Some New Books – January 2016

I haven’t bought any new SF books in ages now, but, with Christmas behind me and a few quid spare in my pocket, I took the notion over the past couple of weeks to trawl Ebay.co.uk for some books. Actually, none of them are “new”, as there’s not a lot of modern SF that I enjoy, with the exception of some anthologies of short fiction and a very narrow range of authors and sub-genres. But I did find two second hand/used anthologies of classic Golden Age stuff, which is much more my kind of thing, one collection of Isaac Asimov’s fantasy stories, essays and articles, and, finally, one “Best of the Year” SF anthology, from 2007.

  • SCIENCE FICTION: THE BEST OF THE YEAR 2007 EDITION edited by Rich Horton (trade paperback, Prime Books, Germantown MD, US, 2007, ISBN-10: 0-8095-6297-9, ISBN-13: 978-0-8095-6297-8)
  • MAGIC: THE FINAL FANTASY COLLECTION by Isaac Asimov (Paperback, Voyager, London, 1997, ISBN: 0-00-648203-1)
  • GREAT TALES OF THE GOLDEN AGE OF SCIENCE FICTION edited by Isaac Asimov, Charles G. Waugh and Martin H. Greenberg (hardback, Galahad Books, New York, 1991, ISBN: 0-88365-772-4)
  • THE GOLDEN AGE OF SCIENCE FICTION edited by Kingsley Amis (Large Format Paperback, Penguin Books, 1983, first published by Hutchinson & Co., 1981)

The SCIENCE FICTION: THE BEST OF THE YEAR 2007 EDITION trade paperback is a nice anthology of reasonably recent (less than ten years old) stories, twelve in all, five from Asimov’s SF Magazine, two from F&SF, and the other five from five different sources both magazines and books. I haven’t read this one yet, but there are a few authors in it that I usually like (Robert Reed, Walter Jon Williams, Ian Watson, Robert Charles Wilson), and Rich Horton rarely puts together a bad “Best SF” anthology.

MAGIC: THE FINAL FANTASY COLLECTION is a single-author collection of Isaac Asimov’s fantasy (as opposed to SF) short fiction. It’s also notable for collecting a number of Asimov’s essays and articles about fantasy and other subjects. It’s a bit of a strange one, this, although I found it an interesting mix of articles and fiction. And Asimov’s fantasy is just as logical as his science fiction, with its own strict internal rules and limitations, which made it easy for me to read, despite the fact that I’m not a huge fan of reading fantasy.

GREAT TALES OF THE GOLDEN AGE OF SCIENCE FICTION is a cracking anthology of classic Golden Age SF put together by the ever-reliable trio of Isaac Asimov, Charles G. Waugh and Martin H. Greenberg. Nine stories in all, almost all of them published in Astounding during the 1941-1947 timeframe. Some of the biggest names in SF are in this one – Isaac Asimov, A.E. van Vogt, Jack Williamson, Theodore Sturgeon, Lester del Rey, C.L. Moore, Ross Rocklynne, A. Bertram Chandler, T.L. Sherred – and with some of their most classic stories.

THE GOLDEN AGE OF SCIENCE FICTION edited by Kingsley Amis is another cracking anthology, with a completely different group of stories and authors to the previous anthology. Only Asimov appears in both, but with different stories. And there are seventeen stories in this one, almost twice as many as the other anthology. Aside from Isaac Asimov, we’ve got Arthur C. Clarke, Poul Anderson, Frederik Pohl, Brian W. Aldiss, Cordwainer Smith, H. Beam Piper, Harry Harrison, Damon Knight, Anthony Boucher, James Blish, Robert Sheckley, J.G. Ballard, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Jerome Bixby, F.L. Wallace and Philip Latham. That is a hugely impressive line-up of SF author talent with some of their most classic stories.

