Rising from the ashes of the beloved (if erratic) print digest (that itself rose from the ashes of The Scream Factory magazine), we'd like to welcome you to the bare•bones e-zine. We look forward to offering the same irreverent reviews and commentary you've come to expect from us.
Fredric Brown’s professional interest in television began in 1949, when he plotted his novel, Here Comes a Candle, during bus rides between his home in Taos, New Mexico, and Denver, Colorado. He visited the Denver library to research how TV scripts were written, and bought a TV technique book in Denver, according to his wife’s book.
An experimental novel, Here Comes a Candle (1950) contains a section that represents Brown’s first attempt to write in the format of a teleplay.
According to Beth Brown, her husband was approached in the early 1950s to write a weekly, half-hour detective show featuring a young, male-female detective team. Brown wrote the pilot for the series, a story called “The Traveling Room,” but the series deal fell through and Brown sold the plot to television a couple of years later.
Brown’s stories began to sell to TV early in the 1950s. He and his wife lived in Taos, New Mexico, where there was no TV reception, so they could not watch the shows when they were broadcast. The anthology shows that were so popular in TV’s early days were the perfect showcase for short stories, and most of the adaptations of Fredric Brown’s work for TV came in the 1950s.
While Brown lived in Southern California from 1952 to 1954, was said to have commuted to Los Angeles in 1960 to write scripts for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and lived in Hollywood from 1961 to 1963, there is little evidence that he did much writing for television. If he did, very little of what he wrote was produced.
What follows is an episode guide to Fredric Brown’s TV work. It is as complete as I can make it, but I welcome additions or new information.
Episode title-“The Last Man on Earth”
Series-Tales of Tomorrow
Broadcast date-31 August 1951
Teleplay by-Reginald Lawrence
First print appearance-Thrilling Wonder Stories December 1948
Episode title-“Age of Peril”
Series-Tales of Tomorrow
Broadcast date-15 February 1952
Teleplay by-A.J. Russell
Based on-“Crisis, 1999”
First print appearance-Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine August 1949
Brown, Elizabeth. Oh, for the Life of an Author's Wife. Print. Unpublished typescript.
Galactic Central. Web. 24 July 2011. <http://philsp.com/>. Seabrook, Jack. Martians and Misplaced Clues: the Life and Work of Fredric Brown. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling GreenStateUniversity Popular, 1993. Print.
The last "lost" Fredric Brown story that I have discovered so far is "Martian Through Georgia," which was published in the August 1951 issue of Amazing Stories as by Walt Sheldon. According to Brown's wife's unpublished autobiography, this was one of three stories written by the trio of Fredric Brown, Mack Reynolds, and Walt Sheldon.
Fredric Brown (1906-1972) first met Walt Sheldon (1917-1996) in Philadelphia in the late 1930s, when both writers had the same agent, Harry Altshuler. Brown and his wife moved to Taos, New Mexico, in early 1949, and stayed with Walt Sheldon and his family before settling down in their own apartment. Sheldon was known as the "king of the air war pulps," but since those magazines had lost popularity, he was starting to write mystery and science fiction stories.
Soon, Mack Reynolds (1917-1983) and his wife also moved to Taos; Reynolds had sold a few science fiction stories and wanted to try his hand at writing full time. Brown and Sheldon helped Reynolds, and the three writers gathered daily to trade shop talk. They decided to try writing some stories together and came up with the name of Walt MacFredric. They planned to write one third of a story each, setting up offbeat situations in order to stump each other. The first joint story they wrote was "The Switcheroo." It was followed by "Martian Through Georgia" and "Device of the Turtle."
After the third story had been written, Sheldon had to leave town, and the authors drew slips of paper to see who would get to publish each story. Sheldon drew "Martian Through Georgia," which was published under his byline. Brown and Reynolds decided to publish the other two stories under a joint byline.
Fredric Brown and Mack Reynolds wrote six other stories together. The stories by Brown, Reynolds, and Sheldon were:
"Six-Legged Svengali" ("Device of the Turtle")--Worlds Beyond December 1950
"The Switcheroo"--Other Worlds Science Fiction March 1951
"Martian Through Georgia"--Amazing Stories August 1951
The stories by Brown and Reynolds were:
"Dark Interlude"--Galaxy Science Fiction January 1951
"Cartoonist"--Planet Stories May 1951
"The Gamblers"--Startling Stories November 1951
"The Hatchetman"--Amazing Stories December 1951
"Me and Flapjack and the Martians"--Astounding Science Fiction December 1952
"Happy Ending"--Fantastic Universe September 1957
Brown and Reynolds also co-edited the anthology, Science Fiction Carnival (1953).
"Martian Through Georgia" is a short science fiction story (3600 words) laced with humor. On a military base somewhere in Georgia, the men and women go about their daily business; Sergeant Dawn Dougherty dreams of handsome base commander John Feathers as a plane radios in to ask permission to land for refueling. Arriving with surprising speed, the plane--actually a "queer disk"--lands. As it lands, Master Sergeant Joseph Daculla, who is known by the nickname of Joe Dracula, is sleeping off the effects of a night of drinking "Georgia white mule" and playing poker.
The soldiers at the army base were easily fooled!
A first lieutenant emerges from the ship and asks Major Bing for fifty quarts of grain alcohol, the classified vehicle's fuel. Although the lieutenant is described as "stiff, waxen" and the ship looks like a flying saucer, Major Bing is too afraid of looking foolish to ask questions.
Bing sends Joe Dracula to town to bring back the alcohol, but Joe makes a detour to the still where he got the white mule the night before. The "disk like ship" refuels and takes off. The lieutenant, safely inside, takes off his fake human body, but he and the alien driver feel the ship start to buck wildly from the fuel. They deduce that human fuel must be too strong for their ship and that this was a demonstration of mankind's "true technological advancement." The aliens must abandon their plans for colonization of Earth! Meanwhile, the base crew goes back to business, keeping watch for a flying saucer spotted over North Carolina that Washington warned them about!
"Martian Through Georgia" is a fun little story and a good example of Fredric Brown's penchant for adding humor to his science fiction. It should be added to the list of his short stories, just as it should be added to the list of works by Mack Reynolds. Walt Sheldon's bibliography should also be increased by adding "The Switcheroo" and "Device of the Turtle."
All of the stories by Brown, Reynolds, and Sheldon were reprinted in the 2001 collection From These Ashes. "Martian Through Georgia" has never been reprinted.
Brown, Elizabeth C. Oh, for the Life of an Author's Wife. Unpublished typescript.
Gadetection / FrontPage. Web. 08 July 2011. <http://gadetection.pbworks.com>.
Seabrook, Jack. Martians and Misplaced Clues: the Life and Work of Fredric Brown. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular, 1993.
Shedon, Walt, Mack Reynolds, and Fredric Brown. "Martian Through Georgia." Amazing Stories (August 1951): 126-33.
Wikipedia. Web. 08 July 2011. <http://wikipedia.org>.