oh, and when they die, they turn into ball lightnings.
- Villain with Good Publicity: The short story "Displaced Person" implies that God Himself may be an example of this trope.