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Creator / Alan Dean Foster

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Alan Dean Foster (born November 18, 1946) is an American writer. He has written dozens of novels and short stories, most of them sci-fi, often with a decent helping of Space Opera. Also known for the novelization of Star Trek: The Animated Series episodes in Star Trek Logs 1 to 10 as well as a large number of feature films across multiple franchises (e.g. Alien, Star Trek, Star Wars). His aliens tend more towards Starfish Aliens than Human Aliens, and his settings tend to be beautiful, alien, and deadly. His work usually falls on the idealistic side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism and somewhere between soft and hard science fiction.

Among Star Wars fans, he's best known for writing the novelization of the original 1977 film, as well as the novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye—which was based on a proposal for a low-budget made-for-TV sequel to the original film, to be made in case it wasn't successful enough to get a theatrical sequel. As such, Splinter of the Mind's Eye has the distinction of being the first novel in the old Star Wars Expanded Universe (now Star Wars Legends). His novelization of the original Star Wars is also notable for significantly expanding the movie's plot, incorporating many unused ideas from George Lucas' own story notes (although many of those ideas were eventually contradicted by later films).

He has a website.

    Some of his works 
  • The books in the Humanx Commonwealth universe, including a few subseries and some standalone books. Its timeline can be found here. Subseries in this universe:
    • The Founding of the Commonwealth trilogy, about the development of the relationship between humans and the insectoid Thranx.
    • The Icerigger trilogy.
    • The Pip and Flinx series, about a boy with empathic (and other) powers and his pet flying snake.
  • The Damned Trilogy. Aliens on an exploratory mission come to Earth seeking allies in a war against an opposing empire, having no skills of their own at war. They find them - no other species in the universe is as perfectly suited to war, both physically and emotionally, as humanity. The three books span multiple centuries and deal with the changes that the sudden influx of human mercenaries brings on interstellar society — now that intergalactic society has groomed humanity into a race of perfect mercenaries, what are they going to do with them once the war is over?
  • The Spellsinger series, about a young man who gets pulled into another, magical, universe by a wizard trying to find someone to save their part of the world, and then can't return.
  • The Taken trilogy, about a man and a dog who get captured (and in the dog's case, given intelligence) by aliens who want to sell them—and a host of others—as curiosities. The books revolve around their attempts to get home.
  • Many, many novelizations, the best known of which include:
  • Journeys of the Catechist: A trilogy about a tribesman sent on a quest to rescue another man's betrothed entirely because of how his tribe views the requests of a dying man.
    • Carnivores of Light and Darkness
    • Into the Thinking Kingdoms
    • Triumph of Souls
  • Kingdoms of Light, about a bunch of humans that were once animals tasked to restoring color to the world after it is taken away.
  • Cat-A-Lyst, about a race of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who masquerade as cats and nurture a bumbling group of humans and Plant Aliens through saving the modern world from a Modern Mayincatec Empire. Rule of Funny applies here.
  • Sagramanda, a book set in semi-apocalyptic semi-futuristic India featuring the interactions between an insane foreign cultist, a professional agent, a man who stole some key info, his wife, his parents, and a man eating tiger.
  • Two standalone Star Wars Legends novels:
    • Splinter of the Mind's Eye, designed as a potential low-budget sequel.
    • The Approaching Storm, a direct prequel to Attack of the Clones.
  • Quozl, about Benevolent Alien Invasion of anthropomorphic rabbits.

Works with their own trope pages include:

Other works contain examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: The contemporary fantasy novel Into the Out Of features an African master woodcarver who furnishes the heroes with wooden knives and spears so sharp they give you a paper-cut like cut just from touching the edges of the blades and can be thrown right through a wall. You can't even quite make out where the edge of one of them ends and the air begins, they're so sharp. As one of the characters describes them:
    "They are wood, but they are anything but ordinary. There are no other such weapons anywhere in the world. They are blackwood plus history, blackwood plus a little of every weapon that has ever been. There are the spears of the great Zulu impis in each edge, the power of Tamerlane's hordes, the thrust of Caesar's legions. On the very edge of each swim things that race the components of existence around racetracks on which the beginning and end of the universe is the bet. They contain weapons that have not been and weapons that will never be. They are blackwood plus all that plus Nafasi. Into them he has put his heart and soul and much more. They will cut well. I think they will even cut a shetani."