The Kingsley Amis anthology is a completely different kind of book to the other one edited by Asimov, Waugh and Greenberg. I wouldn’t really consider it a real “Golden Age” anthology at all, as the stories are from the 1950s and 1960s (there’s even one from 1979!), rather than the 1940s (the actual “Golden Age of SF” is usually considered to be circa 1938-1950, when Campbell’s Astounding ruled the roost unchallenged, and before the appearance of F&SF and Galaxy). The stories are therefore slightly more sophisticated than those in the other book, with much less of an emphasis on stories from Astounding, and a much higher percentage coming from F&SF, Galaxy and other sources. The stories are of the highest calibre, and the only criticism I would have is none of them actually qualify as “Golden Age” SF, as they come from a later period, and there are several of the 1960s stories that even come dangerously close to belonging to the New Wave. I guess Amis’ interpretation of “Golden Age” SF is a bit different to the rest of us, and maybe a bit more of a personal one. 🙂

All in all, a nice little batch of books. I’ve gotten the bug back again for hunting down SF books. I must get back on Ebay to see if I can find a few more classic anthologies.

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THE SWORD & SORCERY ANTHOLOGY edited by David G. Hartwell and Jacob Weisman

TITLE: THE SWORD & SORCERY ANTHOLOGY
EDITED BY: David G. Hartwell and Jacob Weisman
CATEGORY: Short Fiction
SUB-CATEGORY: Anthology
PUBLISHER: Tachyon Publications, San Francisco, 2012
FORMAT: Trade Paperback, 1st Edition, 480 pages
ISBN 13: 978-1-61696-069-8
ISBN 10: 1-61696-069-8

CONTENTS:

  • Introduction: Storytellers: A Guided Ramble into Sword and Sorcery Fiction by David Drake
  • “The Tower of the Elephant” by Robert E. Howard (Weird Tales, March 1933)
  • “Black God’s Kiss” by C. L. Moore (Weird Tales, October 1934)
  • “The Unholy Grail” by Fritz Leiber (Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, October 1962)
  • “The Tale of Hauk” by Poul Anderson (first appeared in Swords Against Darkness, Vol. 1, edited by Andrew J. Offutt, Zebra Books, New York, 1977)
  • “The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams” by Michael Moorcock (first appeared as “The Flame Bringers”, Science Fantasy #55, October 1962)
  • “The Adventuress” by Joanna Russ (first appeared in Orbit 2, edited by Damon Knight, Putnam, New York, 1967)
  • “Gimmile’s Songs” by Charles R. Saunders (first appeared in Sword and Sorceress #1, edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley, DAW Books, New York, 1984)
  • “Undertow” by Karl Edward Wagner (Whispers #10, August 1977)
  • “The Stages of the God” by Ramsey Campbell [writing as Mongomery Comfort] (Whispers #5, November 1974)
  • “The Barrow Troll” by David Drake (Whispers #8, December 1975)
  • “Soldier of an Empire Unacquainted with Defeat” by Glen Cook (Berkley Showcase, Volume 2, edited by Victoria Schochet and John Silbersack, Berkley Books, New York, 1980)
  • “Epistle from Lebanoi” by Michael Shea (Original to this anthology, 2012)
  • “Become a Warrior” by Jane Yolen (Warrior Princess, edited by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough and Martin H. Greenberg, DAW Books, New York, 1998)
  • “The Red Guild” by Rachel Pollack (Sword and Sorceress #2, edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley, DAW Books, New York, 1985)
  • “Six from Atlantis” by Gene Wolfe (Cross Plains Universe: Texans Celebrate Robert E. Howard, edited by Scott A. Cupp and Joe R. Lansdale, MonkeyBrain Books & Fandom Association of Central Texas, 2006)
  • “The Sea Troll’s Daughter” by Caitlín R. Kiernan (Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders, EOS, New York, 2010)
  • “The Coral Heart” by Jeffrey Ford (Eclipse Three, edited by Jonathan Strahan, Night Shade Books, San Francisco, 2009)
  • “Path of the Dragon” by George R. R. Martin (Asimov’s SF, December 2000)
  • “The Year of the Three Monarchs” by Michael Swanwick (Original to this anthology, 2012)

