Creator / Gordon R. Dickson
American SF and fantasy writer, best known for his Childe Cycle/Dorsai
His other works include The Dragon Knight
series, in which a couple of 20th-century graduate students find themselves in an alternate world that resembles Medieval England but with magic, dragons, and fairies; and the comedy Hoka
series, co-written with Poul Anderson
, about a planet whose inhabitants spend all their time pretending to be characters from Earth fiction.
Works by Gordon R. Dickson with their own trope pages include:
Other works by Gordon R. Dickson provide examples of:
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: In And Then There Was Peace, a robot has been made that is programmed to destroy all implements of war. This turns out to include the people who fight.
- All Animals Are Dogs: Averted in the novel Wolf and Iron. In the foreword, the author relates that the original short story had the titular wolf acting like a dog. A reviewer gave him grief about it, so when he expanded it to a novel he made the wolf more, uh, wolflike.
- In the original story "In Iron Years", the dog really was a dog — a huge cattle dog that had been owned and brutalized by sheepmen. The hero was wearing a jacket that had belonged to a cattle rancher and the dog instinctively trusted him.
- Bears are Bad News:
- A set of three novellas was collected into The Right to Arm Bears. The Dilbians, bear-like natives of the planet Dilbia, have The Plan as their hat.
- Ruml from The Alien Way are marsupial, but look and behave much like Earth bears. In case you didn't know, most bears in nature are killed by other bears.
- Blue and Orange Morality: Dickson loved this trope. If there are humans and aliens in the story, there's definitely Values Dissonance and misunderstanding, often very deep. For both sides. It even happens between humans from different planets. How successful, convincing or realistic those systems of values were, is... very debatable.
- In Wolfling everything the protagonist does has the ultimate goal of keeping Empire from Earth. Even when it looks the other way around. And it's hinted from the start he is not your typical Earthling.
- In The Outposter Meda V'Dan aliens are a nomad culture, probably transplanted to space by more advanced aliens. Their life is regulated by rules and traditions that would fit an Iron Age nomadic tribe, but not a spacefaring civilization as humans imagine it. They live by trade, but prefer to steal. When victims fight back, they leave. Earth is isolationist, founding colonies only because of overpopulation, xenophobic even toward colonists. Colonists, on the contrary, represent all the good qualities of mankind. It is hinted that other aliens are more like either fractions of humans.
- In None but Man Moldaug aliens don't care much about "right" and "wrong", but measure everything with concepts of "Respectability" and "not-Respectability". The end result is deceptively close to human society, and misunderstanding almost causes a war. Moldaug threatened Humans with war to test human Respectability; humans started to stall for time instead of declaring war, thus proving themselves non-Respectabile. Plus, there's antagonism between Earth and colonies as above.
- In The Right to Arm Bears humans spend all their time figuring their way around the intricate Dilbian thinking. With their happy-go-lucky attitude and strict adherence to the letter of law with audacious violation of its spirit.
- Spacepaw starts with Tin Ear and a gang of outlaws happily celebrating the gang robbing Tin Ear. Nobody finds it strange.
- Dorsai think differently from the rest of the mankind.
- In The Odd Ones aliens ascribe different disgusting ideas to humans, but in the end all oddities prove to stem from humans having two sexes.
- In The Alien Way Ruml have a sort of social Darwinist instinct supposed to ensure that eventually all Ruml would be descendants of Kingdom Founders. There are state awards for being lucky. It's perfectly OK to kill all your ship's crew to claim the newfound planet for yourself. Parallels are drawn between them and Earth bears. The protagonists maintains, that a functioning society can be built by such anti-social creatures as he describes, and that they can be reasoned with.
- Captured Super-Entity: In Danger—Human!, alien scientists are studying a captured human and treating him just like that. Their fears prove justified.
- City on the Water: Home From the Shore.
- Computerized Judicial System: Played for black comedy in Computers Don't Argue, set in a society where all record-keeping is computerized. A filing error transforms a minor civil dispute over a book into a major criminal prosecution over the alleged kidnapping of Robert Louis Stevenson.
