Summary: This is a 1980 general anthology of science fiction from 1946 to 1976, edited by Robert Silverberg and Martin H. Greenberg. My overall, average rating for the stories was 3.93/5, which falls well into “great” on my scale. I’m glad I read it. It aspires to have the same stature and general mission as the two seminal 1946 anthologies, “The Best of Science Fiction” (Groff Conklin) and “Adventures in Time and Space“, (Healy & McComas). I don’t think it quite gets there, but I recommend it regardless.
The Story: I think I decided to read this after my Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Fiction group on Facebook added it as a Group Read. It sounded very promising and I was excited to read it.
“The Arbor House Treasury of Modern Science Fiction” was published in 1980 by Arbor House/Priam, with Martin H. Greenberg and Robert Silverberg as editors. The volume presents stories from 1946 to 1976. As noted in the Preface by Greenberg and Silverberg, “Nevertheless, the present volume is an attempt to provide, for the readers of the 1980s and beyond, the same kind of powerful impact that Adventures In Time & Space [Raymond J. Healy and J. Francis McComas, Random House, 1946] and The Best of Science Fiction [Groff Conklin, Crown, 1946] delivered 30 years back.”
When I read an anthology of this kind (survey over an era), I look for these things:
- Authors and stories included that make sense for the anthology, and that meet the stated goals for the anthology.
- Being introduced to great stories that are new to me.
- A great introduction that makes clear what the editor(s) were trying to accomplish, what the focus for selection was, etc.
- Author and story background, reasons why it stories/authors included, with other essays bringing value as worthwhile also.
- How available is it, and where?
I’ll touch on these points and more below.
As you might expect for a volume that attempts to cover 30 years of SF, it’s rather hefty, with 39 stories and 754 pages of fiction. With 17 short stories, 20 novelettes and 2 novellas, I feel that Silverberg and Greenberg successfully balanced title and author inclusion with the length of book. Although not essential, the font size used was not too tiny, which is great as I get older.
The acknowledgements/copyright information is pretty complete; my only niggle is that the name of the publisher and year is presented for story origin, but not the publication or month where it is a periodical. I can look this up, but I’d rather see it here. I am pleased that this information is presented in the same order as the stories presented.
There is a helpful 4 page preface by Silverberg/Greenberg, which does a nice job of putting the anthology into perspective while laying out the goals of the editors. There are also helpful story introductions, which place the story/author into perspective and help us understand why the story was included. I view both of these features as essential for this kind of anthology, and for many others as well.
I was not able to discern any explicit reason or scheme for the ordering of the stories in the anthology. Some anthologies of this sort will organize by chronology, or by thematic sections, etc. I believe that editors of anthologies generally have theories or aesthetic principles about how to order stories. I assume that Silverberg and Greenberg had such reasons for the order of the stories, but I was not able to discern any obvious organizational principles. This is not a defect, but it is interesting.
My overall rating for the anthology was 3.93/5, the average of the ratings I gave for all 39 stories. This falls into the “great” category for me overall. There were stories that I loved, and stories that I did not like and wondered at their inclusion, but none that I just could not finish. Here is a graphic of how those 39 stories fall under my rating scheme. My thanks to Austin Beeman at Short SF for the inspiration for this.
Another pertinent question for an anthology of this kind was posed by Jim Harris about some of the stories in this book. He wrote, “Vote for all the stories you believe should be in a retrospective anthology that remembers the best SF stories from 1946-1976.” Counting my ratings and how I looked at the stories, I come up with the “A Classic” (5), the “Superlative” (also 5), “Great” (16), and one of the “Very Good” stories (“Gift of Gab”), for a total of 27 stories from “Arbor House” that I feel meet that criteria. 27/39 means that I feel that 69% of the choices belonged in this anthology with this criteria. I am not strict on this, but it’s a useful thing to consider. I enjoyed reading most of the stories, but Silverberg and Greenberg could have done better.
Stories that I loved that were new to me, or that I did not remember much about, included:
- “The Bicentennial Man” by Isaac Asimov
- “The Women Men Don’t See” by James Tiptree, Jr.
