Fredric Brown was born 29 October 1906 in Cincinnati. He graduated from Hanover College in Indiana, and settled for a long time in Milwaukee, where he worked in the printing trade, also doing proofreading. He married a woman named Helen Ruth in 1929, and they started a family, Helen giving birth to a two boys. Apparently, Brown had only known Helen through correspondence before they married. The Depression was hard on the Brown’s, and Fredric eked by, while also turning out short mysteries, that he began to sell to magazines in the 1930s. He once hoboed to Los Angeles trying to drum up work, and did turns as a detective and dish washer.
He sold his first short story in 1937, and there followed a mess of tales, their fates difficult to follow. But by the early 1940s, he had hit a groove. Brown was part of Allied Authors, a competitor of the Milwaukee Fictioneers, the later of which included Ray Palmer, Stanley Weinbaum, Roger Herman Shoar (who wrote under the name Ralph Milne Farley), and Robert Bloch, among others. As Bloch remembered Brown from the early 1940s, he was small and fine-boned, with a neat mustache. His apartment had a Siamese cat named Ming Tah, a wooden recorder that he played, a chess set, and a typewriter. Brown enjoyed his alcohol quite a bit.
Beginning in 1943, according to his biographer, “Brown’s short story output from this point on is more manageable, as he began to rework several themes that reveal interesting facets of his concerns.” In addition to mysteries, Brown wrote science fiction, fantasies, and hybrids of the various genres. He was known for his word play and trick endings, and much admired for his craftsmanship. Ideas could be difficult, though, and Bloch remembers Brown hopping on buses and riding across the country when he was was blocked, looking for inspiration. He became an innovator by being contrarian and focusing on the small bore: rather than penning grand space operas, he looked at the problems of science, the failures of rocketry.