Short story #14: “Arena” — Fredric Brown (1944)
Best known now as “That Episode Where Kirk Fought the Guy in the Lizard Suit,” “Arena” began its long life as a short story by Fredric Brown. Oft reprinted, drawn for comic books, or outright stolen for TV fodder, the plot is simple: On the brink of intergalactic war, one man and one alien are chosen to fight for the fate of their respective species in hand-to-hand combat. Man’s ingenuity vs. a truly alien alien, in a battle to the death. That’s it. It’s a gritty, exciting sci-fi pulp classic.
Turns out it was also a thinly-veiled metaphor for those alien invaders, the Japanese. Who knew?
While Star Trek’s adaptation has a more “enlightened” ending, it kept the gritty, rock-throwing mano-e-monster physicality of the original. And while Fredric Brown’s story has inspired many iterations and updates, it took William Shatner to inspire this:
Marvel Comics also did a pretty good version in the early ’70s. You can read the whole thing here.