I haven’t read science fiction in many years–to be honest, non-fiction has consumed what little reading time I have. But the other night, I rediscovered, tucked behind some other books on my shelves, my copy of the first volume of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. It’s a collection of some of the best sci-fi short stories ever written between the 1930’s and the 1960’s. I’ve owned this paperback for over 30 years, and read it voraciously as a teenager. If you’ve never read sci-fi before, this is the perfect gateway.
As one might expect, the titans of sci-fi lit–Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein–are included, as well as writers sadly unknown by those who are not sci-fi fans. The stories in this collection were voted on by members of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA).
If the name of that organization sounds familiar to you, it may be because its current president, John Scalzi, has been attracting media attention and eyeballs recently by 1) blogging (sometimes profanely so) about what he and several other authors perceive as horrendous contract terms offered by Random House’s Hydra and Albi imprints; and 2) engaging in a public feud (complete with name-calling) with SFWA presidential candidate Theodore Beale. The two aren’t running against each other (Scalzi is stepping down this year after three one-year terms), but their animosity approaches Ravens-Steelers levels.
Back to the book. My favorite pieces are:
- Stanley Weinbaum’s “A Martian Odyssey” (an intrepid explorer from Earth meets Martian lifeforms unlike any you might imagine);
- Theodore Sturgeon’s “Microcosmic God” (a scientist creates artificial life that displays amazing technological prowess);
- Lewis Padgett’s “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” (some “educational toys” will teach your kids stuff you might not want them to know);
- Frderic Brown’s “Arena” (remade as the infamous [?] Star Trek episode where Kirk fights the Gorn);
- Cordwainer Smith’s “Scanners Live in Vain” (it’s tough to be a space-travelling cyborg);
- Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations” (speaking of space travel, math is a bitch when it comes to that); and,
- Alfred Bester’s “Fondly Fahrenheit” (androids can go crazy, too).
I have to also mention Damon Knight’s “The Country of the Kind” (whose protagonist I empathized with as a teenager) and Daniel Keyes heartbreaking “Flowers for Algernon,” and…. Oh, just go to Amazon and order yourself a copy, willya? You’ll be glad you did.