The New Hugo Winners, Volume III and Volume IV (Baen, and May 1994 and November 1997). Covers by Bob Eggleton
The Hugo Winners, Volume I and Volume II, edited by Isaac Asimov and collected in one big omnibus by the Science Fiction Book Club in 1972, was one of the top-selling science fiction books of the 70s, and Volume III (1977) was gladly received by readers. But by the time Volume IV and V were released in the mid-80s, sales had fallen off so significantly that neither one was ever reprinted in paperback, and Doubleday ceased publishing them entirely after the fifth book.
It was Martin H. Greenberg who talked Asimov into picking up the tradition with The New Hugo Winners in 1989. The two of them brought the series to Baen, and produced two volumes before Asimov’s death in 1992. Although Asimov had openly championed having Greenberg pick up the baton after his death, that didn’t happen. Instead it was Connie Willis and Gregory Benford who edited (excuse me, “Presented”) The New Hugo Winners, Volume III and Volume IV, as paperback originals from Baen Books in 1994 and 1997.
A few of the (mostly new) Terry Carr anthologies I bought on eBay for $3 each
Terry Carr is widely respected today, nearly four decades after his death, for his legendary work as a science fiction editor. He assembled some 70 anthologies in a career spanning over twenty years, including the highly respected Universe series (17 volumes), Fantasy Annual (five volumes), and the career-defining Best Science Fiction of the Year (16 volumes), which may well be the finest Year’s Best anthology series ever printed.
But he also edited an impressive number of standalone anthologies, both original and reprint, most of which are long out of print and long-forgotten. I’ve gradually taken an interest in them, starting with Creatures From Beyond, which I read in junior high, and I recently started collecting them more seriously
Last month I stumbled on a bookseller offering a fabulous collection — and I do mean fabulous — at ridiculously low prices on eBay. After I purchased a few dozen, we struck up a conversation. Just where on Earth, I humbled asked, did he find such a vast collection of virtually brand new 50-year-old anthologies by Carr, Robert Silverberg, Damon Knight, Michael Bishop, Groff Conklin, and others? Simple enough, he said. They had all originally belonged to Terry Carr.
The Year’s Best Horror Stories Series XI (DAW, November 1983). Cover by Michael Whelan
The Year’s Best Horror Stories: Series XI was the fourth volume in this series edited by horror author and editor Karl Edward Wagner (1945–1994). It was copyrighted and printed in 1983 and was the eleventh volume in DAW’s Year’s Best Horror Stories. (We’re half way through the 22-year series!)
Michael Whelan’s (1950–) artwork appears for a ninth time in a row. Whelan’s horror art is always creepy, and quite varied. This, however, was one of my least favorite Whelan covers. It seems more like a throwback to a 1970s-era paperback. But it’s probably right up your alley though if you’re a Paperbacks from Helltype of fan. It was re-used as the cover of the Underwood Miller hardcover omnibus Horrorstory: Volume Four, which collected Series X, XI, and XII of The Year’s Best Horror Stories.
Of the seventeen different authors that make up The Year’s Best Horror Stories: Series XI, all were male but two. Ten were American authors, six were British, and there was one Canadian, Donald Tyson. Seven stories came from fanzines, six from professional magazines, and four from books. Though Wagner continues to show that he is a widely read man, more than a few of these stories came from the pages of the T. E. D. Klein-edited Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine and Stuart David Schiff’s famous Whispers fanzine.
Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction #10: Invasions (Roc, August 1990). Cover by J.K. Potter
This week we’re looking at Invasions, the tenth and final volume in Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction, a paperback original anthology series edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh between 1983 and 1990.
Asimov, Greenberg, and Waugh were an industry unto themselves in the 80s and early 90s. Together they produced some 80 SF anthologies, over half a dozen every year, until Asimov’s death in 1992. In general Waugh made the story selections, Greenberg handled the rights and the contracts, and Asimov wrote the introductions (and lent his name to the series, which ensured robust sales).
The Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction, a companion series to the 13-volume Magical Worlds of Fantasy by the same editors, was a fun set, with themes like Intergalactic Empires, Tin Stars (robot detectives), Monsters, and Robots. Invasions, which wrapped up the series, containing a Berserkernovelette by Fred Saberhagen, novellas by A. E. van Vogt and Lester del Rey, and stories by Philip K. Dick, Eric Frank Russell, Bob Shaw, Walter M. Miller, Jr., Henry Kuttner, Avram Davidson, William Tenn, and many others. It’s a great volume to start with if you’re interested in dipping your toe in 80s anthology collecting.
Moonheart (Ace Books, 1984). Cover by David Mattingly
I started reading science fiction and fantasy in the late 1970s, with authors like Isaac Asimov, Robert Silverberg, Stephen R. Donaldson, and of course J.R.R. Tolkien. I learned an enormous amount from those early books, about astronomy, and space travel, and speculative physics and chemistry. And about adult relationships, and the US. military, and the kind of alien life that might exist on Venus (the kind that resembled dinosaurs, obviously).
But one of the most important things I learned was that fantasy adventures occurred elsewhere. In big cities in the United States, and small, magical towns in England. In underground government labs, and secret rebel bases on the ice planet Hoth. They certainly didn’t happen in my home town of Ottawa, Ontario, and the surrounding valley. At least, they didn’t until Chares de Lint burst on the scene with his own brand of fantasy in 1984, with books like the groundbreaking Moonheart, which helped launch the urban fantasy explosion of the 80s and 90s.