  • Alien Animals: In Cat-A-Lyst, cats are really advanced and (mostly-)benevolent aliens.
  • Androids and Detectives: Greenthieves deals with a detective who's paired with a singularly perverted 'humaniform' android, as well as a snarky (if only in his mind) Minder, basically a floating, orb-shaped AI.
  • Artistic License – Biology: In Slipt, the main character cures his teenage niece's lifelong paraplegia by telekinetically adjusting her spine. This causes her to instantly be able to walk, run, and basically function as if she'd been a lifelong gymnast instead of having no lower body strength due to never having been able to exercise her lower body muscles before that point.
    • The Megalodon in the short story He has somehow been alive for millions of years, even the oldest organisms on earth (some species of trees) are are only in the thousands and the oldest known shark is less than 400 years old.
  • Assimilation Plot: Design for Great-Day features the Solarian Combine, a vision of the potential future of mankind as merely one member of a galaxy-spanning "supermind", capable of enormous mental feats and extremely close to having power over matter/energy itself. Unusually for the trope, this is portrayed as a good thing.
  • Bizarre Alien Locomotion: Expect at least a few critters (sentient or otherwise) with strange methods of getting from point A to point B to turn up in any alien ecosystem Foster concocts.
  • Bizarre Human Biology: In the Tipping Point Trilogy, body modification has become basically as easy as getting a haircut. Power Perversion Potential is rampant.
  • Bloody Handprint: An exceptionally nightmarish example occurs in Into The Out Of. A group of Maasai evil spirits called shetani use magic to sneak onto a 747 in flight through one of the lavatories and try to kidnap one of the protagonists. They get a stewardess instead, and take her off the plane the same way they got on: through the lavatory toilet. The only thing left behind is blood — lots and lots of blood. Including a single bloody handprint on the inside of the toilet bowl, as if the hand that left it was trying to grab the rim from below.
  • Car Fu: In To the Vanishing Point, it's a two-bedroom Winnebago RV versus the elemental Chaos-thing "the Anarchis".
    "You have done well," the other orange fish told him. "Steel is good for weakening Chaos. Aluminum is better still."
  • The Chessmaster: Kees vaan Loo-Macklin, The Man Who Used the Universe.
  • Cool Horse: Mad Amos Malone's horse, Worthless, who is ¼ unicorn (plus ¼ mustang, ¼ Arabian, and ¼ Clydesdale).
  • Cooking Duel: In the Mad Amos short story "Witchen Woes", Mad Amos has a literal Cooking Duel (a chili cookoff) with a kitchen witch as a kind of exorcism.
  • Crapsack World: India in Sagramanda. Rampant poverty, the poor attacking people to get money, greedy corporations that just leave it that way, a man eating tiger just left alone, multiple hit men, and an insane serial murderer feature prominently, as does somebody who tries to kill his own son because of the caste system.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: This is applied to an entire sentient species in the Taken trilogy—they're basically Cat Girls (even the guys), but have voices comparable to garbage disposals. In this case, symbolism rules, as they're initially quite charming and cute, but they're a Proud Warrior Race and their sanity is somewhat dubious.
  • Dark World: The Out Of in Into the Out Of is the parallel dimension where the demons are coming from. The heroes have to go there to close the gates.
  • Depopulation Bomb: In Design For Great-Day, the Solarian Combine is said to have used a Depopulation Bomb on the worlds of a particularly belligerent species; the effect of said bomb being to completely stop them from reproducing. One hundred or so years later, there were no more belligerent aliens. This rumor is enough to bring the Solarians' current target species to the negotiating table, although it's later revealed that they've grown far beyond such crude methods in the intervening centuries.
  • Direct Line to the Author: "Some Notes Concerning A Green Box" started out as a gag letter Foster sent to an Arkham House publisher, ostensibly seeking advice on how to deal with some Cosmic Horror-related documents that'd come into his possession by chance. The recipient took it for a submission, and following revisions it became Foster's first published work.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: There's an entire species of these in the Taken trilogy. When they talk, however, they sound like garbage disposals, as fits their combination of an absolute sense of honor and a fondness for killing.