Right, we have something a bit different this time around. Firstly, this anthology is a lot more recent than most of the others that I’ve posted about on the blog so far. It’s relatively new, in fact, published in 2012, and edited by David G. Hartwell, with whom I’m very familiar for his work on SF anthologies (one of my favourite modern SF editors, but I’m not familiar at all with his co-editor, Jacob Weisman). But I will be including new anthologies that I’m impressed with from time to time, so this may be the first, but it won’t be an exception, although the main focus of the blog will always be on the older, “forgotten” anthologies.

Secondly, and this is a first for this blog, this isn’t a science fiction anthology, it’s a fantasy anthology. Or, to be more precise, a sword and sorcery anthology. The “About” section of this blog does state that I would be including very occasional reviews of fantasy books, although they will be very far and few between. I’m not overly fond of reading fantasy at the best of times (I’m more of an Analog nuts ‘n’ bolts hard SF kinda guy), and I simply can’t abide the modern dominant Tolkein-imitation strain of mainstream fantasy. Hey, I can’t even read Tolkein himself, as his writing totally bores me to tears, so how could I abide second and third-rate imitators?

However, I do like some of the older, more traditional forms of fantasy (for instance, the Narnia books, which IMHO are far superior to Tolkein) and some Young Adult SF&F. Like I said, there will be only very rare reviews of fantasy books, as it only comprises a tiny percent of what I read. More than 95% of my fiction reading is SF, most of the rest is classic/older horror (not the modern stuff), and only about 1% (maybe less) is fantasy.

But this is a sword and sorcery anthology, and s&s is a very rare exception, the only sub-genre of fantasy that I actually enjoy reading on a more widespread basis. It’s definitely the darker, horror elements that really attract me to s&s, as well as the fact that most s&s stories are not afflicted by that excruciatingly boring pseudo-medieval, rustic scenario that the vast majority of modern mainstream fantasy is set in. I could never be a farmer! 🙂

I have to admit that my s&s reading has been mostly confined to the classic 1930’s and 1940’s work of Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, C. L. Moore, maybe a little of Fritz Leiber and a few others. I haven’t read anything in this genre post-1950. So tackling this anthology is going to be quite interesting. Only two of the stories are pre-1950 (both early 1930’s), and the rest are from the 1960’s onwards, and covering every decade from then up until the two original 2012 stories written for the anthology. I don’t know how different modern s&s is to the classic form, but I reckon I’ll find out soon enough.

I must admit that my tastes in SF&F reading material have changed and narrowed drastically in the last 10-15 years. I know I’ll still enjoy the earlier Robert E. Howard and C. L. Moore stories, and most likely the Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock and Poul Anderson. But as for the more modern stories by the authors that I’m not familiar with, that remains to be seen. Let’s see if I can make it the whole way through this one without giving up. 🙂

Some New Books: April – August 2014

This month marks the first anniversary of the first post to this blog, which has chugged along with at least one post per month, each month, since the blog began. Considering the fact that I believed that this might just be a short-lived offshoot of my main blog, and that it most likely would be folded back into that blog relatively quickly, I’m quite pleased that it has made it to the year mark. 🙂

Anyway, here’s an update on the books that I’ve picked up from Ebay UK, Amazon UK and elsewhere, over the period roughly April – August of this year:

Novels:

  • RAINBOW MARS by Larry Niven (hardback)
  • THE MEMORY OF SKY: A GREAT SHIP TRILOGY by Robert Reed (trade paperback)
  • FIRE WITH FIRE by Charles E. Gannon (paperback)

Collections:

  • THE COLLECTED STORIES OF VERNOR VINGE by Vernor Vinge (trade paperback)
  • THE FLIGHT OF THE HORSE by Larry Niven (paperback)

