An Anthology for Anthologists: Continuum by Roger Elwood

An Anthology for Anthologists: Continuum by Roger Elwood


Continuum 1-4 (Berkley Medallion paperback editions, 1975-76). Covers by Vincent Di Fate

The accolade “anthologist” is not easily obtained. One can only imagine the effort spent splicing different elements into a cohesive anthology that sits well, and with a theme that attracts buyers.

Roger Elwood (1943-2007) most definitely earned that title, having put together 64 mostly science fiction anthologies between 1964 and 1980. Like many of his peers, he was also an author who published a small number of fiction novels and short stories, not to mention editing the short-lived Odyssey magazine (1976).

This article is not a celebration of Mr. Elwood’s career, though. I want to look at an intriguing oddity from the the past century, a 4-volume anthology series he edited titled Continuum.

[Click the images for larger versions.]


Continuum 1-4 (Star UK reprints, 1977). Covers by Patrick Woodroffe

Is it an anthology? Is it a magazine specializing in serial stories? A bit of both perhaps, while at the same time neither in the true sense. Continuum was perhaps best described by Mr. Elwood, in the front matter of Volume 1:

Solid science fiction, eight outstanding authors, an unusual format – this is the tapestry of Continuum, a revolutionary concept in SF anthologies, where each book in the series, of which this is the first, stands as an entity on its own, at the same time forming an integral part of a continuing cycle.

PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER
POUL ANDERSON
CHAD OLIVER
THOMAS SCORTIA
ANNE McCAFFREY
GENE WOLFE
EDGAR PANGBORN

These are the authors who create their own strange and fascinating worlds to which they return in each successive volume, thus contributing to a unique experiment in SF. Also included is the totally original revolving authorship series conceived by DEAN R. KOONTZ and continued by three eminent authors in the field.


Back covers to the Berkley Medallion paperback editions of Continuum 1-4. Click for legible versions.

Modern readers interested in the individual storylines may find it easier to locate them in collected editions rather than trying to hunt down all four volumes of Continuum. Many of the authors involved were household names in the field, and saw their contributions reprinted.

Philip José Farmer’s tales were collected as Stations of the Nightmare by Tor/Pinnacle in 1982 and reprinted in 1988 by Tor.

Poul Anderson’s History of Rustm tales were collected, with other work set in the same universe published in magazines like Fantastic and Astounding, in book form as New America, published by Tor in 1982.


Stations of the Nightmare (Tor Books, 1982 and 1988 reprint; covers by
Greg Theakston and Ron Walotsky) and New America (Tor, 1982, cover by Tom Kidd)

Anne McCaffrey’s Crystal Singer serial saw a partial reprint in Croatia (or Yugoslavia at the time) in Sirius magazine. A bit of a surprise, considering McCaffrey’s international fame, and the popularity of that well loved series.

Edgar Pangborn is not as well known as he should be. His four tales in Continuum were all part of his Tales of a Darkening World (the setting for much of his fiction, including the novels Davy, The Judgment of Eve, and The Company of Glory), Dell had the honor of gathering them in book form as part of his 1978 collection Still I persist in Wondering.

The prize for having Continuum work reprinted most frequently has to go to Gene Wolfe, whose stories have been republished numerous times. The easiest place to find them is his collection Endangered Species, published by Tor in 1989 and 1990, a hefty volume that gathered a number of his stories, including all of his Continuum work.


Sirius #35 (Vjesnik, 1979; cover by Frank Kelly Freas), Still I Persist in Wondering
(Dell, 1978, artist unknown), Endangered Species (Tor, 1990, cover by Marco Patrito)

Read all the details, including the complete contents for each volume, at my blog here.


Tony Den is an occasional contributor to Black Gate. His most recent articles tackled the subject of the Silent Death miniatures tabletop  game and may be viewed here and here. His long awaited website revamp has been completed, check it out at RuneQuest.za.org

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smitty59

I remember that Elwood took a lot of heat for a number of his anthologies, primarily because he published so many, and because the quality of what he accepted and published was inconsistent. And, if memory serves, he was criticized for some of his personal religious beliefs, which supposedly led to some questionable editing of what he published; I worked in retail book sales for 14 years (1976-90), starting just about the time Elwood was moving away from SF, and a few of the publishing houses that printed some of those anthologies were, primarily, publishers of Christian materials. But I did read 6 or 7 of those anthologies, including all four of the “Continuum” series (I still have them all, in the original hardcover editions), and they were the best of the bunch. The ISFDB makes no mention of his connection to the Laser Books line in their entry on Elwood. The SFE site, however, identifies Elwood as the Laser Books editor — and explicitly states that, among other restrictions, Elwood permitted no sex or atheism in that line. Whether he helped promote SF and fantasy with his collections, or hurt the field with sub-par material, is up to the individual reader. I’ve read a little more than half of the Laser titles, and I’ll admit I’d probably have enjoyed them more when I was still in high school.

Tony Den

I came across an article badmouthing Roger Elwood while doing a little research. Mostly about flooding the market with anthologies, and the sometimes questionable quality, but thought it best to steer clear of controversy in the article.

I am curious Smitty, when you read them did you read each book in sequence, or pick an author and read their specific story line across all four volumes before moving to the next author?

smitty59

Good question, Tony. Since I had all four volumes before I began reading, I read each author’s story in sequence across all 4 volumes. It was the best way for me to maintain the flow of the story.

James McGlothlin

Those Star UK reprints have wonderful covers. I love hunting down this British paperbacks. The covers, I think, are so much more evocative! Thanks for the post.

Tony Den

Thanks James. The artist was Patrick Woodroffe. I have loved his art for years.

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