Alan E. Nourse was in many ways typical of the generation responsible for the “Golden Age of Science fiction.” Born in the Midwest, he served in the Navy before entering college. He turned to writing to finance his education, and continued to write after obtaining his M.D. Most of his science fiction was written during the 50’s. In later years he wrote a number of non-fiction books on both medical and scientific topics as well as a regular column on medicine for Good Housekeeping.
With his background, it is not surprising that much of his science fiction has a medical theme to it, whether in the humorous “The Coffin Cure” or the more serious “Martyr.” In the story “Contamination Crew” he uses as a setting a time when Earth has become the physician to the Galaxy, a theme he was to explore in more detail in the novel Star Surgeon.
His approach to alien species was also influenced by his medical and scientific background, and falls squarely into the category of “hard” science fiction. “The Native Soil” and “PRoblem” are examples of this type of story. “Letter of the Law,” while not centered around science, is also a story in the hard vein.
Nourse’s interests were not limited to medicine and science. The 50’s were a time of political turmoil. They had seen the aftermath of the collapse of one totalitarian scheme in fascism and the rise of another in communism. Even the United States had witnessed McCarthyism. Reflecting this environment, several of the stories in this collection have a distinctly political theme, notably “Bear Trap,” “Martyr,” “Infinite Intruder,” and “Derelict.”
The final eight stories in this volume were originally collected in The Counterfeit Man which was published in 1963 and represent a somewhat more mature phase of the author’s career. There are satiric looks at both the medical profession and labor relations in “An Ounce of Cure” and “Meeting of the Board,” as well as the humorous “Circus.” Nourse’s growing interest in psi powers and the paranormal is expressed in “My Friend Bobby” and “Second Sight” with the conclusion that such powers are at best a mixed blessing. Interstellar relations are the topics of “Image of the Gods” and “The Link.” The final story, a journey into madness, is the subject of “The Dark Door.” This group of stories, which was written in the late fifties and early sixties, are the products of a more experienced and confident writer, as evidenced by the improved style and subtler plots.
Alan E. Nourse was both a capable and intelligent writer, and his stories reflect a unique viewpoint during the period when he was most active as a science fiction writer. Because of this, Resurrected Press is proud to offer this collection of stories to you, the reader.