Bibliography: Groff Conklin

I wasn’t intending to do this, especially so close to the last one, but here’s another bibliography/checklist, this time of an editor of anthologies rather than an author of novels and collections. (While he wrote some and edited a few non-speculative anthologies prior to turning to science fiction, this includes only the speculative anthologies beginning with 1946.)

The format is ‘Title (Publication year-month Publisher Format (hc=hardcover/tp=trade paperback/pb=mass-market paperback) Co-editor, story-count/page-count); any significant variants…’ Not all elements will be present for all editions. Note that books with identical contents but differing page counts (presumably due to being reset) are ignored but, if they have some other reason to be listed, are listed with the page counts separated with a bar: ‘page-count|other page count’. Variant listings include only the elements which are different from the first edition. For instance, the 1963 edition of The Best of Science Fiction is still a Crown hardcover and the 1980 Bonanza/Crown edition is still a hardcover with the original story and page counts. Variants are ‘cut’ (missing stories), ‘split’ (one large book published in smaller books, ‘vt’ (variant title), ‘va’ (variant attribution), or some combination.

Sources: ISFDB, Anthopology 101 by Bud Webster, my books. ISFDB, Webster, and other sources have complete story listings but this is intended to be a book checklist which can provide a concise but somewhat detailed overview of his work, help people avoid cuts or duplicates under other names, point people to the big and the little, particular publishers, etc.

Phase I

In this period, Conklin did mostly large anthologies in hardcover, mostly for Crown, Vanguard, and Permabooks.

  • The Best of Science Fiction (1946-02 Crown hc, 40/785); cut 1963 23/440 (also cuts Campbell’s intro, though it preserves Conklin’s); vt The Golden Age of Science Fiction (1980 Bonanza/Crown).
  • A Treasury of Science Fiction (1948-03 Crown hc, 30/517); cut 1957-07 Berkley pb, 8/186|192.
  • The Science Fiction Galaxy (1950-02 Permabooks hc, 12/242).
  • Big Book of Science Fiction (1950-08 Crown hc, 32/545); cut 1957-04 Berkley pb, 10/187|176; vt The Classic Book of Science Fiction (1978 Bonanza/Crown).
  • Possible Worlds of Science Fiction (1951-04 Vanguard hc, 22/372); cut 1952-06 Grayson & Grayson (UK), 13/254; cut 1955-07 Berkley pb, 10/189.
  • In the Grip of Terror (1951 Permabooks pb, 22/364).
  • Invaders of Earth (1952-03 Vanguard hc, 22/333); cut 1953 Weidenfeld & Nicolson (UK) 14/256; cut 1955-07 Pocket pb, 15/257; cut split vt Invaders of Earth (1962 Digit (UK) pb, 8/160)/Enemies in Space (1962 Digit (UK) pb, 6/159). The Digits contain all the Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
  • Omnibus of Science Fiction (1952-11 Crown hc, 43/562); cut split vt Strange Travels in Science Fiction (1954-01 Grayson & Grayson (UK); 13/256)/Strange Adventures in Science Fiction (1954-06 Grayson & Grayson (UK), 9/238); cut vt Science Fiction Omnibus (1956-08 Berkley pb 11/187|190).
  • Science Fiction Adventures in Dimension (1953-03 Vanguard hc, 23/354); cut vt Adventures in Dimension (1955 Grayson & Grayson (UK), 13/240); cut 1965-03 Berkley pb, 12/174.
  • The Supernatural Reader (1953-04 Lippincott hc, 27/349) with Lucy Conklin; cut 1958 World (UK) pb, 19/252; va 1962 Collier pb, /352 credited to Groff Conklin only.
  • Crossroads in Time (1953-11 Permabooks pb, 18/312).
  • 6 Great Short Novels of Science Fiction (1954-01 Dell pb, 6/384).
  • Science-Fiction Thinking Machines (1954-05 Vanguard hc, 22/367); cut vt Selections from Science-Fiction Thinking Machines (1955-08 Bantam pb, 12/183|201).
  • Science Fiction Terror Tales (1955-01 Gnome hc, 15/262).
  • Science Fiction Adventures in Mutation (1955 Vanguard hc, 20/316); cut vt Selected Stories from Science-Fiction Adventures in Mutation (1965-06 Berkley pb, 14/174).
  • Operation Future (1955-07 Permabooks pb, 19/356).

Phase II

The two years between the last book of Phase I and the first of Phase II marks the longest gap between books of his entire career. From here on, he did mostly relatively smaller paperbacks, mostly for Pyramid, Fawcett, and Collier (and no more with Crown, Vanguard, or Permabooks).

  • The Graveyard Reader (1958 Ballantine pb, 12/156)
  • Br-r-r-! (1959 Avon pb, 10/192)
  • 4 for the Future (1959-08 Pyramid pb, 4/160)
  • 13 Great Stories of Science Fiction (1960-05 Fawcett pb, 13/192)
  • Six Great Short Science Fiction Novels (1960-11 Dell pb, 6/350)
  • Twisted (1962-05 Belmont pb, 15/189); cut 1963 Horwitz (UK) pb, 10/130.
  • Worlds of When (1962-05 Pyramid pb, 5/159)
  • Great Science Fiction by Scientists (1962-06 Collier pb, 16/313)
  • Fifty Short Science Fiction Tales (1963-02 Collier pb, 50/287) with Isaac Asimov. Also includes a poem by Poul Anderson and six haiku by Karen Anderson.
  • Great Science Fiction About Doctors (1963-04 Collier pb, 18/412) with Noah D. Fabricant, M.D.
  • Great Stories of Space Travel (1963-07 Tempo pb, 11/256)
  • 17 X Infinity (1963-08 Dell pb, 17/272). Also includes a poem by Rudyard Kipling.
  • 12 Great Classics of Science Fiction (1963-12 Fawcett pb, 12/192)
  • Dimension 4 (1964-02 Pyramid pb, 4/159)
  • Five-Odd (1964-08 Pyramid pb, 5/188); vt Possible Tomorrows (1972-06 Sidgwick & Jackson (UK) hc).
  • Great Detective Stories About Doctors (1965-01 Collier pb, 17/288) with Noah D. Fabricant, M.D.
  • 5 Unearthly Visions (1965 Fawcett pb, 5/175)
  • Giants Unleashed (1965 Grosset & Dunlap hc, 12/248); vt Minds Unleashed (1970-10 Tempo pb). Conklin’s introduction is dropped from the variant title.
  • 13 Above the Night (1965-10 Dell pb, 13/286)
  • Another Part of the Galaxy (1966 Fawcett pb, 6/224)
  • Seven Come Infinity (1966 Fawcett pb, 7/288)
  • Science Fiction Oddities (1966-11 Berkley pb, 19/256); split vt Science Fiction Oddities (1969-06 Rapp & Whiting (UK) hc, 9/156)/Science Fiction Oddities: Second Series (1969-06 Rapp & Whiting (UK) hc, 10/160)
  • Elsewhere and Elsewhen (1968-05 Berkley pb, 9/253); split vt Science Fiction Elsewhen (1970-07 Rapp & Whiting (UK) hc, 5/152)/Science Fiction Elsewhere (1970-07 Rapp & Whiting (UK) hc, 4/166)
  • Seven Trips Through Time and Space (1968 Fawcett pb, 7/256)

Note: ISFDB quotes Tuck as saying Conklin “sub-edited” Human and Other Beings (1963 Collier pb, 16/319) which is a title in the Collier Science Fiction series of which Conklin is credited as the general editor. Webster also lists it among Conklin’s works. But if this were true, it would make this book the only example of such a thing in all of Conklin’s SF anthologies and crediting only Allen DeGraeff (a pseudonym of Albert Paul Blaustein according to OCLC (via ISFDB) and Webster) would have hurt the sales of the book, so Conklin’s anonymity in this makes little sense to me without definite proof. For what it’s worth (because I don’t know what the usual batting average is), of the 15 authors in this anthology, Banks, Brackett (!), Elliott, and Wilson (with two stories) appear in none of the books I list above.

Bibliography: A. E. van Vogt

Resources like the ISFDB and The Storysource are wonderful but sometimes too detailed or require a lot of navigating and collating of information while others like the SFE are equally wonderful but sometimes not bibliographically detailed enough. This is a middle road, based on those sources and my collection, which may still be too much or too little for many but I hope some will find it useful or possibly even interesting.

This particular thin bibliography or fat checklist was motivated by my recent purchase of Out of the Unknown which completes my library of what I think of as van Vogt’s “Phase I” books. The reason for the notion of “phases” is that, with very few exceptions, he essentially wrote from 1939-1951 and managed to publish most of this material in book form from 1946-66 until, after over a decade of almost no original material, Frederik Pohl (editing Galaxy and If at the time) got van Vogt back to writing new material in 1963 which manifested in book form from 1969 on. I wanted to recheck his bibliography to make sure I’d gotten it right and, while I was at it, post the results as this categorized bibliography.

However, this isn’t the first one I’ve started–just the first I’ve finished. Prior to the van Vogt, I’d also recently acquired the “last” of what I think of as the essential (if affordable) Kuttner/Moore and, before that, Leiber. I actually started with the Kuttner/Moore bibliography, so it and the Leiber may be along some time soon, possibly followed by others.

The following is a list of parameters and conventions used in the lists below but it might be better to skip it, move directly to the lists, and only refer to it as needed.

