Omnibuses: Across the Sea of Stars (Harcourt Brace World, 1959) From the Ocean, From the Stars (Harcourt Brace World, 1961) Prelude to Mars (Harcourt Brace World, 1965; book club edition shown) The Lion of Comarre and Against the Fall of Night (Harcourt Brace World, 1968; book club edition shown)
Arthur C. Clarke was one of the major science fiction writers of the 1950s through the 1970s; his biggest claim to fame was as coauthor, along with filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, of the film and novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. He was a British scientist who lived most of his life in Ceylon, later known as Sri Lanka, and wrote numerous books about his skin diving adventures in that area. He began publishing short stories as early as 1937, and his novels beginning in the 1950s included Childhood’s End, The City and the Stars, and Rendezvous with Rama.
This is the first of two posts about Arthur C. Clarke’s short fiction, which comprise nearly 100 titles and include such famous works as “The Star” and “The Nine Billion Names of God,” not to mention “The Sentinel,” one of the (several) inspirations for 2001. This post will trace the overlaps between Clarke’s early collections and the later “omnibuses” and “remixes.” The next post will review the stories, both in general terms and to highlight the 8 or 10 or 12 best, or most significant, Clarke stories, in my judgment.
20 of the 22 volumes of The Year’s Best Horror Stories (DAW Books)
Today I’m beginning a new series of posts investigating DAW Books’ Year’s Best Horror Stories series, which ran from 1971 to 1994. As a fan of literary horror, I’m excited to sequentially read through these volumes and share my thoughts with you. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to discover some great stories and authors, perhaps some we’ve never read before, and I’m also hoping that we will be able to see how trends in horror have changed over the years. Each post will investigate one volume at a time.
Except this first one, in which I want to explore the impetus and beginnings of the series as a whole.
Isaac Asimov’s Magical Worlds of Fantasy 10: Ghosts (Signet/New American Library, 1988). Cover by J. K. Potter
Isaac Asimov had a lot of gifts. He was a world famous polymath, a marvelous science explainer and popularizer, and a pretty darned skilled writer of science fiction. But he doesn’t get a lot of credit for one of his greatest talents, a skill in short supply even today: The man knew how to sell anthologies.
After some of his early SF anthologies became enduring top-sellers, often remaining in print for decades (including The Hugo Winners, Volume I and II, Before the Golden Age, and Where Do We Go From Here), publishers discovered that the name Isaac Asimov on the cover of an anthology almost guaranteed it would sell.
Asimov exploited this heavily for the remainder of his career, lending his fame to many important anthology series, often co-created with frequent collaborators Martin H. Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh. These include The Great Science Fiction Stories (25 volumes in 23 years), Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction (10 volumes in 8 years), and Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Fantasy (12 volumes in 9 years). It’s that last one we’re going to look at today, with one of the final volumes: Ghosts, published by Signet in 1988.
Contact by Carl Sagan
First Edition: Simon and Schuster, October 1985, Jacket painting by Jon Lomberg
by Carl Sagan
Simon and Schuster (432 pages, $18.95, Hardcover, October 1985)
Jacket painting by Jon Lomberg
Carl Sagan is known as the greatest science popularizer who was also a legitimate scientist of the late 20th century. His landmark achievement was a 13-part TV series, Cosmos, broadcast in 1980, and its companion book of that same year. Sagan was an astronomer and planetary scientist, whose achievements included planning the first Mariner mission to Venus in the 1960s and the Viking landers on Mars in 1976. His first popular book, The Cosmic Connection (1973), won a special nonfiction John W. Campbell Memorial Award – the only time that award went to a nonfiction book – in 1974. Indeed, that’s how I first heard of Carl Sagan, having been following the science fiction awards for just a year or two, at my age then. …
Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home (Ace Books, 1973). Cover by Chris Foss
Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home was the debut collection from one of the most important science fiction writers of the 20th Century, James Tiptree, Jr (the well known pseudonym of Alice B. Sheldon). Tiptree published half a dozen additional collections during her lifetime, and several very important volumes gathering her best short fiction have been assembled since her death, most notably Her Smoke Rose Up Forever (Arkham House, 1990), one of the seminal SF books of the century.
