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Galactic Empires, Volume One

by Brian Aldiss (Editor)

Other authors: Pete Adams (Contributor), Poul Anderson (Contributor), Alex Apostolides (Contributor), Isaac Asimov (Contributor), Arthur C. Clarke (Contributor)11 more, Mark Clifton (Contributor), Alfred Coppel (Contributor), H. B. Fyfe (Contributor), R. A. Lafferty (Contributor), Hal Lynch (Contributor), Charles Nightingale (Contributor), Idris Seabright (Contributor), Michael Shaara (Contributor), Clifford D Simak (Contributor), Cordwainer Smith (Contributor), James White (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Galactic Empires (1)

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English (5)  Spanish (1)  All languages (6)
Showing 5 of 5
I almost never know how to rate anthologies. Some of the stories were ok, some I skipped, none were amazing. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
This anthology is introduced as being all about "space opera" and grand dramatic romances of the future... however, very few of the stories in the anthology actually fit into that concept, in my opinion. It comes across as more of a random selection of stories, mostly from the pulp magazines of the 50's. The book was worth reading – the story "Brightness Falls From the Air" alone made it worthwhile – but it also contained some of the most offensive content that I've seen published. (The virulently homophobic "The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal").

· 6 • Been a Long, Long Time • R. A. Lafferty • ss Fantastic Dec '70
Short, humorous piece involving the amount of time it would take monkey with typrewriters to re-create the works of Shakespeare. (A very long time). Mediocre.

· 14 • The Possessed • Arthur C. Clarke • ss Dynamic Science Fiction Mar '53
Well, written, effective story - unfortunately quite spoiled by the common misconception about lemmings. (They don't really commit mass suicide.)

· 20 • Protected Species • H. B. Fyfe • ss Astounding Mar '51
Nice, classic-style sci-fi yarn. Gung-ho industrialist explorers (who shoot aliens for no good reason) vs. conservationist scientist (who wants to protect an interesting species) - and a nice end twist.

· 23 • All the Way Back • Michael Shaara • ss Astounding Jul '52
Good story by this Pulitzer-Prize-winning author. Mankind has finally reached the stars - and found a beautiful, earth-type planet, seemingly void of higher life forms. It's too good to be true - there has to be a catch. And of course, there is.

· 60 • The Star Plunderer • Poul Anderson • nv Planet Stories Sep '52
A bunch of human slaves on an alien spaceship stage a rebellion and take over. The story suffers from the fact that there's no real reason for it to be a sci-fi story. It could just as easily have been historical fiction or something, moved into space to sell to an SF market. It also features annoyingly fifties-style assumptions about gender roles.

· 90 • Foundation [Foundation] • Isaac Asimov • nv Astounding May '42
An excerpt from the books - it's sadly been long enough since I read these that I don't recally exactly where the excerpt was from (the very beginning?). Works OK as a short piece. Under the pretext of a grand Encyclopedia project, a group of brilliant men (of course) have been gathered on a backwater planet. They have no idea that their real work will be to create a legacy that will help civilization back to its feet after an inevitable collapse...

· 127 • We're Civilized • Mark Clifton & Alex Apostolides • ss Galaxy Aug '53
Heh heh. A fun (but not too strikingly original) take on the old idea that as other forms of life may seem insignificant to us, humanity may seem equally insignifigant to more advanced aliens.

· 146 • The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal • Cordwainer Smith • ss Amazing May '64
As I said before, this is a really offensive story, in ways that really can't be excused by the time period. Radiation on a colony planet causes all the women to die off. Men learn how to reproduce with implanted artificial wombs. But the single-sex society is made up of homosexual "monsters" with both violent and effeminate traits. They are "crazy," hate even the legend of women, and aspire to seek out the rest of humanity and kill all women.
It's up to Commander Sudzal, a monogaous, heterosexual Earthman, to foil this plot and defeat these perverts.
Really awful.

· 165 • The Rebel of Valkyr • Alfred Coppel • nv Planet Stories Fll '50
OK, this story also has really old-fashioned gender roles, and some statements that would rankle with even the mildest feminist... but it's also rather charming, in a Flash Gordon-meets-Conan the Barbarian kind of way. Sexy wenches, bold warriors, spaceships, warlocks, and royal intrigue.

· 215 • Brightness Falls from the Air [contest story] • Idris Seabright • ss F&SF Apr '51
OK, you can make excuses for stories based on the year they were written in - and then you come across something like this which blows all those excuses to hell. This is just an amazing story. Idris Seabright was a pseudonym of the author Margaret St. Clair. The story is a wrenchingly emotional look at the exploitation of an alien species for entertainment, and an indictment of humanity's tendency to devalue and use up things of true value and beauty... repeatedly. It's one of the best short stories I've read. I'm definitely going to look for more of her work.
I'm not sure if Tiptree's novel of the same name was intentionally named after this story. It does also deal with aliens who have been exploited by humans, but is not related in any other definite way.

· 223 • Immigrant • Clifford D. Simak • na Astounding Mar '54
Only the best and the brightest are allowed by the alien inhabitants to immigrate to the legendary planet of Kimon - and no one ever chooses to return, although they send fabulous wealth and frequent letters back home. But when he arrives, after hard and long study, Selden Bishop discovers that the aliens seem to regard the humans as nothing more than amusing pets... Is this the whole story?
Good story.

· 289 • Resident Physician [Sector General] • James White • nv New Worlds Sep '61
A space doctor picks up a stranded alien with a mysterious ailment. Can he figure out what's wrong with his patient? Pretty basic.