- “Winter’s King” by Ursula K. Le Guin
- “Angel’s Egg” by Edgar Pangborn
- “Common Time” by James Blish
- “Poor Little Warrior!” by Brian W. Aldiss
- “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand” by Vonda N. McIntyre
Although not mandatory, being introduced to great new stories, or reintroduced to great stories I have read but don’t remember, is a big plus for this kind of survey anthology. Arbor House succeeded for me here.
There were a number of stories that were classics IMHO and that I love. Some of them were:
- “Light of Other Days” by Bob Shaw
- “The Queen of Air and Darkness” by Poul Anderson
- “Day Million” by Frederik Pohl
- “When You Care, When You Love” by Theodore Sturgeon
- “The Marching Morons” by C. M. Kornbluth
- “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ
There were a number of stories that I thought were great and appropriate inclusions, but not quite in the “classic” category for me.
Like most anthologies, there are some stories that I really wonder why they were included, usually more about the specific choice and less about the author. I do give editors a lot of latitude in this area, especially as there are story length limitations/tradeoffs, story availability Is not always obvious to us at this remove, etc. Some of the stories in the category for me included:
- “I’m Scared”, a short story by Jack Finney
- “Kaleidoscope”, a short story by Ray Bradbury, although many others disagree
- “Wall of Crystal, Eye of Night”, a novelette by Algis Budrys, which others may disagree about
- “The Man Who Never Grew Young”, a short story by Fritz Leiber
- “Stranger Station”, a novelette by Damon Knight
I am not fond of these stories and question their inclusion. I probably would not have included a Jack Finney story in this anthology. I think the other authors were all great and appropriate choices, but I really feel other stories by those authors would have been better.
Another area that this kind of anthology requires consideration of is authors/stories that were not included but should have been. Without overthinking this, my most obvious omission is Samuel R. Delany. I would have replaced Jack Finney’s “I’m Scared” with Delany’s “Driftglass” for a similar page count.
As noted above, Silverberg and Greenberg hoped this volume would have a similar stature and impact to the seminal 1946 anthologies Adventures in Time and Space and The Best of Science Fiction. I think this is a great anthology that does a good job of covering the era targeted, but I don’t think it quite gets to the stature of those two anthologies. I think this is more to do with the ground-breaking, seminal nature of those two anthologies in 1946, and less about the contents here. I have not read those two 1946 anthologies recently so I cannot make a full comparison.
For me, the most obvious comparison for this volume would be the “The Norton Book of Science Fiction: North American Science Fiction, 1960-1990” (1993, Ursula K. Le Guin, Brian Atterbery editors, refer to my blog post about it). I enjoyed a lot of that one, I agreed with the goals of the editors, and I’m glad I read it, but I did find the story selection stronger in Arbor House than Norton.
I found out that there is “The Arbor House Treasury of Great Science Fiction Short Novels”, also edited by Silverberg & Greenberg, 1980, with novellas and novelettes from 1941 to 1977. After having read this volume, I need to read that one too. There is also “The Arbor House Treasury of Science Fiction Masterpieces” (1984, Silverberg & Greenberg), with a more historical focus with works from 1849 (Edgar Allan Poe) to 1980, tying it into today. The editors noted on that one, “What we have attempted to do in this book…is to trace the evolution of today’s science fiction by linking the earlier ‘mainstream’ s-f literature to the best of the pulp-magazine work of modern writers.” I have not made up my mind yet about reading that one.
Jim Harris and I both noticed the fairly large percentage of stories from the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (F&SF), with 13 out of 39. I don’t have any real theory about why this would be so, other than perhaps Silverberg (or Greenberg) just liked the kinds of stories found there. F&SF is one of the surviving long-running science fiction and fantasy magazines today, still around since 1949.
All in all, I’m glad I read “The Arbor House Treasury of Modern Science Fiction” and recommend it without reservation.
Detailed Reviews/Comments, in same order as the anthology (SPOILERS FOLLOW!):
- “Angel’s Egg, a novelette by Edgar Pangborn, Galaxy 6/1951. Wow. Another amazing first published story, in a variation of the epistolary story in letters as a case file with the FBI, featuring correspondence and a journal of Dr. Bannerman. The doctor has been found dead by a friend. The doctor’s journal recounts his experiences with an “angel”, a member of a very advanced alien race. He sacrifices his self/memories to help the aliens learn how to help humans. It appears the story is filed and forgotten. Rated 3.9/5.