  • The lists don’t include non-SF, translations, omnibuses, etc., but do include van Vogt’s core titles of science fiction published in English.
  • The format of entries is generally ‘Title (Series). Date Publisher Book-format Author-attribution. Description: Contents. Other-editions. Notes.’ (not all elements are present in all entries). The original edition and every edition that is substantially different from the original are listed in bold. If the publisher is based in the UK, that’s noted in parentheses. The book formats are ‘hc’ (hardcover), ‘tp’ (trade paper), or ‘pb’ (mass market paperback). The format of the contents is: ‘(Date [Fixup] Magazine/Anthology)’ (see below for “fixup”).
  • Dates for books and their contents are given as ‘1939’ (if the month is unknown), ‘1939-07’ (for July 1939), ‘1979-06/07’ (for June/July 1979), ‘1951-Sp’ (for Spring 1951) or ‘1948-10+3’ (meaning the work was serialized in the October 1948 issue plus the next three issues, taking it to January 1949. If the issue sequence is more complicated than that, I’ll note it.
  • I list significant variant titles (indicated with SFE’s ‘vt’) but I’m not too particular about details of spelling, articles, prepositions, etc., in the titles. The point is simply to list titles that might possibly be confusing rather than every trivial variation.
  • Books are ordered chronologically by book publication within each main category (with the exception of redundant books which are extracted from the chronological order and placed in their own subsection) although, when a book has a prior magazine publication, that is significant and is also listed.
  • When referred to in the descriptions, non-US and posthumous books are surrounded by {braces}. (For van Vogt, this is especially pertinent to the US and UK versions of The Best of A. E. van Vogt. Also note that {Futures Past} came out about three months before van Vogt died but he was suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s at that point (not to mention it had been 21 years since his last collection) so I count it as posthumous.)
  • When referred to in the descriptions, collections are often referred to in (parentheses). If they have multi-word titles, those are abbreviated:
    • {3EE}=The Three Eyes of Evil and Earth’s Last Fortress
    • AB=Away and Beyond
    • DU=Destination: Universe!
    • {FP}=Futures Past
    • FOW=The Far-Out Worlds of A. E. van Vogt
    • M33=M 33 in Andromeda
    • MOT=Masters of Time
    • MTS=More Than Superhuman
    • OOTU=Out of the Unknown
    • PI=The Proxy Intelligence and Other Mind Benders
    • TBO=The Best of A. E. van Vogt
    • TM=The Twisted Men
  • Though fixups are usually considered novels, in this particular bibliography, I separate van Vogt’s fixups from his novels and collections. For those not familiar with the term, a “fixup” (at least as I use it) is a half-collection/half-novel-like thing made up of previously published stories that are revised to merge better with the other stories, often with the help of new bridge/glue sections written to smooth the transitions and/or expand the material.
  • Stories that are part of fixups or expansions are indicated by a shortened book title in [brackets]. This means they have been collected in a sense, but when I describe them as uncollected, collected for the first time, etc., I’m referring to them as individual stories in essentially their original forms. Fixup references are usually the same as the title (possibly with articles dropped). More severe abbreviations are:
    • Atom=Empire of the Atom
    • Rogue=Rogue Ship
    • Rull=The War Against the Rull
    • Space Beagle=The Voyage of the Space Beagle
    • Weapon Shops=The Weapon Shops of Isher
  • A ‘^’ before a date indicates a story that was extracted from the fixup material at that time, rather than a pre-existing story incorporated into the fixup.
  • An ‘*’ after a title indicates a story that never appeared in a van Vogt collection individually but appears only in a fixup or an expanded novel.

Another thing to note about fixups and “phases” is that Rogue Ship could arguably be Phase II because a significant part of it comes from 1963 but it also includes two Phase I stories and was fixed up prior to The Silkie. On the flipside, Quest for the Future and Supermind could arguably be Phase I fixups because the former is built entirely out of Phase I material but none were related, and all had been previously collected while the latter is much like Rogue Ship in reverse, having only one Phase I story and being mostly two Phase II stories. Both also came out after The Silkie. Some collections are also ambiguous (though perhaps less so, with most being entirely from one phase or the other or with the exception of only a story or two. Most Phase II or posthumous collections with significant Phase I content have mostly only reprinted or previously fixed-up Phase I content).

Finally, I’d note that Edna Mayne Hull was van Vogt’s wife. E. M. (or E. Mayne) Hull is credited with some stories that came out from 1942-46 (coincidentally, van Vogt’s peak of productivity when it was a rule to use a pseudonym when more than one story by the same author appeared in the same issue) which resulted in a collection, fixup, and novel under that name or combined with van Vogt’s. Some believe she had a brief writing career (a notion van Vogt helped support) but others believe van Vogt essentially used the name as a pseudonym, much as John Campbell used his wife’s name Doña Stuart to create his Don A. Stuart pseudonym. Either way, all work credited to Hull appears in four books. Three stories published in Unknown appear in all editions of Out of the Unknown while a fourth ostensibly intended to be published there appears in the 1969 paperback edition. Five of the six Artur Blord stories originally published in Astounding appeared in the fixup Planets for Sale. The other (“Abdication” vt “The Invisibility Gambit”) and one other Astounding story credited to Hull (“Rebirth: Earth” vt “The Flight That Failed”) appear in The Proxy Intelligence with other van Vogt stories. Finally, the serial The Winged Man was published in Astounding and much later in revised book form. All four books are listed below.

I’ve tried very hard to include all information on a certain level and to make it accurate but there are bound to be errors. I’ll update this if anyone points out any or provides more information, or if I discover anything myself. I’ll then add a changelog of substantial changes at the end of the post to make it easy for people to be aware of them.

I’ve also tried to make this concise yet clear but, if it’s not, let me know and I’ll try to fix it.


Phase I

  • Slan. 1946 Arkham House hc. Slightly revised from 1940-09+3 Astounding. 1951 Simon & Schuster hc and 1968 Berkley pb both slightly revised.
  • The Weapon Makers (Weapon Shops #2). 1947 Hadley hc. Reprinted from 1943-02+2 Astounding. 1955 Ace double pb vt One Against Eternity.
  • The Book of Ptath. 1947 Fantasy Press hc. Reprinted from 1943-10 Unknown. 1964-07 Paperback Library pb vt Two Hundred Million A. D.; 1976-03 Zebra pb vt Ptath.
  • The World of Null-A (Null-A #1). 1948 Simon & Schuster hc vt The World of Ā (spelling used only on US hardcovers). Reprinted from 1945-08+2 Astounding.
  • The House That Stood Still. 1950 Greenberg hc. 1960 Beacon pb slightly revised, likely by other hands, vt The Mating Cry, which was used for subsequent reprints under the original title; 1976-06 Panther (UK) pb as The Undercover Aliens, which perhaps uses the original text.
  • The Universe Maker. 1953-10 Ace double pb. Expanded from the novella “The Shadow Men”* 1950-01 Startling.
  • The Pawns of Null-A (Null-A #2). 1956 Ace pb. Reprinted from 1948-10+3 Astounding vt The Players of Ā. 1966-03 Berkley vt The Players of Null-A.
  • The Mind Cage. 1957 Simon & Schuster hc. The short story “The Great Judge” (AB, {Transfinite}) was the seed for this.
  • The Wizard of Linn (Clane #2). 1962 Ace pb. Reprinted from 1950-04+2 Astounding.
  • The Winged Man. 1966-03 Doubleday hc as by A. E. van Vogt & E. Mayne Hull. Revised from 1944-05+1 Astounding as by E. Mayne Hull.

Phase II

  • Children of Tomorrow. 1970 Ace pb.
  • The Battle of Forever. 1971 Ace pb.
  • The Darkness on Diamondia. 1972-01 Ace pb.
  • Future Glitter. 1973-10 Ace pb; 1977-10 Sphere (UK) vt Tyranopolis.
  • The Secret Galactics. 1974-03 Prentice-Hall tp. 1976-08 DAW pb as Earth Factor X.
  • The Man with a Thousand Names. 1974-08 DAW pb.
  • The Anarchistic Colossus. 1977-04 Ace pb.
  • Renaissance. 1979-05 Ace pb. An excerpt with slightly modified ending was published essentially simultaneously as “Femworld”* 1979-06/07 Galaxy.
  • Cosmic Encounter. 1980-02 Doubleday hc.
  • Computerworld. 1983-11 DAW pb. 1985-07 DAW pb vt Computer Eye.
  • Null-A Three (Null-A #3). 1985-07 DAW pb.

Posthumous (essentially not by van Vogt)

  • Slan Hunter. 2007-07 Tor hc as by Kevin J. Anderson and A. E. van Vogt (written by Anderson from an outline by van Vogt and his step-son). Reprinted from 2006-12+2 Jim Baen’s Universe (bi-monthly).