· 318 • Age of Retirement • Mal Lynch • ss Astounding Apr '54
In the future, the Space Patrol is 'manned' by children, who, after enforced 'retirement, ' go on to school.

· 325 • Planting Time • Pete Adams & Charles Nightingale • ss Antigrav: Cosmic Comedies.
On an alien planet, a lonely spaceman encounters strange, hallucinogenic flowers that resemble beautiful women. This makes for a potentially extremely embarassing situation - but the guy is resourceful, and finds a way to turn this to his advantage. Pretty funny story. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Classic collection of space opera short-stories. I first found these books at the library and must have monopolized both volumes for six months or more! ( )
  Michael.Pope | Apr 4, 2013 |
This two-part anthology was Brian Aldiss's attempt to give an overview of the "galactic empire" story, those sweeping tales of the rise and fall of great interstellar civilizations. He gives a selection of stories from across the history of sf, but unfortunately the conclusion one reaches is that the galactic empire story is a bit rubbish. Many of the stories come across as subpar Star Wars, with men being manly men and women being sexual objects, and the fate of empires being decided because a lot of people have too much testosterone and someone met a convenient "wizard". "The Rebel of Valkyr" by Alfred Coppel (this is the story that contains the woman on the cover with the amazing gravity-defying breasts) is the worst offender, most of it being taken up by barbarians posturing at one another. It's got a robot in it, but it's otherwise indistinguishable from a really bad fantasy story. "The Star Plunderer" by Poul Anderson, "Escape to Chaos" by John D. MacDonald, and "Tonight the Stars Revolt!" by Gardner F. Fox run along similarly unenjoyable lines.

Also common (and commonly poor) are stories with twist endings, which typically go one of two ways 1) humans think they're colonizing, but they're really being colonized! or 2) the big evil aliens we will meet in space... are actually humans! There are numerous offenders along these lines: "The Possessed" by Arthur C. Clarke, "Protected Species" by H. B. Fyfe, "All the Way Back" by Michael Shaara, "We're Civilized!" by Mark Clifton and Alex Aposolides, "Concealment" by A. E. van Vogt, "Down the River" by Mack Reynolds, "The Bounty Hunter" by Avram Davidson, "Not Yet the End" by Fredric Brown, and "Big Ancestory" by F. L. Wallace. I don't why sf authors are obsessed with the twist ending, but if they're going to use it so much, it would behoove them to learn to use it well. It's usually heavy-handed and obvious, and the stories nothing more than a vehicle for it. There is one story that uses it to excellent effect: "Final Encounter" by Harry Harrison, where the surprise isn't obvious, yet can still be figured out, and actually makes a thematic point that works with the rest of the story.

And indeed, there are a few gems in these collections, but they are usually stories that subvert the idea of the galactic empire (or have nothing to do with it, making one wonder why Aldiss selected them for the collection): R. A. Lafferty's "Been a Long Time" is an amusing explication of the infinite-monkeys-infinite-typewriters idea. Cordwainer Smith's "The Crime and Glory of Commander Suzdal" is so mad it has to be brilliant. Idris Seabright's "Brightness Falls from the Air" is a melancholy vignette about those stomped beneath the heel of empire. Clifford Simak's "Immigrant" provides some social commentary about climbing the social ladder, delivered in an interesting way. And James Blish's "Beep" is a clever idea that actually has a decent story attached to deliver it, unlike, say "Planting Time" by P. Adams and Charles Nightingale (which is a somewhat interesting idea that someone forgot to attach any story to). Of course, the best tale in the collection is the one I had already read many times going in: Isaac Asimov's original "Foundation". Overall, though, it was a slog to get through these books more often than not. Aldiss's strange choices in selection and organization don't help much, and neither do his dull introductions.
  Stevil2001 | May 9, 2008 |
there are truly some gems here, specifically the last very short story about a plus-light space pilot that lands on an (almost) uncharted planet and finds a bunch of heavenly bodies, all eager to do the do with him, which, of course, he does. This on an island where there is supposed to be not human population! Well, there isn't any human population. To find out how this is possible, you'll have to read "Planting Time." The little story is worth the price of the whole book. Clifford Simak's loooong piece being used as pets by a vastly superior race is good, too. ( )
  andyray | Apr 2, 2008 |
Showing 5 of 5
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Aldiss, BrianEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adams, PeteContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anderson, PoulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Apostolides, AlexContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Asimov, IsaacContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Clarke, Arthur C.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Clifton, MarkContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Coppel, AlfredContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fyfe, H. B.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lafferty, R. A.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lynch, HalContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nightingale, CharlesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Seabright, IdrisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shaara, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Simak, Clifford DContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Smith, CordwainerContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
White, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thole, KarelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Galactic empires represent the ultimate absurdity in science fiction.
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v. 1. Been a long time / R.A. Lafferty --
The Possessed / Arthur C. Clarke --
Protected species / H.B. Fyfe --
All the way back / Michael Shaara --
The Star plunderer / Poul Anderson --
Foundation / Isaac Asimov --
We're civilized! / Mark Clifton and Alex Apostolides --
The Crime and glory of Commander Suzdal / Cordwainer Smith --
The Rebel of Valkyr / Alfred Coppel --
Brightness falls from the air / Idris Seabright --
Immigrant / Clifford Simak --
Resident physician / James White --
Age of retirement / Hal Lynch --
Planting time / P. Adams and Charles Nightingale.
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