Friday, May 23, 2014

FFB: The Best from IF, Volume III edited by James Baen; World's Best Science Fiction 1970 and 1971 volumes, edited by Donald Wollheim and Terry Carr

Time for a few more examples of how the twig was bent...three important anthologies to me as a young reader. My father brought all three into the house, in the early/mid '70s, the two Wollheim/Carr annuals in their Science Fiction Book Club hardcover editions with the bold typography, the If magazine best-of in its only edition I've seen, published by the paperback arm of the magazine's publisher at the time, Award Books. These were fascinating anthologies to me, diverse and exposing a 10yo to a wide range of approaches to sf (11yo when the If book was published and arrived in-house), and to the life and matters around sf (the Hoagland and Geis and Del Rey columns in the If volume particularly). They didn't sweep me up as thoroughly as the "Alfred Hitchcock"-attributed anthologies I was reading in the same year or so, and as many as I could find, and the similarly eclectic horror anthologies I was reading (and humor, and so much else) were at least as influential and as eagerly devoured, but as I look at what I was dipping into with these, as well as with the other anthologies and collections my father would bring around along with what I could find on my own in booksales and libraries and even the increasingly frequent visits to actual bookstores, it's easy to see why I've remained an enthusiastic reader of the fantastic, and have perhaps an excessively nostalgic attraction to best-of annuals, even when I might disagree with the editors in question about their choices from a given year or run of issues...what they choose, and as much as they choose to share about how they chose, is often fascinating...beyond the quality of the work in question...while Terry Carr and Donald Wollheim weren't as eclectic in their annual as was Judith Merril or Harry Harrison  (increasingly in partnership with Brian Aldiss) with theirs, nonetheless the two Ace editors (in at least two senses) attempted to provide as diverse a cross-section of "true" sf as they could...and even though I've never much liked Alexei Panshin's fiction and "Waterclap" was disappointingly minor Asimov (particularly as I was already torn, as were the competing camps in the story, between passions for astronomy and oceanography), much of the rest ranged from eye-opening, to say the least (the Le Guin, the Richard Wilson, the Ellison, the Tiptree) to very funny indeed (Wilson and perhaps even more the Silverberg) and now I'm reminded where I first read such folks as Neal Barrett, and R. A. Lafferty, and Alice "Racoona"/"James Tiptree, Jr." Sheldon...the If volume mourned the passage of its source magazine, folded despite the strong revival it had experienced in sales under its young editor James Baen, and further gave me a lot of my earliest understanding of the writer/fan community around sf, as well as handing me not a few interesting stories as well. Not least what was probably one of  my first Fritz Leibers (along with "Ship of Shadows")... (Robert Arthur and Harold Q. Masur, hiding behind Hitchcock, had already introduced me to Theodore Sturgeon; Henry Mazzeo and Edward Gorey had already introduced me to Robert Bloch, among so many others...).

My immersion in fiction magazines, that could feed such wonderful fiction to such volumes as these (and the Hitchcock and horror and other anthologies I'd read), or the Best Detective Stories volumes (where Anthony Boucher's volumes, for example, weren't afraid to draw as far afield as upon Fantastic for a Ron Goulart story, or the Borges collection Labyrinths for examples of his work, which Boucher had been the first to translate into English and see published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine in the 1940s) and others I was just beginning to find, was all but inevitable. Haven't shaken it yet.

Indices courtesy of Homeville:

The Best from If, Volume III ed. James Baen (Award AD1544, 1976, $1.50, 220pp, pb)
  • 9 · Midnight by the Morphy Watch · Fritz Leiber · ss Worlds of If Jul/Aug ’74
  • 35 · Plaything · Larry Niven · ss Worlds of If Jul/Aug ’74
  • 43 · A Little Night Flying [“Dark Icarus”; Rob Hasson] · Bob Shaw · ss Science Fiction Monthly v1 #4 ’74; If Aug ’74
  • 61 · Half-Baked Publisher’s Delight · Jeffrey S. Hudson & Isaac Asimov · ss Worlds of If Jul/Aug ’74
  • 69 · Mephisto & the Ion Explorer · Colin Kapp · nv Worlds of If Sep/Oct ’74
  • 111 · Following Yonder Star · Richard C. Hoagland · ar Worlds of If Nov/Dec ’74
  • 131 · Gut in Peril · Arsen Darnay · ss Worlds of If Nov/Dec ’74
  • 141 · Time Deer · Craig Strete · ss Red Planet Earth #4 ’74 (and reprinted in If)
  • 149 · The Alien Viewpoint · Richard E. Geis · ar Worlds of If Sep/Oct ’74
  • 163 · The Descent of Man · Judith Ann Lawrence · ss Worlds of If Nov/Dec ’74
  • 177 · Angel Fix · Raccoona Sheldon · nv Worlds of If Jul/Aug ’74
  • 211 · Reading Room · Lester del Rey · br Worlds of If Nov/Dec ’74

The World’s Best Science Fiction: 1970 ed. Donald A. Wollheim & Terry Carr (Ace 91357, 1970, 95¢, 349pp, pb)

The World’s Best Science Fiction: 1971 ed. Donald A. Wollheim & Terry Carr (Ace, 1971, pb)
For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Some stunning content here - I wonder hwo readers of today react to short stories like this - in many cases I fear they mind find them too intellectual and yet, as you express so well, these is mind expanding, eye-openign stuff. Thanks Todd - heady days the 70s were ...

Todd Mason said...

It was a good time to get hooked on fiction...but I fear the sophistication of our "commercial" as well as "little" fiction magazines did tend to lose entirely too many readers.

George said...

These volumes bring back a lot of memories. I used to read each issue of IF as soon as it arrived (I thought it was best SF magazine during the 1960s...until Fred Pohl left).

Todd Mason said...

George, in the unlikely event you haven't done so, you should definitely pick up that IF retrospective volume I reviewed for FFB some time back...the memoirs alone are worth the effort and more, and then there's the fiction.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Todd, I assume you're sitting on a neat pile of these and other astonishing (for me) anthologies collected through the years. As for me I find them quite overwhelming — there is just so much to read (online) and assimilate that I merely hop from one to the other reading this or that along the way. It's a lot of fun, of course.

Todd Mason said...

Not so neat stacks, as the bookshelves grown and rather neater storage boxes merely stand silently, which I never intentionally sit upon...but, yes, it's a lot to move these days. The sad part is, what's online is even more random than what's in print, and even less certain of being of lasting merit...and that's true of the older materials happily made available again archivally, as well...but they are certainly there for the experiencing!

Todd Mason said...

That was meant to be bookshelves groan, but they've certainly grown overpopulated, as well...