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New Treasures: Worst Contact, edited by Hank Davis

Friday, December 23rd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

worst-contact-back-small worst-contact-small

No one out there today is doing the work Hank Davis is doing — collecting vintage SF and fantasy into handsome mass market anthologies.

Yes, Paula Guran (Street Magicks, Weird Detectives) and Neil Clarke (Galactic Empires) are producing great reprint anthologies — but they both focus almost exclusively on 21st Century authors. Davis is the one serious editor left still plumbing the pulps and vintage SF magazines of the mid-20th Century, and putting authors like Murray Leinster, John W. Campbell, and Poul Anderson into mass market. His recent books (including Things From Outer Space and In Space No One Can Hear You Scream) include some of my very favorite recent anthologies.

While we’re on the topic (and since it’s, y’know, timely), I should also mention he’s also the only SF editor in recent days to do Christmas anthologies, like A Cosmic Christmas and A Cosmic Christmas 2 You.

His first anthology of 2016 was Worst Contact, a collection of tales of alien contact gone wrong. It contains two of my all-time favorite SF stories, Terry Bisson’s brilliant “They’re Made Out of Meat,” the story of an alien survey team that makes a profoudly disturbing discovery on the backwater planet Earth, and Fredric Brown’s chilling and powerful “Puppet Show,” in which the US Army is called in to greet a strange alien and his donkey walking out of the desert.

[Click the images to embiggen.]

Worst Contact also includes fiction by Clifford D. Simak, A. Bertram Chandler, Lloyd Biggle, Jr, Gene Wolfe, David Brin, Tony Daniel, Larry Niven, Robert Sheckley and many others — and a brand new story by Sarah A. Hoyt. It also includes a nice introduction by Davis.

Here’s a sample of some of the magazines and anthologies these tales originally appeared in.

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And here’s the complete Table of Contents.

Introduction: From First to Worst, by Hank Davis
“Puppet Show” by Fredric Brown (Playboy, November 1962)
“Contact!” by David Drake (Analog, October 1974)
“The Power” by Murray Leinster (Astounding Science Fiction, September 1945)
“Early Model” by Robert Sheckley (Galaxy, August 1956)
“Her Sister’s Keeper” by Sarah A. Hoyt — original
“Plaything” by Larry Niven (If: Worlds of Science Fiction, July 1974)
“Random Sample” by Charles C. Munoz (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1953)
“No Love in All of Dwingeloo” by Tony Daniel (Asimov’s Science Fiction, November 1995)
“First Contact, Sort of” by Karen Haber and Carol Carr (The Ultimate Alien, October 1995)
“Fortitude” by David Brin (Science Fiction Age, January 1996)
“They’re Made Out of Meat” by Terry Bisson (Omni, April 1991)
“Alien Stones” by Gene Wolfe (Orbit 11, 1972)
“Pictures Don’t Lie” by Katherine MacLean (Galaxy, August 1951)
“Backwardness” by Poul Anderson (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1958)
“Dodger Fan” by Will Stanton (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1957)
“No Shoulder to Cry On” by Hank Davis (Analog, June 1968)
“Hornets’ Nest” by Lloyd Biggle, Jr. (If: Worlds of Science Fiction, September 1959)
“Protected Species” by H. B. Fyfe (Astounding Science-Fiction, March 1951)
“The Cage” by A. Bertram Chandler (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1957)
“Shadow World” by Clifford D. Simak (Galaxy, September, 1957)

Our previous coverage of Hank Davis anthologies includes:

In Space No One Can Hear You Scream
The Baen Big Book of Monsters
Celebrate the Holidays with A Cosmic Christmas
Things From Outer Space

Worst Contact was published by Baen Books on January 5, 2016. It is 362 pages, priced at $14 in trade paperback and $8.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Stephen Hickman.

See all of our recent New Treasures here.


  1. A lot of familiar names in that ToC. Glad that Hank’s still doing great editing.

    Comment by Bill Crider - December 23, 2016 10:25 pm

  2. Right down my alley!

    Comment by Thomas Parker - December 23, 2016 10:47 pm

  3. Got to say:”Great cover!”

    Comment by James McGlothlin - December 24, 2016 12:35 am

  4. I’m old enough to have read the old SF magazines when they came out, but I still missed them, partly because my interest in genre SF developed rather late, and partly because I live where these magazines were not distributed.

    So anthologies are my gateway to a past I missed completely. And as Johns says, nobody else is regularly bringing us old stuff between new covers. Well, Mike Ashley, perhaps, but his last anthology of this type came out in 2013.

    So, more power to Hank Davis! His anthologies are a very small corner of the genre book market, but it’s a corner I visit often.

    Comment by dolphintornsea - December 24, 2016 10:59 am

  5. Fantastic stuff but where is Damon Knight’s “To serve man”?

    Comment by huetenan - December 24, 2016 4:13 pm

  6. > Glad that Hank’s still doing great editing.



    He’s got another one being released this week! If This Goes Wrong. All about the potential downside of the future. With stories by Robert A. Heinlein, Sarah A. Hoyt, Fritz Leiber, Gordon R. Dickson, Lester del Rey, Christopher Anvil, Fredric Brown, and others.


    Comment by John ONeill - December 24, 2016 6:43 pm

  7. > Got to say:”Great cover!”


    I was surprised to see it was by Stephen Hickman… I haven’t seen a Hickman cover in years. Made me curious about whether it was new or (more likely) a reprint… but if it’s a reprint, I couldn’t tell you where it originally appeared.

    Comment by John ONeill - December 24, 2016 6:45 pm

  8. > So, more power to Hank Davis! His anthologies are a very small corner of the genre book market, but it’s a corner I visit often.


    Hear hear!

    The last Davis anthology I covered (Things From Outer Space) was a mass market paperback, which I was delighted to see. Worst Contact returns to the trade paperback format, and I think the same is true of If This Goes Wrong. Not that there’s anything wrong with trade editions… but it was cheap mass market anthologies that truly introduced me to vintage SF in the 70s, and I’d hate to see this generation denied the same gateway.

    Comment by John ONeill - December 24, 2016 6:51 pm

  9. > Fantastic stuff but where is Damon Knight’s “To serve man”


    Great question!

    Comment by John ONeill - December 24, 2016 6:52 pm

  10. I would’ve also tried to find room for Heinlein’s Goldfish Bowl, all other things being equal.

    Comment by Joe H. - December 25, 2016 2:30 am

  11. Interesting that he was able to include a Heinlein story.

    The VanderMeers recently noted that they were unable to obtain reprint rights to a Heinlein story for THE BIG BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION, and that was surely the retro anthology of the year.

    Comment by dolphintornsea - December 25, 2016 1:32 pm

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