Creator: L. Sprague de Camp
L. Sprague de Camp (1907 – 2000) was an American author. His notable works include the time-travel novel Lest Darkness Fall and the Harold Shea series. He was a major contributor to the Conan the Barbarian series after it Outlived Its Creator.He received lifetime achievement awards from the World Science Fiction Society (which runs the Hugo Award), the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (which run the Nebula Award), and the organisers of the Sidewise Award for Alternate History.He was a friend of Isaac Asimov, and Geoffrey Avalon, one of the characters in Asimov's Black Widowers series, is modelled on him.
Works by L. Sprague de Camp with their own trope pages include:
Other works by L. Sprague de Camp provide examples of:
- Agony of the Feet: The educational book Energy and Power includes a discussion of the difference between the potential energy of a one-pound weight sitting on a three-foot-high table and the kinetic energy if the weight falls off the table, and adds, "You will understand this if the weight falls on your toe."
- All Cavemen Were Neanderthals: The caveman protagonist of "The Gnarly Man" is a Neanderthal.
- Alternate Self: The premise of the short story "The Wheels of If" is that, as part of a ploy to discredit a political rival, someone in an Alternate Universe comes up with a way to cycle the consciousnesses/souls of seven people in seven universes who happen to be similar enough to count as Alternate Selves. The rival is one of these, ending up with the mind of a man from our timeline.
- Animal Athlete Loophole: In the short story "Nothing in the Rules", one team at a girls' swimming competition contains a mermaid, who wins every race she enters. (To avoid disqualification for not using the proper swimming form, the mermaid only competes in the freestyle events.) In response to the opposition's outrage, the team coach points out that the rules only specify that all entrants must be female; nothing is said about species. The officials are reluctantly forced to admit that he's right. Whereupon the opposing coach visits the city zoo and borrows a female seal, who (properly incentivized with a bucket of fish) outswims the mermaid.
- Arranged Marriage: The Krishnans in the Viagens Interplanetarias series practice arranged marriage, a fact that upsets the occasional human that falls in love with one. However, in nearly all cases the Krishnans themselves are totally unbothered by arranged marriage, as they consider marriage to be an important lifetime social and financial arrangement too important to be dictated by something as fickle and ephemeral as love. Several characters even express horror of the very idea of marrying for love.
- Bee People: Rogue Queen, set in the Viagens Interplanetarias universe, features the Ormazdians, a race of medieval-age humanoid monotreme aliens who have a fairly scientifically accurate hive society with egg-laying queens, sterile female workers, and male drones who only live to fertilize the queen. There is also a subspecies that has both worker and soldier females. The Ormazdians' sexual development is triggered by meat proteins, so the queens explicitly forbid workers from eating meat, claiming that it will poison them. Naturally humans arrive on Ormazd, help some workers they've befriended discover the truth, and destroy the entire Ormazdian societal structure. This is portrayed as ultimately for the best, as the hive society causes stagnation. The Ormazdians should not be confused with the Krishnans, another race of medieval-age humanoid monotremes from the Viagens Interplanetarias universe who do not live in a hive structure.
- Body Paint: In Viagens Interplanetarias series, one of the humanoid cultures on planet Krishna lives in such a hot climate that the people forgo clothing altogether, and only wear jewelery and body paint.
- Boldly Coming: In The Hostage of Zir, one of the characters comments that The Bible forbids fornication, sex with a human you're not married to, and bestiality, sex with a dumb animal. But it says not a word about fun with a Green-Skinned Space Babe on the planet Zarathustra.
- Butterfly of Doom: In "Aristotle and the Gun" an arrogant time traveler tries to change history, and achieves the exact opposite of what he intends.
- Contemporary Caveman: "The Gnarly Man" is about a Neanderthal named Shining Hawk whose aging process was frozen when he was struck by lightning early in his life. He has survived by his wits on the periphery of human society since the extinction of his own kind, using a succession of false identities and getting by as a blacksmith or in menial professions like his present one; appearing as as an 'ape man' in a travelling freak show. He has been a witness to much of history from the margins, making little personal impact on it. He's also frustrating as hell to the scientists trying to get information from him, both cause he's deliberately tried to be low-key and stay away from important/influential people (he mentions at one point the only King he ever even personally saw was Charlemagne, from a distance when he was addressing a crowd) and because every conversation about history goes like "Yeah, that was in the 13th century. No, wait, maybe it was the 11th. I remember all the bystanders had beards, so it wasn't the 12th..."
- Conveniently-Placed Sharp Thing: Lampshaded in The Goblin Tower, part of the Reluctant King series. Fugitive king Jorian, the wizard Karadur, and the woman Vanora have been tied up in Jorian's bedroom by a couple of other wizards. Jorian's sword is hanging by its baldrick on his hatrack, and though Jorian has his ankles and wrists bound, he manages to worm himself to his feet, knock the hatrack over, and (with the help of Vanora's feet) cut through his bonds. Prompting this exchange after he releases the others:Jorian: These knaves were tyros after all, or they'd never have left aught sharp where we could come upon it.
Karadur: Remember, my son, that they are accustomed to coping with foes, not by such crude devices as swords and cords, but by spirits, spells, and the transcendental wisdom of magic.
