In the early 50s, everyone was busy trying to prove how grown up science fiction was. That it wasn’t just kid’s stuff, pulp tales of alien invasions that only appealed to fourteen year-old boys. The earliest genre anthologies on the market — like Groff Conklin’s The Best of Science Fiction (1946) and Healy and McComas’ Adventures in Time and Space (1946) — strained to show the ambitious side of SF, its respect for science and the unique way it examined the future.
In 1953, Fredric Brown and Mack Reynolds decided to take a very different approach, displaying instead the fun side of SF in their classic anthology Science Fiction Carnival. It collected stories showing “a sharply sardonic view of our future” from Murray Leinster, Richard Matheson, William Tenn, Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore, Eric Frank Russell, and many others.
It was reprinted in paperback by Bantam Books in an abridged version in June 1957. The abridged version (above) dropped William Tenn’s novella “Venus and the Seven Sexes,” and Richard Matheson’s short story “SRL Ad.” The 1957 paperback edition was never reprinted, and has now been out of print for… let me do the math…. very nearly 60 years. Nonetheless, the paperback edition is a very easy find, and copies in good condition start at around $4.50 on eBay and Amazon.
The hardcover version is harder to come across. But when I checked this morning, there was one copy on eBay, with a starting bid of $69.
The complete table of contents of the hardcover edition of Science Fiction Carnival are:
Introduction by Fredric Brown
Preface by Mack Reynolds
“The Wheel of Time” by Robert Arthur (Super Science Stories, March 1950)
“SRL Ad” by Richard Matheson (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1952)
“A Logic Named Joe” by Murray Leinster (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1946)
“Simworthy’s Circus” by Larry T. Shaw (Worlds Beyond, December 1950)
“The Well-Oiled Machine” by H. B. Fyfe (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 1950)
“Venus and the Seven Sexes” by William Tenn (The Girl with the Hungry Eyes, and Other Stories, 1949)
“The Swordsmen of Varnis” by Clive Jackson (Other Worlds Science Stories, September 1950)
“Paradox Lost” by Fredric Brown (Astounding Science-Fiction, October 1943)
“Muten” by Eric Frank Russell (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1948)
“The Martians and the Coys” by Mack Reynolds (Imagination, June 1951)
“The Ego Machine” by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (Space Science Fiction, May 1952)
“The Cosmic Jackpot” by George O. Smith (Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1948)
“The Abduction of Abner Greer” by Nelson S. Bond (Blue Book Magazine, 1941)
Science Fiction Carnival was published by Shasta in December 1953. It is 315 pages in hardcover, priced at $3.50. The cover is by Adri Ames. It was reprinted in paperback by Bantam Books in an abridged version in June 1957 (175 pages, 35 cents). There is no digital edition.
See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.