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Vintage Treasures: Great Short Novels of Science Fiction, edited by Robert Silverberg

Monday, November 16th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Great Short Novels of Science Fiction-back-small Great Short Novels of Science Fiction-small

I have a real fondness for novellas. Like many other readers, I think they’re the perfect length for SF and fantasy — long enough to develop and explore a fascinating new setting, but short enough to keep the narrative fast-paced and lean.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many outlets for novellas these days. Economic realities have squeezed the page counts of print magazines, and most online magazines don’t publish them at all (Rashida J. Smith’s GigaNotoSaurus being the notable exception). Perhaps that’s why I’ve been so excited by Tor.com‘s new novella line, which has already produced some terrific titles.

So I do find myself drawn to anthologies that include novellas… like my favorite book of the year (so far), The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas: 2015, Peter Crowther’s excellent Cities, and many others. But I do miss the days when folks like Robert Silverberg would produce mass market paperbacks collecting some of the best novellas from the top science fiction magazines, as he did in Great Short Novels of Science Fiction, a 95-cent Ballantine paperback from 1970.

Great Short Novels of Science Fiction gathers five novellas and one novelette from the 1940s-1960s, including some of the most popular SF writers of the mid-20th Century. Folks like Roger Zelazny, A. Bertram Chandler, Jack Vance, C. M. Kornbluth, and others. Here’s a look at the magazines the stories first appeared in (click for bigger versions.)

Astounding Science Fiction October 1945-small Venture Science Fiction Magazine July 1958-small Astounding Science Fiction January 1952-small

Here’s the complete table of contents:

Introduction by Robert Silverberg
“Giant Killer,” by A. Bertram Chandler (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1945)
“Two Dooms,” by C. M. Kornbluth (Venture Science Fiction, July 1958)
“Telek,” by Jack Vance (Astounding Science Fiction, January 1952)
“Second Game,” by Katherine MacLean and Charles V. De Vet (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1958)
“Beyond Bedlam,” by Wyman Guin (Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1951)
“The Graveyard Heart,” by Roger Zelazny (Fantastic Stories of Imagination, March 1964)

Here are the last three magazines which produced these novellas:

Astounding Science Fiction March 1958-small Galaxy Science Fiction August 1951-small Fantastic Stories of Imagination March 1964-small

The Mammoth Book of Golden Age Science Fiction-smallIf you’re a novella fan, and especially if you’re a fan of vintage SF, here are a few other books you may want to keep an eye out for:

The Giant Anthology of Science Fiction, edited by Margulies and Friend (1954)
Six Great Short Science Fiction Novels, edited by Groff Conklin (1954)
A Century Of Great Short Science Fiction Novels, edited by Damon Knight (1965)
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume IIA: The Greatest Science Fiction Novellas of All Time, edited by Ben Bova (1973)
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume IIB: The Greatest Science Fiction Novellas of All Time, edited by Ben Bova (1973)
Arbor House Treasury of Great Science Fiction Short Novels, edited by Robert Silverberg and Martin Greenberg (1980)
Modern Classic Short Novels of Science Fiction, edited by Gardner Dozois (1994)
Nebula Award Winning Novellas, edited by Martin H. Greenberg (1994)

And especially the Mammoth Book series from Carroll & Graf, edited by Isaac Asimov, Charles G. Waugh, and Martin H. Greenberg:

The Mammoth Book of Classic Science Fiction: Short Novels of the 1930s (1988)
The Mammoth Book of Golden Age Science Fiction: Short Novels of the 1940s (1989)
The Mammoth Book of Vintage Science Fiction: Short Novels of the 1950s (1990)
The Mammoth Book of New World Science Fiction : Short Novels of the 1960s (1991)
The Mammoth Book of Fantastic Science Fiction: Short Novels of the 1970s (1992)
The Mammoth Book of Modern Science Fiction: Short Novels of the 1980s (1993)

Great Short Novels of Science Fiction was published by Ballantine Books in July 1970. It is 373 pages, priced at $0.95. The cover is by Donna Violetti. It has never been reprinted, and there is no digital edition. Good-condition copies on eBay and Amazon start at around $3.

