Future Law Through the Science Fiction’s Lens


There have been stories about lawyers and trials for as long as there have been lawyer jokes – maybe longer. So why would they not continue into the future? Why wait for that future to arrive before writing them?

Overruled, edited by Hank Davis and Christopher Ruocchio, is a collection of science fiction tales about lawyers and trials. Lawyers appear in all of them; guns and money in many.

This book presents legal-themed science fiction short stories written over a seventy-year period; from the late 1940s through this year.  The result reveals a history of science fiction style by showcasing a series of entertaining stories.

There is something for virtually all tastes. Many of these tales are taken from series written by the contributors.  Arthur C. Clarke’s piece comes from “Tales from the White Hart,” stories told by a narrator in an English pub. Susan Matthews has a story from her “Under Jurisdiction” series, Larry Correia from his “Monster Hunter” tales and Larry Niven from “Known Space.”

There are Golden Age gems, including Robert Heinlein’s “Jerry was a Man,” Clifford Simak’s engaging robot tale “How-2” and Algis Budrys’s chilling “The Executioner. It also contains stories by talented but now-forgotten writers of the 1950s and 1960s, including Louis Newman and Frank Riley.

Many stories tend towards the whimsical. Correia’s “Lawyer Fight,” Robert Sheckley’s “Skulking Permit” and Charles Sheffield’s “With the Knight Male” play the legal profession for a laugh. Others, Like Robert Silverberg’s “To See the Invisible Man,” and Sarah Hoyt and Laura Montgomery’s collaboration “License to Live” are tragedy or drama.

The contributors are an all-star cast. The storytellers include golden age giants like Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Clifford Simak, Robert Sheckley, and Robert Silverberg. They also include modern heavyweights like Larry Correia, Sarah Hoyt, Kevin J. Anderson, and Larry Niven.  As well there are tales by today’s up-and-coming authors, including Tom Kidd and Christopher Ruocchio.

The book offers a sampler of styles and subgenres within the intersection of law and science fiction. It may introduce you to new authors, and will introduce a spectrum of stories, old and new.

You may not like lawyers. You may not like legal entanglements. You may not like all of the stories in Overruled. Yet if you like science fiction, and are looking for entertaining reading, you will enjoy this latest collection of stories compiled by Hank Davis and Christopher Ruocchio.

“Overruled,” edited by Hank Davis and Christopher Ruocchio, Baen Books, 2020, 437 pages, $16.00 (trade paperback)

This review was written by Mark Lardas who writes at Ricochet as Seawriter. Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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  1. Ontheleftcoast Inactive

    Gladiator at Law is a relevant classic novel.


    • #1
  2. Arahant Member

    Piper had some good ones, but not short story length. His and John J. McGuire’s Lone Star Planet was novella length and has a couple of great courtroom scenes. Little Fuzzy comes to climax in a courtroom. In the sequels to Little Fuzzy, there were also courtroom scenes and dramas. Murder in the Gunroom had lawyers, but didn’t make it to the courtroom.

    • #2
  3. RightAngles Member

    Lawyers appear in all of them; guns and money in many.

    • #3
  4. Percival Thatcher

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Lawyers appear in all of them; guns and money in many.

    • #4
  5. RightAngles Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Lawyers appear in all of them; guns and money in many.

    • #5
  6. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda

    Thanks, Seawriter.  Another book to add to my list.

    • #6
  7. Ontheleftcoast Inactive

    There was a dramatic trial with a wonderful lawyer in Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy.

    Not law, but…

    Deep Space Accountant

    Three volumes of Adventures of a Jump Space Accoutant

    The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant

    • #7
  8. David Carroll Thatcher
    David Carroll

    Thanks for the review, Mark.  I will look for this one.  

    • #8
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