Phase I

  • The Voyage of the Space Beagle. 1950 Simon & Schuster hc. Components: “Black Destroyer” (1939-07 Astounding), “War of Nerves” (1950-05 Other Worlds), “Discord in Scarlet” (1939-12 Astounding), “M 33 in Andromeda” (1943-08 Astounding). 1952-01 Signet pb vt Mission: Interplanetary.
  • The Weapon Shops of Isher (Weapon Shops #1). 1951 Greenberg hc. Components: “The Seesaw”* (1941-07 Astounding), “The Weapon Shop” (1942-12 Astounding), “The Weapon Shops of Isher”* (1949-02 Thrilling Wonder).
  • The Mixed Men. 1952 Gnome hc. Components: “Concealment” (1943-09 Astounding), “Lost: Fifty Suns” (^1972 The Book of Van Vogt), “The Storm” (1943-09 Astounding), “The Mixed Men” (1945-01 Astounding). 1955-12 Berkley pb vt Mission to the Stars.
  • Planets for Sale. 1954 Frederick Fell hc as by E. Mayne Hull. Components: “Competition”* (1943-06 Astounding), “The Debt”* (1943-12 Astounding), “The Contract”* (1944-03 Astounding), “Enter the Professor”* (1945-01 Astounding), “Bankruptcy Proceedings”* (1946-08 Astounding) all as by E. Mayne Hull. 1965 Book Company of America pb as by A. E. van Vogt and E. Mayne Hull. (Incidentally, in addition to none of the Blord stories being collected individually, none were even anthologized except for “Competition” in Men Against the Stars, Martin Greenberg, ed.)
  • Empire of the Atom (Clane #1). 1957 Shasta hc. Components: “A Son Is Born” (1946-05 Astounding), “Child of the Gods” (1946-08 Astounding), “Hand of the Gods” (1946-12 Astounding), “Home of the Gods” (1947-04 Astounding), “The Barbarian” (1947-12 Astounding). 1957 Ace double pb slightly abridged.
  • The War Against the Rull. 1959-09 Simon & Schuster hc. Components: “Co-operate–Or Else!” (1942-04 Astounding), “Repetition” (1940-04 Astounding), “The Second Solution” (1942-10 Astounding), “The Green Forest” (1949-06 Astounding), “The Sound” (1950-02 Astounding), “The Rull” (1948-05 Astounding).
  • The Beast. 1963 Doubleday hc. Components: “The Great Engine” (1943-07 Astounding), “The Changeling” (1944-04 Astounding), “The Beast”* (1943-11 Astounding). 1969 Panther (UK) pb vt Moonbeast.
  • Rogue Ship. 1965 Doubleday hc. Components: “Centaurus II”* (1947-06 Astounding), “The Expendables” (1963-09 If), “Rogue Ship” vt “The Twisted Men” (1950-03 Super-Science Stories).

Phase II

  • The Silkie. 1969 Ace pb. Components: “Prologue to The Silkie” (^1976 The Best of A. E. van Vogt), “The Silkie”* (1964-07 If), “Silkies in Space” (1966-05 If), “Enemy of the Silkies”* (1967-10 If).
  • Quest for the Future. 1970-07 Ace pb. Components: “Film Library” (1946-07 Astounding), “The Search” (1943-01 Astounding), “Far Centaurus” (1944-01 Astounding). All three unrelated stories had been collected in AB and DU.
  • Supermind. 1977-01 DAW pb. Components: “Asylum” (1942-05 Astounding), “Research Alpha” (1965-07 If with James H. Schmitz), “The Proxy Intelligence” (1968-10 If). Two previously collected related stories were combined with the unrelated (and uncredited) collaboration with Schmitz which served in place of an unwritten third story, with the whole serving in place of an unwritten but contracted book.


Phase I

  • Out of the Unknown. 1948-04 Fantasy Press hc as by A. E. van Vogt and E. Mayne Hull. Six previously uncollected stories from 1940-43 Unknown with half credited to van Vogt and half to E. Mayne Hull: “The Sea Thing” (1940-01), “The Witch” (1943-02), “The Ghost” (1943-08), all as by A. E. van Vogt; “The “Ultimate Wish” (1943-02) originally as by E. M. Hull, “The Wishes We Make” (1943-06), “The Patient” (1943-10), both as by E. Mayne Hull. 1969 Powell pb adds an introduction by A. E. van Vogt and “The Wellwisher” as by E. Mayne Hull, which is included as a story scheduled for Unknown when the magazine shut down. 1970-06 Sigwick & Jackson (UK) hc vt The Sea Thing and Other Stories. 1970-10 NEL (UK) pb restores the title but cuts the intro, “The Witch”, and “The Patient”. Only “The Sea Thing” (Monsters) and “The Ghost” ({Transfinite}) appear in other collections.
  • Masters of Time. 1950 Fantasy Press hc. Two previously uncollected novellas from 1942-44 Astounding: “Recruiting Station” (1942-03, re-titled “Masters of Time” for this collection and later sometimes titled “Earth’s Last Fortress”) and “The Changeling” [Beast] (1944-04). The Fantasy Press edition is the only one, but the two parts were later published individually as Masters of Time and The Changeling, both 1967 Macfadden. The former also appears as half of a 1960 Ace double vt “Earth’s Last Fortress”, part of the UK-only collection The Three Eyes of Evil and Earth’s Last Fortress and, under its original title, in the collection {Transfinite}.
  • Away and Beyond. 1952 Pellegrini & Cudahy hc. Nine previously uncollected stories from 1940-48, all but one of which are from Astounding: “Vault of the Beast” (1940-08), “The Great Engine” [Beast] (1943-07), “The Great Judge” (1948-07 Fantasy Book), “Secret Unattainable” (1942-07), “The Harmonizer” (1944-11), “Heir Unapparent” (1945-07 vt “Heir Apparent”), “The Second Solution” [Rull] (1942-10), “Film Library” (1946-07), “Asylum” [Supermind] (1942-05). 1963-09 Panther (UK) pb cuts “Vault of the Beast”. 1952-09 Berkley pb cuts that and “Heir Unapparent”. (The Avon and Jove paperbacks are complete.) The latter story also appears in M 33 in Andromeda while the former is reprinted in Monsters, {TBO}, {FP}, and {Transfinite}. Further, {Transfinite} reprints everything else in this collection except (again) “Heir Unapparent” and “The Second Solution” [Rull], which is reprinted in {FP} and {Transgalactic}.
  • Destination: Universe!. 1952 Pellegrini & Cudahy hc. Ten previously uncollected stories from 1943-50, six of which were published in Astounding: “Far Centaurus” (1944-01), “The Monster” vt “Resurrection” (1948-08), “Dormant” (1948-11 Startling), “Enchanted Village” vt “The Sands of Mars” (1950-07 Other Worlds), “A Can of Paint” (1944-09), “Defense” (1947 Avon Fantasy Reader, No. 4), “The Rulers” (1944-03), “Dear Pen Pal” vt “Letter from the Stars” (1949-Wi Arkham Sampler), “The Sound” [Rull] (1950-02), “The Search” (1943-01). 1953-03 Signet pb and 1964-03 Berkley pb drop van Vogt’s introduction. “Monsters” and “Enchanted Village” are reprinted in Monsters, the former also in {TBO} (which also reprints “Dear Pen Pal”) and the latter also in {FP}. All but “Defense” are also reprinted in {Transfinite}, leaving that one unique to this collection.
  • The Twisted Men. 1964-01 Ace double pb. Three previously uncollected novelettes from 1949-51, two of which were published in Super Science Stories: “The Twisted Men” vt “Rogue Ship” [Rogue] (1950-03), “The Star-Saint” (1951-03 Planet Stories), “The Earth Killers” (1949-04). “The Star-Saint” is reprinted in PI and “The Earth Killers” is reprinted in FOW but the only other appearance of “The Twisted Men” is in fixup form.
  • Monsters. 1965-02 Paperback Library pb. Four previously uncollected stories (though two had appeared earlier in fixup form) from 1949-50, three of which were published in Astounding, and four reprints (one of which had been cut from an edition of AB): “Not Only Dead Men” (1942-11), “Final Command” (1949-11), “War of Nerves” [Space Beagle] (1950-05 Other Worlds), “Concealment” [Mixed Men] (1943-09), “Enchanted Village” vt “The Sands of Mars” (DU), “The Sea Thing” (OOTU), “Resurrection” vt “The Monster” (DU), “Vault of the Beast” (AB). 1976-08 Zebra pb vt The Blal drops Forrest J. Ackerman’s intro, and doesn’t credit him as editor. Monsters is also sometimes known as Science Fiction Monsters, but this title is only found on the cover and not the spine or title page. “Final Command” and “War of Nerves” [Space Beagle] later appear in {Transfinite}, with the latter also appearing in both TBOs. “Concealment” [Mixed Men] later appears in {Transgalactic}. “Not Only Dead Men” is unique to this collection.
  • The Far-Out Worlds of A. E. van Vogt. 1968-10 Ace pb. Eleven previously uncollected stories from 1941-51 and 1963-66 and one reprint: “The Replicators” (1965-02 If), “The First Martian” vt “This Joe” (1951-08 Marvel), “The Purpose” (1945-05 Astounding), “The Cataaaaa” (1947-07 Fantasy Book), “Automaton” vt “Dear Automaton” (1950-09 Other Worlds), “Itself!” (1963-07 Gamma 1), “Process” (1950-12 F&SF), “Not the First” (1941-04 Astounding), “Fulfillment” (1951-11 New Tales of Space and Time), “Ship of Darkness” (1948-02 Fantasy Book), “The Ultra Man” (1966-05 Worlds of Tomorrow) and “The Earth Killers” (TM). 1974-01 Ace pb vt The Worlds of A. E. van Vogt adds one previously uncollected story (other than in its fixup) and two stories that had been collected after the original release of FOW: “The Storm” [Mixed Men] (1943-10 Astounding), “The Expendables” [Rogue] (M33), “The Reflected Men” (MTS). Later reprints from the original contents are: “The Cataaaaa” ({TBO}) and “The Replicators”, “The First Martian” vt “This Joe”, and “Fulfillment” (all {FP}). From the additional contents: “The Storm” [Mixed Men] and “The Expendables” [Rogue] (both {TBO}, the former also in Transgalactic), and “The Reflected Men” (FP). The other seven are unique to this collection.
  • The Proxy Intelligence and Other Mind Benders. 1971-01 Paperback Library pb. Five previously uncollected stories (including one which had appeared in fixup form) from 1940-49 and 1968 and one reprint. “The Proxy Intelligence” [Supermind] (1968-10 If), “The Problem Professor” aka “Project Spaceship” (1949-08 Thrilling Wonder), “Rebirth: Earth” vt “The Flight That Failed” as by A. E. van Vogt and E. Mayne Hull (1942-12 Astounding as by E. Mayne Hull), “The Gryb” [Rull] vt “Repetition” (1940-04 Astounding), “The Invisibility Gambit” vt “Abdication” as by A. E. van Vogt and E. Mayne Hull (1943-04 Astounding as by E. Mayne Hull), “The Star-Saint” (TM). 1976-05 Zebra pb vt The Gryb replaces “The Proxy Intelligence” with “Humans, Go Home!” (MTS). “The Proxy Intelligence” [Supermind] is a sequel to “Asylum” [Supermind] (AB) and is reprinted in both TBOs. The other stories first collected in this are also unique to it with “The Invisibility Gambit” vt “Abdication” being notable as the only Artur Blord story not fixed up into Planets for Sale.
  • M 33 in Andromeda. 1971-04 Paperback Library pb. Five previously uncollected stories (though all but one had appeared in fixups) from 1939-46 Astounding and 1963 and one reprint (which had been cut from an edition of AB): “Siege of the Unseen” vt “The Chronicler” vt “The Three Eyes of Evil” (1946-10), “Discord in Scarlet” [Space Beagle] (1939-12), “M 33 in Andromeda” [Space Beagle] (1943-08), “The Expendables” [Rogue] (1963-09 If), “Heir Unapparent” vt “Heir Apparent” (AB), “The Weapon Shop” [Weapon Shops] (1942-12). “Siege of the Unseen” had appeared as half of a 1959 Ace double but this was its first appearance in a collection. It was only reprinted in the all-reprint {3EE}. Other stories reprinted later are “Discord in Scarlet” [Rull] ({Transfinite}), “The Expendables” [Rogue] (the “Worlds” version of FOW and {TBO}), and “The Weapon Shop” [Weapon Shops] (also {TBO}). “M 33 in Andromeda” [Space Beagle] is unique.

