Sunday, February 24, 2008

Robert Silverberg (Ed)'s "The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume One, 1929-1964" (1970, anthology): Annotated table of contents

Book cover of anthology titled The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929-1964, edited by Robert SilverbergA very well regarded anthology, with several outstanding stories, but also with a lot of duds.

My rating is in brackets (ABC: A = worth the reading time; C = don't bother).

Table of contents (26 stories, best first, unread at end).

  1. [novelette] Tom Godwin's "The Cold Equations" (A); Astounding, August 1954: An innocent girl is to be executed due to apathy of administration (according to author, due to nature's laws, but that's now how it comes across in the story). Intensely emotional.
  2. [novelette] Daniel Keyes' "Flowers for Algernon" (A); F&SF, April 1959: Don't maltreat mentally retarded, please.
  3. [novelette] Murray Leinster's "First Contact" (A); Astounding, May 1945; science fiction: How do you establish trust when there is no common ground between the transacting parties, & the stakes are very high? I might have really liked this story if its solution involved exchanging some clever messages; this one involves exchanging the hardware. Very logical, under the circumstances, but programmer inside me was unhappy with the outcome.
  4. [novelette] Lewis Padgett's "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" (A); Astounding, February 1943: Cognitive processes impossible to human adults can be taught to very young children. Lewis Padgett is a joint pseudonym of spouses Henry Kuttner and C L Moore.
  5. [novelette] Robert A Heinlein's "The Roads Must Roll" (A); Astounding, June 1940: Terrorist attack on suburban transport system causes much mayhem.
  6. [novelette] Theodore Sturgeon's "Microcosmic God" (A); Astounding, April 1941; science fiction: A genius inventor has concluded that even the most prolific inventors rely on slowly gathered insights of many men. To speed up progress, he's created a fast evolving new life form - far far smarter than humans in that they can solve impossible problems that will take humans forever, & for the moment they are contained in a closed habitat in an island. But who can say how long they will remain there? What will mankind do when they decide to come out?
  7. [novelette] Isaac Asimov's "Nightfall" (A); Astounding, September 1941; science fiction: My not so good reaction to this original is probably because I'd read & loved its novelization years back. This shorter version mercifully kills the later half of the novel that was utter bore. What we are left with is great stuff, but I prefer corresponding novel version that is better developed (first half of novel). Story is about a world with many suns & where there is always at least one sun in the sky. Local beings are so unfamiliar with the idea of darkness that it drives them physically mad. This is the reason the civilization is destroyed every 2,000 years or so - that's when the sole sun in the sky on that occasion is eclipsed by a sister world long enough to bring out a night all over this world. This short story follows the last hours of current civilization - for the eclipse is only a few hours away.
  8. [novelette] C M Kombluth's "The Little Black Bag" (A); Astounding, July 1950; science fiction: A medical doctor going through a bad patch finds a magical medical kit from future that helps him find a purpose in life.
  9. [novelette] James Blish's "Surface Tension" aka "Lavon" (A); Galaxy, August, 1952; science fiction: When a stellar colonization ship crashed on an uninhabitable water world with no chance of anyone surviving more than a few weeks, the colonists do the next best thing - create microscopic water-borne life forms adapted to local world that are essentially human! Now these microscopic "men" are ready to discover who their ancestors were.
  10. [ss] Ray Bradbury's "Mars Is Heaven" aka "The Third Expedition" (A); "Planet Stories" magazine, Fall 1948: Human explorers are unwanted on Mars, & are conned by telepathic & hypnotist locals.
  11. [novelette] Stanley G Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" (A); Wonder Stories, July 1934; science fiction: Description of a variety of sentient alien races. In the form of an adventure on Mars.
  12. [novelette] Roger Zelazny's "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" (A); F&SF, November 1963; science fiction: Intelligent long-lived race of Mars is dying because their men have been sterilized by a curious rain. A human visitor will offer them a way out.
  13. [ss] Judith Merril's "That Only a Mother" (A); Astounding, June 1948; science fiction: Moving story of a post nuclear apocalypse where normal child births are very rare; nearly all children born are grossly deformed. Story tracks a woman's pregnancy, birth of a daughter, & first few years (or months?) of the daughter. Mother so badly wants her child to be normal that she hasn't even noticed that her daughter lacks all limbs - even several years after birth!!
  14. [ss] Lester del Rey's "Helen O'Loy" (A); Astounding, December 1938; science fiction: A hominid robot in a female body is madly in love with "her" creator!