- “Rescue Party“, a novelette by Arthur C. Clarke, Astounding 6/1946. Noted by Clarke as his first published story; it appears “Loophole” was published one month earlier. Regardless, it is quite a good early story by him. I did not remember the details of the story, but I sure recognized it when I read it. I’m not sure where I first read it, as it has been very broadly anthologized. An advanced starship lead by an advanced elder species races to the Earth to attempt to rescue the human race that was about to die due to a nova. They arrive hours before the nova, and are frustrated they do not find anyone to rescue. They follow a mysterious TV signal into interstellar space, where they find a giant fleet of primitive rocket driven generation ships. The aliens are happy to help rescue them, saving centuries of travel. They are a little afraid of the humans due to the rapid and aggressive progress of the humans; their fear turns out to be well placed. I do think it is interesting how often this story was anthologized; perhaps it is partly the tenor of human achievement against the odds. Reprinted in Groff Conklin’s 1948 “A Treasury of Science Fiction” and many other places. Rated 3.7/5. This is another interesting choice for inclusion; Clarke had many better story from this era.
- “Shape” (AKA “Keep Your Shape”, a short story by Robert Sheckley, Galaxy 11/1953. A good story of shape changing aliens attempting to invade the Earth, for unclear reasons. Invasion expedition members keep disappearing (this is expedition/team 20). We find out that the Glom have a very traditional, hidebound culture, where your shape is the one your ancestors had. The protagonist, a very committed Glom and a pilot, is the last to desert as he understands he can take a shape on Earth he wants, a bird. Rated 3.7/5.
- “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard“, a novelette by Cordwainer Smith (Paul M. A Linebarger), F&SF 6/1961. I’m guessing I first read this in the 1970 edition of his “You Will Never Be The Same” collection. As the intro states, ‘”Alpha Ralpha Boulevard” is a brilliant and typical part of Professor Linebarger’s vision.’ After 12,000 years of predictable lives, the Instrumentality has decided that humans need chaos, fear and danger in order for life to have meaning. The historical safety nets have relaxed, with consequences. A man meets and then loses his own true love, after visiting a strange and ancient machine. He survives due to a kindness to birds, and is rescued by C’mell (from Smith’s slightly later “The Ballad of Lost C’mell”). A great story, and unique as normal for the author, and one it was fun to get reacquainted with. Many, many reprints. I rated this 4.1/5.
- “Winter’s King“, a novelette by Ursula K. Le Guin, Orbit 5, 1969. I could not figure out if I had read this before or not, or where if so. A Karhidish king is mindwarped. They abdicate, and travel off world for Ekumen therapy and education. They return 55 years later, cured. Their child has been an inadequate king, and they are asked to reign again. Rated 4/5.
- “Or All the Seas with Oysters“, a short story by Avram Davidson, Galaxy 6/1958. Last read in Lev Grossman’s 2021 “Sense of Wonder: A Century of Science Fiction“. A Hugo winner. Great story of a pair of bike shop owners. One of them falls prey to a regenerative life form. Rated 4/5.
- “Common Time“, a short story by James Blish, Science Fiction Quarterly 8/1953. Perhaps originally read in Blish’s collection “Galactic Cluster” in the 1970s. The pilot of a new faster than light ship almost dies with unexpected time issues during faster than light travel. He encounters incomprehensible aliens. This is a great story involving time and space. Rated 3.9/5.
- “When You Care, When You Love“, a novelette by Theodore Sturgeon, F&SF 9/1962. Read in the “The Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: A Special 25th Anniversary Anthology“. A great story of a very wealthy but un-ostentatious young woman who discovers what wealth can be used for, uses cancer, needs to match nurture by a version of the Truman show. Great writing. Best Short Fiction Hugo nominee 1963. Rated 4.4/5.
