Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"The Best of Murray Leinster" (ed J J Pierce) (collection, science fiction): Annotated table of contents & review

Cover image of the 1978 short story collection titled The Best of Murray Leinster, edited by J J Pierce, and published by Del ReyOf the 13 included stories, 2 are very famous:

  1. English ordinary usage term "first contact" comes from the story with this title.
  2. Sidewise Awards, given during Worldcon, are named after the story "Sidewise in Time" - the first parallel universe story.
There is nothing totally crappy in the collection, though some stories are far more interesting than others.

My ratings are in brackets.

Table of contents (13 stories, best first).

  1. "Critical Difference" aka "Solar Constant" (A); Astounding Science Fiction, July 1956; terrafarming: When a sun goes cold during a particularly severe sunspot cycle, the life on its two inhabited worlds is threatened. The hero will figure a way out - not only to survive, but to thrive.
  2. "First Contact" (A); download MP3; Astounding Science Fiction, May 1945: When a human ship meets an alien one in a far off nebula, neither side has reason to trust the other with the location of its mother world. How to ensure both ships can safely leave for home without letting the other know its homewold location, & yet be able to keep contact?
  3. [ss] "A Logic Named Joe" (as by Will F Jenkins) (A); download text or MP3 (dramatized); Astounding Science Fiction, March 1946; humor: Exploits of a super-intelligent AI, but one without human ethics or morals.
  4. "Symbiosis" (A); Collier's Magazine, January 1947; biological warfare: A province of a small European nation is raided by a strong neighboring country. But the vanquished have an unusual & very effective weapon.
  5. "The Ethical Equations" (A); Astounding Science Fiction, June 1945; first contact: An enigmatic apparently-dead alien ship has drifted into Sol. How should humans respond? Hero has an unusual answer.

    This story appears to have inspired several Arthur Clarke stories - including "Jupiter Five", "Rendezvous with Rama", & a subplot of "Nemesis". Or may be it's the other way round.
  6. "The Fourth-Dimensional Demonstrator" (A); download; Astounding Stories, December 1935; humor, time travel: Very interesting implications of ability to pull a physical object from a different time into the present, & vice-versa.
  7. "The Lonely Planet" (A); Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1949; first contact: When a sentient planet, kept as a draft animal by humans, showed signs of a superior intelligence, human authorities are feeling very threatened & declare war. But the planet only seeks human companionship - because it's lonely.

    Asimov's novel "Nemesis" has a similar subplot.
  8. "Proxima Centauri" (A); Astounding Stories, March 1935; first contact: If animals remained non-sentient, & some kind of carnivorous trees developed both intelligence & mobility, won't they have as much compunction eating a human as we have eating an apple!
  9. "The Strange Case of John Kingman" (A); Astounding Science Fiction, May 1948; first contact: A long time inmate of a mental asylum, suffering from superiority complex, is not human at all!
  10. "Pipeline to Pluto" (B); Astounding Science Fiction, August 1945; revenge: Corrupt officials running a racket fed by bribes meet their nemesis.
  11. "Sidewise in Time" (B); Astounding Stories, June 1934; parallel universes: What if our universe is "closed"? How will the things "outside" influence this universe?
  12. "Keyhole" (B); Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1951; first contact: A retelling of Europeans' purge of America's natives to grab land during colonization years - but set on moon with local aliens in place of American natives. But the natives here are not as helpless.
  13. "The Power" (B); Astounding Science Fiction, September 1945; first contact: Closest Leinster comes to marrying occult with scifi. Befuddled & superstitious humans' reaction to the sole survivor of an alien spacecraft that crash landed somewhere in Europe in fifteenth century.

    Very similar in concept to last year's Hugo nominee novel - Michael Flynn's "Eifelheim".

Fact sheet.

First published: Del Rey, April 1978.
Selected & edited by: J J Pierce.
Note: There is another collection of the same title, but edited by Brian Davis (& with different contents).