Follow TV Tropes


Creator / Eric Frank Russell

Go To

Eric Frank Russell (1905-1978) was a British Science Fiction author of the mid-twentieth century, though he wrote primarily for an American audience, and filled his work with Americanisms, and was often mistaken for an American by his readers.

His most popular work is the futuristic spy-thriller, Wasp (1957), about a lone spy injected onto a hostile alien planet to cause as much disruption as possible. Other well-known novels include 1939's Sinister Barrier (updated in 1948), where mankind is secretly owned and controlled by aliens, and the humorous Next of Kin (aka The Space Willies), where a lone misfit captured by aliens conducts psychological warfare on them. He also wrote a large number of short stories, including "Allamagoosa", which won the first-ever Hugo Award for Best Short Story.

Works with a page on this wiki:

Tropes in his other works:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: The Blieder Drive of The Great Explosion was invented in this manner. Blieder was trying to invent a magic trick, but he had no idea what he was doing, and ended up launching a penny through the roof of his house at what later turned out to be many times the speed of light.
  • After the End: "Dear Devil" takes place after a nuclear and biological holocaust, when humanity is reduced to isolated pockets of survivors. A benign Martian visitor, equipped with a flying sled and a food machine, is able to gather many of the survivors together and relaunch civilization over the course of several years. By the time more Martians arrive, the humans worship their "devil" as their hero and savior.
  • Anarchy Is Chaos: Averted in "...And Then There Were None". In it, an anarchic-libertarian community of Gands (they derive the name from Mahatma Gandhi) is pretty orderly, and also utterly pacifistic—they employ passive resistance when the Earth military tries to coerce them.
  • Ball of Light Transformation: In "Metamorphosite", this is the true form of the Terrestrials. The apparent captives turn into blindingly bright light at the end of the story — their humanoid appearance was simply A Form You Are Comfortable With.
  • Dwindling Party: In Somewhere a Voice, a group of people shipwrecked in hostile alien jungle are trying to reach an Earth outpost. Only the dog is alive when rescuers find them. The story is more about bigotry and What Measure Is a Non-Human?, with the viewpoint character initially considering most of the characters (all Earth humans) inferior.
  • Dying Clue/His Name Is.../Killed Mid-Sentence: Much of the first half of Sinister Barrier is gathering such clues from mysterious deaths of scientists. After The Reveal there's a similar death, which attracts attention to an ad the victim circled while his heart was being stopped. The advertisement for fridges had a polar bear. Vitons are afraid of polarized radio waves.
  • For Want Of A Nail: All the trouble in "Allamagoosa" happens because one letter got left off of an entry in a spaceship's official inventory manifest.
  • Heel–Face Turn: In "I am Nothing", a planetary dictator calls off his invasion of a neighboring planet after seeing the devastating effect the war has had on one little girl.
  • The Inspector Is Coming: In "Allamagoosa", a spaceship crew's frantic preparations for an upcoming nitpicking inspection leads to the discovery they are missing something called an "offog". Their attempts to correct this problem lead to disaster.
  • I Want My Jet Pack: Sinister Barrier (first serialized in 1939) had people in the late 20th century making audio recordings on Blattnerphones. You know... Blattnerphones?
  • Masquerade:
    • This trope got nuked from orbit and thrown into a black hole in Legwork. Harasha Vanash is an alien with perfect hypnosis powers, so his masquerade should be perfect. How mankind still becomes his undoing? Legwork. Seems that some people haven't learnt the moral yet.
    • Justified in Sinister Barrier — a human thinking about The Masquerade dies seconds after a Viton passes close enough to hear those thoughts. The system collapses around the middle of the novel, when the technique to see Vitons becomes public knowledge.
  • Oh, Crap!: The ship's captain at the end of "Allamagoosa", when he gets the message reporting the fleet-wide bureaucratic disaster he has inadvertently instigated.
  • Penal Colony: One of the worlds visited in The Great Explosion is a former penal colony which has evolved a very dog-eat-dog society.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: In ‘’ The Great Explosion’’, the Ambassador, for certain values of “reasonable”. While constantly throwing his weight around, he is played off against the by-the-book stance of Space Force and Army officers.
  • Sense Freak: In Three to Conquer, hostiles from Venus possess human bodies. One way to spot them is by eucalyptus on their breath: eucalyptus on human tongues tastes like a favorite food tasted on their original ... corresponding sense organs.
  • Serial Escalation: Sinister Barrier starts with several deaths that look natural and attract attention only because of victims' importance to science and high-tech industry. As investigations go, more people connecting victims plus at least one policeman die. Then a seemingly freak explosion levels a factory and a nearby town. The Reveal of Bjornsen's process makes Vitons strike indiscriminately, with news programs being broadcast by studios with no people left alive. When this doesn't help, a world war starts, with bombings of the USA (from air and by mad saboteurs) and grandiose battles at Indio-Pakistan border. The novel ends with a climactic battle over the ruined New York City, that destroys whatever was left above ground. Neither side resorts to Nuclear Option, though.
  • Space Pirates: Discussed and averted in the short story, "And Then There Were None": interstellar travel is so prohibitively expensive that a would-be pirate has to become a millionaire first.
  • Talking Your Way Out: Next of Kin is all about this trope. John Leeming is the only human being on alien planet (inhabited by stocky reptiles and is a part of union, which is in war with Earth), imprisoned, stripped of all weapons and gadgets, he does not know their language (initially)... and he manages to talk his way out. Moreover - he manages to make all the government of this planet believe that humans have distinct spiritual companions, he is given a spaceship, he is given the means to change it for a more advanced one and reach Earth... and the planet prepares to leave the anti-Earth union and encourage other planets to do it. Such is the power of diplomacy.
  • Title Drop: Sinister Barrier:
    The scale of electro-magnetic vibrations extends over sixty octaves, of which the human eye can see but one. Beyond that sinister barrier of our limitations, outside that poor, ineffective range of vision, bossing every man jack of us from the cradle to the grave, invisibly preying on us as ruthlessly as any parasite, are our malicious, all-powerful lords and masters — the creatures who really own the Earth!
  • Towers of Hanoi: In the short story "Now Inhale", the protagonist is sentenced to death on an alien world. Traditionally, the condemned plays a game with the warder, and when it ends (win or lose) he is executed. To stretch the game out until rescuers arrive, our hero chooses the Towers of Hanoi. When the aliens discover they've been duped, they change the rules so that offworld games are not allowed. And force him to keep playing the game day after endless day.
  • Ultraterrestrials: In Sinister Barrier Earth is populated by Vitons, Energy Beings who exist outside visible spectrum and feed upon human emotions: from pain and anguish to joy. Oh, and when they die, they turn into ball lightnings. Though it's never made clear if Vitons originated on Earth in parallel with humans, if they created humans or if they came from another planet and enslaved humans — people who think of Vitons in their presence are killed to maintain The Masquerade, thus the researchers tend to die quickly (until the cataclysmic reveal halfway through the novel).
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The short story "Displaced Person" implies that God Himself may be an example of this trope. Either that or wrongfully imprisoned.