Shadow Man
The Life and Works of Eric Frank Russell
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Narrelle Harris
Next of Kin - My first EFR story

I discovered the works of Eric Frank Russell in the 1980s when a good friend of mine, Moira Dahlberg, suggested that I might like his work. I'd never heard of him, unlike Asimov or Clarke, and I'd sometimes found their work a bit stodgy and dated. Lord knew what this obscure author from the 1940s would be like, but Moira liked him so I thought I'd give him a go. Moira posted me one of her own copies of a 1950s edition of Next of Kin. I read it and I was instantly hooked.

What I like about Russell

Eric Frank Russell was a writer of extraordinary humanity and humour. At a time when many science fiction writers were dealing with technology and science and their outward effect on the human race, Russell was writing about how, despite technology and science, people remained people. Some stories, like Next of Kin, were irreverent and hilarious, lampooning the military, bureaucracy and pomposity of all kinds; they lauded the very human qualities of bizarre imagination; lateral thinking and individualistic independence.

Other stories, like the moving Dear Devil, and I Am Nothing, looked to the heart of our humanity; our capacity for compassion and love. Even now, the story of tyrant and child told in I Am Nothing holds my heart with its tragedy and hope.

What Alan Dean Foster wrote

Alan Dean Foster said, in his introduction to The Best of Eric Frank Russell:

"He was the only one of the many miners of the imagination, of that peculiar dimension we label science fiction, who could make me both laugh and cry. He displayed more simple common sense in a short story than most writers did in a full novel. He possessed an empathy for mankind unmatched by any other sf writer I've known."

Rediscovery of Russell

That book was published in 1978. In the late seventies and early eighties, Russell seemed to have been rediscovered for a while and many of his books were reprinted, much to my delight, trying desperately to fill all the gaps in a collection.

Completing my collection

Since Moira first introduced me to Russell, I have been collecting his books and short stories with an eye to one day, hopefully, having a complete collection. Once I started collecting, however, I began to realise just how difficult a task that might be.  I think my hopes of having a complete Russell collection are doomed to failure - the man was so prolific, and so much of his work has not yet been collected into handy anthologies, that trying to track down every one of his stories is a nigh impossible task. When you have a look at the bibliography, you'll see why.

Last word

Still, I've done my best. I've also tried to glean some kind of biography from the forewords and snippets of information listed in his books and collections. I hope this will be of interest, or even use, to those out there who remember and love Eric Frank Russell's work.
 

Narrelle Harris
Alan Dean Foster
Don Carter
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