- Deflector Shields: In Way of the Pilgrim the personal force-shield of any Aalag soldier would allow him to hold out indefinitely against any weapons humanity could throw at him. Even nukes. The ship-board version is presumably even more robust.
- Determinator: Humans' hat frequently.
- In Danger—Human! the human breaks out of maximum security cell using a very time-consuming and rather unpleasant method. Fortunately, he has nothing else to do, and the captors made him immortal. Then he simply walks through an impassable force field.
- Dorsai soldier Donal Graeme can walk on walls and ceiling if he wishes strongly enough.
- Dogs Are Dumb: In The Magnificent Wilf, the hero's Great Dane is given the ability to talk by aliens. Examples of things it says are as follows: "Love Tom. Love Lucy [his owners]. Love Love Love Love." "Play? Frisbee? Play?" "Ow! Flea! Bite flea! Bite Bite Bite Bite Bite. Crunch flea. Aaaahhh."
- Great Escape: In Danger—Human!, aliens abduct a human space traveler and place him in an inescapable prison so they can study him and learn about his species. By the end of the story, he has found a way to escape the inescapable prison.
- Heavyworlder: Hour of the Horde and some short stories add an uncommon corollary: on a high-gravity world things fall faster (because of higher acceleration). A Humanoid Alien from such a world is somewhat stronger, but much faster, because falling over on such a planet is a bad idea and being able to catch falling things is usually helpful too.
- The Hidden Hour: Zeepsday is about an alien race that shows humanity that there is an eighth day in the week.
- Hugh Mann: In The Alien Way, an alien tries to secretly land on Earth and disguises himself to infiltrate a military facility. Actually he looks like a partially shaved flat-muzzled bear in a rough approximation of human clothing, and the only reason he has any success in fooling the people he meets is that they knew he was coming and are luring him into a trap.
- Humans Are Cthulhu:
- Danger -- Human!. The various alien species of the galaxy have records reaching back to a particular point in history, where a terrible catastrophe whose nature is now lost to the ages wiped out nearly everything. The only surviving records include a map indicating Earth with the note indicating extreme danger. A research group eventually decides to capture a lone ordinary human, under the tightest possible security that they can muster, to study and perhaps figure out why. As one can probably guess when exposed to this treatment the human in question snaps. He manages to overcome all of their security measures through human ingenuity. He steals a starship and is last seen on a course back to Earth. The head researcher realizes what's going to happen next and despairs.
- The Monster and the Maiden. The "monster" is a scuba diver. The "maiden's" home is beneath the surface of Loch Ness.
- Humans Are Special:
- The Human Edge is an entire collection of short stories playing variations on this theme.
- Danger—Human!, the story that opens the collection, featured aliens who have captured a human for study. During previous eons, humans have been found to be responsible for the destruction of galactic civilization, multiple times, and the aliens wanted to find out what trait or stimulus caused this change, in order to prevent it. Multiple security precautions are used including a sealed chamber, constant surveillance, and a single exit guarded by a 20-foot-high force field that only turns off for a short period of time during certain parts of the day. In the end, the human character, who has been repeatedly vivisected, psychoanalyzed, and generally given a rough time, snaps. He manages to escape his chamber, evade all surveillance, and somehow pass through or above the force field, completely unaffected by it. He then hijacks a nearby interstellar cargo vessel and heads back to Earth. The aliens are all suddenly feeling an existential dread as they realize that they have just provided humanity with the reason and the means to destroy galactic civilization once again.
- Humans Through Alien Eyes: In The Odd Ones short story, aliens ascribe different disgusting ideas to humans, up to and beyond Human Resources, but in the end humans prove quite nice from their point of view, and all visible oddities stem from humans having two sexes.
- Laser Blade: In Wolfling the preferred weapon of High-Born (haughty, but highly advanced Human Aliens ruling an interstellar empire) are hand-sized "rods" that project an energy beam, length of which can be varied during fight.