  15. [novelette] A E van Vogt's "The Weapon Shop" aka "Weapon Shops of Isher" (B); Astounding, December 1942; science fiction: In a future dystopia where the rulers squeeze the subject every way they can, & common people have been brainwashed with government propaganda all their life to believe in benign rulers, an organization called "The Weapon Shop" is serving the role of Robin Hood - they have power & muscle to restore government wrongs for specific individuals.
  16. [ss] Anthony Boucher's "The Quest for Saint Aquin" (B); Raymond J Healy (Ed)'s "New Tales of Space & Time" (1951); science fiction: In a future dystopia where most people have fallen back to primitive existence, the very few ruling elite are technologically advanced & planet-faring, & where Christianity is banned in the US, an underground Christian movement in California has sent an agent to confirm rumors of a messiah in a remote village. And he gets astonished after discovering the thing that makes the long dead body of this rumored messiah special.
  17. [ss] Clifford D Simak's "Huddling Place" (B); Astounding, July 1944; science fiction: In a future society where people live in the countryside rather than cities, & have all creature comforts including personal robots & immersive virtual remote presence, a man has developed an extreme fear of open spaces! Through out the story, he will be living with it; he cannot even come out of it during an extreme emergency at end.
  18. [ss] Cordwainer Smith's "Scanners Live in Vain" (C); download; Fantasy Book magazine, Vol 1, No 6 ( January 1950): A much imitated story where some men have been brainwashed to forgo their lives for the good of society. They've been surgically modified to kill their normal senses, & turn them into ruthless machines used in space. One of their kind will eventually help them get their lives back.
  19. [novelette] Alfred Bester's "Fondly Fahrenheit" (C); F&SF, August 1954: A man has the ability to unconsciously transform his own violent nature to his robots, making robots violent prone - including senseless murder & torture. Much of the story is about violent crimes of his android whose labor he has been living off on. There is a conclusion that this android behaves violently only when ambient temperature is about 90 F. Only, after this android's destruction in a police raid, his newer & simpler robot in a cold climate is also getting violent - thanks to master's mental effect.
  20. [ss] Richard Matheson's "Born of Man and Woman" (C); F&SF, Summer 1950; fantasy: A child, heavily abused because he's a giant, has decided to get back at his tormentors. Very dark story.
  21. [novelette] Fredric Brown's "Arena" (C); download; Astounding, June 1944; science fiction: In a war between humans & aliens, god-like aliens intervene to ensure a decisive conclusion.
  22. [ss] Arthur Clarke's "The Nine Billion Names of God" (C); Frederik Pohl (Ed)'s "Star Science Fiction Stories 1", 1953: A certain Buddhist sect believes that the ultimate purpose of life is to spell all the nine billion names of God.
  23. [ss] Fritz Leiber's "Coming Attraction" (C); Galaxy, November 1950; non-genre: A ghetto story that I didn't really get properly - probably because it's just a lot of babble. A British man saves a woman from assault in a public place in some degenerate US city. She wants him to take her away to Britain, later assaults her benefactor during a bar fight. We learn that she is in the habit of asking many visitors to take her away from country. In between, we keep getting talk of US/USSR military bases on moon, & how those on ground are afraid of them.
  24. [ss] Damon Knight's "The Country of the Kind" (C); F&SF, February 1956; fantasy: In a future materially very well off & non-violent society, a monster of a man is born - monster because he's prone to violence. But this kind society cannot kill him; they just boycott him. And he is looking for a child who will be his heir in violence - for he has learned a useful lesson: you can snatch anything from anyone if you are violent, & no one will oppose you.
  25. [ss] Jerome Bixby's "It's a Good Life" (C); Star Science Fiction Stories, #2 (1953); fantasy: An abnormal & telepathic child whose wishes come true is born in a village. Because of his own incoherent thoughts, he's ended up wishing a lot of people into grave! And moved his village to god knows where - on earth or elsewhere; there is extreme shortage of everything in the village because they are completely cut off from rest of humanity. And in spite of all the problems, no once must even think any thoughts near the child that will make him want to help - so they always say "It's a Good Life" near him, even when in deep trouble!
  26. [ss] John W Campbell's "Twilight" (C); Astounding, November 1934; science fiction: A muddled description of the last days of human race, as narrated by a time traveler to future. This story sounded like a restatement of the main story in H G Wells' novel "The Time Machine", & a badly told one.
First published: 1970
Book is subtitled "The Greatest Science Fiction Stories of All Time Chosen by the Members of The Science Fiction Writers of America".
Related: SFWA's entire Science Fiction Hall of Fame series.
Credits: Story size label, & first publication data, is often (but not always) picked up from this book's ISFDB entry.

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