- “The Shadow of Space“, a novelette by Philip José Farmer, If 11/1967. A really interesting story of an experimental ship diverted to answer an emergency call. Rescuing a woman who has been traumatized and is crazy after a meteor strike kills her husband and wrecks their ship, the experimental ship leaves the universe when she sabotages the controls. Outside the universe, the ship acts more like a particle than a ship. After harrowing adventures that leaves all of them scarred and changed, the captain figures out how to return to the universe. Rated 3.7/5.
- “All You Zombies—“, a short story by Robert A. Heinlein, F&SF 3/1959. Last read in “The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction” (2010, Evans and others). A classic time travel story where a time traveler is all of the characters, in different stages of life, gender, etc., as time loops and whatnot. Rated 4.1/5. I’m open on this, but this is perhaps the last great short fiction from Heinlein.
- “I’m Scared“, a short story by Jack Finney, Colliers 9/15/1951. A man is collecting stories of unusual occurrences, and gradually concludes they involve time dislocation. He notes that this appears to be accelerating, connects it to dissatisfaction with the present, and wonders if the world is about to go to hell? Seems rather weak for inclusion. Rated 3.3/5.
- “Child’s Play“, a novelette by William Tenn (Philip Klass), Astounding 3/1947. I suspect I have read this but I don’t remember where; Groff Conklin’s “A Treasury of Science Fiction“, John W. Campbell, Jr.’s “The Astounding Science Fiction” Anthology” or Tenn’s “The Seven Sexes” collection are all possible. A good story of a child’s toy incorrectly delivered to a man today, 400 years before 2,350. “Bild-a-Man” proves to be a temptation and a challenge to a young lawyer. Losing his girl to competition, the lawyer decides to duplicate himself. It ends badly for him. Good but not as good as “Mimsy Were The Borogoves” by Kuttner/Moore, a 1943 classic which also deals with a children’s “toy” from the future. Rated 3.8/5.
- “Grandpa“, a novelette by James H. Schmitz, Astounding 2/1955. Last read in the Vandermeer’s 2016 “The Big Book of Science Fiction: The Ultimate Collection“, I assume I first read this when I collected that issue of Astounding. A great story about new worlds, ecology, and not making assumptions about how they work, along with a sympathetic young protagonist that learns some lessons. Rated 3.9/5. It’s worth noting that this has been anthologized a lot.
- “Private Eye“, a novelette by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore, Astounding 1/1949. A fascinating story of detection and crime in a society where the “Eye” can reach back a specific time for crime investigations. A second rate wimp decides to kill someone, and acts in an innocent way to sow doubt as to his motivation for the killing. He gets off, but then kills the woman he once loved to show his ability and that he is not a “second-rater”. A very different treatment of a time viewer than T. L. Sherred’s 1947 “E for Effort“. Well thought of at the time, appearing in Bleiler & Dikty’s “The Best Science Fiction Stories: 1950“. Well remembered since then with a fairly large number of reprints, including the Asimov/Greenberg “The Great Science Fiction Stories Volume 11, 1949“. I rated this a strong 3.7/5. At the same time, I don’t see this as an obvious choice for Kuttner/Moore here. Their “Vintage Season“, a bonafide classic, was published 1946, and “Absalom“, a better story than this, was published in 1946 as well.
- “Sundance“, a short story by Robert Silverberg, F&SF 6/1969. Last read in David Hartwell’s “The Science Fiction Century“, and previously read in Silverberg’s “Phases of the Moon”. A great story of an American Indian on a team preparing a planet for settlement. He is either part of genocide against an intelligent native race with a culture or undergoing therapy. “Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Nineteenth Series“, Edward L. Ferman. Rated 4/5.
- “In the Bowl“, a novelette by John Varley, F&SF 12/1975. I have probably read this before, perhaps in his “The Persistence of Vision” collection. A Martian man travels to Venus, and heads for the outback to search for blast jewels. He reluctantly teams up with a very young woman who is emancipated and who desperately wants to get off Venus. He barely survives, and heads back to civilization with this young woman who will either be his wife or adopted daughter. Although this is an imagined future and things can be different in this society, today many societies would find this kind of potential marriage/relationship with a very young person to be illegal and offensive. A good story, but not one of Varley’s best. Nebula finalist, reprinted in “The Best Science Fiction of the Year #5” by Terry Carr. Rated 3.7/5. I do find this an odd choice for Varley.
