Search SFE    Search EoF

  Omit cross-reference entries  

Nourse, Alan E

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

Icon made by Freepik from


(1928-1992) US author and physician; much of his nonfiction was in the field of popular MedicineIntern (1965) as by "Doctor X" being a great success. He began publishing sf with "High Threshold" for Astounding in March 1951, assembled with other material as The Universe Between (March, September 1951 Astounding; fixup 1965), though his initial reputation was as a reliable creator of Young Adult novels. The first of these, Trouble on Titan (1954), features rebellion and conflict within a Space-Opera solar system, as do others like Raiders from the Rings (1962), where conflict between an oppressive Earth regime and Libertarian Spacers is finally halted by the intervention of superior, peaceful Aliens. In Rocket to Limbo (October Satellite; exp 1957), mankind's destiny is explained by aliens in the course of a quest for a long-lost Starship. Star Surgeon (1960) interestingly posits an Earth which, while being the main medical centre of all the inhabited worlds, is still in the position of having to apply to join the Galactic Confederation. The vision of these juveniles is appropriately optimistic, and Technologies – especially medical ones (see again Medicine) – are there for humanity's benefit.

Nourse's adult novels are also straightforward, frequently making somewhat simple points about bureaucracies and tyrannies, though the first of them, A Man Obsessed (1955 dos; rev vt The Mercy Men 1968) – part of a loose series also including "Nightmare Brother" (February 1953 Astounding) and "The Expert Touch" (November 1955 F&SF) – combines a tale of revenge and a darkly prophetic portrait of a culture in which impoverished humans sell their body parts for the benefit of the rich. The Invaders Are Coming! (May 1958 Amazing as "The Sign of the Tiger"; 1959) with J A Meyer is a Near Future political Satire invoking Paranoia about aliens; The Bladerunner (1974) – which was adapted by William S Burroughs as Blade Runner (A Movie) (1979 chap), neither book having anything to do with Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982), although Scott obtained permission from Nourse for use of the title – deals with the medical implications of Overpopulation in a framework of coercive sterilization; and The Fourth Horseman (1983) deals with a Near-Future Disaster, the return of a plague from long ago as a contemporary Pandemic.

It may be that a rediscovery of Nourse's sharp and shapely virtues as a storyteller may proceed through an encounter with his shorter work, some of it genuinely funny, most of it mixing adventure tropes with strong speculative elements. He initially assembled shorter in Tiger by the Tail (coll 1961; vt Beyond Infinity 1964), The Counterfeit Man and Others (coll 1963) Psi High and Others (coll, 1967), and Rx for Tomorrow (coll 1971), the latter focusing on stories about medicine in general. 12 Worlds of Alan E Nourse (coll 2010) represents some of this work. A sense of fundamental decency permeates Nourse's fiction; and, though sometimes too easily achieved, the victories of decency over bigotry cannot, either for the market upon which Nourse concentrated or the adult market in general, be seriously faulted. [JC]

see also: Mercury; Outer Planets; Parallel Worlds; Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Alan Edward Nourse

born Des Moines, Iowa: 11 August 1928

died Thorp, Washington: 19 July 1992


collections and stories

nonfiction (selected)


previous versions of this entry

This website uses cookies.  More information here. Accept Cookies