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Creator / Alfred Bester

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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 in 1959.

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 Firefly and a character in one of the Callahan's Crosstime Saloon stories.

Works with a page on this wiki:

Other works include:

Tropes in other works:

  • Accidental Marriage: The protagonist of The Computer Connection kisses a Cherokee woman socially; she takes it as a proposal of marriage and accepts.
  • 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.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Golem100 is expanded from the short story The Four-Hour Fugue.
  • 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.
  • The Ageless: The protagonist of The Computer Connection is one of a group who have this quality. They can't be poisoned and are immune to most diseases.
  • 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.
  • Clock Roaches: "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed" is considered a pioneering use of this basic plot device — the big Reveal at the end of the story is that the protagonist's repeated attempts to change history and destroy reality as we know it only succeed in making himself Ret-Gone. (This ended up being the explicit inspiration for the concept of "frag" in the RPG Continuum and other settings.)
  • Cloning Body Parts: A promising experimental technology in The Computer Connection. One character loses his arm in an offscreen battle with the Big Bad, and mentions that he hopes to have a clone replacement grown when he has the time.
  • Crippling Castration: At the climax of Golem100, Gretchen accidentally kills Shima by ripping off his genitalia.
  • Deal with the Devil: Goes a bit wrong in "Will You Wait?" when the protagonist tries to sell his soul to Satan, then gets caught up in months of complications related to arranging the contract.
  • Delayed Narrator Introduction: In "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed", the narrator reveals himself to be another scientist who invented time travel, who meets the protagonist and explains to him how they are now both detached from time.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Inverted in Golem100 — Subadar Ind'dni is the chief of police, gay, and the most moral character in the setting. It's his evil alter ego who is depraved and straight.
  • Dreadful Musician: Gretchen in Golem100 has a singing voice that makes dogs howl. When she goes undercover as part of a group of street musicians, her performance reduces their takings by one-third.
  • 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.
  • French Maid Outfit: In The Computer Connection, the protagonist's 13-year-old protegee Fee-5 makes her entrance in one.
  • 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.
  • I Just Write the Thing: According to an interview with Bester, he killed off Fee-5 in The Computer Connection because she was taking over the story and he didn't have any other way to stop her.
  • 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".
  • Jesus Was Way Cool: In The Computer Connection, he still is — he's one of the protagonist's ageless group, going by "Jacy".
  • The Klutz: Ozymandias in The Computer Connection, who got the nickname because he can't go anywhere without causing a colossal wreck.
  • 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".
  • Market-Based Title: The Computer Connection was titled Extro in some markets, and The Indian Giver in its original magazine publication.
  • 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."
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: If the protagonists in Golem100 had never bothered to investigate, the Golem100's attacks would have come to an end when Regina was murdered. But in the course of their investigation they form a connection with it that allows it to survive.
  • The Nose Knows: Doctor Shima in Golem100 is a perfume specialist with a highly-developed sense of smell.
  • 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.
  • Replacement Goldfish: At the end of The Computer Connection, the protagonist attempts to recover DNA from Fee-5's body, so that a clone of her can be grown. The book leaves it open whether or not this worked.
  • The Spymaster: Odessa Partridge, who narrates most of The Deceivers, is the head of a spy agency to whose attention the protagonist comes.
  • 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.
  • Time-Traveling Jerkass: In the short story "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed", a Mad Scientist discovers his wife cheating on him. Instead of just murdering the other man, he decides to completely erase him from existence by killing his grandparents while they were children, but when he returns to the present the other man still exists. The scientist proceeds to murder people of greater and greater historical significance in the past in order to change history, but it remains unchanged. The final result of all this meddling with the past is to erase himself from history.
  • Valley Girl: Golem100 opens with a group of eight futuristic versions, attempting to summon the Devil out of boredom.
  • Weirdness Search and Rescue: Near the end of "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed", the time-traveling protagonist meets another more experienced time traveler who explains to him the cause and nature of the predicament he's found himself in. The "search and rescue" part is averted, however; the reason the other traveler is present to provide the exposition is that he got himself trapped in the same predicament first, and as far as he knows it's irreversible, so the story ends with both still trapped.
  • 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.
  • Wretched Hive: The notorious Guff Precinct of future New York, the setting of Golem100.
  • You Are Number 6: Fee-5 in The Computer Connection got her name because she was born in the fifth row of a theatre auditorium.