Friday, May 21, 2010
Friday's "Forgotten" Books: BEST SF '71 ed. by Harry Harrison & Brian Aldiss (Berkley 1972); YEAR'S FINEST FANTASY ed. by Terry Carr (Berkley 1978)
More landmarks, personally at least
Courtesy the Contento/Locus/Homeville indices:
Best SF: 1971 ed. Harry Harrison & Brian W. Aldiss (G.P. Putnam’s LCC# 74-116158, 1972, $5.95, 253pp, hc); In the UK as The Year’s Best Science Fiction No. 5 (Sphere 1972).
9 · Introduction · Harry Harrison · in
14 · Doctor Zombie and His Furry Little Friends · Robert Sheckley · ss Can You Feel Anything When I Do This?, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1971
25 · Conquest · Barry N. Malzberg · ss New Dimensions I, ed. Robert Silverberg, Doubleday, 1971
31 · Gehenna · Barry N. Malzberg · ss Galaxy Mar ’71
37 · A Meeting with Medusa · Arthur C. Clarke · nv Playboy Dec ’71
83 · The Genius · Donald Barthelme · ss New Yorker Feb ’71
90 · Angouleme · Thomas M. Disch · ss New Worlds Quarterly, ed. Michael Moorcock, London: Sphere, 1971
108 · If “Hair” Were Revived in 2016 · Arnold M. Auerbach · fa The New York Times, 1971
110 · Statistician’s Day · James Blish · ss Science Against Man, ed. Anthony Cheetham, Avon, 1970
120 · The Science Fiction Horror Movie Pocket Computer · Gahan Wilson · ms The National Lampoon Nov ’71
124 · The Hunter at His Ease · Brian W. Aldiss · ss Science Against Man, ed. Anthony Cheetham, Avon, 1970
144 · The Cohen Dog Exclusion Act · Steven Schrader · ss Eco-Fiction, ed. John Stadler, Washington Square, 1971
149 · Gantlet · Richard E. Peck · ss Orbit 10, ed. Damon Knight, G.P. Putnam’s, 1972
162 · Report · Kingsley Amis · pm The New Statesman, 1971
163 · Fisherman · Lawrence Sail · pm The New Statesman, 1971
164 · The Ideal Police State · Charles Baxter · pm The Little Magazine, 1971
165 · The Pagan Rabbi · Cynthia Ozick · nv The Hudson Review, 1966
198 · (Untitled) [from Cancerqueen] · Tommaso Landolfi · ex, 1971
200 · An Uneven Evening · Steve Herbst · ss Clarion, ed. Robert Scott Wilson, Signet, 1971
210 · Ornithanthropus · B. Alan Burhoe · ss If Dec ’71
224 · No Direction Home · Norman Spinrad · ss New Worlds Quarterly 2, ed. Michael Moorcock, London: Sphere, 1971
242 · Afterword: A Day in the Life-Style of... · Brian W. Aldiss · aw
Year’s Finest Fantasy ed. Terry Carr (Berkley/Putnam, 1978, hc)
· Introduction · Terry Carr · in
· Jeffty Is Five · Harlan Ellison · ss F&SF Jul ’77
· The Bagful of Dreams [Cugel; Dying Earth] · Jack Vance · nv Flashing Swords! #4, ed. Lin Carter, Dell, 1977
· The Cat from Hell · Stephen King · ss Cavalier Jun ’77
· Black as the Pit, from Pole to Pole · Steven Utley & Howard Waldrop · nv New Dimensions 7, ed. Robert Silverberg, Harper & Row, 1977
· The Kugelmass Episode · Woody Allen · ss New Yorker May 2 ’77; F&SF Dec ’77
· Manatee Gal Ain’t You Coming Out Tonight [Jack Limekiller] · Avram Davidson · nv F&SF Apr ’77
· Getting Back to Before It Began · Raylyn Moore · ss F&SF Aug ’77
· Descent of Man · T. Coraghessan Boyle · ss The Paris Review Spr ’77
· Probability Storm · Julian Reid · nv Universe 7, ed. Terry Carr, Doubleday, 1977
· Growing Boys · Robert Aickman · nv Tales of Love and Death, Gollancz, 1977
So, here are two books which, along the horror anthologies and the Hitchcock antologies and the humor anthologies and eventually the Judith Merril anthologies (among much else, of course), helped shape my view of what literature could do, and why attempts at hard and fast distinction between "genre" fiction and (most pathetically) "literary" fiction are useless at best and pernicious and destructive at worst...they've certainly helped limit and end careers for talented writers throughout the previous century, at least.
