Thursday, January 29, 2009

Isaac Asimov & Martin H Greenberg (Eds)' "Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 1 (1939)" (anthology): Annotated table of contents & review

Cover image of anthology titled Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 1 1939, edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H GreenbergThis is the first of a series of 25 anthologies by these editors. This book collects stories first published during the year 1939.

Two observations:

  1. It includes the first published stories of Heinlein, Von Vogt, & Theodore Sturgeon. Plus one of the early stories of Asimov - a story I'd not seen before.
  2. I don't recall another anthology where I didn't find a single dud. Stories vary in quality - superb to merely ok, but no real duds here.
I'll probably post separately on particularly good stories. For the moment, the terse notes below will have to do.

Table of contents (20 stories, best first).

Where I'm aware of online copies of stories, I provide download links. My rating is in brackets. Where I've a separate post on a the story, link on story title goes there. Link on a noun yields more of related stories.
  1. [novelette] Robert A Heinlein's "Misfit" (A); Astounding, November 1939: An asteroid is moved to build a giant space station.
  2. [ss] Joseph E Kelleam's "Rust" (A); Astounding, October 1939: Killing robots meant to destroy the enemy have done a minor change to their mission - "kill everything that lives", including those who built them.
  3. [ss] Henry Kuttner's "The Misguided Halo" (A); Unknown, August 1939; humor, fantasy: An inexperienced angel has mistakenly bestowed sainthood to the wrong man!
  4. [ss] H L Gold's "Trouble With Water" (A); Unknown, March 1939; fantasy: Never pick fight with a water gnome!

    Author is the founding editor of Galaxy. But this story is from the first issue of Unknown.
  5. [ss] Eando Binder's "I, Robot" (A); download comic book adaptation; Amazing Stories, January 1939: Story that inspired Asimov's robot stories.
  6. [ss] Robert A Heinlein's "Life-Line" (A); download; Astounding, August 1939: A man has built a machine to see into the future, & insurance companies aren't happy.

    First published story of Heinlein.
  7. [novelette] L Sprague de Camp's "The Blue Giraffe" (A); Astounding, August 1939; humor, science fiction: Adventures of a British investigator in an animal reserve in South Africa where too many freak births have been happening among the animals.
  8. [novelette] A E van Vogt's "Black Destroyer" (A); download; Astounding, July 1939: Men exploring a world that once knew civilization but is now sterile of life have terror waiting for them.

    First published story of Van Vogt, & the story that is sometimes credited to have began the "Golden Age" of science fiction.
  9. [novelette] C L Moore's "Greater Than Gods" (A); Astounding, July 1939: A man is approached by his descendants from far off alternate futures. Each is canvassing to make him choose an action that will enable their future to exist!
  10. [ss] John Taine's "The Ultimate Catalyst" (A); Thrilling Wonder Stories, June 1939: A man has found a way to turn living animals into plants rooted to the ground!
  11. [novelette] L Sprague de Camp's "The Gnarly Man" (A); Unknown, June 1939: When a 50,000 years old neanderthal, made immortal by a mysterious lightning strike, turned up in New York city!
  12. [ss] Lester del Rey's "The Day is Done" (A); Astounding, May 1939: Last neanderthal breaths his last. Sentimental & sad mood.
  13. [ss] Theodore Sturgeon's "Ether Breather" (A); Astounding, September 1939; humor: A new TV transmission technology has made communications with invisible intelligent beings possible! But they have a weird sense of humor.

    This is Sturgeon's first published story.
  14. [novelette] Jack Williamson's "Star Bright" (A); Argosy, November 1939: A meteor impact has given a strange capability to a man - his can wish arbitrary material things to appear or disappear! Makes a reference to H G Wells' "The Man Who Could Work Miracles".
  15. [novella] John W Campbell, Jr's "Cloak of Aesir" (B) (as by Don A Stuart); Astounding, March 1939: Earth was colonized by aliens thousands of years ago - an event that turned men into surfs. Now a group of men are beginning a revolution to throw the aliens out.
  16. [novelette] William F Temple's "The Four-Sided Triangle" (B); Amazing Stories, November 1939: Three friends - two men & a woman. Both men are in love with her, but she's loves only one. They marry. Finally, a solution is found to the rejected one's woes - by duplicating the woman! Only, the duplicate has exact same desires as the original - including the man she loves!
  17. [novelette] Nelson Bond's "Pilgrimage" (B); Amazing Stories, October 1939: In a matriarchal society where men are second class citizens, a young woman's coming of age ritual makes her undertake pilgrimage to a sacred temple some days journey away. but the journey leads to adventure & enlightenment.
  18. [ss] Milton A Rothman's "Heavy Planet" (B) (as by Lee Gregory); download; Astounding, August, 1939: Natives of a very high gravity world have got a relic from the skies.
  19. [ss] Isaac Asimov's "Trends" (B); Astounding, July 1939: Religious cranks won't let the first manned flight to moon happen - terming it sacrilege against gods! Hero will fight the forces of the dark & win (after much trouble).

    Asimov's first appearance in Astounding, & his third published story.
  20. [ss] Robert Bloch's "The Strange Flight of Richard Clayton" (B); Amazing Stories, March 1939: Loneliness can make a man age visibly! Story is of the first manned flight to Mars - a project that failed.

Fact sheet.

First published: 1979 (DAW).
Relevant entries have been added to the list of stories from John Campbell's Astounding.