John Keith Laumer (June 9, 1925 — ) was an American science fiction author. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, he was an officer in the United States Air Force and a U.S. diplomat. His brother March Laumer was also a writer, known for his adult reinterpretations of the Land of Oz (also mentioned in Keith's The Other Side of Time).
Keith Laumer is best known for his Bolo stories and his satirical Retief series. The former chronicles the evolution of super tanks that eventually become self-aware through the constant improvement resulting from centuries of intermittent warfare against various alien races. The latter deals with the adventures of a cynical spacefaring diplomat who constantly has to overcome the red-tape-infused failures of people with names like Ambassador Grossblunder. The Retief stories were greatly influenced by Laumer's earlier career in the United States Foreign Service. In an interview with Paul Walker of Luna Monthly, Laumer states "I had no shortage of iniquitous memories of the Foreign Service."
In addition to his Bolo and Retief stories, Laumer's more serious adventures included the subjects of time travel and alternate-world adventures such as found in his "The Other Side Of Time", "A Trace Of Memory", and "Dinosaur Beach".
Four of his shorter works received Hugo or Nebula Award nominations ("In the Queue", was nominated for both) and his novel A Plague of Demons was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1966.
During the peak years of 1959—1971, Laumer was a prolific science fiction writer, with his novels tending to follow one of two patterns:
fast-paced, straight adventures in time and space, with an emphasis on lone-wolf, latent superhuman protagonists, self-sacrifice, and transcendence
broad comedies, sometimes of the over-the-top variety
In 1971, Laumer suffered a stroke while working on the novel The Ultimax Man. As a result, he was unable to write for a few years. As he explained in an interview with Charles Platt published in The Dream Makers (1987), he refused to accept the doctors' diagnosis. He came up with an alternative explanation and developed an alternative (and very painful) treatment program. Although he was unable to write in the early 1970s, he had a number of books published which had been in the pipeline at the time of the stroke.
In the mid-1970s, Laumer partially recovered from the stroke and resumed writing. However, the quality of his work suffered and his career declined (Piers Anthony, How Precious Was That While, 2002). In later years, Laumer also re-used scenarios and characters from his earlier works to create new books, which some critics felt were not really "new":
Alas, Retief to the Rescue doesn't seem so much like a new Retief novel, but a kind of Cuisinart mélange of past books.-- Somtow Sucharitkul (Washington Post, Mar 27, 1983. p. BW11)
His Bolo creations were popular enough that other authors have written standalone science-fiction novels about them.
An anthology "co-edited" and "Created by Keith Laumer", Dangerous Vegetables appeared in 1998. Actually edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh, the introduction by Ben Bova said it was Laumer's idea but he had died without doing it.
Laumer was also a model airplane enthusiast, and published two dozen designs between 1956 and 1962 in the U.S. magazines Air Trails, Model Airplane News and Flying Models, as well as the British Aero Modeler. He published one book on the subject, How to Design and Build Flying Models in 1960. His later designs were mostly gas-powered, free-flight planes, and had a whimsical charm with names to match, like the "Twin Lizzie" and the "Lulla-Bi". His designs are still being revisited, reinvented and built today.
Books set in the Imperium mythos: a continuum of parallel worlds policed by the Imperium, a government based in an alternate Stockholm. In the science fiction novel Worlds of the Imperium, the Imperium is formed in an alternate history where the American Revolution did not occur, and the British Empire and Germany merged into a unified empire in 1900. The protagonist, American diplomat Brion Bayard, is kidnapped by the Imperium because the Brion Bayard in a third parallel Earth is waging war against his abductors. Further adventures follow after Bayard decides to remain in the service of the Imperium.
Worlds of the Imperium (1962)
The Other Side of Time (1965)
Assignment in Nowhere (1968)
Beyond the Imperium (omnibus edition of The Other Side of Time and Assignment in Nowhere) (1981)
Zone Yellow (1990)
Imperium (omnibus edition of Worlds of the Imperium, Assignment in Nowhere and The Other Side of Time, ed. Eric Flint) (2005)
Time Trap (1970)
Back to the Time Trap (1992)
A comic equivalent of the Imperium mythos, in which the hero has the ability to travel to feudal/magical alternate Earths.