It's difficult to read "The Genius" by Donald Barthelme side by side with "Angouleme" by Thomas Disch and say that the first is literary art and the second a mere entertainement written to preconceived limitations, and even if that was remotely true of the Disch, one would have to wonder why it was assumend no preconceptions were at play in the compostion of the Barthelme. As it was, these were two of the stories which utterly floored me in the book, even in the presence of such major work as the Clarke, and the duo from Malzberg, the Spinrad and one of the best stories, slightly time-displaced in a Best of 1971 volume, by Ozick. "The Genius" certainly spoke to me as I reread it on a school bus, on the long hike back from a field trip to the New England Seaquarium as I recall, with my busmates in my vicinity wondering why I was so engrossed in that odd book. What are the responsibilities of being a genius? Can one choose not to be one? A compelling set of questions; nearly as memorable, the convocation of geniuses, several hundred geniuses in one room, reminding our protagonist of his less than utter uniqueness and putting him in a bad mood for several days.
Landolfi's Cancerqueen excerpt haunted me ("Cancroregina" in the language of the author and my grandfather's family), even as Wilson flowchart guide to monster movies (reptinted illegibly in the Sphere edition, even when I had good eyes) blew me away even among the many funny shorter bits, and the acid not so short Sheckley lead-off, included here.
Bill Crider recently reprinted George Kelley's contemporary review of the Carr volume for Paperback Quarterly, and while I commented extensively there, I'd still like to note here that while this volume wasn't quite as unworried about going "outside" the "boundaries" for its contents, it still kept alive the traditions Carr had established with his fine New Worlds of Fantasy trio of anthologies back in the latest '60s and earliest '70s (more directly contemporaneous with the Harrison/Aldiss volume above); this first volume of his annual, which would continue as Fantasy Annual after moving with Carr's publisher's editor David Hartwell from Berkley to Pocket Books, after a second volume with B/P) would've contained Jorge Luis Borges's "The Book of Sand" as well, if Carr was willing to pay the stiff reprint fee demanded. As it was, this volume stands as an iterestingly mixed bag, with excellent stories (unsurprisingly) from Vance, Aickman (which got across to adolescent me the potentially creepish aspects of parenthood), Ellison (not his best fantasy, but just a cut below) and Davidson (though it took me longer to warm up to the Limekiller stories than it did to some of Davidson's more flashily erudite and hilarious work). Ir also, with the inclusion of "The Cat from Hell," confirmed for me that I often found King's work suprisingly dull, crude, and generally dismal, particularly given how much people seemed to love it (while also finding the occasional story, such as "Children of the Corn" as collected in a contemporary Year's Best Horror Stories annual volume, suprisingly good, leaving me to wonder why dreck such as "Cat" was being written, published, and lauded); the (bad sort of) ridiculously smug and cutesy "Descent of Man" was the first exposure, I believe, I had to Boyle, who has tended in his shallow and striving way to appear in magazine issues and anthologies I often otherwise enjoy with appalling frequency over the decades since, usually offering a sort of sub-Ellisonian attempt to be clever and challenging and failing dismally...I have read one, and only one, decent story by him, in Zoetrope All-Story several years back, which just makes me wonder what he might achieve if he didn't so consistently attempt to be so clumsily ironic and fashionably broad in his affect. The Woody Allen story of sorts is typical of his literay work, a series of some good and other jokes barely stuck together as a narrative...a sketch in prose rather than a truly realized story. The early Utley/Waldrop, like the Reid, is more promising than indicative of what the former duo, at least, could do...Utley was already producing better work, and Waldrop would really flower in the next decade. The Moore has most of the flaws of the Boyle, as most of her work did, without being quite as impressed with itself. Oddly, I remember reading some of this one for the first time in the Hirschorn Museum in DC, as I was resting after taking in a good chunk of the collection that day, in a month or so I spent in DC in '78.
All in all, interesting books, not perfect ones, and they did nothing to quell my continuing habit of picking up annuals, even in the rare occasion that I've read most of the contents.
For more "forgotten" books, please see George Kelley's blog...at least he and Bill Crider are highlighting books this week by the late Manly Wade Wellman, whose birthday anniversary is today.