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Tales from Super-Science Fiction by Robert…

Tales from Super-Science Fiction

by Robert Silverberg (Editor), Frank Kelly Freas (Illustrator)

Other authors: Don Berry (Contributor), Robert Bloch (Contributor), J. F. Bone (Contributor), William Bowman (Illustrator), A. Bertram Chandler (Contributor)13 more, Ed Emshwiller (Illustrator), Frank Kelly Freas (Illustrator), Daniel F. Galouye (Contributor), Tom Godwin (Contributor), James E. Gunn (Contributor), Alan E. Nourse (Contributor), Paul Orban (Illustrator), Charles W. Runyon (Contributor), Robert Silverberg (Contributor), Robert Silverberg (Introduction), Henry Slesar (Contributor), Jack Vance (Contributor), Robert Moore Williams (Contributor)

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Robert Silverberg fixates a lot on the idea of "fun" in his introduction to this anthology, but I sense that he perhaps had more fun writing for Super-Science Fiction when it was published 1955-59 than I am having reading what got written. After all, who wouldn't like being able to sell three stories a month to a magazine that paid the best in the business? Not Silverberg (and not Harlan EllisonTM, none of whose stories are in this volume, unfortunately).

But with fourteen stories, this book has enough room to be good and be bad, and thankfully the good makes the bad worth it. James Gunn turns in an almost prescient critique of a consumer economy gone mad (and how fortunate that I read this book at Christmastime, even if the story was set in the summer) in "Every Day is Christmas," with a suitably dark ending. I also enjoyed "Song of the Axe" by Don Berry: I didn't always get what had happened or why, but the details were intriguing enough that I didn't care; it's definitely the best fleshing out of an alien culture in this collection (where aliens are often just foils for Our Brave White Spacemen).

Robert Moore Williams's "I Want to Go Home" was maybe my favorite story in the collection: short and creepy, but seemingly universal. A great idea I wouldn't want to spoil one jot by explaining it. Alan E. Nourse's "The Gift of Numbers," about a criminal who transfers his mathematical abilities to someone else, was also a delightful and clever idea. And big kudos to Tom Godwin for writing "A Place Beyond the Stars" and Silverberg for including the story: a very cool idea from a guy who deserves to be remembered for something other than "The Cold Equations."

Jack Vance's "World of Origin" was one of the worst ideas for a murder mystery I ever read-- it basically tromps all over Asimov's rules for sf mysteries, and not to good effect. A guy tries to solve a crime based on what planets the suspects come from, applying what he knows of the planets' cultures (a Space Father Brown, maybe?), but it turns out that this is very easy because in the future, every planet will have one easily-defined characteristic that tells you exactly how its citizens murder people. (On Planet Sprocket, you can only murder a man when riding a bicycle. On Planet Academia, you can only murder someone if you publish a monograph on it. On Planet Cricket, you can only murder someone with a cricket bat used to win the Ashes. These aren't real examples... but they could be.)

"The Tool of Creation" by J. F. Bone is boring because it sets up a nonsensical sf problem (why are all the planets formed like this?) and then answers it via coincidence. I don't care about the problem or the solution. And can we call for a retroactive moratorium on all sf stories that involve "twist" endings? Except for the good ones, of course.

I found Silverberg's own two contributions ("Catch 'Em All Alive" and "The Loathsome Beasts") dull and flat, typical sf tropes played out uninterestingly, but his introduction is great, and he even provides individual introductions to each story/writer, an anthology practice that I always enjoy, and am disappointed we don't see more often. This is a well-planned packaging of some forgotten sf, and while the stories might not be a fun to read as they were to write, they're fun enough to pick up and look through at the least.
1 vote Stevil2001 | Jan 19, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The good news is, if you enjoy mid-50s sci-fi short stories, you should enjoy this collection as well. I wanted to, but I guess they're just not my thing. Though this collection starts out fairly weak (in my opinion), the stories generally get stronger as you get farther in. The moving "First Man in a Satellite" easily gets my nod for best story here, and the finale, "The Loathsome Beasts", is more than it first appears. ( )
  saltmanz | Oct 9, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is exactly what it seems to be, a collection of 1950’s SF pulp stories. There are 14 stories plus an introduction essay that tells us the history of SF writing at that time. If old style SF is your thing then I’m sure that you’ll enjoy this collection. I am not a big fan of pulp style but decided to give the collection a try because I was curious.

