Vintage Treasures: The Best Science Fiction 1974, edited by Lester del Rey, Terry Carr, and Donald Wollheim

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year 4-medium The-Best-Science-Fiction-of-the-Year-4-Terry-Carr-medium2 The 1975 Annual World's Best SF-medium

In his Foreword to his Fourth Annual Collection of Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year, which gathered stories published in 1974, Lester del Rey makes the case for Sense of Wonder as the core literary virtue of science fiction.

There is another element that must be present in every good science fiction story. It should excite a feeling of wonder, of something beyond the ordinary. It is the expectation of finding such wonders that makes the reader turn to science fiction rather than to more conventional tales of adventure.

There was a time, forty or fifty years ago, when what was then called “scientifiction” had little more than this sense of wonder to recommend it. Most of the writing was dreadful, the characters were little more than stick figures, and the plots were creakingly devoted to nothing but gadgetry. Yet, bad as they were, these stories opened the imagination to wonderful vistas of the future, of the triumph of mankind beyond normal limits, and to all things strange and alien.

Today, the situation has changed. The newer writers — and the older ones who have survived in the field — have learned their craft well. The writing is incredibly better. Gone are the horible cliches of the worst of pulp fiction: the trite mad scientists, and the banal heroines who are mere props for the hero to save from a fate worse than death. Gone are the spate of pseudo-science words and the plethora of meaningless adjectives.

Happily, in the best of science fiction the sense of wonder is still with us.

We need that feeling of wonder today, perhaps more than ever, when mainstream literature and our daily newspapers keep telling us that — in the words of Wordsworth — “The world is too much with us; late and soon;/Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers…” We need to be reminded that the future is still unexplored territory and that we can read to the end of the sonnet and “Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;/Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.”

I don’t often get to mix Wordsworth with my science fiction; allow me to celebrate a little when it happens organically.

Read More »


A Return to Terry Carr’s Best Science Fiction of the Year

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Terry Carr Best Science Fiction of the Year-small

My taste in science fiction — like my taste in music and film — was shaped early. What I learned to love as a teen I largely still enjoy… with some exceptions. One of those exceptions is Terry Carr’s Best Science Fiction of the Year. I picked up my first one in 1977, at the age of 13, and I discovered pretty quickly that they weren’t for me. I went back to reading pulp SF in books like Before the Golden Age, and was blissfully happy to do so for many years.

I’ve returned to Carr’s Best Science Fiction of the Year recently, and discovered why I didn’t connect with them four decades ago: unlike many of his contemporaries, Carr brought an adult eye to SF, and the fiction he selected spoke to adults. It still speaks to adults today, clearly and with no loss of voice, and I now consider Carr’s Best volumes — especially the ones he did in the mid-70s — to be some some of the best SF anthologies ever printed. Here’s what I said last year about #3, published in 1973.

How incredible was The Best Science Fiction of the Year #3? It contains some of the finest science fiction stories of all time, packed into one slender volume. Like “The Women Men Don’t See” by James Tiptree, Jr… perhaps her most famous story, and that’s saying something. And Vonda N. McIntyre’s Nebula Award-winning “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand,” which became the basis of her 1978 novel Dreamsnake (which swept the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards the following year.) And Harlan Ellison’s classic “The Deathbird,” the Hugo and Locus Award-winning title story of his celebrated 1975 collection Deathbird Stories. Plus Gene Wolfe’s famous “The Death of Dr. Island,” winner of the Locus and Nebula awards for Best Novella.

And an unassuming little story by a young writer named Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” which won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story, and is considered by many (me included) to be one of the finest short stories ever written. And lots more — including a Jack Vance novella, plus stories by Philip José Farmer, Alfred Bester, R. A. Lafferty, Robert Silverberg, and F. M. Busby. All for $1.50!

Last month I purchased a fine collection of six Best Science Fiction of the Year volumes (pictured above) on eBay for the criminally low price of $7. They arrived a few weeks ago, and I’ve stolen a few minutes here and there to dip into them. It’s been an enormously rewarding experience.

Read More »


Vintage Treasures: The Best Science Fiction Novellas of the Year 1, edited by Terry Carr

Monday, November 27th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best Science Fiction Novellas of the Year 1 Terry Carr-small The Best Science Fiction Novellas of the Year 1 Terry Carr-back-small

Some of the most rewarding books I’ve read in the past few years have been anthologies edited by Terry Carr. Even though he died 30 years ago, in April 1987, his books remain splendid reading for modern audiences, and I think it’s very possible Carr may have been the most gifted editor our field has ever seen. The sixteen volumes of The Best Science Fiction of the Year (1972-1987) he edited may well be the high water mark for Year’s Best anthologies.

