Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lester del Rey (ed)'s "The Best of John W Campbell" (collection): Annotated table of contents & review

Cover of short story collection The Best of John W Campbell, edited by Lester del Rey
"Who Goes There?" has been filmed more than once & is among his best known stories. And I loved "Forgetfulness". "Twilight" is widely anthologized, but didn't work for me; to me it sounded like a bad imitation of some themes from H G Wells' "The Time Machine". "Cloak of Aesir" is also a well known story, but it works best when read after "Out of the Night"; the two actually form one complete story. "The Last Evolution" is the oldest story I've read on the idea of singularity. "Blindness" is now very dated. "The Invaders" & "Rebellion" also need to be read together & in sequence; they too together form a single complete story.

ToC below is in order of my preference, best first (4 commented stories at the end of list are where I need to refer to my notes; will come back on them later). My rating is in brackets. Links on publisher or year fetches more matching fiction. Where I'm aware of an online copy, I include that link too.
  1. [novella] "Who Goes There?" (A); download; Astounding, August 1938: When the curious opened the bottle, & let the jinn out...
  2. [novelette] "Forgetfulness" (as by Don A Stuart) (A); Astounding, June 1937: Technological progress involves forgetting old knowledge.
  3. [ss] "The Machine" (as by Don A Stuart) (B); Astounding, February 1935: North is the best!
  4. [ss] "Elimination" (B); Astounding, May 1936: Two men build a "chronoscope" that lets you see, on a TV screen, all places & times in future or past. The inventors begin looking at their own possible futures, & the view is very ugly...
  5. [ss] "Blindness" (B); Astounding, March 1935: A great inventor spends substantial time in close proximity to sun, studying it to discover the secret of "atomic power" - an activity that succeeded but blinded him. Ironic ending as another of his earlier inventions, an alloy called "thermlectrium", has outdated the need for atomic power in the meantime.
  6. [ss] "The Last Evolution" (C); download; Amazing Stories, August 1932: Probably among the earliest stories about singularity, decades before the term was coined.
  7. [ss] "Twilight"; Astounding, November 1934: Description of the last days of human race, as narrated by a time traveler to future...
  8. [ss] "The Invaders"; Astounding, June 1935.
  9. [novelette] "Rebellion"; Astounding, August 1935.
  10. [novelette] "Out of the Night"; Astounding, October 1937.
  11. [novelette] "Cloak of Aesir"; Astounding, March 1939.

Fact sheet.

First published: 1976.
Related: Stories of John Campbell; Fiction from 1930s.