Anthologies:

  • YEAR’S BEST SF 11 edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer (paperback)
  • YEAR’S BEST SF 12 edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer (paperback)
  • THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY 2014 edited by Rich Horton (trade paperback)
  • SPACE OPERA edited by Rich Horton (trade paperback)
  • THRILLING WONDER STORIES Volume 1 edited by Winston Engle (trade paperback)
  • THRILLING WONDER STORIES Volume 2 edited by Winston Engle (trade paperback)
  • AMAZING STORIES – GIANT 35TH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE – APRIL 1961 (2014 REISSUE) edited by Steve Davidson & Jean Marie Stine (trade paperback)
  • THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF MINDBLOWING SF edited by Mike Ashley (trade paperback)
  • THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF EXTREME SCIENCE FICTION edited by Mike Ashley (trade paperback)
  • THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF GOLDEN AGE SCIENCE FICTION edited by Isaac Asimov, Charles G. Waugh and Martin H. Greenberg (trade paperback)
  • ALIEN’S: RECENT ENCOUNTERS edited by Alex Dally MacFarlane (trade paperback)
  • FUTURE LOVECRAFT edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia & Paula R. Stiles (trade paperback)
  • DEVILS AND DEMONS – A TREASURY OF FIENDISH TALES OLD & NEW edited by Marvin Kaye (hardback)
  • MASTERPIECES OF TERROR AND THE SUPERNATURAL – A TREASURY OF SPELLBINDING TALES OLD & NEW edited by Marvin Kaye (hardback)
  • THE GREAT SF STORIES 1 by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg (paperback)
  • THE GREAT SF STORIES 4 by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg (paperback)
  • THE GREAT SF STORIES 5 by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg (paperback)
  • THE GREAT SF STORIES 7 by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg (paperback)
  • THE GREAT SF STORIES 9 by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg (paperback)
  • THE GREAT SF STORIES 10 by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg (paperback)
  • THE GREAT SF STORIES 15 by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg (paperback)
  • THE GREAT SF STORIES 16 by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg (paperback)

Non-Fiction:

  • THE FORREST J. ACKERMAN OEUVRE by Christopher M. O’Brien (trade paperback)

Aside from two novels, Chuck Gannon’s excellent FIRE WITH FIRE and Larry Niven’s equally excellent RAINBOW MARS, one omnibus of three novels, Robert Reed’s “Great Ship” Trilogy THE MEMORY OF SKY, two author short story collections, Larry Niven’s THE FLIGHT OF THE HORSE and THE COLLECTED STORIES OF VERNOR VINGE, plus one non-fiction book, THE FORREST J. ACKERMAN OEUVRE, it’s all anthologies this time around.

An interesting trend seems to be running right now, with anthologies of material from classic SF magazines being republished. Here we have two volumes of THRILLING WONDER STORIES and the 2014 reissue of the classic April 1961 35th Anniversary issue of AMAZING STORIES. Lovely stuff.

I’ve also picked up several horror anthologies, DEVILS AND DEMONS, MASTERPIECES OF TERROR AND THE SUPERNATURAL and FUTURE LOVECRAFT, which is unusual for me, as ninety-nine percent of my fiction reading is SF. But I’ve always had a soft spot for anything Lovecraft, so FUTURE LOVECRAFT should be right up my street. I’m not fussed on modern horror & supernatural stuff, but DEVILS AND DEMONS is made up of all older, classic horror stories, which I really like, as is its sister anthology, MASTERPIECES OF TERROR AND THE SUPERNATURAL. These should both be great reads.