  • Expanded States of America: In The Mocking Program, the US has merged with several Central American countries to form a nation usually called "Namerica" (probably a contraction of North America). The story takes place mainly in the Montezuma Strip, which runs along the former US/Mexican border.
  • Faceless Eye: In Kingdoms of Light, the Sea of Blue is in fact a colossal eye, known to the creatures of that sea as the Eye of the Beholder.
  • Fake-Out Opening: Cat-A-Lyst opens with two soldiers on a battlefield in the American Civil War. It turns out to be a scene from a movie, starring the main character.
  • False Flag Operation: In The Man Who Used the Universe, Kees vaan Loo-Macklin creates a false attack by a previously unknown alien species to prevent war between humanity and the Nuel by forcing their militaries to work together against the new threat. In the interests of making the deception convincing, he has himself shot repeatedly to the extent that he loses an arm.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: In Design for Great-Day, the Solarian Combine's ships can traverse a galaxy in a matter of hours, and intragalactic jaunts are considered to be fairly trivial, if not entirely routine.
  • Fearsome Critters of American Folklore: One of Mad Amos Malone's adventures involves taking a British Great White Hunter to bag a jackalope, only for him to lose it when they discover the jackalope's natural predator.
  • Forced Transformation: In Kingdoms of Light, the Six-Man Band consists of a mage's pets (three cats, a dog, a canary, and a snake), turned into humans by the mage's dying spell. In the end, they are captured by the evil Munderucu and turned back into animals—except that due to character growth, they not only remained sentient, but they became great cats, a huge wolf, a firebird, and a 40-foot python. Oops.
  • Genghis Gambit: In The Man Who Used the Universe, this gambit on a galactic scale is one of the final stages of the hero's ultimate plan.
  • Handicapped Badass: The hero of "Gift of a Useless Man" is paralyzed from the neck down except for one of his arms, but by being a Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond, he is able to give a tribe of telepathic alien insects valuable insights in farming, building, government, education, and more. When a hostile rival tribe attacks his friends, due to being so much bigger than the insects, he is even able to squash most of the enemy army with one blow of his good arm.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: In "Bystander," a space traveler spends hours observing a nearby alien ship to try and learn something about other (more powerful) cultures, then learns that a nearby comet that he barely glanced at was either a disguised alien ship or a secretly sentient alien itself.
  • Horsing Around: In the Mad Amos stories, his horse, Worthless, is an ugly, mean, brute of a horse who frequently bites Amos, urinates on his boots, or otherwise makes life miserable for the mountain man. And Amos is the one person the horse actually likes. When he goes after someone he doesn't like...
  • Humanity Ensues: In Kingdoms of Light, the familiars of a fallen wizard—a snake, two cats, a dog, and a bird—are transformed into humans and forced to cross a weird dimension that represents the land of light (in the form of a huge rainbow) in order to bring back the power of light to a now darkly colored world.
  • Humanity Is Advanced: In the short story "With Friends Like These...", Humanity is so advanced that when they agree to help their new alien allies, they bring Earth with them.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: The short story "With Friends Like These..." takes a look at the theme from another angle. Ages ago, the old galactic civilization deemed humanity too dangerous and sealed off Earth until it became a myth, but now aliens needs Mankind's skill at battle against another alien race. So a few representatives go to Earth, see a quiet pastoral culture relaxing in a hammock, and ask the "mythical creatures" to help. Cue the little shock when aliens see that humans are so calm because their hammock is too high on The Kardashev Scale to worry. Not only have humans evolved psionic powers and are in telepathic contact with various other mammalian species (which presumably they Uplifted), not only is the whole planet filled with machinery and computers for miles below the surface, but the entire freaking planet Earth (with moon) breaks orbit to follow the aliens' starship!.
  • Humans Are Diplomats: In Design For Great-Day, humans have this role. It's suggested that this is due to humans having an exceptional flair with language (being able to "talk the legs off a crocodile and insult its parentage in the process").
  • Humans Are Special: In Design for Great-Day, human loquaciousness is described as being their special talent. Other races can speak conversationally and use metaphors and everything else we associate with speech, but humans in particular are known for their ability to "talk the legs off an alligator and cast serious doubts on its parentage in the process". The implication is that while other races can use speech this way (it is, after all, an alien saying this of humans), humans are inherently better at it.
