Anthony Boucher (1911-1968) was the pen name of William Anthony Parker White, an American writer, editor, and reviewer of mysteries and science fiction. His novel Nine Times Nine is considered a masterpiece of the Locked Room genre. His short fiction was more varied, covering mystery, science fiction, and fantasy. One of his mystery novels, Rocket to the Morgue, was actually set in science fiction fandom, and included references to many notable people in the science fiction community, including Robert A. Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard. His science fiction short story, "The Quest for Saint Aquin", was chosen as one of the best SF stories of all time by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1970.
He also wrote for scripts for radio, including The Adventures of Ellery Queen and a Sherlock Holmes show. He eventually got his own radio show, The Casebook of Gregory Hood.
As an editor, he published numerous anthologies of mystery and SF, and was co-founder of the very successful magazine Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF). He was one of the first to translate Jorge Luis Borges (the master of Magic Realism) into English.
He wrote a long-running mystery fiction review column for the San Francisco Chronicle, and another for the New York Times. Several collections of his reviews have been published.
He was a founding member of the Mystery Writers of America. Bouchercon, aka the Anthony Boucher Memorial World Mystery Convention, was named in his honor.
Tropes in his works:
- By the Power of Grayskull!: In "The Compleat Werewolf", the magic word "Absarka" transformed the main character out of his werewolf form (There was another word to change him into wolf form, but it's just called "The Word" in the story, i.e. the author doesn't reveal it). There were just two problems with this: (a) as a werewolf, he had to get somebody else to say "Absarka" for him and (b) when he changed back into a human, he was naked (since his clothes didn't transform with him).
- The Case Of: Boucher was very fond of this naming pattern. The majority of his novels used this, including the first, The Case of the Seven of Calvary and the last, The Case of the Seven Sneezes.
- Conviction by Contradiction: "QL696.C9" is about a librarian who was killed, leaving the titular mysterious sequence of letters and numbers nearby. At the end of the story, the detective gathers the suspects in the, um, library in the traditional fashion, declares that the code was probably a library subject reference number, and starts to look it up. He's interrupted by the need to keep the murderer (a spy), from killing herself with the pistol she hid in her blouse. Turns out he knew it was her as soon as he figured out what the code was for, as the killer had the only name that was a noun, and the whole library scene was just to flush her out. Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you realize that the detective needed something from the suspect to avert this trope, since there's all sorts of perfectly good reasons a librarian would have to write down a Library of Congress reference code for swifts. Ironically, the anthology in question comes up when you search the LoC for the code.
- Deal with the Devil: "Nellthu" gleefully plays with this, combined with Three Wishes. "Wealth beyond the dreams of avarice"? NOTHING is beyond the dreams of avarice, so she gets nothing. Perfect health? Sure, for a seventy year old body. But the wisher beats the game by wishing the demon to fall in love with her.
- Dramatis Personae: 'The Case of the Seven of Calvary'', a mystery novel with a tendency to hang lampshades on the then-current mystery novel tropes, begins with a list of the dramatis personae that explicitly divides the characters into 'people to whom you need to pay attention if you're trying to solve the mystery' and 'people who can be safely ignored'.
- Epiphany Therapy: "Ailurophobe" had the main character go through this therapy to cure his morbid fear of cats (he couldn't even stand to hear words including the syllable "cat"). Under hypnosis, he realized it derived from an early childhood incident when he nearly died because of an abusive nanny named "Kitty." He was cured of fearing cats; now he had a phobia about women. Ironic, since it was his fiancée who'd wanted him to get over the original phobia.
- Future Slang: The story "Barrier" has multiple kinds of future language. The first sort is that native to the future, based on English but with a few new words (most significantly "stapper" from "Gestapo" and "slanduch" from "Auslanddeutsch") and it's been "regularized" (there are no irregular verbs or articles, leading to sentences like "Article bees prime corruptor of speech"). The second is the language spoken by one of the travelers from even further in the future, who comes out with "Eeyboy taws so fuy, but I nasta. Wy cachoo nasta me?" And then there's the language spoken by the Venusian from the future, who seems to have the idea that Earth had a single unified language, so his sentences are nearly unreadable mishmashes of English, French, Latin, and who knows what else.