Phase II

  • More Than Superhuman. 1971-05 Dell pb. Six previously uncollected (and recently written) stories from 1965-71: “Humans, Go Home!” (1969-09 Galaxy), “The Reflected Men” (1971-02 Galaxy), “All the Loving Androids” (original), “Laugh, Clone, Laugh” (1969 The Science Fiction Worlds of Forest J. Ackerman, with Forest J. Ackerman), “Research Alpha” [Supermind] (1965-07 If, with James H. Schmitz), “Him” (1969-01 Spaceway). “Humans, Go Home!” is reprinted in the Gryb version of PI and “The Reflected Men” is reprinted in the Worlds version of FOW and {FP}.
  • The Book of van Vogt. 1972-04 DAW pb. Seven previously uncollected stories (two from fixups) from 1947, 1952, and 1971-72, four of which are original: “The Timed Clock”, “The Confession”, “The Rat and the Snake” (1971-01/02 Witchcraft & Sorcery), “The Barbarian” [Atom] (1947-12 Astounding), “Ersatz Eternal”, “The Sound of Wild Laughter”, “Lost: Fifty Suns” [Mixed Men] (1952 The Mixed Men). 1979-09 DAW pb vt Lost: Fifty Suns. “The Sound of Wild Laughter” receives a sequel novel with The Secret Galactics. “The Barbarian” [Atom] is reprinted in {Transgalactic}. “Lost: Fifty Suns” [Mixed Men] was original material in its fixup but is broken out as an independent story for the first time.
  • The Best of A. E. van Vogt. 1974-05 Sphere (UK) pb (apparently beating the hardcover from Sidgwick & Jackson (UK) by six months). UK-only collection of four previously uncollected stories (three from fixups) from 1944-49 Astounding and 1966 and nine reprints: “Juggernaut” (1944-08), “Hand of the Gods” [Atom] (1946-12), “The Green Forest” [Rull] (1949-06), “Silkies in Space” [Silkies] (1966-05 If), “Vault of the Beast” (AB), “The Weapon Shop” [Weapon Shops] (M33), “The Storm” [Mixed Men] (Worlds), “The Cataaaaa” (FOW), “The Monster” vt “Resurrection” (DU), “Dear Pen Pal” vt “Letter from the Stars” (DU), “War of Nerves” [Space Beagle] (Monsters), “The Expendables” [Rogue] (M33), “The Proxy Intelligence” [Supermind] (PI). 1979-03 Sphere pb splits this into two volumes. Of the previously uncollected stories, “Hand of the Gods” reappears in {Transgalactic}.
  • The Best of A. E. van Vogt. 1976-07 Pocket pb. Bizarrely selected collection of six previously uncollected stories (three from fixups) from 1947-48 and 1964-74, two reprints, plus an intro, outro, and three essays by van Vogt, as well as an intro by Barry N. Malzberg: “Don’t Hold Your Breath” (1973-07 Saving Worlds), “All We Have on This Planet” (1974-10 Stopwatch), “War of Nerves” [Space Beagle] (Monsters), “The Rull” [Rull] (1948-05 Astounding), “Future Perfect” (1973-08 Vertex), “Home of the Gods” [Atom] (1947-04 Astounding), “Prologue to The Silkie” [Silkie] (1969 The Silkie), “The Proxy Intelligence” [Supermind] (PI). Of the previously uncollected stories, “Don’t Hold Your Breath”, “The Rull”, and “Future Perfect” were reprinted in {Transfinite} and “Home of the Gods” was reprinted in {Transgalactic}. The excerpt from The Silkie and “Don’t Hold Your Breath” (1973) are unique to this collection.
  • Pendulum. 1978-12 DAW pb. Contains seven previously uncollected stories (six original) from 1971 and 1978 and an article: “Pendulum”, “The Male Condition”, “Living with Jane”, “The First Rull”, “Footprint Farm”, “The Non-Aristotelian Detective”, “The Human Operators” (1971-01 F&SF with Harlan Ellison). All are unique to this collection with the allowance that “The Human Operators” had been collected in Ellison’s Partners in Wonder and “The First Rull” was added to a 1999 Orb edition of The War Against the Rull.


  • The Three Eyes of Evil and Earth’s Last Fortress. 1973-06 Sidgwick & Jackson (title is reversed for the paperback edition). This UK-only volume reprints “Siege of the Unseen” vt “The Three Eyes of Evil” (M33) and “Masters of Time” vt “Earth’s Last Fortress” (MOT).
  • The Universe Maker and The Proxy Intelligence. 1976-08 Sidgwick & Jackson (second title dropped from the paperback edition). This UK-only volume prints The Universe Maker with “The Proxy Intelligence” [Supermind] (PI).

Posthumous (and largely redundant)

  • Futures Past: The Best Short Fiction of A. E. van Vogt. 1999-10 Tachyon hc (in a limited printing of 1,000 trade paperbacks and 126 hardcovers). One previously uncollected story (from a fixup) and seven reprints: “Co-operate–Or Else!” [Rull] (1942-04 Astounding), “Enchanted Village” (DU), “The Second Solution” [Rull] and “Vault of the Beast” (both AB), “The First Martian” vt “This Joe”, “Fulfillment”, and “The Replicators” (all FOW), and “The Reflected Men” (MTS). “Co-operate–Or Else!” appears again in {Transgalactic}.
  • Transfinite: The Essential A. E. van Vogt. 2003-04 NESFA hc. One previously uncollected story (from a fixup) and twenty-four reprints. This would be an omnibus of the story contents of four books (if the fixup nature of The Voyage of the Space Beagle is ignored) but for the substitution of five stories (two being cut from one book and one from the rest). It includes 7/9 of Away and Beyond (skipping “Heir Unapparent” and “The Second Solution”), 9/10 of Destination: Universe (skipping “Defense”), 3/4 of The Voyage of the Space Beagle (skipping “M 33 in Andromeda”), 1/2 of Masters of Time (skipping “The Changeling” and reprinting “Masters of Time” under the title “Recruiting Station”). The five replacments are: the Phase I stories “The Ghost” (OOTU), “Final Command” (Monsters) and “The Rull” [Rull] and the Phase II stories “Future Perfect” and “Don’t Hold Your Breath” (the last three all from TBO). Bizarrely, “Black Destroyer” [Space Beagle] (1939-07 Astounding) appears as an independent story in a van Vogt collection for the first time, though it of course appeared in its fixup and appeared independently in multiple essential anthologies such as Adventures in Time and Space, From Wells to Heinlein, and The Great Science Fiction Stories #1.
  • Transgalactic. 2006-10 Baen tp. Three previously uncollected stories (all from fixups) from 1945-46 Astounding and eight reprints (including a novel). This collects the magazine versions of material incorporated into the three fixups of The Mixed Men, the Ezwal subset of The War Against the Rull (“Co-operate–Or Else!” and “The Second Solution”), and Empire of the Atom, plus the latter’s serial sequel, The Wizard of Linn. See the books above for details. Of this material, “A Son Is Born” [Atom] (1946-05), “Child of the Gods” [Atom] (1946-08), and “The Mixed Men” [Mixed Men] (1945-01) are collected in this form for the first time. However, of this material, only “The Second Solution” [Rull] (AB) and “Concealment” [Mixed Men] (Monsters) had appeared in “Phase I” collections.

Uncollected Stories

Despite all the above, some stories never made it into any van Vogt book, at least in their original forms (though all but one of the early fugitives did appear in the fixups or expansions detailed above). The following list excludes various excerpts, condensations, round-robins, etc., and only lists things that were, or were billed as, actual stories. (It also doesn’t repeat the several Blord stories credited to Hull which are fully detailed above in Planets for Sale.) If a story was reprinted in an anthology, that’s listed after its original publication. Only “Seesaw” was anthologized more than once and, for it, I just picked the anthology I think is best. Since van Vogt’s last collection in his lifetime was 1978, I classify the last few stories as “post-collection era” stories.

Phase I

  • “The Seesaw” [Weapon Shops] (1941-07 Astounding) The Great Science Fiction Stories #3, Asimov/Greenberg, eds.
  • “The Beast” [Beast] (1943-11 Astounding)
  • “Centaurus II” [Rogue] (1947-06 Astounding)
  • “The Weapon Shops of Isher” [Weapon Shops] (1949-02 Thrilling Wonder)
  • “The Shadow Men” [Universe Maker] (1950-01 Startling)
  • “Haunted Atoms” (1951-Sp 10 Story Fantasy.)