There are three more anthologies of MAMMOTH books in among this lot, which are very nice indeed. I love those MAMMOTH anthologies. There are also two more anthologies from the ever-reliable Rich Horton – his most recent (2014) edition of THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY, and SPACE OPERA, a nice fat anthology of excellent space opera tales culled from more recent years. And to round off the newer books, there’s Alex Dally MacFarlane’s ALIEN’S: RECENT ENCOUNTERS, collecting some of the best recent SF stories covering that subject.

Finally, I’ve been on a bit of a roll tracking down Asimov’s classic THE GREAT SF STORIES series, which covers a massive 25 volumes of SF paperback goodness. Last time out, I’d only managed to procure one of them, Volume 19. But sheer determination will always win through, and this time around, I’ve picked up another eight volumes in the series, and just a few days ago I nabbed another three volumes, which haven’t arrived yet. That’s 12 out of the 25 volumes so far in only 3-4 months, so a pretty good start. I intend to keep going until I get all 25 volumes, as the OCD/obsessive collector in me will not allow anything else (I go nuts until I fill in any gaps in my collection).

So even more anthologies than usual. But I can’t complain, as I love my short fiction. 🙂

THE GREAT SF STORIES VOL. 1 (1939) edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg

TITLE: ISAAC ASIMOV PRESENTS THE GREAT SF STORIES VOL. 1 (1939)
EDITED BY: Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg
CATEGORY: Anthology
SUB-CATEGORY: Short Fiction
FORMAT: Paperback, 432 pages
PUBLISHER: DAW Books, New York, 1st Printing, March 1979.

Those are the various general details, and here’s a listing of the contents:

  • Introduction by Isaac Asimov
  • “I, Robot” by Eando Binder (Amazing Stories, January 1939)
  • “The Strange Flight of Richard Clayton” by Robert Bloch (Amazing Stories, March 1939)
  • “Trouble with Water” by H. L. Gold (Unknown, March 1939)
  • “Cloak of Aesir” by Don A. Stuart (John W. Campbell, Jr.) (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1939)
  • “The Day is Done” by Lester Del Rey (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1939)
  • “The Ultimate Catalyst” by John Taine (Thrilling Wonder Stories, June 1939)
  • “The Gnarly Man” by L. Sprague De Camp (Unknown, June 1939)
  • “Black Destroyer” by A. E. Van Vogt (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1939)
  • “Greater Than Gods” by C. L. Moore (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1939)
  • “Trends” by Isaac Asimov (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1939)
  • “The Blue Giraffe” by L. Sprague De Camp (Astounding Science Fiction, August 1939)
  • “The Misguided Halo” by Henry Kuttner (Unknown, August 1939)
  • “Heavy Planet” by Milton A. Rothman (Astounding Science Fiction, August 1939)
  • “Life-Line” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science Fiction, August 1939)
  • “Ether Breather” by Theodore Sturgeon (Astounding Science Fiction, September 1939)
  • “Pilgrimage” by Nelson Bond (Amazing Stories, October 1939)
  • “Rust” by Joseph E. Kelleam (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1939)
  • “The Four-Sided Triangle” by William F. Temple (Amazing Stories, November 1939)
  • “Star Bright” by Jack Williamson (Argosy, November 1939)
  • “Misfit” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1939)

This is a real gem of an anthology, and what a year 1939 was! It’s hard to know where to start with this lot, but it would probably be with the three that really stand out for me, Van Vogt’s “Black Destroyer”, John W. Campbell’s (under his “Don A. Stuart” pseudonym) “Cloak of Aesir” and Milton A. Rothman’s “Heavy Planet”, which are all stories that impacted greatly on me when I first started reading short SF way back in my early teens.

But there are also so many other good stories here, in particular C. L. Moore’s “Greater Than Gods”, Jack Williamson’s “Star Bright”, Lester Del Rey’s “The Day is Done”, Eando Binder’s “I, Robot”, Isaac Asimov’s “Trends”, and the two Robert A. Heinlein stories “Life-Line” and “Misfit”. Most of the others I can’t really remember, as I read them so long ago, and there are a few that I don’t think I’ve actually read before.