  • Humans Are Warriors:
    • "With Friends Like These..." is told from the alien point of view. Humanity was sealed under a forcefield a long time ago because we scared them that badly. When they release the humans in exchange for helping them against a bigger menace, one of the aliens has the sense to worry "What happens when we run out of enemies?".
    • The Damned trilogy is a classic example, with a coalition of pacifistic aliens who have been fighting a centuries-long losing battle against a race of fanatical, mindwashing conquerors moved by a mysterious spiritual/religious principle. The problem is that every race is so civilized, few can even conceive of hurting another sentient, and even those who aren't quite that civilized and try to do whatever fighting is necessary aren't really any good at it. Then the coalition finds humans, a race ripe with contradictions but whose fighting abilities are beyond anything anyone, friend or enemy, has ever seen. And immune to the Amplitur mindwashing. In fact, humans can be so unpredictably and barbarically violent that the coalition would prefer to not use humanity at all, and only relents because if the enemy gets to them first the war is essentially over. A lot of curb-stomping ensues.
  • Indian Burial Ground: The short story "Ferrohippus" is about Mountain Man Mad Amos Malone aiding a tribe who are trying to keep railroad construction from disturbing their ancient burial site. It ends when the ancient unleashes a literal Iron Horse that tears up a section of the rail and chases off the foreman, causing the replacement foreman to decide that routing the line away from the site is a good idea.
  • Insanity Immunity: In To The Vanishing Point, Burnfingers Begay can deal with the shifting realities matter-of-factly because he's already crazy.
  • Little Miss Badass: The story "Swamp Planet Christmas" features an eight-year-old girl who is part of an interstellar colonial expedition that is being threatened by a local species (led by Warrior Monk Umoo). She writes a letter to Santa requesting "a Dolly, a swamp-bike, and a real Mark XX laser rifle so I can help daddy shoot the bad grimps and that nasty Mister Umoo."
  • Living Aphrodisiac: The short story "The Dark Light Girl" features a town whose children have luminescent, firefly-like skin as a side effect of nearby nuclear testing. In addition to glowing, they also make almost anyone who looks at them feel an overpowering sense of lust (which is why their families are afraid to entrust them to scientists who can potentially cure them but might also succumb to urges to sexually abuse them).
  • Plant Person: The short story "Village of the Chosen" features a village of people who, due to scientific experiments, have formed symbiotic bonds with a rare type of plant that turns their skin green and allows them to live on sunlight (through photosynthesis) rather than food, making it possible that the discovery could end world hunger.
  • Modern Mayincatec Empire: Cat-A-Lyst features one in an alternate universe.
  • Mountain Man: A series of short stories about Mad Amos Malone, a Genius Bruiser mountain man who wandered the west from Colorado to Hawaii and had a variety of supernatural adventures.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: In the Tipping Point trilogy, bodily manipulation is as easy as getting new custom-fitted clothing and is often used to add extra limbs. Note that these are not necessarily weapons, or designed explicitly to carry weapons; for instance, a waiter may get an extra set of arms to improve carrying capacity.
  • Necessarily Evil: The Man Who Used the Universe.
  • Never Be Hurt Again: The Man Who Used the Universe. Kees vaan Loo-Macklin creates a criminal empire and a legitimate business empire and manipulates too many beings to name (both human and alien). He does this because he was abandoned as a child and grew up in a series of foster homes where he was mistreated because of his appearance, and was determined never to be helpless and mistreated again.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: In "Gift of a Useless Man", written for the ...Who Needs Enemies anthology, a low criminal crashlands on a planet inhabited by sentient roach-like creatures stuck in Ancient Ages. He teaches them agriculture and basic craftsmanship and essentially uplifts their society, so that 100 years later, they already have industry.
  • Panthera Awesome: In Kingdoms of Light a spell transforms a bird, a terrier, a snake and three cats into humans to return color to the drab Kingdom of Gowlands after it was taken over by an evil warlock and his goblin hordes. During the Final Battle all the animals transform into larger wild animal counterparts of their respective species. The bird turns into a firebird, the terrier into a large wolfdog, the snake into a reticulated python, and the three cats into a lion, a panther, and a leopard respectively.
