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“Tomorrow, the Stars” 70 Years Later

Summary: I read the 1952 Doubleday anthology “Tomorrow, The Stars” primarily because a) this is the only anthology Robert A. Heinlein was an editor for, and b) I read several great stories that were first reprinted here when reading for the 1946 Project for Chicon 8. My average rating for the stories was 3.74/5, or “Very good”. I enjoyed reading it, but I give a qualified opinion as noted below.

The Full Story: I became aware of this anthology while reading for the 1946 Project for Chicon 8. See my post, “Not The Retro Hugos at Chicon 8“.

I was not reading for the 1947 Retro Hugo Awards, as Chicon 8 decided that there were not enough good reasons to award them. However, in a very creative and canny move, they decided to organize a 1946 Project program track for the convention to discuss a broad range of subjects that pertained to SF, fandom and publishing in 1946. I believe this allowed them to have the best of both worlds, avoiding the Retro Hugo controversy while getting to talk about 1946 SF and fantasy that might have been Retro Hugo worthy.

Having experience with several Retro Hugo nomination and award processes, I was interested in trying to screen out some of the chaff while identifying stories from 1946 that might be worthwhile. This became essential after I was selected to be on several 1946 Project panels.

One of the ways I did this was to look at anthologies with stories from 1946. While this was not a guarantee that the stories therein were great or even good, it did affirm that at least one editor thought a story was worthwhile.

1946 was before any of the various “Best of the Year” anthologies came out. This left only once obvious choice devoted solely to 1946, the Isaac Asimov/Martin H. Greenberg anthology, “The Great Science Fiction Stories Volume 8, 1946” (1982 Daw Books). I found this uneven, but there were some very good stories there that I had never read or did not remember.

“Absalom” by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore, a short story from Startling Stories, was one of those great stories. Upon thinking about all of this and preparing for Chicon 8, I also took a look at where stories were reprinted, how often, etc. I noted that “Absalom” was first reprinted in “Tomorrow, The Stars” in addition to the Asimov/Greenberg anthology and Kuttner’s “Bypass to Otherness” and “The Best of Henry Kuttner”.

Checking the Table of Contents for “Tomorrow, The Stars”, I found two other stories that I had liked had been reprinted there:

  1. The Report on the Barnhouse Effect“, a 1950 short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., a great first story, Collier’s February 11 1950
  2. The Monster“, a 1951 short story by Lester del Rey, Argosy June 1951

I also found that “Tomorrow, The Stars” had a very interesting list of editors, including Robert A. Heinlein, Judith Merril, Frederik Pohl, Walter Bradbury and Truman Talley. I confirmed this is the only anthology that Heinlein had been an editor for. At least as far as ISFDB is concerned, neither Walter Bradbury (no relation to Ray) nor Truman Talley were listed as editors for any other anthologies.

Thoughts on “Tomorrow, The Stars”: This encouraged me to read “Tomorrow, The Stars”. I found it to be a decidedly mixed-bag. My overall rating was a “Very good” 3.74/5. I am not unhappy I read it, but disappointed in some aspects. I don’t explicitly know if any of this is related to my perspective 70 years later, but that could be a factor.

One the plus side, I did like the Preface by Robert A. Heinlein. Heinlein does come out and say what he thinks the purpose or goal of the book is, “The Purpose of this book is to give you pleasure.” Fair enough, and hard to argue with.

There were several stories that were new to me (or that I did not remember) that I really liked, including:

  1. The Tourist Trade“, a short story by Wilson Tucker, Worlds Beyond January 1951
  2. Keyhole“, a short story by Murray Leinster, Thrilling Wonder Stories December 1951
  3. Survival Ship“, a short story by Judith Merril, Worlds Beyond January 1951
  4. The Sack“, a short story by William Morrison, Astounding September 1950

There were also a number of stories that I had read before that I loved, including:

  1. The Silly Season“, a short story by C. M. Kornbluth, F&SF Fall 1950
  2. As previously noted, “Absalom“, a short story by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore, Startling Stories Fall 1946
  3. Jay Score“, a short story by Eric Frank Russell, Astounding May 1941
  4. Betelgeuse Bridge“, a short story by William Tenn, Galaxy April 1951 ( my favorite story from the anthology)
  5. Poor Superman” (AKA “Appointment in Tomorrow”), a novelette by Fritz Leiber, Galaxy July 1951

There were several stories that I really wondered why they had been selected:

  1. I’m Scared“, a short story by Jack Finney, Colliers September 15, 1951 (my least favorite story here)
  2. Misbegotten Missionary” (AKA “Green Patches”), a rather ordinary short story by Isaac Asimov, Galaxy November 1950

A positive factor that I need to update this to reflect is the use of non-genre mainstream press stories. I suspect this was due to Merril’s role as an editor here; she certainly did that often on her later “Year’s Best SF” anthologies. This included the Finney story “I’m Scared” (Collier’s), Vonnegut’s “The Report on the Barnhouse Effect” (Collier’s), and Reese’s “The Rainmaker” (Saturday Evening Post). While I really don’t like “I’m Scared”, “The Report on the Barnhouse Effect” is a great first story and one that is a real credit to the editors for inclusion.

It’s also worth mentioning that only one of these stories had been previously reprinted, with Tenn’s “Betelgeuse Bridge” showing up several months before in the spring 1952 Crown anthology “Galaxy Reader of Science Fiction” (H. L. Gold editor). This is impressive, especially considering how good most of the stories are.

The other side of the coin is that Tucker’s “The Tourist Trade” was never reprinted again, which I think unfortunate given how good I think it is, and Reese’s “Rainmaker” has only been reprinted in a Russian anthology, “Рай земной?“. I don’t think this is positive.

I have several issues with this anthology. To start with, the blurb on the back cover states, “In his only published anthology, the famous author of STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND makes his one-time personal selection of the finest stories by the greatest talents in science fiction.” Cleary this was added for a later printing after 1961.

While I know that blurb material is advertising and is often dramatically optimistic about how good a book is, I find several things about this blurb ludicrous. Looking at the authors and the stories included, I especially take issue with the phrase “…finest stories by the greatest talents in science fiction”. In my humble opinion, there is material here that clearly represents neither the finest stories nor the greatest talents in SF. I agree with the comments I have received that this is just what happens in publishing. I don’t disagree, especially for an edition at least 25 years after first publication.

Additionally, and perhaps this is an artifact of the times, there is nothing here that gives us any idea why the authors and stories were included. That is what I have come to expect today, perhaps along with story/author biography information. I am guessing this was practice of not having that level of details on the authors and stories was typical for the time.

Finally, I really wonder about having five editors. Heinlein is listed as the only editor on the book cover, title page and back cover for the edition I read (the 1981 Berkley paperback edition). However, he does note in the Preface that there are five editors.

Heinlein “Tomorrow, The Stars” Preface page xi excerpt

It is not at all clear which of the editors did what here to me. The best source I have found is William H. Patterson, Jr, author of the two-volume authorized Heinlein biography, “Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1: 1907-1948: Learning Curve” (2010) and “Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 2: 1948-1988: The Man Who Learned Better” (2014). The ISFDB entry on “Tomorrow, The Stars” quotes Patterson:

“According to Bill Patterson, who reviewed the correspondence between the editors at one point (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.written/msg/6ec509cd5e4fcd57):

‘Both Truman (Mac) Talley and Walter Bradbury did participate in the editorial process, but not to the same extent as Heinlein and Merril. They both read and commented on the first and second round of manuscript selections, for example.

If I had to put it in descending order of amount of work it would be (1) Merril for doing all the legwork of gathering the nominated stories and sending them around and getting the permissions on the finished work; (2) Heinlein for general oversight of the selection process plus the introduction; (3) Bradbury for more comments on contents than Talley but (4) Talley did make some comments on selection. (5) Pohl comes last simply because I don’t recall any direct input from him, but he may deserve to be higher on the list — after Heinlein, say, but before Bradbury — simply because his participation might well be hidden in Merril’s.’”

