Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Science Fiction Century

The Science Fiction Century by David G. Hartwell (Editor)
Hardcover, 1005 pages
Tom Doherty Associates, 1997
ISBN-13: 9780312863388
45 Short stories
highly recommended

Synopsis from Publisher:
A definitive collection of the literature that has shaped the past hundred years, The Science Fiction Century includes stories from the founding fathers of the field, such as H. G. Wells and C. S. Lewis and genre mainstays like Roger Zelazny and Jack Vance. Also noted are influential female scribes like Connie Willis and Nancy Kress, and writers such as E. M. Forster, Michael Shaara, and Harlan Ellison - contributors who are also recognized outside of the genre. A treat for readers of all literary interests.

My Thoughts:

Little did I know the treasure I was finding in the clearance section of our local used book store when I picked up The Science Fiction Century, a massive anthology of 45 science fiction short stories edited by David Hartwell. Almost all of the selections included were outstanding, but I especially enjoyed the stories noted with an asterisk below. Each selection opens with a brief biography of the writer and their work, which I really appreciated.
Highly Recommended

Table of Contents
* Beam Us Home - James Tiptree Jr.
Ministering Angels - C. S. Lewis
* The Music Master of Babylon - Edgar Pangborn
A Story of the Days to Come - H. G. Wells
Hot Planet - Hal Clement
* A Work of Art - James Blish
* The Machine Stops - E. M. Forster
Brightness Falls from the Air - Margaret St. Clair
2066 Election Day - Michael Shaara
The Rose - Charles Harness
* The Hounds of Tindalos - Frank Belknap Long
* The Angel of Violence - Adam Wisniewski-Snerg
Nobody Bothers Gus - Algis Budrys
The Time Machine - Dino Buzzati
Mother - Philip Jose Farmer
As Easy as A.B.C. - Rudyard Kipling
* Ginungagap - Michael Swanwick
* Minister Without Portfolio - Mildred Clingerman
Time in Advance - William Tenn
Good Night Sophie - Lino Aldani
* Veritas - James Morrow
Enchanted Village - A. E. van Vogt
The King and the Dollmaker - Wolfgang Jeschke
Fire Watch - Connie Willis
Goat Song - Poul Anderson
* The Scarlet Plague - Jack London
Drunkboat - Cordwainer Smith
Another World - J. H. Rosny-Aîné
If the Stars Are Gods - Gregory Benford and Gordon Eklund
* I Still Call Australia Home - George Turner
Liquid Sunshine - Alexander Kuprin; trans. by Leland Fetzer
Great Work of Time - John Crowley
* Sundance - Robert Silverberg
Greenslaves - Frank Herbert
* Rumfuddle - Jack Vance
The Dimple in Draco - Philip Latham
* Consider Her Ways - John Wyndham
Something Ending - Eddy C. Bertin
He Who Shapes - Roger Zelazny
Swarm - Bruce Sterling
* Beggars in Spain - Nancy Kress
Johnny Mnemonic - William Gibson
Repent Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman - Harlan Ellison
Blood's a Rover - Chad Oliver
Sail the Tide of Mourning - Richard A. Lupoff

Quotes from introduction:

Science fiction is a literature for people who value knowledge and who desire to understand how things work in the world and in the universe. In science fiction, knowledge is power and power is technology and technology is good and useful in improving the human condition. It is, by extension, a literature of empowerment. pg. 17

It is a source of both amusement and frustration to SF people, writers and readers, that the public consciousness of science fiction has almost never penetrated beyond the first decade of the field's development. Sure, Star Wars is wonderful, but in precisely the same way and at the same level of consciousness and sophistication that science fiction from the late twenties and early thirties was: fast, almost plotless stories of zipping through the ether in spaceships, meeting aliens, using futuristic devices, and fighting the bad guys (and winning). SF people generally call this sci fi (affectionately, "skiffy"), to distinguish it from the real, grown-up pure quill. pg. 19

In the end this anthology is a collection of attempts to get at the truth of the human condition in this century, so contoured and conditioned by science and technology. Overall, perhaps, you can see the big picture, surely a bigger picture than any other. pg. 20

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