Forthcoming: American Science Fiction Anthologies From LoA
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American Science Fiction
Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s (two volumes)
Gary K. Wolfe, editor
Volume 1: 1953–1956
Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth, The Space Merchants
Theodore Sturgeon, More Than Human
Leigh Brackett, The Long Tomorrow
Richard Matheson, The Shrinking Man
Volume 2: 1956–1958
Robert Heinlein, Double Star
Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination
James Blish, A Case of Conscience
Algis Budrys, Who?
Fritz Leiber, The Big Time
October / Library of America #227 & #228
ISBN 978-1-59853-157-2 (boxed set) / -158-9 (volume 1) / -159-6 (volume 2)
Any thoughts on the selections?
PS Thanks to scott.stricker for the heads-up over at Library of America Subscribers. :)
I recently read and reviewed The Long Tomorrow.
More Than Human is one of the few remaining Sturgeon novels I haven't read, but he's never done me wrong before.
A Case of Conscience is good (here's my review), but inferior to Blish's The Devil's Day.
I read The Big Time when I was in high school, and thought it was the cat's pyjamas then. It's short, and I've seen some attractive reprints that have tempted me to pick it up for a re-read.
In your review of The Long Tomorrow, you wrote: "it continues to deserve the attention of adults willing to reflect on social and technological change outside the myth of progress." It should be getting a lot more of that with the LoA release, particularly amongst those who don't read a lot of genre SF.
Looking at the selections, I'm realizing once again that I haven't read as much genre SF as I thought, as I haven't read a single one of them, although I have read something by all but one or two of the authors.
I think the selections are strong, and in some cases, like Who?, under-rated. I've read (and, importantly, remembered that I read) all of them except The Long Tomorrow and The Shrinking Man. The latter is the oddest choice for me. The movie was thoughtful and stayed true to its premise, but the novel is hardly a central text in SF.
I just recently re-read Double Star for the first time in a long time. It has held up surprisingly well.
I've read all except the Matheson and the Budrys. In some sense I can't quite put my finger on, this feels like a good sampling of the 1950s, especially for a modern audience. Maybe the Matheson should be replaced by something by Simak? The Pohl & Kornbluth and the Bester would be must-haves (could have used The Demolished Man instead of the The Stars My Destination, I guess).
Six of the nine -- Bester, Heinlein, Sturgeon, Pohl & Kornbluth, Leiber and Blish -- are, I think, superb choices as far as presenting the classic US novels of the period.
If it were me, I'd drop Matheson's The Shrinking Man for the reasons ChrisRiesbeck suggests, substituting Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity -- both for its merits as genre SF and as a representation of a hard-SF strain that's otherwise absent from the list.
And I'm tempted to argue for Clifford Simak's City in place of Brackett's The Long Tomorrow, but understand -- I think -- why Wolfe would want to include the latter. It seems unconscionable to do a 1950s SF collection without an after-the-Bomb story, and Brackett -- with its attempt to add some sociological heft to the post-apocalyptic world -- has aged better than the stacked-deck optimism of Frank's Alas Babylon or the pro-civil-defense preaching of Wylie's Tomorrow!.
(edited to fix touchstone)
The most striking SF short story that has stuck with me the most - an impression so graphic it leaves others in the dust - was The Cold Equations - yes, this was likely a nearly unknown author's most significantly memorable work, but the story telling and the idea were stellar.
Any anthology that aims at representing the 1950s in SF should have short stories - at the time, the magazines still were the main mode of storytelling. A third volume for short fiction would be good. AFAICT from the LoA site, there's not one. So maybe they should have dropped the Matheson, replaced More Than Human with its "Baby is Three" segment, and made up the difference with shorter stories. Still wouldn't be enough short fiction, but better.
Someone could reprint Boucher's 2 volume Treasury of Great Science Fiction, an old mainstay of the early days of the Science Fiction Book Club. Novels and stories, and Boucher's tastes have weathered a bit better than some other classic anthologies.
Still some silly stuff, like the VanVogt and Jameson, but they're part of the atmosphere.
Maybe I'm too much of a young whippersnapper or something, but SF from the 50s has rarely held up. Probably because there are too few hysterical dames running around and too many unlikable lumpy protagonists.
#1 What type of books are these, typical hardbacks, leather bound, soon to be paperbacks? Not sure I can budget any of those in at this time but I am curious. LOA publishes these I gather and sells them direct or through outlets?
Hey! They are hardbacks; LoA does not usually reissue stuff in paperbacks, although I believe all of the individual titles are currently in print as paperbacks except Who?. Pretty sure you can buy them from the publisher or through outlets. You can pre-order both volumes from Amazon:
>12 SF from the 50s has rarely held up. Probably because there are too few hysterical dames running around and too many unlikable lumpy protagonists.
Not to mention that the hysterical dames are often being pursued by tentacled aliens who for some inexplicable reason want to rape them.
But of course we're talking pulp here.....
Yea, 50s sf presents a catch 22. You're dismayed at how few female characters there are, but then when they show up you almost wish they hadn't...
I was a the library picking up tax forms and saw a copy of Heinlein's Double Star which I checked out. I vaguely remember reading the story before, probably 6th grade or so. It holds up fairly well with the mentions of slide rules and microfilm giving away a bit of dating. Kind of a detective story to me with political overtones of the period. Sprinklings of science facts about space travel, before anyone was ever in orbit, twist the story into a more acceptable mode. Which typified Heinlein for me I think I read his stuff before seeing a "science" book.
::edit::Did anyone else who has read the book recently think that Heinlein looked into the future and wrote the protagonist's role, Lorenzo Smythe, script for John Waters? I had his image in my mind the entire time I was re reading the book.
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