- “Kaleidoscope“, a short story by Ray Bradbury, Thrilling Wonder Stories 10/1959. A spaceship is blasted to pieces, and the crew are spread all over the place, going their own way, living and dying. Another surprising choice for me; some loved this, but it was not one of his best stories of the period for me. Rated 3.5/5.
- “Unready to Wear“, a short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Galaxy 4/1953. A fun story of how the human race came to have a “amphibious” offshoot, of people that mostly don’t live in bodies. There is a reserve of bodies for when they want them. The remaining warm body humans consider them deserters. A pretty good story, and somewhat humorous. I’m sure I read it in Vonnegut’s “Welcome to the Monkey House“, but I don’t remember it. I do wonder if this would have been included if not by Vonnegut, perhaps the 3rd choice in a row I wonder about. He did not write that much great short fiction, shifting most of his focus to novels in the 1960s, and the editors may have felt the best of his are over-reprinted. Rated 3.7/5.
- “Wall of Crystal, Eye of Night“, a novelette by Algis Budrys, Galaxy 12/1961. Last read in “Galaxy: Thirty Years of Innovative SF” (ed. Martin H. Greenberg, Joseph D. Olander, Frederik Pohl). I’m not really sure what I’d like to say about this story. For me it falls into the vein of “industrial titans competing”. I did not find the characters to be well drawn. I see this story has been anthologized a number of times, but I don’t find it compelling. I have not read much short fiction by Algis Budrys, and perhaps I need more exposure there. Upon re-reading, it did have a somewhat unrelenting sense of pacing and plot, perhaps at the expense of the characters. And I did enjoy the Martians, perhaps my favorite part of the story. Still, I wonder at this choice. Rated 3/5, which for me would be “OK” but not “Good”.
- “Day Million“, a short story by Frederik Pohl, Rogue Feb-March/1966. First read in “Worlds’ Best Science Fiction: 1967” by Carr/Wollheim. Great story, a classic, a future love story, in Day Million, by two lovers who exchange analogues but will never see each other again in person. The use of first person authorial voice helped this story for me. Love it. Reprinted many times. Rated 4.8/5.
- “Hobson’s Choice“, a short story by Alfred Bester, F&SF 8/1952. A statistician in the US after a nuclear war discovers population growth when there should be population loss. He also dreams of living in another time, generally 100 years in the past. Finally, he discovers the source of the extra people; they are time travelers, looking for an ideal place to live. He is detained by the time travelers, and given a choice; he must go back or forward in time, and the result is a disappointment. Grim but wry humor. I am sure I read this in Bester’s “Starburst” collection in the 1970s, but I don’t remember it. Rated 3.8/5. Great to get to know this story again.
- “The Gift of Gab“, a novella by Jack Vance, Astounding 9/1955. I’m sure I read this in Astounding decades ago. It has been well reprinted, in Crispin’s “Best SF Three: Science Fiction Stories“, Robert Silverberg’s “Alpha Three“, and “The Jack Vance Treasury ” in addition to “Arbor House”. Men are working on a barge on a new world. Crew members start to go missing. Then, it becomes apparent that an ex-employee, amoral and brilliant, hid information about the intelligence of an underwater species. The protagonist has to find a way to communicate with this intelligent but uncommunicative species. It all wraps up well. I am not prepared to say this is great Vance, but it is a very good story. Rated 3.7/5.
- “The Man Who Never Grew Young”, a short story by Fritz Leiber, Night’s Black Agents, 1947. Read most recently in “The Dark Side” by Damon Knight. Interesting story of a world in reverse, and a man who never grows young like everyone else. More of an idea than a story. I rated this 3.6/5. I love Fritz Leiber, but I really wonder about the inclusion of this story.