I have heard at least one opinion (Thanks, Rich Horton) that Merril essentially ghosted the editing here for Heinlein. I tend to believe Patterson is factually correct as he reviewed the correspondence, but I don’t know this. Regardless, I am not at all clear if having 5 editors for the anthology in some capacity was a plus or minus for the book. It’s hard to ascribe responsibility to any of them individually, but I was somewhat disappointed in the author and story selection.

Overall, I’m glad I read this anthology, but my recommendation to read it is somewhat qualified.

Detailed Review/Comments: Spoilers Abound!

I’m Scared“, a short story by Jack Finney, Collier’s, September 15, 1951. Most recently read in “The Arbor House Treasury of Science Fiction” (1980, edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Robert Silverberg), see my review. 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, and especially to start the anthology. Rated a rather ordinary 3.3/5, or “Good”.

The Silly Season“, a short story by C. M. Kornbluth, F&SF Fall 1950. I’ve read this before, probably in Kornbluth’s 1959 Ballantine collection “The Marching Morons and Other Famous Science Fiction Stories“, and later in “His Share of Glory: The Complete Short Science Fiction of C. M. Kornbluth.” A great story of how a blind newsman foretells a Martian invasion, but no one believes him. Rated 3.8/5, or “Great”.

The Report on the Barnhouse Effect“, a 1950 short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Collier’s February 11 1950. I read this most recently in the Frederik Pohl Anthology “Yesterday’s Tomorrows” (1982 Berkley Books), reviewed here. It’s a great first story. I suspect I have read this before, perhaps in Vonnegut’s 1968 Delacorte Press collection “Welcome to the Monkey House“. Professor) Barnwell discovers a means of learning to release energy and influence the world with specific mental effort. He is sequestered for security, but eventually decides to escape to avoid military oversight and to make the world a better place. He is on the run while making the world better. He divulges the secret to an academic he is mentoring, amid his attempts to escape. This person is initially clueless, but finally understands and begins the mental exercises needed. This story is a well written farce. Rated 3.8/5, or “Great”.

The Tourist Trade, a short story by Wilson Tucker, Worlds Beyond January 1951. This is a great story of tourists from the future, with a young woman’s bedroom the nexus of their repeated, unwelcome visits. The future tour guide and tourists are insubstantial. The family is on the verge of fleeing the house when the father turns the tables, billing the insubstantial tourists as ghosts for curious neighbors. I have not read much other fiction by Tucker but this was great. I am surprised that it has not been reprinted anywhere other than in “Tomorrow, The Stars”. Rated 3.8/5, or “Great”.

Rainmaker“, a short story by John Reese, The Saturday Evening Post, February 19, 1949. A fun early story of weather modification by cloud seeding. I found this especially interesting as I worked at a water wholesaler that attempted to use cloud seeding to increase runoff for some years, but no longer does so. I believe the tradeoff between results and liability made it unappealing, and I suspect that the idea has been been discredited today. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”. This has never been reprinted anywhere other than “Tomorrow, The Stars”, which is not encouraging.

Absalom“, a short story by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore, Startling Stories Fall 1946. Most recently read in the Asimov/Greenberg anthology “The Great Science Fiction Stories Volume 8, 1946” (1982 Daw Books). I have read this before, in Kuttner’s 1961 Ballantine Books collection “Bypass to Otherness“, the 1975 Nelson Doubleday/SFBC collection “The Best of Henry Kuttner“, and the 2006 Centipede Press/SFBC collection “Two-Handed Engine: The Selected Stories of Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore“, which I recommend. It’s a great story, of a mutant son of a mutant son, genius’s both. The father attempts to control the son, for eventually what are revealed to be controlling and unhelpful reasons. The son revolts, controls the dad, and the dad lives in unhappy, resentful compliance without a choice, just knowing that eventually his mutant son will have a son as well. Good characters, etc. Rated 3.9/5, or “Great”.