The Time Bender (1966)
The World Shuffler (1970)
The Shape Changer (1972)
The Galaxy Builder (1984)
The Avengers (based on the TV series)
#5: The Afrit Afair (1968)
#6: The Drowned Queen (1968)
#7: The Gold Bomb (1968)
The Invaders (novelizations of the TV series)
The Invaders (UK title The Meteor Men, A Story of Invaders published as by Anthony LeBaron) (1967)
Enemies From Beyond (1967)
Army of the Undead by-lined Rafe Bernard (1967) is often mistakenly attributed to Laumer because it is the 3rd entry in the Pyramid Books Invaders novel series as published in the US, but in fact Bernard (a name which may be a pseudonym, but not for Laumer) was one of the two British authors commissioned by Corgi Books in the UK to pen original novels based on the TV show (the other was Peter Leslie). The book appeared as the third title in Corgi's UK line as The Halo Highway. Evidence seems to indicate a reciprocal reprint deal Pyramid worked out with Corgi for use of a single title, since only the Bernard book, but not the Peter Leslie ones, saw print in the States; while only Laumer's first Invaders title, but not his second, saw print in the UK. Bernard's by-line exists on one other science fiction title, The Wheel in the Sky published as a UK hardcover in 1954 and as a UK paperback by Ward Lock in 1955. (Verification can be found in Kurt Peer's book TV Tie-Ins (1967, Neptune Publishing and later TV Books) and in the Rafe Bernard book itself, written in stilted, purple, overwrought prose that bears not even slight resemblance to Laumer's style, plus the British author's inadequate handling of American rhythms and colloquialism, which were a hallmark of Laumer's prose. Additionally, Bernard's The Wheel in the Sky, never cited as a Laumer title, can be found listed at antiquarian book sites like alibris.)
How to Design and Build Flying Models (non-fiction) (1960, revised in 1970)
A Trace of Memory (1963)
The Great Time Machine Hoax (1964)
A Plague of Demons (1965)
Embassy (non-genre) (1965)
Catastrophe Planet (1966)
Earthblood (with Rosel George Brown) (1966)
The Monitors ( filmed in 1969) (1966)
Galactic Odyssey (1967)
Nine by Laumer (collection) (1967)
Planet Run (with Gordon R. Dickson) (1967)
The Day Before Forever and Thunderhead (two short novels) (1969)
Greylorn (collection) (1968)
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad Galaxy (collection) (1968)
The Long Twilight (1969)
The Seeds of Gonyl (If magazine, never published as a book) (1969)
The House in November (1970)
The Star Treasure (1971) (expanded as a collection in 1986)
Deadfall (non-genre) (alternative title Fat Chance, filmed as Peeper in 1975) (1971)
Dinosaur Beach (1971) (originally serialised as The time sweepers in 1969)
Once There Was a Giant (collection of 8 stories) (1971)
The Big Show (collection) (1972)
The Infinite Cage (1972)
Night of Delusions (1972)
Timetracks (collection) (1972)
The Glory Game (1973)
The Undefeated (collection) (1974)
The Best of Keith Laumer (collection) (1976)
The Ultimax Man (1978)
The Breaking Earth (Catastrophe Planet plus several short stories) (1981)
Star Colony (1982)
Knight of Delusions (Night of Delusions plus several short stories) (1982)
Chrestomathy (collection including many excerpts) (1984)
Once There Was a Giant (collection of 2 novellas plus an appreciation by Sandra Miesel) (1984) not related to the 1971 collection of the same name
End as a Hero (1985)
The Other Sky and The House in November (1985) (collection of 2 novellas)
The Star Treasure (1986) (the 1971 novel plus 3 short stories)
Alien Minds (collection) (1991)
Judson's Eden (1991)
Beenie in Oz (with March Laumer, Tyler Jones, Michael J. Michanczyk) (1997)
Keith Laumer: The Lighter Side (posthumous omnibus, ed. Eric Flint) (2001) (inc Time Trap and The Great Time Machine Hoax and 8 short stories)
Includes the 1966 short story "The Body Builders",, on which subject see The Surrogates.
Odyssey (posthumous omnibus, ed. Eric Flint) (2002) (inc Galactic Odyssey and Dinosaur Beach and 5 short stories)
A Plague of Demons and Other Stories (posthumous omnibus, ed. Eric Flint) (2003) (A Plague of Demons and 7 short stories)
Future Imperfect (posthumous omnibus, ed. Eric Flint) (2003) (inc Catastrophe Planet and 6 short stories)
Legions of Space (posthumous omnibus, ed. Eric Flint) (2004) (inc A Trace of Memory and Planet Run and 3 short stories)