Phase II

  • “The Silkie” [Silkie] (1964-07 If) The If Reader of Science Fiction, Pohl, ed.
  • “Enemy of the Silkies” [Silkie] (1967-10 If)
  • “Death Talk” (1978 Pulsar 1, Hay, ed.; reprinted in 1981-12 Fantasy Book)
  • “Carthing” (1970-11 Quark/1, Delany/Hacker, eds.)

Post-Collection Era

  • “Identity” (1978 Chattacon SF Convention Booklet) The Survival of Freedom, Carr/Pournelle, eds.
  • “Femworld” [Renaissance] (^1979-06/07 Galaxy)
  • “The Dream of the Sorceress (1980-11 Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn, Aspirin, ed.)
  • “The Brain” (1985-Wi Weird Tales.)
  • “Prologue to Freedom” (1986-11 Worlds of If) Lamps on the Brow, Cahill, ed.

Birthday Reviews: Lee, Martin, Shiras, Wells

This is another busy week in which we experience a strange incursion into a relic of empire, get involved in an alien cult, meet a superboy, and suffer a cosmic cataclysm.

Tanith Lee (1947-09-19–2015-05-24)

“Into Gold” (IAsfm, March 1986)

Somewhere in the western portions of what had been the Empire, after a freshly fallen Rome, a princeling and his devoted companion are partly estranged when an Eastern caravan arrives, carrying a woman with strange powers. The companion narrates how the princeling developed an immediate lust for the woman and how everyone around him thought well of her as she became his wife and bore him a son, except the companion, himself. When the sorceress goes off with only her child and a single guard, ostensibly to cure a village suffering from disease, he recollects tales of child disfigurement and sacrifice by Easterners and sneaks off to try to prevent any evil she may be up to. Things, naturally, do not turn out as intended by anyone.

This is a richly-told tale full of imaginative sensory descriptions and details. I particularly like its tragic nature. It’s a case of hamartia rather than the characters being black-hatted villains. Their virtues are their flaws. The stoic taciturn surface of people barely keeping lids on bubbling passions is also appealing and well-done. It might have been better told in third-person, though. All tales are inherently artificial and the third-person, often omniscient, narrative approach may be the most artificial of them all but it’s precisely that which allows it to recede into the background, because artifice is most natural within artifice. You can simply say, “Okay, so some omniscient being is telling me this story,” and forget about the mechanics of it. With this tale, you have to constantly wonder how such a man as the narrator could have such wide-ranging information, be so sensuous in his perceptions, and have such a prodigious memory even when, for example, he tells you things about a parchment which depicts many things, including “three figures, judges of the dead from Aegyptus, I would have thought, if I had thought about them…” It’s not that you can’t do a story in first person, obviously – compare the brilliantly done appropriate subjectivity of Charlie in “Flowers for Algernon” – but it’s actually a trickier thing to do and even the best authors sometimes unnecessarily strain credibility with it. Still, it’s a powerful and generally effective story with many appealing elements.

George R. R. Martin (1948-09-20)

“A Song for Lya” (Analog, June 1974)

When I started doing these birthday reviews, I was actually looking forward to this long novella from Martin’s science fiction days coming up and re-reading it, but I just don’t feel like I have the time now. Suffice to say, this tale of a loving couple’s experiences with an alien religious cult tackles many powerful themes, including most of those touched on by Silverberg’s “Born with the Dead” (“death, love, marriage, boredom, obsession” – just not the boredom) and even more effectively. I recall it being a great story the first time through to my last re-read a few years ago (I guess) and vigorously recommend it.

Wilmar H. Shiras (1908-09-23–1990-12-23)

“In Hiding” (Astounding, November 1948)

When a worried teacher tells a psychiatrist that one of her students seems generally fine but has something a little off about him, the psychiatrist begins a slow process of earning the boy’s trust and finding out what he’s hiding. Since it’s the core of the story and revealed fairly early (and is clear even before officially revealed), it’s no spoiler to say that he’s a tremendously intelligent superboy who has to hide how far ahead he is of everyone else his age, though Shiras holds back a little related material for the end (though it’s given away in the story’s appearance in book form).

In terms of science fiction, this is another John W. Campbell discovery, as this was Shiras’ first sale but her story has a nearly fatal flaw in that there’s little story. You’d think a tale about a boy hiding something would be full of drama but there is only the essential existential conflict without any instances of foreground conflict or any reversals. This, in a way, is a similar treatment of what’s handled by van Vogt in Slan and other such stories and it’s arguably more sophisticated but, while the desire for plotting, conflict, and excitement may be unsophisticated, it’s a desire I won’t hide and this story would have benefited from more of all that. Still, the characterization of the boy, his guardian/grandmother, and the psychiatrist is very well done and the realization of the “super” motif and what it would be like for a person to live among “puppies” is excellent. Because it’s all on a relative scale, it also works in a literal way. When the boy complains that most adults don’t want to learn or understand anything about the world but only preserve their rote attitudes and behavior, it touches on much of what really governs our world.

H. G. Wells (1866-09-21–1946-08-13)

“The Star” (The Graphic, Christmas Number 1897)

In what must have been a very odd Christmas issue, Wells here tells Fritz Leiber’s big novel, The Wanderer (1964), in just a few pages as a rogue planet smashes into Neptune, creating a fiery mass which is called a “star” more in the etymological than astronomical sense. This is all very interesting, at least to some humans (and others) but becomes much more urgent when a mathematician calculates that the star will pass disastrously close to us or perhaps hit us directly in its fall toward the sun. This is all very excitingly told with much imagination and careful selection put into both the astronomical and human elements of the disaster. Some may find the ending turns the story into a sort of bad joke or may find it transforms it in an interesting way (or maybe even a bit of both) but the whole thing certainly makes an impression.

Birthday Reviews: MacLeod, Simak

This week we go back to WWII to struggle with luck and death and we also go forward to the end of the Earth and out beyond the universe to struggle with the Creator.

Ian R. MacLeod (1956-08-06)

“The Chop Girl” (Asimov’s, December 1999)


World War II is raging. The chop girl tells her story.

Death was hanging all around you, behind the beer and the laughs and the bowls and the endless games of cards and darts and cricket. Knowing as they set out on a big mission that some planes would probably never get back. Knowing for sure that half the crews wouldn’t make it through their twenty-mission tour. So, of course, we were all madly superstitious.

She describes how she went out with guy after guy and how guy after guy never came back from his mission. How she acquired the reputation of being the Chop Girl, the evil touch, the personification of ill luck and how she became a lonely figure observing from a distance. And that’s how she observed Mr. Lucky, Walt Williams, appear on the base one day. How he was so charmed that he could maybe even walk on water. How he got that way. And what happens when irresistible good luck meets immovable bad luck.

There’s an expression about the flak being so thick you could get out and walk on it and this story has atmosphere like that because the chop girl’s narrative voice is so convincing and the details are so numerous and varied, yet united, and the story is so focused on its similarly varied, yet united “single effect” regarding superstition, luck, life, and death. There’s not a wrong note anywhere—even the epilogue-like part manages to step across time and quickly depict the loss of youth that, even with the loss of so much terror, is still terrible, and to end on a rather daring but effective note. The whole is completely real and completely mesmerizing. It’s not a very Birthday Review thing to say but, while other stories by this author haven’t had the same effect on me, I thought this one was a masterpiece when I first read it and it still is.

Clifford D. Simak (1904-08-03–1988-04-25)

“The Creator” (Marvel Tales, March-April 1935)

Simak is best known for stories he wrote in the 1940s such as those that formed City and stories he wrote in the 50s which comprised the contents of essentially every story he collected in his lifetime, as well as those later tales which were received with respect and awards. They are often folksy, rural tales of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and the like. I recommend many of them, such as “The Big Front Yard.” But there was another Simak who wrote wild-eyed crazy adventures that I also recommend like Cosmic Engineers and this tale. It’s very much 1930s SF and does do a lot of ‘splainin’ with lots of technobabble until getting to the action but it’s a big, bold, dangerous vision.

The tale opens in a Wellsian mood with a narrator marooned at the end of time before backtracking to tell us the cause of this effect. The narrator is a psychologist theorizing about his “consciousness units” and his friend is a physicist theorizing about his “time force” and, together, they manage to think up and build a machine that takes them outside of this universe and into a laboratory that’s been haunting the psychologist’s dreams and visions. It turns out that our universe is a bit of gunk this being has created for his (or is that, His?) experiments. Our humans are not the only creatures to have made their way to this great Lab Beyond the Sky, as one pair of bizarre creatures who communicate by electricity and one even more bizarre single stickman are already there and going about their arcane business, creating entirely different time/space/dimension machines to return to the universe. The Creator veers wildly between angry and pleased, calm and frenzied, threatening and genial. But our psychologist has developed a knack for reading his mind and learns something terrible, resulting in some truly bizarre conflict.

As I say, this early tale is not Simak’s tautest construction or most plausible tale, but it’s certainly not what he was taught in Sunday School and, without aid of computers, anticipates some people’s contemporary questions about our universe being a simulation and doesn’t stop there. It’s a remarkable story and a lot of fun.