The Monster“, a short story by Lester del Rey, Argosy June 1951. I did not remember it but probably read it many decades ago in the 1957 Del Rey collection on Ballantine Books, “Robots and Changelings.” A being is amnesiac and feels persecuted. Gradually, he understands he is an artificial being, a test for beings humans hope to use to fight their own battles and explore space. In the end, he accelerates his already miniscule lifespan and convinces his creators robots/whatever are not feasible. This is a great story for 1951, and just as good on a recent reread. It has been reprinted a number of times, including the 2010 NESFA Press collection “Robots and Magic: Selected Short Stories of Lester Del Rey“. Rated 3.9/5, or “Great”.

Jay Score“, a short story by Eric Frank Russell, Astounding May 1941. Most recently read in 2007 anthology “The Prentice Hall Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy”, see review here. It’s good to reread “Jay Score”, which I’m guessing I first read in my copy of the 1958 Berkley collection by Russell, “Men, Martians and Machines. I really like this story, with a lot of great characters and without much of the racism and colonialism commonly present in SF of this era. A spaceship on the way to Venus is hit by and damaged by a piece of floating junk, disabling the navigation computer. They are headed for the sun and death. The new Emergency Pilot saves the day at the cost of his eyes and vocal cords. At the end, we learn that the emergency pilot is a robot, which helped him survive to pilot the ship in a very close cometary orbit around the sun. As a result, the emergency pilot is inducted into a very exclusive club, with the strong praises embarrassing him. The last sentence is great, “Don’t let anyone tell you that a robot can’t have feelings!” The other “Jay Score” story I have read recently was “Symbiotica“, which was good but not as good as this. Looking back, the May 1941 issue of Astounding this appeared in was a really good issue, with two stories from the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Fiction Facebook group Recommended Reading List as well (“Universe” by Robert A. Heinlein and “Liar! by Isaac Asimov). Rated 3.8/5, or “Great”.

Betelgeuse Bridge“, a short story by William Tenn, Galaxy April 1951. Most recently read in the 1980 Playboy Press anthology “Galaxy: Thirty Years of Innovative Science Fiction“, edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Joseph D. Olander, and Frederik Pohl . I love this story, involving a swindle and it’s comeuppance with aliens. Phillip Klass (Tenn) had a way of combining humor and satire with SF that was not common, and doing it well. The characters are great, although there are really only three- the adman, the academic, and the aliens. I have this in Tenn’s 1968 Ballantine Books collection, “The Wooden Star“. Rated 4/5, or “Great”.

Survival Ship“, a short story by Judith Merril, Worlds Beyond January 1951. A very good story of a exploration ship leaving the Earth. The nature of an unusual arrangement with the sexes is discussed, with 20 of one group and four of the other. A twist ending, with women revealed to be the twenty and men for, with women stronger, hardier, better able to withstand space. Men are to be shared. A story new to me, although fairly well reprinted. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.

Keyhole“, a short story by Murray Leinster, Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1951. A great story of humans on the Moon, attempting to set up the basis for exploration of the planets. They encounter nonhumans who may be intelligent. They attempt to study the Moon natives, and the natives learn more from them than they do learn of the natives. I have this in the 1969 Scholastic Book Services anthology edited by Richard J. Hurley, “Beyond Belief“, which I have probably not read since then. It’s a pretty good anthology, including the Sturgeon “The Man Who Lost The Sea” and “History Lesson” by Arthur C. Clarke. Rated 3.8/5, or “Great”.

Misbegotten Missionary” (AKA “Green Patches”), a short story by Isaac Asimov, Galaxy November 1950. An emissary from a planet of unified life sneaks into an Earthbound ship, hoping to help Earth life unify. It almost succeeds. I own this issue of Galaxy, but sure don’t remember this story. This is a rather ordinary story, rated 3.5/5, or “Good”.

The Sack“, a short story by William Morrison, Astounding September 1950. A very good story by an author I don’t know much about. Previous stories by him I have read are “The Model of a Judge” and “Country Doctor“, both “Very good”. The Sack is discovered in the asteroids. The Sack, an astoundingly intelligent outer space entity, can answer almost any question. It wants to die, as it is the last of it’s race. It’s human keeper establishes a relationship, and the Sack tells him that depending on it is bad for the human race. The Sack arranges to die. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.

