I’ve gotten used to introducing these vintage Best Of collections — as I did recently with The Best of Robert Bloch and The Best of Murray Leinster — assuming that most readers have no idea who the authors are.
There’s been a surge of interest in Henry Kuttner lately, however, and he’s been in the news half a dozen times this year at Black Gate alone. The most recent was just last week, when we listed him as one of the luminaries covered by Bud Webster’s Past Masters.
But before that, Connor Gormley wrote a Fantasy Face-Off featuring Henry Kuttner’s Elak of Atlantis vs. Robert E Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian, I discussed The Startling Worlds of Henry Kuttner and looked at his Weird Tales classic “The Graveyard Rats.” And we announced the lucky winners of the giveaway copies of Thunder in the Void, the deluxe collection of Kuttner’s Space Opera tales from Haffner Press.
It’s not just us with a recent Kuttner obsession. In just the last few years, there’s been a re-discovery of this brilliant pulp author. Haffner also published the detailed retrospective Detour to Otherness, a collection of tales co-written with his wife, C.L. Moore, and a generous volume of his weird menace tales, Terror in the House: The Early Kuttner, Volume One. He’s been a favorite over at Paizo’s Planet Stories imprint as well, and they’ve brought his classics The Dark World, Elak of Atlantis, and Robots Have No Tails back into print in handsome new editions.
Centipede Press and the Science Fiction Book Club produced a massive 915-page retrospective of Moore and Kuttner’s collaborative work in 2006, Two Handed Engine: The Selected Stories of Henry Kuttner and C.L.Moore.
And his 1943 short story “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” (co-written with Moore) was made into the feature-length film The Last Mimzy by New Line Cinema in 2007.
Seriously, that’s not bad for someone who died over 50 years ago.
That doesn’t even include the numerous digital collections and reprints from Kuttner’s impressive catalog that have proliferated at Amazon and B&N over the past 18 months.
But we’re here to talk about the 1975 Del Rey paperback The Best of Henry Kuttner, edited by Lester del Rey (presumably, as he was general editor for the series and the actual editor is uncredited).
Most of the stories contained within were co-written with C.L. Moore, although in large part they were credited exclusively to Kuttner on publication. Virtually all of them were published in SF pulps between 1939 and 1955.
Here’s the back cover text, focusing on five of Kuttner’s most popular pieces:
The Best of Henry Kuttner
Here in one superlative volume 17 science-fiction tales by a master storyteller.
“Mimsy Were the Borogoves”
Scott and Emma seemed to be ordinary children — until they found a strange box of toys!
“The Proud Robot”
Never was there an inventor quite like Gallagher; he did his best work when drunk, but could never remember what he invented when he sobered up!
“The Misguided Halo”
A young and inexperienced angel accidentally bestowed a halo on the wrong man — and then the trouble began!
An extraterrestrial visitor tried to make peace between two Mexican peasants feuding over a waterhole — with disastrous results!
“Exit the Professor”
What a family — those Hogbens! Survivors of the fabled Atlantis, these hillbillies used telekinesis, teleportation and telepathy to make their way in the 20th Century!
— Plus 12 more….
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Henry Kuttner: A Neglected Master, introduction by Ray Bradbury
“Mimsy Were the Borogoves” (Astounding, February 1943)
“Two-Handed Engine” (F&SF, August 1955)
“The Proud Robot” (Astounding, October 1943)
“The Misguided Halo” (Unknown, August 1939)
“The Voice of the Lobster” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1950)
“Exit the Professor” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1947)
“The Twonky” (Astounding, September 1942)
“A Gnome There Was” (Unknown, October 1941)
“The Big Night” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, June 1947)
“Nothing But Gingerbread Left” (Astounding, January 1943)
“The Iron Standard” (Astounding, December 1943)
“Cold War” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1949)
“Or Else” (Amazing Stories, August/September 1953)
“Endowment Policy” (Astounding, August 1943)
“Housing Problem” (Charm, October 1944)
“What You Need” (Astounding, October 1945)
“Absalom” (Startling Stories, Fall 1946)
After the release of The Last Mimzy, the book was repackaged as The Last Mimzy: Stories, a trade paperback movie tie-in February, 2007. The edition is still in print, priced at $13.99.
There was also a hardcover from the Science Fiction Book Club, with (as usual) a different cover:
The Best of Henry Kuttner was published by Ballantine Books in April, 1975. It is 398 pages, priced at $1.95.
So far we’ve covered the following volumes in the Classics of Science Fiction line (in order of publication):
The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum
The Best of Fritz Leiber
The Best of Henry Kuttner
The Best of John W. Campbell
The Best of C M Kornbluth
The Best of Philip K. Dick
The Best of Fredric Brown
The Best of Edmond Hamilton
The Best of Murray Leinster
The Best of Robert Bloch
The Best of Jack Williamson
The Best of Hal Clement
The Best of James Blish
See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.