Citizen in Space (Ace Books, December 1978). Cover by Dean Ellis
Robert Sheckley isn’t discussed much these days. But he had a towering reputation as an SF short story writer in the mid-20th Century. He sold his first story in 1951, and quickly became one of H.L. Gold’s stable of writers at Galaxy, one of the leading science fiction magazines of the 1950s.
Sheckley was a very prolific writer of satirical SF, and he produced hundreds of short stories in his career. His first collection, Untouched by Human Hands, was published by Ballantine in 1954, followed by Citizen in Space (Ballantine, 1955), Pilgrimage to Earth (Bantam, 1957) and two in 1960: Notions: Unlimited and Store of Infinity, both from Bantam.
Many of Sheckley’s best collections were reprinted in the late 70s by Ace books, which is when I discovered them. They made very entertaining reading then, and they still do today.
Deathweave and Darkloom (Ace Books, 1998 & 1999). Covers by Royo
I bought a collection of vintage paperbacks on eBay a while back (I do that a lot), and buried in the mix was one I knew nothing about, a midlist ACE SF adventure titled Deathweave by Cary Osborne.
Now, I love midlist paperbacks. They’re basically an undiscovered country. If you’re an entry-level author, the theory is that if you work long enough, like countless writers before you, you’ll eventually build an audience large enough to break out of midlist and start hitting the bestseller lists. Of course, the vast majority of writers never make it, which means that most midlist titles vanish after a few months in the sun, never to be seen or mentioned again. There are many, many talented writers who never had the good fortune (or perseverance, or celebrity connections, or whatever pixie dust it takes) to break into the front rank, and toil away in undeserved obscurity their entire career.
What does all this mean? It means these eBay lots I buy are littered with undiscovered gold, that’s what it means. Which means that when Deathweave finally fell into my eager hands 24 years after Ace first published it, I treated it as exactly that. Especially when I found out it had a sequel, Darkloom, which I tracked down a few weeks later.
The other day I was talking about writing with someone who began pointing out the similarity of ideas behind a variety of books. I pointed out that the idea wasn’t always the important thing, what an individual author did with the idea was important. Two authors who come up with the same basic idea would write extremely different stories.
Josepha Sherman’s “The Theft of Destiny,” which first appeared in the Margaret Weis anthology Legends: Tales from the Eternal Archives is certainly not based on a new idea. In fact, Sherman’s story is a retelling of an ancient Mesopotamian myth concerning Enlil, Anzu, and Ninurta. However, Sherman relates the legend in a way that is more resonant with the modern reader.
Over the course of only a few pages, Sherman presents three different viewpoints, beginning with Enlil, who has custody of the Tablets of Destiny. Sherman follows the tablets when they are stolen by Anzu, and, by extension, begins to look at Anzu’s motivations in the theft. Ninurta, Enlil’s son, comes into the picture when his father informs the gods of the theft and his underrated son sees an opportunity to achieve something and make a name for himself.
Without delving too deeply into the mythology behind the two gods, the demon, or the Tablets of Destiny, Sherman works to provide each of them with very realistic and understandable motives for their actions. Anzu doesn’t steal the Tablets merely to set the action of the story in motion and Ninurtu chases after Anzu because he feels the need to demonstrate that he is as capable, or more capable, than the more establish deities.
Strange Ports of Call (Berkley Books, June 1958). Cover artist tragically unknown
August Derleth is remembered these days primarily for his stewardship of the works of H.P. Lovecraft. He founded Arkham House (with Donald Wandrei) in 1939 to bring Lovecraft into print in hardcover, and over the next 30 years he contributed steadily to Lovecraft’s foundational Cthulhu Mythos, both in his own writing, and by publishing numerous books in the cycle from other horror notables. He was also (as Bob Byne is constantly reminding me) the creator of the popular Sherlock Holmes pastiche Solar Pons, and the author of a great deal of historical fiction, including the Sac Prairie Saga.
But for me, Derleth’s greatest contributions were as an editor. He assembled some 30 horror and science fiction anthologies, including Sleep No More (1944), The Other Side of the Moon (1949), Far Boundaries (1951), The Outer Reaches (1951), Beachheads in Space (1952), Night’s Yawning Peal (1952), and many more. Many of them are highly collectible and hard for the casual collector to get their hands on — but the paperback reprints, by Berkley Books, Sphere, Signet, Four Square Books, and many others, are much easier to come by.
In the late 50s Berkley Books reprinted seven of Derleth’s early SF anthologies in handsome paperback editions including his first, Strange Ports of Call. These books helped introduce thousands of American readers who didn’t read magazines to science fiction for the first time. Here’s a look at all seven.
Fredric Brown was known for doing two things quite well. He was a master of the twist ending, science fiction’s O. Henry, if you like, and he was prolific with extremely short stories, flash fiction in modern parlance. Combining the two is not particularly easy, but since one aspect of flash fiction is “its ability to hint at or imply a larger story,” according to Robert Swartwood, the fact that the author needs to use words sparingly means that they have to imply a great deal of the plot, characters, and setting, leaving the stories rife for misinterpretation or misdirection.
One of Brown’s pieces of flash fiction is “Reconciliation,” which first appeared in Browns’ collection Angels and Spaceships. In only 311 words, Brown tells the story of a couple whose marriage is falling apart. John has come to view his unnamed wife as someone who only married him for his money and hangs around with women whom he dislikes. His wife denies that his money has anything to do with their relationship, but feels humiliated by the fact that John has had an affair and is positive that he will have future affairs, a fact that he confirms.
Brown has captured the vitriol and hate of two people stuck in a relationship that can only be headed for an ending, whether separation, divorce, or murder.