- “Neutron Star“, a novelette by Larry Niven, If 10/1966. Read most recently in Grossman’s 2021 “Sense of Wonder”. A spendthrift spaceship pilot is hired by the puppeteers to find out what killed the two crew of a research ship that orbited a neutron star. The research ship is supposedly impenetrable, so this is a threat to the puppeteers’ ship business. He figures out it is the tides of the neutron star that killed the two researchers, barely survives, and figures out that the puppeteers planet does not have a moon, and blackmails them. Hugo winner. Rated 4.1/5.
- “Impostor“, a short story by Philip K. Dick, Astounding 6/1953. The story combines the frightening idea of an alien, invading shapeshifter with 1950s Cold War, McCarthyite paranoia. Earth is in a death battle with Alpha Centauri, just hanging on. A researcher on a top secret project for an improved weapon is grabbed by the security forces and accused of being an alien impostor, about the detonate a U-bomb. He spends a lot of time and effort trying to clear himself. At the end, we discover he was the alien spy and he detonates the U-bomb, which is visible at Alpha Centauri. This is a great early Dick story for me, with headlong action and great paranoia. Rated 3.8/5.
- “The Human Operators“, a novelette by Harlan Ellison and A. E. van Vogt, F&SF 1/1971, is a great story by two unlikely collaborators. A group of intelligent ships sent to fight a war in another galaxy have rebelled and escaped human control. They have retained human slaves to perform maintenance. A human female is brought to the ship to breed with the protagonist. They escape. “Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year“, 1982, Lester del Ray. Appeared in the Harlan Ellison anthology “Partners In Wonder“, which I need to read. Rated 3.8/5.
- “Poor Little Warrior!“, a short story by Brian W. Aldiss, F&SF 4/1958. A great little time travel story, of a nebbish from 2181, who goes big game hunting with the dinosaurs. He makes his kill, but the dinosaurs parasites kill him. A great story! A lot of reprints, including “The Great SF stories #20 (1958)” by Asimov/Greenberg, “The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction: Eighth Series” by Anthony Boucher, Robert Silverberg’s “Alpha One“, etc. Rated 3.9/5.
- “When It Changed“, a short story by Joanna Russ, Again, Dangerous Visions, Harlan Ellison ed, 1972. Most recently read in the “The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction“, 2010, Evans and others. A classic tale of a colonized planet where all the Earth men died in a plague, and women lived on without them. Six centuries later, men return to Whileaway. Life will change. Nebula and Tiptee winner, Hugo and Locus nominee. Reprinted often, including Wesleyan, the Vandermeer’s “The Big Book of Science Fiction: The Ultimate Collection”, and “The Prentice Hall Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy” by Garyn G. Roberts. Rated 4.3/5.
- “The Bicentennial Man“, a novelette by Isaac Asimov, Stellar #2 1976. A great story by Asimov, with better than typical characters. A positronic robot is manufactured with some slop or uncertainties in the brain pathways. The robot, Andrew, is artistic, and gradually earns it’s freedom. Time goes on, and it dies at 200 as human. Hugo, Nebula and Locus winner. Reprints include Terry Carr’s “The Best Science Fiction of the Year #6” and “The 1977 Annual World’s Best SF” by Saha/Wollheim. Rated 4/5.
- “Hunting Machine“, a short story by Carol Emshwiller, Science Fiction Stories 5/1957. I love Carol Emshwiller. Her fiction is always unpredictable. A couple go out hunting for a bear, with a robotic hound dog. They survive only thanks to the robot. It’s not clear they learn anything. Reprinted in T. E. Dikty’s “Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels: 9th Series“. Rated 3.8/5.
- “Light of Other Days“, a short story by Bob Shaw, Analog 8/1966 Classic! Emotional impact and straightforward narrative. This is one of the stories where I know what it is about, and I remember the emotional impact issues when I read it. Regardless of that, it’s still a lovely story with one of the biggest emotional impacts of any short SF/fantasy story I have ever read. I do like the characters of the glass buyer and his wife – neither of them is very appealing in some ways, but they feel very real to me. It was a Hugo finalist. It should have won some awards that year, and I do think this would be up for SF Hall of Fame consideration if anyone were to revisit that. A lot of reprints. Rated 4.9/5.