Review: Dominion, edited by Knight and Ekpeki


Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora, edited by Zelda Knight & Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald
Hardcover: Aurelia Leo, 978-1-946024-89-3, $28.99, 300?pp, August 2020 [1]


  • “Trickin” by Nicole Givens Kurtz
  • “Red_Bati” by Dilman Dila
  • “A Maji Maji Chronicle” by Eugen Bacon (reprint)
  • “The Unclean” by Nuzo Onoh (reprint)
  • “A Mastery of German” by Marian Denise Moore
  • “Convergence in Chorus Architecture” by Dare Segun Falowo
  • “Emily” by Marian Denise Moore
  • “To Say Nothing of Lost Figurines” by Rafeeat Aliyu
  • “Sleep Papa, Sleep” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (reprint)
  • “The Satellite Charmer” by Mame Bougouma Diene
  • “Clanfall: Death of Kings” by Odida Nyabundi
  • “Thresher of Men” by Michael Boatman
  • “Ife-Iyoku, the Tale of Imadeyunuagbon” by Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald

Syncretism and intensity–often apocalyptic and horrific intensity–are two words which convey the most striking aspects of this anthology of thirteen stories (ten original) by twelve African or African-American authors. I use syncretism not only in the usual sense of many of the stories containing a blend of religious beliefs, but also in the sense that they contain a blend of science fictional and fantastic elements and worldviews. While the stories might be loosely placed into balanced groupings of four horror, four fantasy, and five science fictional pieces, the fantasy sometimes has a strange tinge of rationalism and quotidian reality akin to Campbell’s Unknown while the science fiction almost always has a massive dose of fantasy and either may also be tinged with horror. Only those pieces which are primarily horror are also nearly exclusively horror.

The most striking of those is the superb and harrowing “The Unclean,” which is told by a woman who waits for judgment before the Tree of Truth next to the corpse of her husband with the present moment (1960 Nigeria) broken up by reflections on the past that brought her here. The powerlessness of this woman in her “matrimonial hell” as she is essentially sold by her parents to another family where she endures ostracism as Other and abuse at the hands of her husband is made vividly real. The husband has basically no redeeming features but is depicted in enough detail to have substance and rise above the level of a cartoon and there is complexity as the woman, who hated the system while miserable in it, primarily due to being unable to conceive a child with her husband, comes to a brief complicit acceptance of it when she does finally conceive and is treated better. But then the situation grows much worse–horribly, nightmarishly worse. It is extremely powerful. Conversely, “Thresher of Men” is a simplistic and tasteless revenge fantasy but “Trickin’” is a more adequate story of a young man being possessed by a vampiric spirit on a post-apocalyptic Halloween and “Sleep Papa, Sleep” moves from an underworld cyberpunk mood (complete with skies of TV static) to horror when the Yoruba man making an illicit deal with a Hausa from the north turns out to be a graverobber who has robbed the wrong grave. The concrete evocation of place, the complex depiction of family, and the (compared to most other stories in this book only) understated depiction of the horror (where the living are arguably even more frightening than the dead) put this on a high level, though how a years-dead corpse could have fresh body parts bothered me throughout the story. [2]

All is not unrelieved darkness however, as the more fantastic stories sometimes depart far enough from horror to reach outright humor. “To Say Nothing of Lost Figurines” and “A Maji Maji Chronicle” are both very enjoyable lighter tales though both have serious subtexts. The former involves a sort of magician attempting to recover one of his stolen magical talismans. During this, he runs into interdimensional bureaucracy and some beings who have turned xenophobic toward humans. His absent-minded overconfidence is rudely checked but he has had the good fortune to meet a hybrid human-alien who has suffered prejudice from the people she lives among but has talents they lack. The latter even more serious tale has a father and son amusingly bicker as they travel back in time to German East Africa (now basically Tanzania) in 1905 where the father attempts to meddle in history to improve a terrible situation yet manages to make it even worse. It’s all a lesson to the son and a wise one about how all of humanity is capable of good or ill in various circumstances. “Emily” is a completely serious sort of prose poem of 200 words with a temporal aspect. Even harder to pigeonhole is “Convergence in Chorus Architecture.” It would seem to be a pure fantasy involving two youngsters struck by lightning and the three babalawos (sorts of mystics) who travel to the spirit world to try to bring them back. However both horror and science fiction break through as a ship of bones is first a premonition and then a reality which carries the people off in a cataclysm that then becomes cosmic and affects other worlds (which can all be taken both literally and symbolically). Initially, the use of terms like “electric” and “steam” in an almost technical sense seemed anachronistic but turned out to fit in with the overall ambiguity. It is too richly written for my taste (though it has wonderful phrases like a “distillate of dream”) but others may especially enjoy that. It is wildly imaginative and does make ethereal magic seem concrete akin to the way James H. Schmitz managed to make psi combat seem tangible.

Oddly, the two stories that seem most related to the Congo are both science fictional and both are very distantly related to it. “Clanfall” is set in a fantastic far future with artificial descendants of humanity fighting for dominance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a satisfying structure or conclusion and reads more like a teaser for something else. “Red_Bati” is actually set on a starship and involves a robotic dog fighting to survive after losing a limb and being consigned to the scrap heap. Even more effective, “A Mastery of German” explores the relationship of an American woman with her father and the company she works for. The father’s interest in both personal and social history and the company’s interest in memory transfer techniques dovetail. I feel like the science fictional aspects are pushed beyond credibility for thematic purposes but it’s interesting and otherwise successful and at least feels like the hardest SF in the anthology. “Ife-Iyoku, the Tale of Imadeyunuagbon” (not to be confused with a similarly titled earlier tale) falls a hair on the SF side just as “Convergence” fell a hair on the fantasy side and, like “The Unclean,” deals with women and society. In this, after an incomplete apocalypse which has left an enclave of mutated people struggling to survive, one woman is expected to bear children but wants something else for herself. When the leader inadvertently calls an invasion down on his people’s heads and exiles himself to the forest of fears, horror again shows its bloody fangs and the necessity for her to reproduce becomes even more vital, yet still she resists. While one might sympathize with her but still start to see her as being selfish by that extreme point, the resolution is both fantastic and realistic in ways (and theologically bold). Even better, and rising to, and possibly beyond, the level of “The Unclean” is “The Satellite Charmer.” This moves through three basic stages in which the young orphan protagonist experiences both good and bad in the context of a childhood given consolation and insulation by his beloved grandmother and girlfriend. It is quite realistic except for the science fictional element of the Chinese mining beam and the fantasy element of an earlier childhood experience which turn out to be related. In the second movement, the way in which joy and pain persist for a time but in a context in which this insulation has been stripped away (before even that sort of joy is also stripped away) is movingly done and the story becomes even more realistic in a sense. Then the third movement suddenly shifts into cosmic gear with horror aspects. There is no simplistic good or evil for this protagonist who moves into an agonizingly complex place of awesome and awful deeds beyond the human level. This has a little bit of everything, from the wonderful but painful relationship of “Ife-Iyoku” to the vast scope of “Convergence” to the horror of several stories. I have no idea how the mining beam is actually supposed to work literally, as opposed to symbolically, and I often complain about stories becoming unhinged and lacking objective correlatives and perhaps that’s true here, too, but I think the correlative is the universe, itself, and it works for me.

Regarding the stories generally, they are clearly of “Africa and the African Diaspora” and some do focus on colonialism (even specific colonial events as in “Maji Maji”) and some address current Chinese neo-colonialism [3] while others deal with the African environment or cultural identity or other issues and, I suspect, people well-versed in African history and events would get much more out of this than otherwise but the stories are in no way exclusively focused on such issues and essentially all work on the general levels of “speculative fiction” so that even someone completely ignorant of all things African should be able to enjoy them (and not be so ignorant afterwards). “The Unclean” and “The Satellite Charmer” are almost worth the price of admission all by themselves but I also enjoyed at least eight of the other eleven on some level or other which is an extraordinary batting average. If you’re squeamish when it comes to horror or are looking only for pure-quill SF, I couldn’t recommend this but if you’re looking for a powerful reading experience of any other sort, I can and do.

[1] This is a review of an advance copy. The final pagination is not certain but the book should be about 110,000 words. It should also include a foreword by Tananarive Due.

[2] It’s worth noting that this story is also written in present tense, which usually bothers me and didn’t help here but that (aside from subsets for specific purposes in a couple of others) this is the only such story in the entire anthology.

[3] It’s good to see this awareness of, and antipathy towards, history repeating and it’s an issue some in the SF community could think about as some try to cash in on the Chinese market and others believe that promoting a totalitarian state is promoting diversity.

Birthday Reviews: Saberhagen, Wellman

The birthday boys of the coming week bring us tales of berserkers and balladeers.

Fred Saberhagen (1930-05-18–2007-06-29)

“Starsong” (If, January 1968)

Within a powerfully grotesque framing story about a doctor determining if the brains (some vat-grown, some removed from their bodies) within a liberated berserker base are human or not (and disposing of those that aren’t), is the story of Ordell Callison, the galaxy’s greatest singer, and his new wife, Eury. When playing a mating game of ship tag, one man plays with an unwilling Eury, she flees and, like a wolf running down a sheep separated from the flock, a berserker [1] comes out of hiding and captures her. Ordell learns of this, madly tears out after her, and is also captured. However, his song powerfully affects the cyborg humans that had been under the thrall of the berserkers and he has one chance to escape the base with her.

A great virtue and vice of this story is the fact that it’s a retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in science fictional terms. The vice comes from it being an extremely faithful adaptation that provides a rote feeling to the plot along with the discordant “singing SF” element but the virtue is that it is also a naturally powerful plot, is very creatively adapted, and even does some interpretation of the myth. Even more notably, it produces a very unusual and strong flavor which, while still very different, may come closest to some of the weirdness that is Cordwainer Smith. Effective and memorable.

Manly Wade Wellman (1903-05-21-1986-04-05)

“O Ugly Bird!” (F&SF, December 1951)

To borrow from the opening line, “I swear I’m licked before I start, trying to tell you what” this story is like. John’s a traveling musician with a silver-stringed guitar on his way through the mountains to the Bottomless Pool when he meets Mr. Onselm. That unworthy turns out to be a hoodoo man keeping the few folks of the local population under his thumb with the help of an ugly bird – a purely unnatural bird, at that. Onselm is a sight, and the bird is even more so, and things are creepy enough but, when Onselm takes a notion to more thoroughly possess the shopgirl, Winnie, and gathers a small posse to run off the troublesome guitar player who’s also taken a more gentlemanly liking to the girl, things get more urgent and even creepier.

