Thursday, May 01, 2008

Retro Review: "It Didn't Happen" (1963) by Fredric Brown

On the treadmill this morning I read a story from the collection The Best of Fredric Brown, edited by Robert Bloch. Brown’s stories appeared from the 1940’s thru the 60’s in such publications at The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Weird Tales, GALAXY magazine, and Playboy. “It Didn’t Happen,” the story I consumed this morning, originally appeared in Playboy, October 1963—which perhaps explains perhaps the opening scene set in a strip-joint. A stripper, Queenie Quinn, is murdered by Lorenz Kane because she violently objects to his solicitous approaches. Lorenz is quickly arrested and held for the murder, after all there are witnesses that place him at the joint that evening, including the security guard who admitted him backstage. The gun is found in Lorenz’s possession and the slugs match. An open and shut case. But not so fast. Lorenz tells his lawyer a story of strange perception. His story turns into a treatise on Ontology and solipsism. He claims to have had several odd experiences which convinced him that he was real, while many of the other people he encountered in the world were not. Lorenz doesn’t claim to be the only real person, with the world being his own imaginary creation; he thinks that there are an unknown number of real people sharing the world with those who are imagined constructs. I’ll not reveal the conclusion to the story, but suffice it to say there’s a twist and it wraps up quickly. Most of the tale is told in passable dialogue. As with most stories of this length, there’s not enough space for deep character development. Really the main draw here is the eerie concept. Mainly Fredric Brown is drawing on that old perception of how does one know what is real and what is only one’s perception or imagination. How can anyone prove that life is nothing more than a dream? I found the story to be a fun, quick read in the vein of a Twilight Zone episode.

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