I’m really looking forward to reading (or is that re-reading?) Henry Kuttner’s “The Misguided Halo” (I’m a big fan of his), Theodore Sturgeon’s “Ether Breather” (likewise a big fan of his), Robert Bloch’s “The Strange Flight of Richard Clayton” and the two L. Sprague De Camp stories “The Gnarly Man” and “The Blue Giraffe”. All big names that I’ve enjoyed reading before.

This book was the first in a very long series, and Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories, Volumes 1-25, was one of the greatest ever series of science fiction anthologies. Published by DAW Books, the twenty-five volumes each covered a single year, and the entire series spanned the years 1939-1964.

The first twelve of these volumes were also later repackaged in a series of hardcovers, Isaac Asimov Presents the Golden Years of Science Fiction. There were six volumes in total of that one, First Series-Sixth Series, each one containing two of the original paperback volumes. For some reason (I’ve never found out why), this series of hardcovers stopped at the half-way mark, and the remaining thirteen volumes of the paperbacks were never collected in hardback. Pity. Those hardbacks were really nice, and I’m fortunate enough to have all six of them.

The twenty-five volume paperback set is a different matter. I only started to collect those several months ago, and so far I only have nine of them, although I continue to pick up the odd one here and there, with the intention of collecting the entire series, eventually. The books in this series are also quite expensive and hard to find, and most of the copies that I’ve seen are from US sellers, so the shipping charges to the UK and Ireland are also very expensive. I’ve often seen costs totalling up to $50 on Ebay for one of these paperbacks inclusive of shipping, as some of the US sellers charge ridiculously and inexcusably high transatlantic shipping charges. It’s much better if you can find them on Amazon UK, as they only charge £2.80 shipping from all Amazon sellers, even those in the US.

Anyways, nine down, sixteen to go. Oboy! I guess it’s time to get the credit card out and start buying a few more of these books…

SCIENCE FICTION OF THE THIRTIES edited by Damon Knight

TITLE: SCIENCE FICTION OF THE THIRTIES
EDITED BY: Damon Knight
CATEGORY: Short Fiction
SUB-CATEGORY: Anthology
PUBLISHER: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., Indianapolis/New York, 1975
FORMAT: Hardback, 1st Edition, 464 pages

CONTENTS:

  • Foreword by Damon Knight
  • “Out Around Rigel” by Robert H. Wilson (1931)
  • “The Fifth-Dimension Catapult” by Murray Leinster (1931)
  • “Into the Meteorite Orbit” by Frank K. Kelly (1933)
  • “The Battery of Hate” by John W. Campbell, Jr. (1933)
  • “The Wall” by Howard W. Graham, Ph.D. (1934)
  • “The Lost Language” by David H. Keller, M.D. (1934)
  • “The Last Men” by Frank Belknap Long, Jr. (1934)
  • “The Other” by Howard W. Graham, Ph.D. (1934)
  • “The Mad Moon” by Stanley G. Weinbaum (1935)
  • “Davey Jones’ Ambassador” by Raymond Z. Gallun (1935)
  • “Alas, All Thinking” by Harry Bates (1935)
  • “The Time Decelerator” by A. Macfadyen, Jr. (1936)
  • “The Council of Drones” by W. K. Sonnemann (1936)
  • “Seeker of Tomorrow” by Eric Frank Russell and Leslie T. Johnson (1937)
  • “Hyperpilosity” by L. Sprague de Camp (1938)
  • “Pithecanthropus Rejectus” by Manly W. Wellman (1938)
  • “The Merman” by L. Sprague de Camp (1938)
  • “The Day is Done” by Lester del Rey (1939)

What SF Master Damon Knight has done for Science Fiction of the Thirties is to plough his way through hundreds of classic “pulps” from the 30’s, mining them for a few of the forgotten gems from that era, and picking out the best of them for this anthology. He has reappraised the best of the tales from the 1930s SF magazines, with the added condition that his choices are stories which have rarely, some of them never, been published before in SF anthologies. And it’s a real thrill to read these stories, particularly for a jaded old fan like me who thought he’d read all the good old stuff worth reading.