Poor Superman” (AKA “Appointment in Tomorrow), a novelette by Fritz Leiber, Galaxy July 1951. Previously read decades ago, probably in the 1974 Leiber collection “The Best of Fritz Leiber” (Ballantine/Nelson DoubleDay-SFBC/Sphere). A very good story of a man wanting to be a Superman, and his group the Thinkers, who are a fraud. Things do not go well for him. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.

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4 responses to ““Tomorrow, the Stars” 70 Years Later”

  1. You have to remember that cover text is written by the publisher, and totally out of the editors’ control. It exists to be ignored, along with any expectation that the cover art actually illustrates a scene from anything actually in the book.

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    1. David, you’re right. I saw that blurb on the back cover of the 1981 sixteenth printing of the Berkley paperback. I see the same front cover to match the 1981 edition first on the 1979 edition. I assume but I don’t know that that blurb text showed up first on the 1979 edition, 25 years after the original 1952 publication. I have always assumed that the editor had something to do with the overall book package, but I have no idea if that is really the case. Certainly, 25 years later, all bets are off.

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  2. I think think you’re a tad hard on this in your overall assessment. Only a couple weaker stories — and those not awful (I always have had a mild fondness for “Misbegotten Missionary” (which I believe was H. L. Gold’s title — Asimov preferred “Green Patches”) so I don’t mind its inclusion, though of course there are better Asimov stories out there.)

    Anyway — in summary, and going with your ratings of the stories (some of which I have not read, including “Jay Score”, perhaps surprisingly), it seems like a really a darned fine anthology. (Also, back then, there was a certain reluctance to duplicate stories that had already been anthologized, which could limit some selections.)

    As for the “Rainmaker” story (which I also haven’t read) — kudos to Heinlein and Merril for choosing a non-genre magazine story; and, yes, I believe cloudseeding has been proved unfeasible or unreliable — and the liability issues are real. It became a really fashionable idea in the ’60s — Campbell was fond it, and Analog featured several such stories as I recall. By the mid-70s, I think, it was largely abandoned for numerous good reasons.

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    1. Rich, thanks for your thoughts and comments, like always.

      My overall rating of “3.74/5” is a result of an average of my individual story ratings, with my designation as “Very good” a result of where that falls into my rating scale. This is stringing together multiple subjective factors, which certainly applies to both my individual story ratings and my overall rating scale. I took a look at sensitivity a bit; assuming that the two stories I was especially critical of (“Misbegotten Missionary” and “I’m Scared”) were actually “Very good” at 3.7 each, it resulted in a 3.79/5, which I would have rounded up to 3.8/5, or “Great”.

      I’m not prepared to go there, but I agree that other opinions are equally valid to mine.

      I am open on this, but one factor in this anthology is the use of non-genre source SF stories. This included the Finney story “I’m Scared” (Colliers), Vonnegut’s “The Report on the Barnhouse Effect” (Collier’s), and Reese’s “The Rainmaker” (Saturday Evening Post). This was certainly a hallmark of Judith Merril’s later “Year’s Best SF” anthologies, and I take this as evidence that she was heavily involved in the initial selection of stories. Like those anthologies, whether this is a good idea or not depends upon how you feel about those stories. Here you have the great “I’m Scared”, the very good “Rainmaker”, and the ordinary/good “I’m Scared” in my opinion. I have been somewhat more critical of some of those stories in the Merril “Year’s Best SF” volumes. Here, even taking into account that I feel “I’m Scared” a poor choice for this anthology, I do think this is a strength of the anthology, and I’ll update to note that as well.

      I did take a look at the stories again, and “Betelgeuse Bridge” is the only one previously reprinted before “Tomorrow, The Stars”, showing up several months before in the spring 1952 Crown anthology “Galaxy Reader of Science Fiction” (H. L. Gold editor). I will update to recognize that as a positive factor. At the same, I will note that several of these stories were never reprinted anywhere else, such as Tucker’s “The Tourist Trade” (which I really liked) and Reese’s “Rainmaker”. That is not a positive.

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