In 1979 and 1980, Carr convinced Lester del Del at Del Rey Books to allow him to try an experiment. In effect, to see if the market would bear an additional Terry Carr Best SF, this one showcasing the best SF novellas of the year. It was a noble ambition, and a great idea, but that didn’t mean the market was ready for it. The Best Science Fiction Novellas of the Year died after two volumes, and Carr went back to the frustrating task of trying to fit as many novellas as he could into his slender Best SF paperbacks every year.

I’ve never read either of his Best Novellas books before. But, like his regular Best SF series, both volumes are packed with classic fiction that has stood the test of time, as well as genuine finds. I recently came across the first one in a collection I bought on eBay. I was expecting greatness, and I was not disappointed.

Read More »


Vintage Treasures: World’s Best Science Fiction 1965 – 1970, edited by Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Ace Best Science Fiction of the Year 1965 1970-small

If you’ve been paying attention over the past two months, you’re probably aware that we’re deep into the Year’s Best Science Fiction season. So far this year Solaris, Night Shade, and Prime Books have all released Best of the Year anthologies (edited by Jonathan Strahan, Neil Clarke and Rich Horton, respectively), and in the next few months we can expect additional volumes by Gardner Dozois, John Joseph Adams, Ellen Datlow, Paula Guran, Stephan Jones, and others.

Now I know what you’re thinking. What the heck, world? My favorite fantasy series gets canceled after three volumes, but eight publishers happily produce Best of the Year anthologies every single year? How is that even possible? And you know, that’s not a bad question. How did we get to the point where the market is willing to bear so many books that all claim to contain the best science fiction of the year?

Everett F. Bleiler and T.E. Dikty are widely credited with creating the first such anthology, The Best Science Fiction Stories: 1949. But our current appetite for Best of the Year volumes can be traced back to Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr, two of the most important editors our field has ever seen. Starting in 1965 and running until Wollheim’s death in 1990, together and separately Wollheim and Carr produced over 50 Best of the Year volumes, and in the process they shaped the direction of short fiction in the genre for generations to come. Their books were of such high quality that they were must-reads for all serious fans of science fiction and fantasy. Year after year the Carr and Wollheim anthologies were absolutely indispensable, and if you enjoy the rich assortment of modern Best of the Year editions, you can trace our modern enthusiasm for the format directly back to these two men.

Read More »


Vintage Treasures: The Best Science Fiction of the Year #3, edited by Terry Carr

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best Science Fiction of the Year 3 Terry Carr-small The Best Science Fiction of the Year 3 Terry Carr back-small

How did Terry Carr’s Best Science Fiction of the Year paperback anthology series last an incredible sixteen years, from 1972 until his death in 1987?

It’s not that hard to figure out. When early volumes were as amazing as #3, released in July 1974, it didn’t take long for these books to establish a stellar reputation — and a staunchly loyal readership.

How incredible was The Best Science Fiction of the Year #3?

It contains some of the finest science fiction stories of all time, packed into one slender volume. Like “The Women Men Don’t See” by James Tiptree, Jr… perhaps her most famous story, and that’s saying something. And Vonda N. McIntyre’s Nebula Award-winning “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand,” which became the basis of her 1978 novel Dreamsnake (which swept the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards the following year.) And Harlan Ellison’s classic “The Deathbird,” the Hugo and Locus Award-winning title story of his celebrated 1975 collection Deathbird Stories. Plus Gene Wolfe’s famous “The Death of Dr. Island,” winner of the Locus and Nebula awards for Best Novella.

And an unassuming little story by a young writer named Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” which won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story, and is considered by many (me included) to be one of the finest short stories ever written. And lots more — including a Jack Vance novella, plus stories by Philip José Farmer, Alfred Bester, R. A. Lafferty, Robert Silverberg, and F. M. Busby. All for $1.50!

Read More »


Vintage Treasures: The Best Science Fiction of the Year #4, edited by Terry Carr

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best Science Fiction of the Year 4 Terry Carr-small The Best Science Fiction of the Year 4 Terry Carr-back-small

With all the Best of the Year volumes arriving over the past few months — from Jonathan Strahan, Rich Horton, Neil Clarke, and David Afsharirad, and more due next month from Gardner Dozois, Paula Guran, and others — it’s hard to remember those dark years in the mid-20th Century when there were only two or three.

Hard, but not impossible. Don Wollheim, Lester del Rey, and the great Terry Carr all had Best of the Year anthologies back in the mid-70s. I know because I bought and cherished them as they showed up in bookstores, starting around 1977 or so. I think my favorite editor of the batch was Terry Carr, who was already famous for his exemplary work at Ace at the time.