Reading the short but fascinating Foreword to this anthology, we come to understand that Knight had been a life-long critic of the stories in the pulps, but had undergone a recent change of heart. Sturgeon’s Law (“Ninety Percent of Everything is Crud”) applies to the pulps just as much as it does to everything else, and it is the ten percent of stories which are not crud which make it worth persevering, and wading through the crap, to find the diamonds in the rough. And these stories are all good ‘uns. Damon Knight, former unrelenting critic of the “pulps”, is a hard taskmaster, and his standards are VERY high.

So, given that I’ve read a LOT of vintage SF, how has he done? The good news is that I’m totally unfamiliar with at least six of the authors in this anthology. The rest of them are names that I know, but the real surprise is that I have never read most of these stories before. I’m familiar with only THREE out of the eighteen stories – Weinbaum’s “The Mad Moon”, Campbell’s “The Battery of Hate” and Bates’ “Alas, All Thinking” (all of which I read many, many years ago) – which is a pretty amazing strike rate for Knight and the stories that he has chosen here. He has really come up with the goods, producing an anthology of stories that few SF readers will have seen before.

Most modern SF anthologies showcasing stories from “the old days” have long since started to reprint the same classic stories over and over again, so an avid SF fan would very likely have read most of them before. As good as many classic SF stories are, it becomes a bit tiring and disheartening to see them in every other anthology – “The Cold Equations” and “It’s a Good Life” are two examples of classic SF stories that come to mind. I have these two in so many old anthologies that I could scream every time I see them in yet another. I love these stories to bits, but too much of a good thing, etc…

Which raises the question: if Damon Knight could find these forgotten gems, surely there are many, many more in those SF magazines, just waiting for some adventurous researcher and editor to find them? And now that Damon has sadly passed on from us, to that great everlasting Science Fiction Convention in the Sky, who is willing to step into his giant shoes and continue to unearth these hidden treasures of the past? Or do hardcore fans like me have to continue ponying up exorbitant amounts of money for the old SF magazines or rare, out-of-print anthologies from the dim and distant past, in order to unearth more forgotten SF gems?

SF editors need to start using a bit of imagination and initiative, as in “Great story, but it’s been published a zillion times before. How’s about something that hasn’t been published before?”. I know that great editors of the past (and present) have produced many excellent anthologies of vintage SF. Editors like Groff Conklin, Terry Carr, Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, Gardner Dozois, Brian Aldiss, Mike Ashley, and many others have produced some amazing anthologies over the years. But many of the classic editors/anthologists have now sadly passed on, and we have a dire need for newer editors to come forward and take up the gauntlet, to continue the great work that Damon Knight and the other great editors of the past have done to unearth the forgotten SF treasures of the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Sure, I’d be the first to say that we need new authors producing great new SF. But we should also never, EVER forget the old masters.

So what’s my verdict of Science Fiction of the Thirties? Overall, I think this is an excellent anthology. Taking into account that these are NOT modern literary SF masterpieces, and that the stories are 1930s pulp SF tales, churned out at a few cents per word, it’s amazing that ANY of them were any good. But some were real beauts. Even for as low grade a market as the “pulps”, many talented writers took extreme pride and joy in their work, and went way beyond the line of duty, producing something much more than the miserly word rates they were being paid could ever merit. Damon Knight has uncovered a few of those forgotten gems for us and put them together in this very nice anthology. For someone like myself, who is a huge fan of finding good old SF stories that I haven’t read before, this type of book is just right up my alley.

I wish there were a few more volumes of anthologies containing similarly rare old SF magazine stories out there. Here’s hoping that someone will continue on with the good work of finding classic stories from the “pulps” that we haven’t read before. I, for one, will be eagerly watching out for more.