But it probably won’t surprise any of you to learn that I still prefer the original paperbacks, flawed and poorly edited as they were. Thomas Parker calledTen Thousand Light Years from Home “the worst-proofread book I’ve ever read,” and let’s just say he’s not the only one to notice.
Supermind (DAW Books, 1979). Cover by Attila Hejja
In the mid-70s A.E. van Vogt was one of the most prolific and respected SF authors on the shelves. His books Slan, The Voyage of the Space Beagle, and The World of Null-A were required reading for any serious science fiction fan, and half a dozen publishers — including DAW, Ace, Berkley and Pocket Books — were competing to keep his large and lucrative back catalog in print.
Today he’s essentially forgotten. And unlike a lot of popular authors of the era — Heinlein, Asimov, Philip K. Dick, just as a few examples — there isn’t a highly visible group of fans fighting to keep his memory alive, or bring his most popular work to the attention of Hollywood. Van Vogt first emerged in the pulps, and he mastered the art of writing for a pulp audience. Of the writers I still read read today, his voice most vividly reminds me of the pulp era of science fiction, with all its strengths and weaknesses — including, unfortunately, a simple and unadorned writing style that’s largely unappealing to modern readers.
The Best of John Brunner (Del Rey, 1988). Cover by Barclay Shaw
After several years, I’m finally gotten to the last of the Del Rey Classic Science Fiction Series! The Best of John Brunner was published in 1988. But is this book even part of that series? The previous installment, The Best of James Blish was published 9 years earlier. And though The Best of John Brunner is indeed a Del Rey publication, and it says “Classic Science Fiction” on the cover, the cover design is much different, including the font, from earlier editions.
However, in this post, I’ll treat it as the twenty-second and last installment of the Del Rey Classic Science Fiction Series. (Heck, even John O’Neill didn’t know this volume existed until a few years ago.)
The Magic Toyshop (Dell, 1969). Cover art by Michael Leonard
The Magic Toyshop, first released in 1967, was Angela Carter’s second novel. She eventually published over a dozen novels and collections between 1966 and 1992, when she died of lung cancer at the much-too-young age of 51. Three decades later she’s still remembered as a feminist icon and master of magical realism; in 2008 The Times ranked her 10th in their list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945.”
The Pangaea volumes: Imperium Without End and Imperium Afire (Bantam Spectra, 1999 and 2000). Covers by Sanjulian
Lisa Mason began her career in the late 80s; her first novel was the cyberpunk Arachne (1990), set in an earthquake-devastated San Francisco. Her most popular title, Summer of Love (1994), about a time traveler from 2467 who visits the 1967 Summer of Love in San Francisco, was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award and spawned one sequel, The Golden Nineties (1995).
We’re concerned today with perhaps her most ambitious series, the two-volume Pangaeacycle set on a distant world (which — spoiler — turns out to be an alternate history version of San Francisco) where people live and work in a rigid society strictly segregated by genetic purity. Here’s John Clute’s summary from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.
The Best of James Blish (Del Rey, 1979). Cover by H. R. Van Dongen
The Best of James Blish (1979) was the twenty-first (and penultimate!) installment in Lester Del Rey’s Classic Science Fiction Series. (Only one more to go!) Science fiction author Robert A. W. Lowndes (1916–1998) provided the introduction — his only one in the series. Sci-fi artist H. R. Van Dongen (1920–2010) provides the ninth cover in the series, the most used artist of the series.
James Blish (1921–1975) was an American science fiction and sometimes fantasy author. He was one of the original Futurians, and besides writing oodles of short fiction and novels, he became also well-known for writing a series of Star Treknovelizations with his second wife J. A. Lawrence. According to Wikipedia, Blish is credited with inventing the term “gas giant” to refer to large planetary bodies. Blish is someone I had never read before, but whose name often comes up in discussion of classic science fiction.