The Mind Thing, by Fredric Brown: excellent pulp-era science fiction

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/04/21/the-mind-thing-by-fredric-bro.html

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In Martians, Go Home a race of cartoonish little green men invade Earth for the sole purpose of being hideously bothersome pests, behaving very much like Internet trolls and Second Life griefers. (Artist Kelly Freas perfectly captured the personality of the martians in his cover painting for Astounding Science Fiction .)

Paging @RickMycroft

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I’m fairly sure I’ve not read The Mind Thing, but I have a clear memory of reading an extremely similar (short?) story with an almost identical plotline somewhere among my extensive pile of vintage science fiction.

Might take a quick look tomorrow but the chances of me happening upon it are slim. We’ll see.

Rouge in Space Stinks? Way to destroy my childhood! How could I deny the synopsis on the back cover?

" Call him Crag: misfit, loner, thief. Killer. He’d been a spaceman once and had a metal hand to show for it. He knew good from evil but cared not a grain of Martian sand for either. Until rogue met rogue…"

He could remove his hand and throw it at people. You read that right.

You have just forced me to read The Lights in the Sky are Stars.

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He may have gone home.

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I recently enjoyed re-reading the Daw paperback “King of Argent” by John T. Fillifent, a pulpy sci-fi novel I first read when I was 14 in the 1980’s. It’s a sort of Robinson Crusoe (or perhaps “Avatar”) story about a man who has his body altered with a gold metallic skin to survive and conduct a mineralogical survey on a very rich but harsh planet for his corporate boss back home. But our hero sends back the lowest-quality samples he can find to discourage development of the planet, so he can stay there indefinitely, and we find his bosses have been less than completely honest with him about a few things too- like the new visitor they send down to his planet! It was a fun read and would make a pretty good movie in the right hands!

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‘The Lights in the Sky Are Stars’ isn’t a bad book - it’s just different from Brown’s usual fare.

In fact, it almost reads like late 50’s Space Force propaganda, encouraging young fellas to get degrees in advanced engineering to get on out there and conquer the void. It’s the closest thing to ‘hard SF’ that Brown ever wrote - so it’s a little dry compared to the rest of his output. But it ain’t terrible.

Now ‘Mrs. Murphy’s Underpants’ - Brown’s last novel - THAT was terrible.

I loved the OTR shows adaptations of his work. He was a funny guy.

Mark writes: “When I was in junior high school, I joined the Science Fiction Book Club. One of the books I got from the club was an anthology that included several stories by Fredric Brown (who was primarily a mystery writer but occasionally delved into science fiction). Some of Brown’s stories in the anthology were a mere page or two, and I loved their humor and surprise endings.”

Me too! I mainly ordered that from the Club because I knew that Brown had written the short story upon which Star Trek’s “Arena” was based (the one with the Gorn). Fun collection.

I haven’t read my copy of “What Mad Universe” in 40 years, but I remember it vividly and fondly. The reveal at the end was rather mind-blowing to my teenage mind.

Oddly, I’ve recently been on a Brown kick. I bought vintage paperbacks of “Rogue in Space” (good enough until the cliche ending…which may not have been such a cliche in the late 1950s), and the psychological crime novel “The Screaming Mimi” – not bad, but very much of its time. I have a couple more crime novels headed my way via eBay. Looks like I need to start a saved search for “The Mind Thing.”

What’s it to ya mac?

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Why is there no love her for Brown’s short (sometimes very short) fiction? “Armageddon” is a story that makes me laugh no matter how many times I read it.

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His many shorts (all an exact word count, 500?) are excellent.

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is it impossible for you to have seen this in the plot of a film instead? i’m thinking specifically of the movie the hidden which had somewhat of a similar story. it was that film i thought of upon reading the book synopsis above.

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No - this was definitely a book - almost certainly a short story. Which reminds me to go take a look (as if I stand any chance of finding it…)

Quite a few years ago, I managed to score a copy of Brown’s excellent short story collection “Nightmares and Geezenstacks” at a yard sale, and I’ve been a fan ever since. I’ll definitely have to check this one out!

So. How was Olympus Mons this year?

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Spent an hour browsing a yard or so of yellowed SF anthologies on my bookshelf, but no luck. Possibly it was in an ancient Analog but there’s no way I’m going through the several yards of those.

His SF is all in print as two omnibus volumes, one for novels and one for short stories.

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Three to Conquer by Eric Frank Russell? (I wouldn’t call it “almost identical” but it definitely has similarities.)

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I feel like I’ve encountered a similar plot in a short story as well. The description also reminds me a bit of Colin Wilson’s The Mind Parasites - which is a totally bonkers tome if there ever was.