Jorian: So much the worse for them.
- Dream Land: Solomon's Stone takes place in a world populated by figures from daydreams.
- Eternal English: Deconstructed in "Language for Time Travelers".
- Exotic Equipment: The Viagens Interplanetarias series features a race of humanoid monotremes from the planet Krishna that, while anatomically similar to (but not interfertile with) humans, take considerably less time to climax. For this reason female Krishnans tend to seek out male humans for liaisons, while female humans try to avoid male Krishnans. It's also worth noting that, while humans last longer, male Krishnans were capable of copulating much more often (15-20 times per night).
- Finders Rulers: In the Reluctant King series, the kingdom of Xylar chooses its next king by throwing the head of the previous king into a crowd — the catcher gets the throne. The downside is that in five years, the process is repeated... which is why Jorian, who had no idea about all this, is very much the titular Reluctant King, and spends the trilogy running away from Xylarians who want to drag him back so they can perform the ceremony.
- Green-Skinned Space Babe: In the Viagens Interplanetarias cycle one of the prominent planets, Krishna, is populated by a humanoid species that happens to be sexually compatible with humans (though matings won't result in offspring). Some of them wear nothing but jewellery and body paint. Needless to say, one of the human characters gets to seduce a local princess. (The Krishnans are actually depicted as green-skinned humanoids in the GURPS adaptation of the setting as a tabletop game.) De Camp knew exactly how unlikely this would be, but wanted to write swashbuckling, two-fisted adventure stories IN SPACE!, and worked very hard to come up with a setting that would let him get away with it. The biological difficulties are frequently lampshaded, and provide a fair amount of the comedy in the series.
- Inn Between the Worlds: The setting of Tales From Gavagan's Bar.
- Intelligence Equals Isolation: In the story "Judgment Day", a scientific genius has discovered a principle that will make weapons on the scale of A-bombs (which hadn't been fully invented yet when the story was written) possible. Most of the story is a flashback to his unhappy life of being unpopular and bullied and lonely. He decides to publish his discovery, expecting it to lead to humanity destroying itself.
- In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous: Averted in the short story "The Gnarly Man". The title character is a 50,000 year-old Neanderthal who has managed to live a quiet, normal life over the millenia. The only famous person he ever encountered was Charlemagne, who he saw giving a speech in Paris.
- Invented Individual: In "The Wheels of If" Allister Park, a New York lawyer from our world, is transported into the body of his counterpart in an Alternate History world, a bishop named Ib Scoglund. He concocts a plan to get himself home and manipulates the political opposition by infiltrating them using an invented identity... under the name "Allister Park".
- Literal Ass Kicking: The Dragon of the Ishtar Gate has a scene in which the hero, realizing that he nearly jeopardized their mission (and his mother's life) by drunken, arrogant stupidity, asks his closest friend to give him a good swift kick in the arse. When the friend obliges, the hero sighs and says he feels better now.
- Lost Colony: The Great Fetish is set on the distant planet Kforri (K-40), a world in the Mesozoic stage of evolution colonized by humans generations before, their technology lost as the result of a mutiny before landing (or crashing). The established religions of the roughly Bronze Age-technology, Medieval European-culture nations that have developed all embrace the doctrine of Evolution, which states that mankind arose from lesser native forms, while the emergent scientists have brought forth the heretical concept of Descensionism, maintaining that the lack of creatures similar to humanity indicates their ancestors came from elsewhere.
- No Woman's Land: In The Honorable Barbarian, princess Nogiri of Salimor comments that Kerin of Novaria, with whom she has just entered into a Citizenship Marriage, is an incredible man and husband and wonders why all Salimorese women don't go to Novaria to find such wonderful men. The primary reason she says this is that Kerin doesn't beat her when she argues with him.
- Odd Job Gods: The short story "The Hardwood Pile" features Aceria, the one of the Tree Nymphs of Norway Maples. After all the Norway Maples in the area are cut down she becomes the Nymph of Piles of Wooden Boards that Used to Be Norway Maples. At the end of the story she becomes the Nymph of Nightclub Dance Floors Made of Wood From Norway Maples.
- Our Mermaids Are Different: Mermaids appear in several of de Camp's fantasy stories. In all of them (even ones in different continuities) the mermaids are part dolphin, rather than part fish. They are also streamlined for swimming, so the females breasts are generally smaller than those typically portrayed in mermaid art.
- Planetary Romance: The Viagens Interplanetarias series is an attempt to do a semi-Hard SF version of the genre.
- Sesquipedalian Smith: In Solomon's Stone, the hero finds himself in a world populated by the figures people daydream of being. Everyone has a Sesquipedalian Smith name, indicating first the daydream and then the mundane reality.
- Stock Dinosaurs: "A Gun for Dinosaur" (about time-traveling big game hunters) features Tyrannosaurus trionyches, a fictional cousin of "the famous rex."
- Temporal Paradox: In "A Gun for Dinosaur", one of the characters tries to change the past, and discovers the hard way that history protects itself against paradoxes.
- Tyop on the Cover: One edition of Rogue Queen had errors in both the title and the author's name, becoming Rouge Queen by L. Spraque de Camp.