See all of our recent vintage treasures here.

9 Comments »

  1. Really love the pair of ASTOUNDING covers. That’s a wonderful list of SF short novel collection. I wonder if there exists a Fantasy counterpart to them?

    Comment by DrFated - November 16, 2015 5:14 pm

  2. There’s actually three Astounding covers… but yeah, I know what you mean. Astounding had some top notch cover art.

    Good question about the fantasy counterpart. Let me ponder that one. Anyone have a suggestion?

    Comment by John ONeill - November 16, 2015 5:22 pm

  3. Ah, so it is three ASTOUNDINGs. I was referring to the pair on the far left. Collecting those old mags has always appealed to me but it’s not a collecting door I’ve opened. Very tempting, always, always. Maybe when all the old Pulps hit Kindle I’ll start buying them. Wish someone would start putting those out.

    Comment by DrFated - November 17, 2015 2:45 pm

  4. I was lucky enough to have all of the Astounding issues from Jan 1950 through December 1970 (yes, it morphed into Analog during that time) and so read a lot of great novellas, including the ones you show. Sadly those issues went away. I also came across several of the Mammoth collections in a used book store about 25 years ago, and still have those, somewhere. I *think* I read them all, but the memory doesn’t always serve.

    Comment by R.K. Robinson - November 17, 2015 9:18 pm

  5. I guess I got those Mammoth collections about FIFTEEN years ago…

    Comment by R.K. Robinson - November 17, 2015 9:19 pm

  6. > Collecting those old mags has always appealed to me but it’s not a collecting door I’ve opened.
    > Very tempting, always, always.

    DrFated,

    Well, this is a pretty good time to be collecting Astounding, as long time readers pass away or get rid of their collections. There’s usually 1-2 dozen collections on eBay at any given time, and you can expect to pay well under $1/issue for good-sized collections from the 50s and 50s (including shipping).

    For example, here’s a large lot of 30 Analog/Astoundings in fair shape from 1952 – 1959, with a Buy-it-Now price of $22.99 (including shipping):

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Large-lot-of-30-Analog-and-Astounding-Sci-Fi-Magazines-from-the-1950s-1952-1959-/331697569525

    If $22.99 is too steep, the seller has a “Make Offer” button for you to counter with a lower offer.

    I don’t suspect this period of low prices will continue, as the supply of individuals liquidating their personal collections is not infinite. If you wait 8-10 years to start collecting, you may find prices are very different.

    > Maybe when all the old Pulps hit Kindle I’ll start buying them.

    Sadly, that’s not likely to happen… it would be almost impossible to get the digital rights to all the stories, interior artwork, ads, non-fiction and cover art for each issue. The only way to collect these old issues is the old fashioned way.

    Comment by John ONeill - November 17, 2015 10:27 pm

  7. > I was lucky enough to have all of the Astounding issues from Jan 1950 through December 1970 (yes, it morphed into
    > Analog during that time) and so read a lot of great novellas, including the ones you show.

    R.K,

    Ah! You were lucky indeed. Someday when I retire, I’d love to start a reading project, and read through a year or two of digest Astoundings. It would be a delight to read all those early tales by Anne Mccaffrey, Bertram Chandler, Clifford D. Simak, Frank Herbert, and so many others in the pages in which they first appeared.

    Comment by John ONeill - November 17, 2015 10:34 pm

  8. For the fantasy counterparts, you may like Legends and <Legends 2, edited by Robert Silverberg, which collect new fantasy novellas set in well-known settings (Earthsea, Westeros, Pern) and written by the original authors.

    Comment by Eugene R. - November 18, 2015 12:45 am

  9. John, and the illustrations! Freas was my especial favorite, but all of them really enhanced the tales for me.

    Comment by R.K. Robinson - November 18, 2015 7:51 pm


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