Short Reviews – And the Gods Laughed, Fredric Brown

And the Gods Laughed by Fredric Brown appeared in the Spring 1944 issue of Planet Stories.  The version reviewed was the 1953 reprint in the Fall issue of Tops in Science Fiction.

And the Gods Laughed is one of those stories that you can imagine inspiring things like the Twilight Zone or the Outer Limits.  In fact, I would not be surprised if there’s an episode of Outer Limits loosely based on this one.

The story is framed by the pastime of spacers telling each other tall tales of their previous space adventures to while away the time.  One of the guys mentions earrings, which sets the narrator off on his own story about a race they encountered on Ganymede, all naked except for giant gold earrings (‘where the earrings wore the natives’).  Long story short, the gold earrings are parasitic aliens with telepathic capabilities who take over and use the host bodies until they wear out.  They are limited by the intellect of their hosts so have been trapped on the planetoid with their primitive hosts until the spacemen from earth set down providing them an opportunity to escape.

There is some genuinely creepy imagery in this story.  The part that still sticks out in my mind, providing nightmare fuel, is when one of the natives is in the river and gets his legs bit off by some kind of giant crocodile; the native crawls out, walks around on bloody stumps for bit before handing his earring off to someone else and falling down dead.

The story was good enough that I almost felt that the twist ending detracted from it a bit; sometimes the better twist is to not jump on the obvious twist, but I still really liked this one.  These guys would make a great monster race to include in a tabletop game.  I might stat them up later today.

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