- Logic Bomb: In The Monkey Wrench, a man attempts to shut down a meteorologic arctic station just for bragging rights. He is able to do so by prompting a paradox to the machine, making it incapable of doing anything than computing the paradox. Ironically, this condemns him and his partner to freeze to death, as all the vital controls of the station were provided by the machine.
- Post-Apocalyptic Dog: The hero of Wolf and Iron makes friends with an actual wolf. After being scolded by a wolf biologist who misread the original short story (where the creature actually is a dog), Dickson worked hard to make the wolf wolf-like and not dog-like, so it's not a perfect fit for the trope. Unusually, the apocalypse is an economic collapse rather than a physical or military disaster.
- Puny Earthlings: In Spacial Delivery, the two alien races who come into play are both giants compared to humans. A member of the species who act as the antagonists of the story (enormous beings from a high-gravity planet) once showed up to the Olympic Games on Earth and casually proceeded to break several human track and field records in quick succession without even trying, just to show his contempt.
- Red Baron: In Spacial Delivery, the Dilbians are a culture of bear-like aliens who give everyone epithets. The most badass member of the race is known as "One Man"...as in "one man army."
- Scaramanga Special: From Hilifter (1963):
Whistling a little mournfully, he began to make the next best use of his pile of property. He unscrewed the nib and cap of his long, gold fountain pen, took out the ink cartridge, and laid the tube remaining aside. He removed his belt, and the buckle from the belt. The buckle, it appeared, clipped on to the fountain pen tube in somewhat the manner of a pistol grip. He reached in his mouth, removed a bridge covering from the second premolar to the second molar, and combined this with a small metal throwaway dispenser of the sort designed to contain antacid tablets. The two together had a remarkable resemblance to the magazine and miniaturized trigger assembly of a small handgun; and when he attached them to the buckle-fountain-pen-tube combination the resemblance became so marked as to be practically inarguable.
- Superweapon Surprise: In The Alien Way, an aggressive alien race discovers Earth by analysis of floating space debris and launches a covert surveillance mission as a prelude to invasion. Sadly for the aliens, humans not only know about them, they used the alien mission as a tool to psychologically profile the would-be conquerors and find out all about their civilization and military capabilities. Then humans sent a message about how they've deceived the aliens, together with images of spaceships ready to strike the alien homeworld and an offer of peace.
- Tailor-Made Prison: In Danger—Human!, the aliens construct an escape-proof cell, consisting of metal physical enclosures, an impenetrable force field, constant armed surveillance, and access only for carefully monitored brief periods to provide food and water, to study a human they abduct to try and find out why humans kept conquering the galaxy. He escapes.
- Technology Uplift: Discussed in Wolfling, where mankind meets an interstellar empire of Human Aliens. Every High-Born (a member of the ruling race) receives enough education to uplift a stone-age planet to the imperial level.
- Time and Relative Dimensions in Space: In Time Storm, time travel is used deliberately for space travel.
- Unishment: In Zeepsday, a human is placed on trial in a galactic court for insulting an alien. He is found guilty and sentenced to be "confined" by his fiancée for a year, with all expenses paid by the insulted alien. The judge recommends they spend the year at a very expensive vacation spot.
- Ursine Aliens: In the stories collected in The Right to Arm Bears, the Dilbians are described as intelligent grizzly bears. They're noted for being good-humored and good-natured Gentle Giants.
- Vichy Earth: The Way of the Pilgrim tells a pretty straightforward interpretation of this trope, with the protagonist, a translator/pet for the occupying Aalaag, organizing a revolution with the power of the indomitable human spirit. They have to, since militarily La Résistance is futile—if he had to, one fully armored Aalaag could defeat every human army in an afternoon.
- World of Chaos: The whole theme of his novel Time Storm, in which the eponymous storms can change a locale's time frame by thousands of years or more as they pass.
- You Are Not Alone: Steel Brother. A young man is alone running a robotic outpost in space to guard against the alien enemy. He can't face the fear until after he fails in battle and finally surrenders his mind to the computer memory banks where he discovers that the past (deceased) commander of the post left him a message, the same one every member of the corps leaves for his successor, "You are not alone, all along the frontier there is one of us standing guard, even if you die, another will take your place".