Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The Timeless Tales of Reginald Bretnor
Reginald Bretnor
Story Books, 223 pages

The Timeless Tales of Reginald Bretnor
Reginald Bretnor
Reginald Bretnor (1911-1992) was born in Vladivostok, Siberia. The family moved to San Diego, CA in 1920. As a writer, he seemed fascinated by puns. Under the pseudonym Grendel Briarton, he penned "Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot," a series of shaggy-dog-story SF puns which ran for years in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Venture and Asimov's SF magazines. A paperback Feghoot collection was published by Paradox Press (1962) and The Mirage Press published two other editions: The Compleat Feghoot and The (Even More) Compleat Feghoot. His final novel was Schimmelhorn's Gold from Ace, a collection of Bretnor's stories about an oversexed octogenarian idiot/genius.

Story Books Site
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

Reginald Bretnor is best known for the invention of the "Feghoot," extremely short stories which end with a pun, much like the old "Aesop & Son" sequence on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Beyond Feghoots, perhaps the most available writings of Bretnor are his Schimmelhorn series. Lost in the shuffle seem to be the short stories Bretnor turned out, both under his own name and a variety of pseudonyms. For their very first offering, Story Books has decided to issue a collection of fifteen short stories by Reginald Bretnor, as selected and edited by Fred Flaxman. The result is a limited edition book, The Timeless Tales of Reginald Bretnor.

For the too many readers who are completely unfamiliar with Reginald Bretnor's writing, perhaps the stories which come closest to Bretnor's style and wit are the Azazel stories written by Isaac Asimov during the final years of his life. This style of humor can particularly be seen in the first couple of stories, "Cat," which postulates a college professor who learns the language of cats and teaches courses, and "Maybe Just a Little One," about the atomic power of the element frijolium, extracted from common Mexican beans.

Bretnor's writing has a tall-tale quality to it, reminiscent of the gentleman's club or bar stories which have been a part of SF since its earliest days. However, Bretnor did not feel constrained to have his stories told third hand in the White Hart of Gavagan's. Instead, Bretnor either told them directly, or at one remove. For instance, in the case of "Aunt's Flight," the narrator's Aunt Trivia flew across the Atlantic Ocean before Charles Lindburgh.

Bretnor has a strong sense of irony, as evidenced in "Cat," which could easily have become a version of Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes," or in "The Murderer's Circle," where Bretnor attempts to explain one of the differences between the English and American way of looking at crime.

While none of the stories in The Timeless Tales of Reginald Bretnor can be considered great literature, or even great SF, they are extremely funny and written with just the right light touch. Bretnor's sense of humor is always at the forefront of his writing, even when the stories are not laugh-out-loud funny. Sadly, The Timeless Tales of Reginald Bretnor only contains fifteen of Bretnor's stories and readers will be forced to track down the rest in used bookstores. (Unless Story Books have plans to publish more?)

The Timeless Tales of Reginald Bretnor is the first publication from Story Books. If they can maintain the same level of quality, both with regard to text and production, Story Books should have a long career as a small press.

Table of Contents
Cat Without (General) Issue
Maybe Just a Little OneMating Season
Unknown Things Mrs. Pigafetta Swims Well
Bug-Getter The Murderers' Circle
Aunt's Flight Paper Tiger
Dr. Birdmouse Fungo the Unrighteous
Man On Top All the Tea in China
Beasts That Perish

Copyright © 1998 by Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000 and Clavius in 2001 and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide