Follow TV Tropes


Creator / Mack Reynolds

Go To

Dallas McCord "Mack" Reynolds (1917-1983) was an American writer, primarily of Science Fiction, known for his utopian themes. During the 1950s and '60s, he was one of the most prolific and popular writers for John W. Campbell's Analog magazine. His first novel, The Case of the Little Green Men, was mystery, not SF, but it was set at a science fiction convention. In 1968, he wrote the very first original novel based on the TV show Star Trek, a kids book called Mission to Horatius.

He had several popular on-going series, including the United Planets/Section G thrillers, the Joe Mauser series, and the Homer Crawford series (aka the North Africa series), which was one of the first SF series to feature an African-American protagonist, and one of the first to be set in a modern, up-to-date Africa, rather than a fantasy jungle. He also wrote sequels to Edward Bellamy's 1888 classic Looking Backward: 2000-1887.

All told, he published over 60 novels during his career, including a few erotic novels, a couple of Gothic Romances (as Maxine Reynolds), and countless short-stories, almost all SF.

Selected Works:

  • The Case of the Little Green Men (1951)
  • Homer Crawford/North Africa series:
    • Black Man's Burden (1961)
    • Border, Breed nor Birth (1962)
    • The Best Ye Breed (1978)
  • United Planets/Section G series:
    • Planetary Agent X (1965)
    • Dawnman Planet (1967)
    • The Rival Rigelians (1967)
    • Code Duello (1968)
    • Amazon Planet (1975)
    • Section G: United Planets (1976)
    • Brain World (1978)
  • The Joe Mauser series:
    • Mercenary from Tomorrow (1968)
    • The Earth War (1963)
    • The Fracas Factor (1978)
    • Time Gladiator (1966)
    • Mercenary (1962)
    • Joe Mauser: Mercenary from Tomorrow (1986, with Michael A Banks)
  • The Other Time (1984, with Dean Ing)

Tropes in his works:

  • Afrofuturism: The "North Africa" series, starting with Black Man's Burden in 1961, featured African-Americans going back to Africa to help bootstrap the continent into a high-tech future. The stories were inspired by time Reynolds' had spent in Africa, and were praised for their positive handling of racial issues, but criticized for their paternalistic views of tribal and nomadic societies.
  • Alien Among Us: The short story I'm A Stranger Here Myself features two Western expatriates in Tangier discussing a news article on the Flying Saucer craze, and the usual Alien Among Us theories. One scoffs at the idea, pointing out that with the vast number of police, security and counter-intelligence agents on Earth, one of these alien observers would be bound to slip up and get caught. His companion responds that Tangiers, as opposed to one of the major capitals like New York or London, would be a perfect place to hide out, as no-one plays attention to anyone's business. It turns out that both men are aliens, but rather than being there for the expected noble reasons, one is harvesting human protein, the other is stirring up wars and tribal conflicts for alien thrill tourists. Which, the first one points out sourly, could spoil an awful lot of good meat.
  • Atmosphere Abuse: In the novel Dawnman Planet. A race of aliens has the power to instantly convert the oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere of a planet to methane-hydrogen-ammonia, killing all of the inhabitants.
  • Born Lucky: In the United Planets novel Code Duello, one operative is a young man who's never lost a bet. When he bet on a horse race, his horse broke its leg, but he still won; there was a big pile-up on the racetrack, and his horse limped across the finish line first.
  • Compound-Interest Time Travel Gambit: "Compounded Interest": A 1956 Short Story where a time traveler places a small sum at 10% in a bank in medieval Venice and renews the contract every 100 years. By the 1960s, the sum exceeds the price of everything in the world several times over. Then he comes to the organization servicing The Contract and starts gradually withdrawing money. What for? To build a time machine to go to medieval Venice to place the money. You see, when The Contract employees concluded the scheme was started by a time traveler, they consulted with several famous physicists, including him, about the possibility of time travel. He told them time travel was impossible, but later figured that it was possible, only R&D would be prohibitively expensive. Thus he came up with the plan and started withdrawing money before he deposited anything.
  • Corporate Warfare: In Mercenary companies often settle contract disputes by armed conflicts commonly referred to as "frackuses" which are televised like spectator sports and are restricted to 19th century technology.
  • Double Reverse Quadruple Agent: The novel The Five-Way Secret Agent, where a guy is drafted into an international espionage assignment by five different opposing factions, one after another.
  • Eternal English: In the short story "Gun for Hire", a hitman is brought from the past to a future utopia. He's really not inclined to help, but is told that just running for it will do no good as only students of dead languages can speak American English these days.
  • Fictional Political Party: In the short story "Trample An Empire Down", bored dolees set out to undermine the establishment by openly mounting the Subversive Party, whose slogan is "What's In It For Me?" It succeeds beyond anyone's wildest dreams (or nightmares).
  • Genius Breeding Act: In the Section G series novel Brain World. All of the initial settlers of the planet Einstein were required to have a minimum IQ of 130. They all bred with each other, and the result was a planet of geniuses with intellectual abilities far exceeding the rest of humanity.
  • Giving Radio to the Romans: The Other Time (completed by Dean Ing after Reynolds' death) features a modern day (1980's) anthropologist doing field work in Mexico who gets thrown back in history to just the right time to run into Cortez and the conquistadors. The language issue is avoided as the hero (being an anthropologist) naturally speaks Nahuatl and Spanish.
  • Government Agency of Fiction:
    • The United Planet series gives us Section G of the Department of Interplanetary Justice, Commissariat of Interplanetary Affairs. Spying, covert destabilization of stagnant cultures, and pushing human advancement are among their less 'official' activities. Officially, they're about peace and interplanetary relations.
    • In Subversive we have the Bureau of Economic Subversion investigating a conspiracy to destabilize the American economy. The twist is they're actually Soviet agents ensuring America's inefficient capitalist system doesn't change to a more efficient system. Guess History Marches On with that one!
  • History Marches On: Several stories have those Dirty Communists outpacing the United States economy because their best and brightest become scientists and engineers instead of entertainers and advertising men.
  • Like a Duck Takes to Water: In the short story "Gun for Hire", a hitman is time-scooped to a future utopia to kill a dissident who's threatening to upset this. So the hitman just offers his services to the dissident instead.
  • Master Race: In the Star Trek novel, Mission to Horatius, the inhabitants of the planet Bavarya (sic!) are divided into artificially replicated people called "doppelgangers" (again, sic) and biologically engendered people called the "Herr-Elite" (sic, sic, sic)—obvious stand-ins for Nazi Untermenschen and Herrenvolk. The "Herr-Elite" plan to invade the planets Neolithia and Mythra and enslave their inhabitants. It turns out that the dictator, "Nummer Ein," is himself a doppelganger. Does This Remind You of Anything?
  • Mistook the Dominant Lifeform: In the short story "Dog Star", the dog-like inhabitants of Sirius II mistake the ship's dog Gimmick for the captain and the human crew for draft animals. The crew decides not to correct them in order to negotiate a trade agreement and has to arrange for all the ships carrying humans through the area to also have dogs.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Subverted in one of the United Planets spy stories. Section G's top operative, Ronny Bronston, takes a new agent on a training mission to an enemy planet. Ronny is wounded and tells the newbie to kill him so the enemy won't capture him. The rookie instead helps Ronny to their escape vehicle. The subversion comes because Ronny wasn't that badly wounded; it was an impromptu Secret Test, and by not being ruthless enough to kill his comrade, the new guy failed and gets washed out of field agent training. Ronny's boss points out that the rookie was trying to save Ronny's life. Ronny replies flatly that saving his life wasn't the mission.
  • Oblivious to Love: One story in the Section G Spy Fiction IN SPACE! had Li Chang Chu abandon subtlety, pointing out to top agent Ronny Bronston that they were alone together in a stateroom with the door locked and no other demands on their time. Particularly funny in that he'd been hot for her about as long as she'd been for him, but didn't think he had a chance—despite being well aware that women found him very attractive. He just didn't realize this woman did, too.
  • Ranked by I.Q.: Brain World. The planet Einstein was settled by people who had a minimum IQ of 130, and they've been improving their average IQ ever since. When Einstein applies to join the United Planets, Section G sends Doctor Horsten and Ronny Bronston to investigate because the computers say they have the highest intelligence ratings of all of Section G's agents.
  • Rock Beats Laser: In Computer War, the more advanced side uses alarms that can detect laser fire to help guard their buildings—which are useless, as the saboteurs use bows and arrows to kill the guards. Also, although this side has a massive conventional military advantage, the weaker side is winning by fighting guerrilla-style, and only in easily defensible terrain (mountains, swamps).
  • Space Madness: In the Star Trek book, Mission to Horatius, the possibility of "space cafard" became a concern. Spock described it as:
    "Compounded of claustrophobia, ennui—boredom, if you will—and the instinctive dread of a species, born on a planet surface, of living outside its native environment.... A mania that evidently is highly contagious. It is said that in the early days of space travel, cafard could sweep through a ship in a matter of hours, until all on board were raging maniacs, and—"
  • To Serve Man: In "Im A Stranger Here Myself" link, two undercover aliens are having a discussion. One race considers human meat a delicacy. The other is stirring up wars and tribal conflicts for alien thrill tourists. The first one notes sourly that this could spoil an awful lot of good meat.
  • Trapped in the Past: The Other Time (completed by Dean Ing after Reynolds' death) features a modern day (1980's) anthropologist doing field work in Mexico who gets thrown back in history to just the right time to run into Cortez and the conquistadors. The language issue is avoided as the hero (being an anthropologist) naturally speaks Nahuatl and Spanish.
  • You Already Changed the Past: In Unborn Tomorrow, an Eccentric Millionaire wants a private eye to locate a time traveler from the future and get the secret of eternal life. He believes such time travelers would go to the Oktoberfest, where everyone would be too drunk to notice anything strange about them. The private eye's secretary is surprised when her boss curtly turns down this chance to get drunk on someone else's money. The private eye explains that he's already taken the assignment three times, and each time the time travelers sent him back to this point in the time line, with a massive hangover from drinking too much German beer. There's no way he's getting another hangover piled on top of the previous three, not for any amount of money!