- Imaginary Friend: The main character in "Mr. Lupescu" pretended to be an imaginary friend — a fairy godfather, to be specific — so that he could shoot the father of the kid the pretense was centered on, get off scott free and marry the mother.
- Mechanical Horse: "The Quest for Saint Aquin" had the priest protagonist using an artificially intelligent "robass," which happened to be an atheist.
- My Sensors Indicate You Want to Tap That: The Mechanical Horse of the priest protagonist in "The Quest for Saint Aquin" says something similar when he insists on going back to a bar with an attractive waitress.
- Not-So-Imaginary Friend: In "Mr. Lupescu", this is done as part of a scheme to Murder the Hypotenuse. Alan wants Marjorie, but she is already married to the wealthy Robert. So Alan pretends to be her son Bobby's fairy godfather "Mr. Lupescu" using an elaborate costume and gains his trust with stories of travels in the Milky Way. He also instills a fear of an imaginary monster called Gorgo that will punish Bobby if he misbehaves. All so that the boy will allow him into the house to meet Robert, whom he promptly kills. "Mr. Lupescu" warns Bobby to tell people exactly what happened or else Gorgo will take him. Of course, no one believes stories of a fairy godfather killing Robert, leaving the police baffled. Alan goes home and destroys his costume, satisfied in the knowledge that Marjorie, now a rich widow, is available. Unfortunately for Alan, Gorgo turns out to be a Not So Imaginary Monster.
- Orgy of Evidence: Discussed in The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars. When someone questions why Harrison Ridgely is so ready to call attention to anything that makes him look guilty, the police officer sighs "It's an old trick to make the case against yourself so black an investigator will automatically disregard it. Trouble is, it so seldom works."
- Our Werewolves Are Different: In The Compleat Werewolf, certain people possessed the ability to turn into werebeasts of various species anytime they wanted by saying a magic wordnote . You could only ever turn into one type of beast, which may or may not be practical (were-diplodocus, anybody?) and kept your human intelligence but, being incapable of speech, had to somehow get somebody else to say the magic change-back word (which was "absarka") in order to change back. And when you did, you were naked.
- Religious Robot: "The Quest for Saint Aquin" is a 1951 novelette on this subject. It's set in a post-nuclear world where Christians are persecuted. A priest sets forth on a Mechanical Horse (an artificially intelligent "robass" which happens to be an atheist) searching for the legendary Saint Aquin, who turns out to be an android who is a perfect theologian, able to convert unbelievers with his flawless proofs for the Faith.
- Repetitive Name: The protagonist in "The Compleat Werewolf" is called Wolfe Wolf. His more irreverent students nicknamed him "Woof-Woof."
- Rewriting Reality: The story "We Print the Truth" features a newspaper editor who is granted a wish—and wishes for the eponymous motto of his paper to be literally true. He finds out just how literal when things like a misprinted age turn real. Hilarity Ensues... until he finally realizes that this must stop and invokes something on the order of the Epimenides Paradox to do so.
- Strange-Syntax Speaker: "Barrier" has an entire future society that speaks "Farthingized" English, named after the author of the (in-story) book "This Bees English". All irregular verb forms have been eliminated, as have articles, and pronouns no longer indicate case. Same thing haves happened to other remaining major languages. It bees actually illegal to speak irregular English, enforced by police ("Stappers", from "Gestapo" ... story beed written in 1942).
- Werewolf Theme Naming: "The Compleat Werewolf" has a wizard lampshade the hell out of this, pointing out that the titular character is named "Wolfe Wolf".
- You No Take Candle: The science-fiction story "Barrier" presents a future in which this has been done deliberately: only four languages remain extant, and all of them have been "regularized": there are no longer any irregular verbs ("is" becomes "bees"), all plurals are formed by adding s or es ("men" is now "mans"), articles have been dropped completely, and so forth. It sounds odd, but in fact probably would be considerably easier to learn.