How good was Carr at extracting the cream of the crop from the digest magazines in the 70s? Depends who you ask of course, but in general Carr’s reputation was stellar. I’d read plenty of anthologies from the era, but I didn’t remember the magazines I read at the time well enough to say for certain.

However, I recently had the opportunity to do a little primary research of my own. I bought a collection of vintage Analog magazines from the early 70s, back when Ben Bova was editor, and I’ve spent a week of warm evenings on the porch with them, pretending I was Rich Horton.

Read More »


Vintage Treasures: Universe 13 edited by Terry Carr

Sunday, March 30th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Universe 13 Terry Carr-smallLast Sunday, I was busy complaining about the apparent death of the original SF and fantasy paperback anthology series (as one does), when it occurred to me that I should probably read a few of the books I was talking about.

Nothing like waxing nostalgic and working up a good frothy indignation at the death of a vital part of American culture to remind you that your memories on the subject are actually kinda vague and unspecific. It’s a crime that Universe is no longer being published! It was a source of some of the most brilliant SF of the 70s! I think. Wait, which one was Universe again?

So I decided to start by reading Universe 13. Partly because Terry Carr really was a terrific editor and he knew how to put together a splendid anthology. But mostly because I found a copy in easy reach in a stack of vintage paperbacks and I didn’t have to get up out of my big green chair.

I’ve talked about Universe before, especially about Carr’s insight into the field. One of the most famous quotes about science fiction comes from his introduction to Universe 3, which I printed in 2012 and I’d like to reprint here:

When aficionados of this field get together, that’s a standard topic of discussion. When was science fiction’s golden age? Some say the early forties, when John W. Campbell and a host of new writers like Heinlein, Sturgeon and van Vogt were transforming the entire field; others point to the early fifties, to [editors] H.L. Gold and Anthony Boucher and to such writers as Damon Knight, Alfred Bester and Ray Bradbury. Some will lay claims for the late sixties, when the new wave passed and names like Ballard, Disch and Aldiss came forward. There are still people around, too, who’ll tell you about 1929 and David H. Keller, E.E. Smith and Ray Cummings.

The clue in most cases is when the person talking first began to read science fiction. When it was all new, all of it was exciting. Years ago a friend of mine, Pete Graham, tersely answered the question “When was the golden age of science fiction?” by saying “Twelve.” He didn’t have to explain further; we knew what he meant.

Read More »


Vintage Treasures: Creatures From Beyond, edited by Terry Carr

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Creatures from Beyond-smallIt shouldn’t be a surprise that I didn’t discover science fiction and fantasy through novels — not really. I discovered it by reading short stories in Junior High, and especially the enticing anthologies on display every week in the library at St. Francis School in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I didn’t really know what science fiction was; but if it had monsters on the cover, I was all over it.

The first anthology I can recall reading was Creatures From Beyond, a marvelous monster-fest if ever there was one. When I tracked it down again decades later, I was delighted to discover the editor was none other than Terry Carr, the legendary editor whose Best Science Fiction of the Year and Fantasy Annual paperbacks I read avidly all through high school — and who pulled William Gibson’s Neuromancer out of the slush pile at Ace Books.

I think the reason I still remember it so well after all these years is that, unlike most of the collections I checked out of the library, it wasn’t a kid’s book. It’s a genuine SF anthology, with short stories from Henry Kuttner, Clifford D. Simak & Carl Jacobi, Theodore Sturgeon, Donald A. Wollheim, Brian W. Aldiss, Robert Silverberg, and other top-flight authors.

Carr reasoned — correctly — that there was no better source for action-filled monster tales than pulp science fiction magazines and he mined them heavily to generate Creatures From Beyond. The fiction is drawn from Amazing Stories, Astonishing, Unknown, Other Worlds, Comet, Thrilling Wonder, Future, and a smattering of anthologies.

Of course, the other reason I remember it is Eric Frank Russell’s brilliant novelette “Dear Devil,” the tale of a handful of children who survive a nuclear apocalypse on Earth… and the curious (and hideous) explorer from Mars who helps put them back on track towards a new and better civilization. Rejected by all the major SF magazines of the time, it landed at Ray Palmer’s fledgling Other Worlds, where it almost single-handedly put the magazine on the map — and instantly made a name for the young editor who pulled it from the slush, 26-year-old Bea Mahaffey, who’d been thrust the reins of the magazine when Palmer was incapacitated in an accident.

Read More »


Birthday Reviews: Mary C. Pangborn’s “The Confession of Hamo”

Monday, August 13th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Lawrence Ratzkin

Cover by Lawrence Ratzkin

Mary C. Pangborn was born on August 13, 1907 and died on February 20, 2000.

