The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Universe 9, edited by Terry Carr

Saturday, May 18th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Roger Zimmerman

Cover by Roger Zimmerman

Cover by Carlos Ochagavia

Cover by Carlos Ochagavia

Cover by Richard Weaver

Cover by Richard Weaver

The Locus Awards were established in 1972 and presented by Locus Magazine based on a poll of its readers. In more recent years, the poll has been opened up to on-line readers, although subscribers’ votes have been given extra weight. At various times the award has been presented at Westercon and, more recently, at a weekend sponsored by Locus at the Science Fiction Museum (now MoPop) in Seattle. The Best Anthology Award dates back to 1976, although it was not presented in 1978. The inaugural award went to the anthology Epoch, edited Roger Elwood and Robert Silverberg. The 1980 award was won by Terry Carr for Universe 9. It was Carr’s third win in a row, with his first two being for entries in his Terry Carr’s Best Science Fiction of the Year series. The Locus Poll received 854 responses.

Terry Carr’s Universe series of anthologies ran for 17 volumes, beginning in 1971 and only ending with Carr’s death in 1987. During that time, he also edited 16 volumes of Terry Carr’s Best Science Fiction of the Year, five volumes of Fantasy Annual, and two volumes of The Best Science Fiction Novellas of the Year. Sixteen of the volumes of Universe ranked in the Locus Poll (only Universe 7 missed out), and Carr won the Locus Poll for entries of Universe for volumes 1, 4, and 9. In four years, Carr’s best of year anthology beat out his own Universe anthology in the poll.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer: Terry Carr

Saturday, April 13th, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

Fandom Harvest

Steven Silver has been doing a series covering the award winners from his age 12 year, and Steven has credited me for (indirectly) suggesting this, when I quoted Peter Graham’s statement “The Golden Age of Science Fiction” is 12, in the “comment section” to the entry on 1973 in Jo Walton’s wonderful book An Informal History of the Hugos. You see, I was 12 in 1972, so the awards for 1973 were the awards for my personal Golden Age. And Steven suggested that much as he is covering awards for 1980, I might cover awards for 1973 here in Black Gate.

The 1973 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer went to Terry Carr. Terry Carr (1937-1987) won four Hugos overall – in 1959 he won for Best Amateur Magazine for Fanac (along with his co-editor Ron Ellik), and in 1985 and 1987 he won for Best Professional Editor. (Alas, he died early in 1987, so did not get to receive that award. Famously, this was the second consecutive year that the award was given posthumously – though in 1986 Lester Del Rey bitterly refused the award to his wife Judy-Lynn. (There could be a third posthumous Best Editor award this year, as Gardner Dozois is one of the nominees for Best Editor, Short Form.) Like the great majority of Fan Writer winners, Terry Carr was also an accomplished professional writer, probably best known for his stories “Hop-Friend” and “The Dance of the Changer and the Three” and for his novel Cirque.

Carr wrote some fine fiction, as noted, and also spent some time as an agent, and he was a prolific and wonderful fan writer and fanzine editor. But his largest contribution to the field was as an editor. He worked at Ace through most of the 1960s. There he co-edited the World’s Best Science Fiction series with Donald A. Wollheim, and he spearheaded the classic first Ace Science Fiction Special series. After leaving Ace he became a freelance editor, most famous for his Best Science Fiction of the Year series for Ballantine/Del Rey, and for his Universe series of original anthologies. He also edited the third series of Ace Specials.

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Vintage Treasures: Classic Science Fiction: The First Golden Age, edited by Terry Carr

Sunday, February 10th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Classic Science Fiction The First Golden Age UK-small Classic Science Fiction The First Golden Age UK back-small

Terry Carr may be my all-time favorite editor. His Creatures From Beyond (1975) was one of the very first SF anthologies I read in Junior High, and the sixteen volumes of The Best Science Fiction of the Year he produced remain a high water mark for the genre. Carr died in 1987, at the too-young age of 50, but I still read his books with enormous pleasure today.

It may be a sign of age (mine, not Carr’s), but I usually associate him with modern science fiction. So I was a little surprised to discover his anthology Classic Science Fiction: The First Golden Age, which collects a dozen stories published in pulp magazines in 1940-41. This is not an easy book to find; it had a single hardcover printing from Harper & Row in 1978, a UK reprint from Robson a year later, and then promptly vanished. There’s been no paperback, no reprint since 1979, and no digital version. If I hadn’t stumbled on a copy on Amazon through blind luck back in 2011, I probably still wouldn’t know this book existed.

I love pulp SF, so it’s always nice to get a new selection of Golden Age tales, especially from an editor with Carr’s eye. Here he includes a handful of classics, like Asimov’s “Nightfall,” Kuttner’s “The Twonky,” and Heinlein’s “By His Bootstraps,” and “–And He Built a Crooked House–,” but also stories I’ve never seen before, like Lester del Rey’s “The Smallest God,” Ross Rocklynne’s “Into the Darkness,” and Leigh Brackett’s “Child of the Green Light.”

But even more interesting than that, at least for me, is Carr’s lengthy editorial material exploring the history of SF’s Golden Age, the major personalities involved, and the stories behind the fiction. Easily 20% of this book (some 90 pages) is written by Carr, and he draws from a great many sources, including a lot of personal correspondence and interviews, to tell some fascinating anecdotes and illuminate the surprising history of some of the greatest science fiction ever written. This is a book that belongs in every serious library of pulp SF, alongside The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Asimov’s Before the Golden Age, and Healy and McComas’ Adventures in Time and Space.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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