This is a hard story to describe because, on its surface, it’s very simple and very short as well, but Wellman paces things and reveals things and describes things just so, producing a really effective low-key horror combined with a winning perspective conveyed through John’s mountain voice. The one problem with this is that people seem to forget and remember a thing or two when it’s pretty convenient but the tale is a gem, otherwise, and the first of many stories and novels featuring John the Balladeer.

[1] If you’re not familiar with the series, berserkers are machines whose ultimate purpose is to eradicate biological life throughout the galaxy.

Birthday Reviews: Collier, Smith

This week’s pair of birthday boys bring us a piece from The New Yorker and then, for something completely different, a piece from Comet.

John Collier (1901-05-03–1980-04-06)

“The Chaser” (The New Yorker, December 28, 1940)

Collier wrote for the slicks and this is one of the slickest. It’s hard to describe without spoiling but to try to be as oblique as it is, if not as witty, it explains why the business model of a seller of magic potions works when a young man wants a very inexpensive love potion.

E. E. “Doc” Smith (1890-05-02–1965-08-31)

“The Vortex Blaster” (Comet, July 1941)

In last week’s “Birthday Reviews,” I said of the van Vogt that, if you like van Vogt, you’ll like the story and if you don’t, you won’t. And I said of the Williamson that, though he was generally able to advance with the times, the particular story was a ’30s story. Well, both those points apply even more firmly to this tale and I’m afraid that, if I have any credibility, I might be blowing it by recommending this, but I likes what I likes. I’ve read Skylark and Lensman books (to which this series of stories is loosely connected) but I’ve never read this series before, and I’m sure going to continue.

Neal “Storm” Cloud is a physicist with an amazing intuitive mathematical sense who has recently suffered the tragedy of losing his family. He’s not suicidal, but ready to die, himself, and this has given him insight into how he may destroy one of the worst blights on the Earth (or “Tellus”). The use of “intra-atomic energy” generally works well but, when it goes wrong, it goes really wrong, creating vortices of incredible destructive power on Tellus, which will eventually render our world uninhabitable. So these vortices must be blasted with duodec bombs which have to be targeted with a speed and precision not even a computer has. And the climax is Storm Cloud’s battle with the biggest, oldest, meanest vortex of them all.

There is baseball and football and one shouldn’t evaluate a running back on how well he swings a bat. And there is “literature” and “scientifiction” and one shouldn’t evaluate this on its similarity to “literature.” To quote Storm, himself, “Z-W-E-E-E-T–POWIE!” It’s its own wonderful, intense, exciting thing, with a completely made-up bit of fantasy (atomic energy hadn’t been actualized yet and, when it was, it was dynamically much as Smith describes, but not literally like it) ensconced within a whole lot of science-like stuff. It may not be quite great, but it’s good! Smith goes for an effect and, while he goes about it like no one else, he gets there. I must quote this bit which will be the acid test: if this paragraph doesn’t break you, nothing will, and you should check out this story. (Two camps of mathematicians dispute whether the vortices will grow indefinitely or eventually explode and Carlowitz is in the latter camp.)

And now Cloud, as he studied through his almost opaque defences that indescribably ravening fireball, that esuriently rapacious monstrosity which might very well have come from the deepest pit of the hottest hell of mythology, felt strongly inclined to agree with Carlowitz. It didn’t seem possible anything could get any worse than that without exploding. And such an explosion, he felt sure, would certainly blow everything from miles around into the smitheriest kind of smithereens.

Birthday Reviews: Emshwiller, Kelly, McDevitt, Sterling

This week brings an overload of birthdays and an overload of great stories with a singing bug, morally challenging alien dinosaurs, a universe created in a lab, and a society exploiting Time with the help of Mongol hordes on Harleys. And, unlike last week’s, none are in series and all are brand-spankin’ new (well, okay, not older than thirty-five years).

Carol Emshwiller (1921-04-12–2019-02-02)

“Moon Songs” (The Start of the End of It All, 1990)

Whenever I rave about Carol Emshwiller, her story “Pelt” usually leads the parade but this time I thought I’d focus on a different story. She has dozens of brilliant tales but the one I’m going to talk about now is “Moon Songs,” in which the narrator looks back on the interrelations between the person he was at the time, his sister, the world, and art and beauty. Oh, and the ugly, crippled bug they found which sang the middle of what seemed like a beautiful song when it was pricked. The narrator, at the time of the main story, was a physically unimpressive and weak-willed young boy in the thrall of his older and beautiful, but awkward and unpopular, sister. She wanted to be popular or famous or something remarkable and the boy got increasingly disturbed as she became increasingly infatuated with the mite and used and abused it to pretend its abilities were her own. The climax is powerful and the denouement disorienting.

As with essentially all Emshwiller stories I’ve read, the characters are complex and compelling, especially internally. The prose seems natural but is carefully controlled, avoiding plainness or the faux arts. The observations are profound and connect with me despite not being anything I’d observe on my own. I think that’s what I like best about Emshwiller: she’s an unpretentious artist who quietly communicates her visions in a way that even one who’s ordinarily interested in other things can’t fail to notice.

James Patrick Kelly (1951-04-11)

“Think Like a Dinosaur” (Asimov’s, June 1995)

By 2069, the alien Hanen (nicknamed “dinosaurs”) have arrived and allow humans access to the technology they operate which gives us the stars: matter transmission and wormhole beams, basically. However, we’re on a sort of probation and need to behave according to the dinos’ sense of ethics which involves balancing the equations: no creating armies of yourself with the scanners to take over the universe or anything. This would seem like a simple task but it’s not, even under ordinary circumstances. Michael Burr assists the dinos by helping humans make the transition and is guiding Kamala Shastri through the process which will take her to Gend where she can learn to grow artificial eyes for the blind. When something goes wrong, he finds that it’s even more complex and difficult than he’d ever imagined.

This tale references Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations” but knowing that one isn’t required to get the vast majority of the powerful effect of this and, if you’re a fan of that era of SF, it might even be helpful if you don’t compare them too much. Taken by itself, this tale is perfectly structured, with a brief frame in the present surrounding the bulk of the story set at Kamala’s departure. Both human characters are given the foreground and made deftly, economically real but the three aliens are also sharply sketched individuals. The science and fiction is perfectly blended to satisfy wiring diagram and literary readers alike. The narrative is initially interesting and ratchets up rapidly and convincingly into something jaw-droppingly, pulse-poundingly bizarre and emotionally and intellectually engaging.

Jack McDevitt (1935-04-14)

“Act of God” (Microcosms, 2004)

I couldn’t let Jack McDevitt’s birthday go by without wishing him happy birthday because I’ve enjoyed so many of his novels so much (including The Hercules Text, Eternity Road, and the Alex Benedict novels) but didn’t have a whole lot of stories to choose from because I’ve never been able to get one of his collections (they aren’t exactly available in affordable mass market paperbacks). Fortunately, it doesn’t take a lot to choose from to find good ones.

In this tale, the reader hears one half of a dialog between a distraught scientist and a skeptical friend as the former tells the latter about how he came to be involved in a scientific experiment to create a Little Bang which produced a universe in another dimension. He then relates all the (bad) things that happened to his coworkers and what he thinks is the reason. This is an economical (and somewhat funny) story which is a fine addition to the “scientist/god bottle-universe” subgenre.

Bruce Sterling (1954-04-14) & Lewis Shiner

“Mozart in Mirrorshades” (Omni, September 1985)

I wonder if there is, ironically, an alternate history where, instead of a boring old The Difference Engine with William Gibson and its ensuing dull steampunk, we got an expanded version of this and, I dunno, “powderpunk” or something took over instead. Because, this, ladies and social justice warriors, is how you make your critiques of imperialism! You do it with humor, verve, excitement, and sneaky nuance within your strong satire!

In “Realtime,” people have figured out how to go back in time and drain resources from the past, forking them up so that the wrecked world goes spinning off on its own alternate timeline and Realtime gets all the benefits. So Rice is in charge of the 18th century job where we see Mozart and Thomas Jefferson being exploited. But this story doesn’t forget to have a self-sufficient plot as Rice gets lost in an extended debauch with Marie Antoinette, a soft-hearted co-worker starts a local insurrection which threatens the project, Mozart schemes to get a Green Card (taken to Realtime) where he wants to be a pop star, and all hell breaks loose. This brings on the Gray Card Army (alternate crossovers) such as one of Genghis Khan’s generals riding a Harley, who does things like jamming a machine pistol into Mozart’s nose and saying, “I put my gun on rock and roll, there nothing left of you but ears, man.” Not to mention stray notes thrown off like sparks from a dragging muffler such as “a six year old Napoleon munching Dubble Bubble in Corsica.” But, while a secondary character in a lot of ways, Mozart in his mirrorshades is an indelible, brilliant image and he also provides some of the nuance to the tale. Great stuff.

Birthday Reviews: Cady, Clingerman, Gibson

Jack Cady (1932-03-20–2004-01-14)

“The Night We Buried Road Dog” (F&SF, January 1993)

This fantasy/horror novella is narrated by Jed, who is looking back on the events in his life and the lives of his friends in Montana from 1961-1965. Brother Jesse is the main foreground focus, along with his graveyard for the beloved defunct cars of folks who want to memorialize them, the plots of which are dug with his bulldozer. Jesse’s dogs, Potato and Chip. also figure prominently, along with big bald Mike and educated little Matt. The main background focus is Road Dog, a mythic driver in an incredibly fast Studebaker that everyone’s always chasing and that everyone keeps failing to catch. Those foci eventually interact in dark, twisty ways.

