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My Best Science Fiction Story by Leo…
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My Best Science Fiction Story

by Leo Margulies, Oscar J. Friend (Editor)

Other authors: EandO Binder (Contributor), Issac Asimov (Contributor)

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For some reason I am attracted to collections of stories that are the authors' favorites. I can't tell you where it all started, but I think it was with a science fiction collection I read back in the 60s or 70s. (Any time I discuss the origins of my reading preferences, it tends to start with science fiction I read in the 60s or 70s.) I became fascinated with what the authors had to say, how it reflected their tastes within the milieu of their own stories (not that I knew what a milieu was back then – in fact, I'm not sure I do right now), and how those best/favorite stories stacked up with the world at large.

I still find it a fascinating read. One of the better I've read over the years was This is My Best: Acclaimed QPB Authors Share Their Favorite Work. It definitely did not represent a greatest hits collection, and it was uneven. But it provided a broad spectrum of writers who provided varying ideas of what they liked about their own work. One of the more unusual was My Story That I Like Best. Published in 1924, it is an idiosyncratic collection which smacks of its time. The only author I recognized was Edna Ferber (not that the others weren't luminaries in their time, but I don't think time has remembered them fondly.) And, after reading the pieces, I did not find it surprising those other names faired so poorly. Yet, the opportunity to look at the past from an author's perspective was fascinating nonetheless.

All this to say that, for a good time, anytime, check out what authors like best about their own work. And all this to say that, as implied at the beginning, I am a sucker for collections which represent various author's favorite stories.

And so, with great relish and joy, I picked up this collection at the used book store. At the outset what it had going for it was a veritable who's who of science fiction. Asimov, Van Vogt, Bloch, Campbell, Leinster – names for which, if you know science fiction at all, I do not need to provide first names. You already know who they are. However, what it had going against it was age. This is a book that was published in 1954. And the stories were published in the 30s and 40s.

And so it was a book that had the potential to be as interesting and relevant as the QPB collection, tempered by the potential to have suffered over time much like the 1924 collection.

I am sorry to say that it has succumbed somewhat to ravages of time. How much time are we talking? Asimov has chosen a robot story – always a good idea. But to give you some idea how early in his career this is, he mentions that it is one of nine. There was a lot more greatness to come.

And as with any collection, the authors hem and haw around about what is meant by favorite, how to pick it, qualifying it by speaking of the mood they are in when they choose it. But I have the feeling some of these authors (many youngsters at the time who didn't take themselves all that seriously) took it as a lark. Here is a quote from Henry Kuttner's explanation for why he selected the story he did.
"...I can honestly say it is my favorite story because I have reread all my others and they disgusted me. For one reason or another I didn't get around to reading Don't Look Now, and can therefore regard it with the unbiased, critical, gemlike eye of the happy creator."

(Which I guess is better than the reason John Taine gave. "...this is the only short story I have ever written.")

Now, all that being said, this is not a horrible collection. While it does not represent the best of the time, and definitely doesn't represent the best produced by these authors, it still is a decent snapshot of some of the decent stories that were available. In other words, they are not bad stories. Sometimes they clunk with age. And sometimes they clunk because science quickly outstripped the premise of the stories (at least two still refer to canals on Mars). But these authors became famous because they were good storytellers. And the stories within this collection are told well.

Yes it has age. But it is still fun. And there is still a touch of the wonder that brought many of us into science fiction. It is never a waste of time to read fun science fiction. ( )
  figre | Aug 11, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Leo Marguliesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Friend, Oscar J.Editormain authorall editionsconfirmed
EandO BinderContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Issac AsimovContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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