  • Planet of Hats: In Design for Great-Day, a spiderlike species is mentioned whose hat is, ironically... hats.
  • Plant Aliens: In Cat-A-Lyst, the protagonists meet up with a starfaring band of treelike aliens who possess genius-level intelligence but are somewhat lacking in the common-sense department.
  • Proscenium Reveal: Cat-A-lyst opens with a battle in the American Civil War, before the protagonist flubs his line and it's revealed to be a film shoot.
  • Prospector: The supporting characters in the Weird West tale "Wu-Ling's Folly" include a quartert of prospectors (including two veterans of The American Civil War and an eighteen-year-old from Chicago who's "matured ten years" in the year he's spent mining) who spend a year digging for gold, then have a dragon swoop in to take the fruits of their hard labor away. They fight back with their guns and tools but still lose their treasure and two of their lives.
  • Sealed Badass in a Can: In "With Friends Like These...", Humanity was sealed under a forcefield a long time ago because we scared the aliens that badly. When aliens later release the humans in exchange for helping them against a bigger menace, one of the aliens has the sense to worry, "What happens when we run out of enemies?".
  • The Singularity: The Solarian Combine in Design For Great-Day is a multispecies Hive Mind that is seeking to evolve into a higher order of consciousness (while still having enough mental power to spare to send ships into neighboring galaxies to resolve their disputes). It is implied that The Singularity will be the result. This is also an example of nested singularities, as the Solarian Combine is itself the product of a singularity event that produced the Hive Mind in the first place.
  • Subspace Ansible: In Design for Great-Day, the Solarian Combine is a kind of galactic Hive Mind created as a natural extension of intelligent beings learning to live and think in harmony. Said thought processes apparently travel instantaneously, ignoring the speed of light.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: Design for Great-Day features humanity (or to be more specific, the Solarian Combine), as a super-advanced multi-species who are on the brink of transcending matter itself and becoming Sufficiently Advanced Aliens.
  • Superweapon Surprise: In "With Friends Like These...", a peaceful galactic federation faces attackers it cannot handle and in desperation turns to its outcasts, the historically militaristic humans, currently in quarantine on their homeworld, for help. The landing party is both amazed and disappointed to discover an almost pastoral planet of peaceful citizens that doesn't match their expectations at all — until one of the local kids disintegrates one of the attackers that followed them with a stick and Psychic Powers and their hosts, upon accepting their offer, reveal that not only did they have the requisite war machines cleverly hidden underground all along and are eager to use them again, but they've somehow managed to turn their planet into a starship. Which leads one of the vistors to seriously question what will happen once the war is won...
  • Telepathy: The Solarian Combine in Design for Great-Day have developed telepathy into what is effectively a multi-species, intergalactic Hive Mind. This is treated as the natural and penultimate evolutionary stage of all species.
  • This Is My Human: Cat-A-Lyst has the human hero adopting a small cat early on. In reality, the cat is an extra-dimensional entity that fights off the real villain while the humans fight off his minions. In the end the cat decides to stay on Earth and watch over her pets.
  • Totem Pole Trench: Kingdoms of Light features Khaxan Munderucu, an incredibly powerful giant evil spellcaster. He's really twenty-two goblin mages in a giant Totem Pole Trench, all combining their magic.
  • Uplifted Animal: In the Taken trilogy, one of the main characters is a dog named George who has been abducted by aliens and given human-level intelligence and the ability to communicate.
  • Weaponized Car: In "Why Johnny Can't Speed", a tongue-in-cheek revenge tale. In this short story, road rage is legal, so all vehicles are armed to the teeth. A father sets out to avenge his son who was killed disputing a lane change.
  • Weird West: A series of short stories about "Mad Amos" Malone, a giant Mountain Man with a vast knowledge of all things arcane and mysterious who battles assorted dragons, ghosts, and other occult goings-on in the Old West.
  • What a Piece of Junk: In the short story "Banzai Runner", the title character drives one. Banzai runners are people who have extremely high speed street races in 'stock' Ferraris and Porsches. The Wisp, as the titular Runner is known, drives a four-door sedan...with the engine from a racing plane built into the trunk.