Relative to SF, I don’t read much fantasy of my own volition. I also don’t tend to wax ecstatic in reviews. But I first read this in Dozois’ The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Eleventh Annual Collection and I didn’t mind this one story being there a bit, science fiction or not. And on re-reading, it’s even better. I think this is one of the select Great Stories like “Flowers for Algernon.” Jed’s voice is as clear as a bell. Jesse’s and Mike’s aren’t too far removed from Jed’s. Matt’s is completely different. Potato and Chip are every bit the characters the humans are. The main cars are, too. And what cars! The metal manifestations of restless, searching America before, and up to, the edge of the Viet Nam war. An America specifically of Montana and the circuit of Western states nearby. Wide open spaces, speed, and spirits, are all evoked powerfully and viscerally. You feel the wind blowing as you rocket down the road at a hundred miles an hour through the night and you see the occasional ghost of someone who has “found a ditch” and gotten a cross by the side. Occasionally, you even find that the headlights coming up behind you are the headlights of dead cars. This is a felt, lived, rich story, which mixes a little fantasy and a lot of reality; a little humor and a lot of pain and loss. I don’t mix anything in my emphatic recommendation.

Mildred Clingerman (1918-03-14–1997-02-26)

“Letters from Laura” (F&SF, October 1954)

Through letters from Laura, which are about her time travel trip to ancient Crete and are addressed to her mother, her friend, and an employee of the tourist agency, a character is cleverly revealed with impish humor. It’s hard to say anything more about this story (which is likely just 2-3,000 words) without spoiling it all and some may not appreciate its 1950s sensibility (though it can be seen as either reinforcing or subverting it) but most should get anywhere from mild to great enjoyment out of it which may even increase on re-reading.

William Gibson (1948-03-17)

“Johnny Mnemonic” (Omni, May 1981)

Johnny’s an empty head, using Intel Inside to store information he has no access to as he makes his way with it from point A to point B. Problem is that his point B of the moment, Ralfi Face, hasn’t come for the information but, rather, wants Johnny dead. So Johnny gets a shotgun to crudely adjust Ralfi’s attitude. Unfortunately, this doesn’t go so well until Molly Millions, with her implanted mirrorshades and retractable claws, decides to get in on the action. They start to take Ralfi some place where they can talk more quietly but a guy with a monofilament wire where his thumb is supposed to be has other ideas. After a stop with Jones, the cyborg dolphin, and a visit with Dog, the human with dog modifications, the assassin is still following them and it comes down to the climactic scene.

In a way, this is just some PKD mindfork stuff wrapped in noir style along with a dash of Brunner and Bester and is just as “80s” as the Clingerman is “50s” but it does have a lot of creativity in its details and does grasp the data-mining information-driven world that many people still haven’t grasped. And, of course, the next year, Blade Runner would show this sort of “decadent urban sprawl of futuristic downtrodden people trapped on Earth” on the Big Screen. It was certainly a nifty thing for a moment and a needed kick in the pants to SF but it’s still kind of amazing that this sort of thing dominated a good chunk of SF for at least a couple of decades and its echoes still reverberate. Just considered as itself, though, it’s a story worth reading.

Review: The Short Fiction of Lester del Rey

This originally appeared on my old site on 2014-01-01 and received some sort of tweak on 2016-06-10. Other than changes related to reformatting and correcting typos, it’s unchanged. (I’ve also done a review devoted exclusively to The Best of Lester del Rey for Black Gate: “Gods, Robots, and Man: The Best of Lester del Rey.”)

After months of intermittent activity, I’ve finished reading the virtual “Collected Stories of Lester del Rey Plus” (62 stories and a novel, ~1550 pages). He only published five original collections in his lifetime: …And Some Were Human (1948; cut vt 1961), Robots and Changelings (1957), Mortals and Monsters (1965), Gods and Golems (1973), and then went back to the beginning with the very large Early del Rey (1975). Of them, …And Some Were Human and Gods and Golems are definitely the best and Early del Rey is definitely the worst, though it is, by definition, a collection of all his previously uncollected early work intermixed with autobiographical material intended to show his development and give some “writerly” advice and so on, rather than a body of fiction carefully selected on its own merits. Since that collection was in chronological order and I had all the other stories from the period, I read them all in chronological order and, after that, kept reading the later stories in publication order (re-reading in the case of the GG stories and a couple-three strays).

(The “Plus” is because I also read the uncollected “Nerves”, Nerves, “Evensong”, and “Robots’ Return”. He didn’t re-collect the first after it was cut from the paperback version of his first collection because it was a novella he’d expanded into the second (a short novel) in the meantime. Either is superb if you don’t have the other but the novella version is better. The third is from Dangerous Visions (1967) and he never collected a story published after 1964. The last is actually by Robert Moore Williams, which I read because del Rey wrote “Though Dreamers Die” as a sequel to it. Del Rey improves on the original there.)

Del Rey’s early stories are often quite sentimental, in the sense of playing on emotions, and that never completely disappeared from his writing. His later stories can be quite gritty and dark, but there are early examples of that, too. He wrote quite a bit of fantasy along with his SF – the fantasy sometimes being the Unknown-style rationalized fantasy, with some verging on the slick style. His SF is sometimes hard SF but often sociological or psychological. He seems about as comfortable with one as the other. He wrote more SF but edited more fantasy and I think he says somewhere in Early del Rey that he prefers fantasy, which surprised me. He has a fascination with biblical phrases and themes but takes some, let’s say, unconventional approaches to them. And he has a strangely jaundiced and negative view towards aspects of modernity and big city life but it tends to result in either dark griping stories or a yearning for transcendence or ancient elysian fields rather than a Simakian/Bradbury-esque exaltation of the recent rural past or general failure to engage with modernity. Stylistically and structurally, he’s often a pretty pulpy writer which some might not be able to appreciate but he can be quite adventurous, especially conceptually and, after all, he was chosen by Ellison to lead off Dangerous Visions.

Probably the most remarkable thing I noticed about my reading was that, while I’m a hit-or-miss guesser generally, I could usually tell that a story was going to be a twist story or have a big reveal and guess what that twist/reveal was. I don’t know if that’s on me or del Rey or some weird synergy but, if you value truly astonishing twists and have the same guessing quotient I had, that might be an issue.

Anyway – to the point: I also have a copy of The Best of Lester del Rey from the great Ballantine “Best of” series and a little game I played was rating all the stories without looking at The Best of contents and then seeing what happened at the end. Of my top 10 stories, there was no reason, by his lights, for del Rey to include “Nerves” or “Though Dreamers Die”, and “Anything” was too similar to at least one other story to make a good balance (and does have a significant flaw) and, otherwise, all my top stories were in The Best of:

  • Helen O’Loy” (1938) is a tricky tale. It was his second story and first great success, like van Vogt’s “Black Destroyer” or Asimov’s “Nightfall” but, in my opinion, unlike those stories, allowances have to be made. This is a sentimental tale that might be seen as sexist today and the novelty of the robot companion concept, however risque it might have been in 1938, has largely worn off now. But it’s still a pretty neat and historically significant tale and was chosen for the SF Hall of Fame in the 60s.
  • The Day is Done” (1939) is another of the early sentimental stories but is extremely effective as it details the last neanderthal and his interactions with the new-fangled critters.
  • The Coppersmith” (1939) is a great fantasy about elves rendered unconscious by air pollution and, while it misses climate change, reading a ’30s fantasy story about peak oil was pretty fascinating. It’s also a great bit of characterization/conception.
  • The Wings of Night” (1942) is a Don Stuart-like tale that contains many implausibilities and wouldn’t even be attempted today (even suitably modified) but the evocation of the last of an ancient telepathic race on the moon produces benefits more reasonable stories miss.
  • For I Am a Jealous People” (1954) is a fascinating tale about an alien invasion of earth that has god on its side and how a preacher and his atheist doctor friend respond. This is the sort of tale that just grabs you and becomes very vivid and involving.
  • The Seat of Judgment” (1957) is, in many ways, a much more “dangerous vision” than the story actually in Dangerous Visions (1967), dealing as it does with a bit of pretty explicit alien sex a la Farmer’s “The Lovers”, combined with alien (and human) religion a la Martin’s “A Song for Lya” along with even a tiny dash of Anderson’s Flandry.
  • Vengeance Is Mine” (1964) is about space invaders wiping out humans, leaving a robot (later joined by another) to create more robots and bring the religion of Man to the galaxy while hunting the perpetrators.

A story to note from the second-tier of good stories is “And It Comes Out Here” (1951) which is a sort of time travel story for people (like me) who (often) hate time travel. Most time travel stories feign a sort of “time travel logic” that is completely illogical – this tale is completely logical about its illogicality – it dives right to the center of the nonsense and embraces it. Campbell made a rare editorial error in rejecting this because it didn’t do anything. This is true, but that’s the point. It’s a useless story because time travel is nonsensical. But it’s a clever and fun story.

Beyond this, my second set of favorites and del Rey’s don’t intersect but that’s really just a case of disagreeing on which merely good-to-fair stories to include to fill up a big collection (16 stories, 366 pages). The only thing noteworthy is that del Rey selected “Into thy Hands”, perhaps due to his fondness for allegory, but I hated that one. I also didn’t much like “The Years Draw Nigh” (thin, implausible, overwhelmed by malaise) or “The Monster” (second-rate van Vogt), though they have their good points. But otherwise, the half-dozen remaining selections are at least okay.

So if you’re really inspired to dig into del Rey, it can be fun and worthwhile in a way but he’s really not a “completist” author. I do strongly recommend The Best of and one version or other of “Nerves” (novella version available in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol.IIB) as essential, though.