Some New Books, First Quarter 2014

Here are some SF books, some new, some old, that I’ve picked up over the past two or three months from various places such as Ebay UK, Amazon UK and my regular supplier of comics and books in the US:

Novels:

  • THE SPACE MACHINE & A DREAM OF WESSEX Omnibus by Christopher Priest (paperback)
  • STARFARERS by Poul Anderson (hardback)
  • HAWKMOON: THE HISTORY OF THE RUNESTAFF Omnibus by Michael Moorcock (trade paperback)
  • THE LIGHT AGES by Ian R. MacLeod (paperback)
  • THE SPACE TRILOGY Omnibus by Arthur C. Clarke (trade paperback)

Collections:

  • THE BEST OF JACK WILLIAMSON (paperback)
  • THE EARLY WILLIAMSON (hardback)
  • BREATHMOSS AND OTHER EXHALATIONS by Ian R. MacLeod (trade paperback)

Anthologies:

  • THE GREAT SF STORIES 19 edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg (paperback)
  • THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF TIME TRAVEL SF edited by Mike Ashley (trade paperback)
  • RAYGUN CHRONICLES – SPACE OPERA FOR A NEW AGE edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt (trade paperback)
  • GREAT TALES OF SCIENCE FICTION edited by Robert Silverberg and Martin H. Greenberg (hardback)
  • THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY 2013 edited by Rich Horton (trade paperback)
  • AFTER THE END: RECENT APOCALYPSES edited by Paula Guran (trade paperback)
  • WORLDS OF EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS edited by Mike Resnick and Robert T. Garcia (trade paperback)
  • MODERN GREATS OF SCIENCE FICTION – NINE NOVELLAS OF DISTINCTION edited by Jonathan Strahan (trade paperback)
  • RAGS & BONES: NEW TWISTS ON TIMELESS TALES edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt (hardback)

Non-Fiction:

  • H.G. WELLS: CRITIC OF PROGRESS by Jack Williamson (hardback)
  • AFTER THE NEW WAVE: SCIENCE FICTION SINCE 1980 by Nader Elhefnawy (trade paperback)

That’s quite a nice selection, leaning very heavily towards short fiction, particularly anthologies, plus three collections of individual author short stories. There are only two novels, plus three omnibus editions containing two (the Priest), three (the Clarke) and four (the Moorcock) novels, respectively. Only two of the books are non-fiction, which is pretty unusual, given my buying habits in recent years, which has swung sharply towards including much more non-fiction.

But no surprise with the large number of anthologies and individual author collections. Most of my book buying lists will always lean heavily in that direction, as I always tend to read a lot more short fiction than novels.

Some New Books

I’ve built up a new stash of recently acquired books to add to my ever-growing “To Read” pile. If I can acquire a couple of extra lifetimes, I might even get to read a few of them.

First up is a large hardback anthology, Machines That Think, edited by Isaac Asimov, Patricia S. Warwick and Martin H. Greenberg. This one contains twenty-nine stories about robots and computers. Next up is The Year’s Best Fantasy, Second Annual Collection, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. I’m not nearly as big a fan of fantasy as I am of SF, but these two ladies always put together a decent anthology.

Third on our list is 18 Greatest Science Fiction Stories, edited by Laurence M. Janifer, followed by Not the Only Planet – Science Fiction Travel Stories, edited by Damien Broderick. And last up are two novels, which is a rarity for me these days (I tend to read a lot more short fiction than I do novels). The hardback of Mining the Oort, by Frederik Pohl looks very interesting indeed. And the final book is a novel by Edward Eager, The Time Garden, a kid’s/YA fantasy novel written back in 1958. Looks a bit of an oddity, but interesting.

Also, I must get another chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows under my belt. I’m about six chapters into it, and enjoying it so far.

Lots of good reading ahead…