Pangborn didn’t publish very many works during her career. Her first story appeared in 1979 and she published six stories by 1985 with one more appearing in 1996. Although she has written a novel, it has not yet been published. Three of her stories appeared in the Universe series, another in the New Dimensions series, one in Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Mary C. Pangborn’s third story was “The Confession of Hamo,” originally published in 1980 in Terry Carr’s Universe 10. Carr enjoyed the story so much that he included it the next year in his Fantasy Annual IV. When Several of the stories that appeared in the Fantasy Annual series were translated into Spanish for inclusion in the book Fantasias in 1989, “The Confession of Hamo” was one of them.

The title of “The Confession of Hamo” tells the reader exactly what they should expect, although without any of the details. Hamo, living in fifteenth century England, is confessing his sins to Brother Albertus, although it isn’t entirely clear that Hamo is fully aware of the extent and nature of his sins. Hamo has been traveling the countryside with his friend, Tom o’Fowey, who calls himself Moses the Mage. The two scam people into believing that they can change base metal into gold.

Through their travels, they occasionally meet up with another charlatan who goes by the name Black Jamie, who teaches them how to make it appear that they are creating gold. Although Hamo never explicitly identifies Black Jamie, it is clear that he is a representation of the Devil. Instead, Hamo is more concerned about the crime of alchemy that he and Tom practiced, although at the same time he is clearly proud of the scam they perpetrated.

Eventually, Black Jamie sends Hamo on a quest, warning him that part of himself would be taken from him. Hamo’s biggest concern that he would lose his genitalia proves to be unfounded, although he does lose an non-tangible part of himself which proves to be a huge problem for someone who earns their money scamming others. Hamo, who now calls himself the Accursed, also finds that Tom has been taken prisoner by the sheriff, and it’s up to the now destitute Hamo to figure out a way to free him without his own biggest asset.

Read More »


The Big Little SF Magazines of the 1970s

Sunday, August 5th, 2018 | Posted by Rich Horton

analog-aug-74-smallAn earlier version of this article was published in Black Gate 10.

These columns are focused on the history of SF – and so far that has turned out to mean mostly discussion of 50s oriented subjects, with some leakage into nearer years. But now I’d like to take a look at a rather more recent, and rather less celebrated, period. The 1970s. The time of wide ties, leisure suits, and disco. And also the time I discovered SF, and the SF magazines.

My first look at real SF magazines is a moment I remember with a continued thrill. Sometime in late July 1974, in Alton Drugs in Naperville, IL, I wandered by the newsstand and my eyes lit on three magical covers: the August 1974 issues of Analog, Galaxy, and F&SF. That day I bought Analog. The cover story was “Enter a Pilgrim” by Gordon R. Dickson, with a striking, odd, John Schoenherr painting, featuring an alien with a lance and ceramic-appearing armor (a sort of Schoenherr trademark, that ceramic-like surface).

I read that issue quickly and the next day I bought Galaxy, which featured “The Day Before the Revolution,” an Ursula K. Le Guin story that would win a Hugo, as well as parts of two different serials – The Company of Glory by Edgar Pangborn and Orbitsville by Bob Shaw. Of course that issue was also read before the day was out, and the next day I bought F&SF – a very important issue in its own way: it featured John Varley’s first published story (or perhaps his co-first story, as we will see later.) It wasn’t long before I had added Amazing and Fantastic to the roster. Soon I was subscribing to several magazines, and buying the others each month at the newsstand.

Those five were all the major, well-distributed, magazines there were by 1975. Alas, I just missed seeing If, Galaxy’s long time companion: it was discontinued at the end of 1974, and for some reason my local newsstand didn’t carry it, at least not those last few months.

I had formed an opinion, based on received conventional wisdom, that the “Big Three” of SF magazines had been Astounding/Analog, F&SF, and Galaxy since 1950: certainly that was the case in 1975. (You will get an argument for many years prior to that, however: there are partisans for Startling Stories in the early 50s, for If at various times, especially during Frederik Pohl’s peak editorial period in the mid-60s, and for Amazing and Fantastic under Cele Goldsmith’s editorial hand in the early 60s.)

Galaxy, however, was in some financial trouble. Under Jim Baen’s editorship it enjoyed a couple of years as a truly wonderfully enjoyable magazine, but when he left the decline was swift. However, Galaxy’s place in the “Big Three” was quickly taken by Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. And throughout the 70s, the sister magazines Amazing and Fantastic, edited by Ted White, were the other major prozines.

Read More »


  Earlier Entries »

This site © 2018 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.