I’ve heard it said many a time that online shopping will never replace a good bookstore, because you can’t make those delicious unexpected discoveries online.
Well, that certainly hasn’t been my experience. My most recent example? Damon Knight’s 1974 fantasy reprint anthology The Golden Road: Great Tales of Fantasy and the Supernatural, which I found on eBay while bidding on a small collection of British fantasy paperbacks from the same seller.
Now, I’ve never even heard of The Golden Road, and I most definitely stumbled on it while I wasn’t looking for it, so it certainly counts as a delicious and unexpected discovery. Plus, I won it for a measly five bucks plus shipping, so it’s sort of like making a delicious and unexpected discovery at a neighborhood garage sale, when your neighbor has no idea how to haggle.
Why’d I bid on a book I’d never heard of? Partly because of Damon Knight’s sterling rep, which he earned with numerous highly regarded anthologies, including 21 volumes of the legendary Orbit. But also because, wow, I really had never heard of this thing, and just look at it. It’s 44 years old and it looks brand new. Plus, it’s 447 pages long, and I bet it could keep me entertained for an entire weeklong cruise to Ecuador.
There’s a reason I’d never heard of The Golden Road. The Damon Knight anthologies I’m most familiar with — like A Century of Science Fiction (1962), A Century of Great Short Science Fiction Novels (1964), A Science Fiction Argosy (1972), and Science Fiction of the Thirties (1976) — were highly successful, and went through multiple editions in hardcover and paperback. Not so with this one.
The Golden Road was reprinted once, by Gollancz in the UK in November 1974, and otherwise has been out of print for nearly 44 years. There was no paperback, and no digital edition. As far as US editions are concerned, this is a lonely hardcover.
Whatever vagaries of published doomed this book to a singular American edition, it certainly wasn’t the contents. It’s packed full of fantasy classics old and new, including a novella by Mark Twain, “Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven” (which, despite the title, is not part of a larger work); an Unknown novella by Robert A. Heinlein, “Magic, Inc.” (1940); H.P Lovecraft’s famous novella “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” (1943), unpublished during his lifetime; an Earthsea tale by Ursula K. Le Guin from 1964; a Magic Goes Away story by Larry Niven from 1969, and a whole lot more.
Here’s the complete TOC.
Introduction by Damon Knight
“Are You Too Late or Was I Too Early?” by John Collier (The New Yorker, April 14, 1951)
“Entire and Perfect Chrysolite” by R. A. Lafferty (Orbit 6, 1970)
“Jenny with Wings” by Kate Wilhelm (The Mile-Long Spaceship, 1963)
“The Truth About Pyecraft” by H. G. Wells (The Strand Magazine, April 1903)
“The Words of Guru” by C. M. Kornbluth (Stirring Science Stories, June 1941)
“Postpaid to Paradise” by Robert Arthur (Argosy, June 15, 1940)
“The White People” by Arthur Machen (Horlick’s Magazine, January 1904)
“Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven” by Mark Twain (Harper’s Magazine, December 1907)
“Will You Wait?” by Alfred Bester (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1959)
“The King of the Cats” by Stephen Vincent Benét (Harper’s Bazaar, February 1929)
“The Word of Unbinding” by Ursula K. Le Guin (Fantastic Stories of Imagination, January 1964)
“Magic, Inc.” by Robert A. Heinlein (Unknown Fantasy Fiction, September 1940)
“Anything Box” by Zenna Henderson (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1956)
“Artist Unknown” by Heywood Broun (1941)
“The Silence” by Venard McLaughlin (Stirring Science Stories, June 1941)
“The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” by H. P. Lovecraft (Beyond the Wall of Sleep, 1943)
“The Weeblies” by Algis Budrys (Fantasy Fiction, June 1953)
“Phantas” by Oliver Onions (Nash’s Magazine, February 1910)
“Not Long Before the End” by Larry Niven (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1969)
The Golden Road: Great Tales of Fantasy and the Supernatural was published by Simon & Schuster in January 1974. It is 447 pages, priced at $8.95 in hardcover. The cover was designed by Joel Avirom.
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