Keith Laumer

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Keith Laumer (1925 - 1993) was an American science fiction writer. He is particularly known for the Nebula Award-nominated novel A Plague of Demons, and for two series:

  • Bolo. The bolos are automated battle-tanks, originally developed to reduce the number of human crew required; later models are able to perform programmed tasks without any crew at all, and still later models are self-aware artificial intelligences in armor-plated bodies equipped with enough firepower to conquer an entire planet single-handed. The series is a set of mostly self-contained stories sampling events across the history of bolo development; in the later stages, the sometimes-tense relationship between the bolos and the humans they serve is inevitably a feature. This has become a Shared Universe, with authors like David Weber and John Ringo being the most recent contributors.
  • Retief. Satirical series of stories about the travails of Jame Retief, a junior member of Earth's interstellar diplomatic corps. Inspired by Laumer's career in the United States Foreign Service.
Works written by Keith Laumer include:
Keith Laumer provides examples of the following tropes:
  • All the Myriad Ways: Worlds of the Imperium more or less averts this. Decision points spawn alternate universes, but the vast majority of them are barren and devoid of life because the direction of technological experimentation which can eventually lead to an interdimensional travel machine turns out to be millions of time more likely to to lead accidentally to an apocalyptic weapon. Hence, only a bare few timelines with advanced technology actually survive.
  • Alternate History: The Worlds of the Imperium series includes one where WWI and the Russian Revolution never happened, one where Neanderthals ruled, one where Napoleon beat the British, and one where rats became the dominant sentient species.
  • Benevolent Alien Invasion: The Monitors has benevolent aliens ruling the Earth, "opposed" by various misfit rebels.
  • Brain In a Jar: In A Plague of Demons, human brains are installed in alien war machines.
  • Cuckoo Nest: Knight of Delusions (also published, confusingly, as Night of Delusions) puts its hero through an insane number of alternate realities. Every time it becomes entirely unbelievable, he gets put into yet another one and is back at square one, trying to figure out if he's completely out or if he's stuck in yet another false reality.
  • Door Step Baby: One story featured a huge insect- or crustacean-looking thing that took the army with lots of artillery to kill it -- and then they decoded the message which read, "Please take good care of my little girl."
  • Famed in Story: The hero of Galactic Odyssey let a group of aliens put out one of his eyes in order to buy the freedom of some comrades. This comes to his aid later in the book, because the story has spread, and some Proud Warrior Race aliens decide that a guy who'd do that is just too awesome for them to stand by and not help him.
  • Genocide Dilemma: In The Glory Game, after the warlike alien Hukk are defeated, the Terran Hardliners want to wipe them out to keep them from threatening Earth again.
  • Instant Expert: In Galactic Odyssey, the protagonist is put to work sorting indistinguishable glorm-bulbs... which turns out to give him the ability to learn essentially anything with a single run-through.
  • Repetitive Name: Chester W. Chester IV in The Great Time Machine Hoax.
  • Society Marches On: "Cocoon" has everyone living in virtual reality tanks a couple hundred years in the future. The husband "goes" to a virtual office and does virtual paperwork, while the wife sits at "home", does virtual housework and watches virtual soap operas all day. When the husband comes "home", he complains because the wife hasn't gotten around to punching the selector buttons for the evening nutripaste meal yet.
  • Vichy Earth: The Monitors