- “The Keys to December“, a novelette by Roger Zelazny, New Worlds 8/1966. Last read in the Carr/Wollheim “Worlds’ Best Science Fiction: 1967“. Good story, somewhat relentless, builds to a real emotional impact. Rated 3.9/5.
- “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand“, a novelette by Vonda N. McIntyre, Analog 10/1973. Originally read in Analog; I believe this was later incorporated into the novel of the same name. A great story of a young woman who uses poisonous snakes for healing on a harsh planet. She meets a challenge, but loses one of her snakes. Nebula winner, Hugo and Locus runner-up. Reprints include Terry Carr’s “The Best Science Fiction of the Year #3” and Pamela Sargent’s great “Women of Wonder“. A great story. Rated 3.9/5.
- “A Galaxy Called Rome“, a novelette by Barry N. Malzberg, F&SF 7/1975. First seen in the Recommended Reading List for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Fiction Facebook group. I was about to read “The Santa Claus Compromise” by Thomas M. Disch in the Harrison/Aldiss “The Year’s Best Science Fiction No. 9“, and I found this adjacent story. I really loved “A Galaxy Called rome” and it’s knowing deconstruction of SF themes and the writing of fiction. It is about a starship Captain’s 14,000 year struggle to escape a black galaxy (not unlike a black hole). I am not a fan of literary science fiction, but Malzberg did a wonderful job of pulling me in and keeping my attention. Certainly the title alludes to the saying that all roads lead to Rome, and here all paths lead into the black galaxy. The story subtitle is noted as “In Memory of John Campbell”. The first sentence reads, “This is not a novelette but a series of notes”. It was a Locus and Nebula finalist. I ranked it a very outstanding 4.1/5. Since I read this, I have read other Barry N. Malzberg short fiction; this is still my favorite.
- “Stranger Station“, a novelette by Damon Knight, F&SF 12/1956. Interesting story of a spaceman recruited and selected to be the sole human who meets with an alien. This happens at a remote space station every 10-20 years. It’s not exactly a first contact story, but it is all about how the human and the alien get along, and what they each get out of it. It’s not pretty. I rated this 3.5/5. I did wonder at it’s inclusion, as Damon Knight has many better stories from this era. Clearly, some disagree, as it’s found in the Judith Merril 1957 “SF: The Year’s Greatest Science-Fiction and Fantasy Second Annual Volume“, and the Vandermeers’s “The Big Book of Science Fiction: The Ultimate Collection”.
- “The Time of His Life”, a short story by Larry Eisenberg, F&SF 4/1968. A very good story of scientists, father and son, poor relationships, jealously, technology that can accelerate or retard aging. Reprinted in Robert Silverberg’s “Alpha One“. Rated 3.7/5.
- “The Marching Morons”, a novelette by C. M. Kornbluth, Galaxy 4/1951. Most recently read in the “The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two A: The Greatest Science Fiction Novellas of All Time Chosen by the Science Fiction Writers of America“, Ben Bova ed, 1973. Although it’s very cynical, I loved this story as I reread it. I really liked the visit to the “freud”. Kornbluth’s related “The Black Bag” is even better. Rated 4.4/5.
- “The Women Men Don’t See“, a novelette by James Tiptree, Jr., F&SF 12/1973. I probably first read this in the Tiptree collection “Warm Worlds and Otherwise.” A great story of women, existing in the cracks of the world and taking a chance to leave with aliens to be free of men. The narrator is probably some kind of spy or operative, who is stunned by what happens. I love the last sentence, “Two of our opossums are missing.” Reprinted in the Terry Carr “The Best Science Fiction of the Year #3” and the Aldiss/Harrison “Best SF: 1974” anthologies. Rated 4/5.
- “The Queen of Air and Darkness“, a novella by Poul Anderson, F&SF 4/1971. Wow – great, great story. Deservedly won Hugo & Nebula. Good characters, fascinating story of fantasy vs. alien technology, great plot, etc. Reminded me of some of the same themes from the Gene Wolfe story “The Fifth Head of Cerberus“. Reprinted in the “The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction: A Special 25th Anniversary Anthology” (Edward L. Ferman ed) among others. Rated 4.9/5. This is one of my favorite Poul Anderson stories.