Some details of the stories did not age well. In the future they imagined in the 50’s you could smoke on spaceships, temperatures are measured in Fahrenheit, distance is measured in feet or miles, and $7,500 a year is a comfortable living. If you are willing to look past those details you will find some well written stories. I also suggest the reader be forgiving if the twist at the end of a story is one you read before; odds are these stories did it first.

While most of the stories are about space exploration, or life on other planets, some are simply about how scientific advancements could change life on earth. I particularly enjoyed “Broomstick Ride” by Robert Bloch, “The Tool of Creation” by J.F. Bone, and “First Man in a Satellite” by Charles W. Runyon; they were well written and thought provoking. While I did not enjoy “Every Day is Christmas” by James E. Gunn, that is probably a case of satire cutting too close to the truth.

Disclaimer: I did receive a free ARC (advanced reading copy) in return for this review.
  Mav.Weirdo | Jul 28, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A collection of some of the best stories that ran in the pulp magazine Super-Science Fiction during its brief 1955-1959 lifetime. Silverberg writes in the introduction that he and Harlan Ellison were responsible for about half the total contents of the magazine under various pseudonyms. Silverberg has a couple of stories here, but unfortunately none of Ellison's are in the book.

This is a very, enjoyable collection given the limitations of what it is. The stories are 1950's pulp, so a lot of the writing style and cultural assumptions feel dated, but the stories are still quite readable and fun.

Some stories I liked:
"Every Day Is Christmas" by James E. Gunn - A satire of consumer culture
"The Tool of Creation" by J.F. Bone - Origin of intelligent life with a creative hyperspace environment
"First Man in a Satellite" by Charles W. Runyon - Interesting projection of what it might have been like for the first man in space ( )
  sdobie | Jul 12, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
People earn the right to work on the projects they want to work on. They bring their skill, their power, and their name to projects and, the more skill, power, and name that exists, the more they get to do what they want. Few can argue that Robert Silverberg brings as much skill, power, and “name” to a project as anyone. And, because this book comes off as a labor of love, a project that Silverberg wanted very badly, I appreciate that he moved forward to get it done.

In the 50s, Silverberg worked on the magazine “Super-Science” (among other names). In the Introduction, Silverberg lays out the story of how he (and many other famous names from science fiction) became involved in the magazine that lasted 18 bi-monthly issues. And therein lies the problem with this collection. Does anyone expect a relatively short-lived, somewhat obscure magazine to be a treasure trove of hidden treasures?

This is not a bad collection. There are nice stories here; but there are some that don’t feel worth the time. There are some that are fun to read, but there are some that are not so fun. But one of the prevailing problems is that many of the stories are based on the clichés of science fiction. Maybe they were fairly new in the 50s. But, again realizing that this was a relatively obscure magazine, it is hard to imagine any of the ideas were groundbreaking.

I would say it is a shame that Silverberg wasted his bringing this project to fruition – that he could have accomplished something much more important. But, it is apparent that this is a project based on love – and love knows no boundaries. While not necessarily that good for us, good for Silverberg. ( )
  figre | Jul 4, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Silverberg, RobertEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Freas, Frank KellyIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Berry, DonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bloch, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bone, J. F.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bowman, WilliamIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chandler, A. BertramContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Emshwiller, EdIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Freas, Frank KellyIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Galouye, Daniel F.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Godwin, TomContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gunn, James E.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nourse, Alan E.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Orban, PaulIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Runyon, Charles W.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Silverberg, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Silverberg, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Slesar, HenryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vance, JackContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Williams, Robert MooreContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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