Defining SF

It must be remembered that we live in an entirely new world. Two hundred years ago, stories of this kind were not possible. Science, through its various branches of mechanics, electricity, astronomy, etc., enters so intimately into all our lives today, and we are so much immersed in this science, that we have become rather prone to take new inventions and discoveries for granted. Our entire mode of living has changed with the present progress, and it is little wonder, therefore, that many fantastic situations – impossible 100 years ago- are brought about today. It is in these situations that the new romancers find their greatest inspiration.

- Hugo Gernsback, Amazing Stories Magazine No. 1, April 1926. (Read the entire issue here.)

 

That’s… a very astute definition of science fiction, I think. Gernsback was a bit over the top at points, but I think that hits the nail on the head for the type of stories that defined the genre. Must file this away for later.

Launch Pad 2014

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Where to start?

Last year, I was accepted to the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, after seeing a number of friends and mentors attend over the years. At the same time, Bram was born, and it became clear that my taking off for a week while he was several months old would have never worked. So, I deferred to 2014. I’m glad that I did: it would have been crushing to miss Bram grow in those early months, and I can’t imagine meeting a better group of people than the ones who attended this year.

I flew out to Launch Pad from ReaderCon. A 5:00am flight took me to Philadelphia and then on to Denver. I’ve been out to the American west a couple of times (New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Arizona), but never Colorado. A fantastic landscape opened up as we descended, and soon, I was grouped with several Launchies waiting for a ride to the University of Wyoming. Eugene Myers was on my flight (he was the only other classmate that I’d met before), and we chatted with a couple of newcomers, including Ann Leckie, Bill Ledbetter and Gabrielle Harbowy. Launchpad attendees trickled in over the course of the afternoon, and soon, the first and second vans were away.

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The Wyoming’s landscape is fantastic. The drive north showed off some fantastic rock formations and terrain, and we stopped for pictures at least once on the ride to Laramie. Along the way, we chatted, newcomers tentatively feeling out each other’s personalities and interests on the two hour drive. It was then dinner, check in and sleep after a long day of travel.

Monday started us off bright an early with introductions. We met our instructors: Christian Ready, who used to work on the Hubble Space Telescope, Andria Schwortz, who’s currently going for her PhD, and Mike Brotherton, science fiction author, faculty at UoW and founder of the program, all of whom were fantastic throughout the week. We then launched into a discussion of the sheer size of the universe, getting it firmly ground into us just how small we are in the cosmos.

We spent the rest of the day going over the solar system, phases, lunar cycles, and a bit more throughout the day. Tuesday was looking at the electromagnetic spectrum, with some practical laboratory experiments as we tried to identify various gases based on their spectrum. The afternoon was spent looking over theories of gravity and the various theorists who helped create our current understanding of how everything moves around in space. That night, we tried to use our telescopes, but it was overcast. Wednesday was spent looking at exoplanets, and we were introduced to practical, everyday tools that help crowd source the hunt for planets, based on the data collected by Kepler.

 

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Thursday was busy – the entire day was spent outdoors, first on a hike at at Vedauwoo, which was fun – 3 miles around a pile of granite. We returned to talk about supernovae, black holes, neutron stars, and some science fiction applications to everything we’d been discussing before setting off to see the Wyoming Infrared Observatory (WIRO). A narrow road leads up to the top of Jelm Mountain, where the observatory is perched. I’d never visited one before, and it was impressive: a 2.3 meter mirror observatory, with a small workshop and apartment set up along with some radio towers. The mere sight of it turns a group of adults into excited children, especially when it moves into place. They let us sight in a couple of stars, taking their temperature and distance. After we were finished inside, we went out, and was treated with a fantastic view of the heavens: the milky way splashed overhead, along with Mars and Saturn. It wasn’t an unfamiliar view for me: Vermont is lucky in that we don’t have a whole lot of light pollution, but several of my classmates hadn’t seen the sky like that before. Even to someone who’s seen it before, it’s still an incredible view against the wide open Wyoming Sky.

Friday and Saturday consisted of more classroom activities and lectures, before we began to pack up. I was the first to leave: my flight left at midnight on Sunday morning. 18 or so hours later (with a car ride, two planes, two subway routes, a train and another car ride), I was home.

What’s astonishing to me is the close bond one forms with a group working in intensive situations. I’m usually nervous meeting new people, and while I knew or was acquainted with just a couple of people there, I found an entirely new group of friends that were all interested in the same things as I was. We were a broad cross-section of the genre world: TV writers, game designers, novelists, short story writers, non-fiction writers, all interested in astronomy. They were: Amy Casil, Geetanjali Dighe, Doug Farren, Susan Forest, Marc Halsey, Gabrielle Harbowy, Meg Howrey, Ann Leckie, William Ledbetter, Malinda Lo, Sarah McCarry, Eugene Myers, Jenn Reese, Anne Toole, James Sutter, Todd Vandemark and Lisa Yee. We spent a lot of time in the same classroom, and many hours after talking about all things astronomy, science fiction and everything in between. We bonded as a group, and in various smaller groups. They are each fantastic individuals and talented individuals, and I can’t wait to see each and every one of them again at some point in the near future.

I have to say, I’m proud to be an alumnus of the program, and of what I’ve learned in the course of eight days. It was like drinking out of a fire hose, but I feel that I understand the universe a little more. If you’re involved in the science fiction field to any professional degree, I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you like reading about science fiction with a fairly realistic depiction of SF, I recommend donating to the program – it’s educational, hands on experiences like this that really make for major improvements in anything we do, whether it’s astronomy, history, business or any field in which we work.

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Returning home was welcome: I was hard to be away from Megan, Bram and the menagerie of animals for over a week, and after a long day of travel, coming home was perfect. But, I miss Wyoming and my classmates quite a bit, and if the chatter online is any indication, we’ll be in touch for a long time, sharing bits of science news, the books and stories we’ve written, and things of that nature. I know that when I go out and look at the night sky, one of them will likely be doing the same thing.

 

Frank Herbert’s Epic Dune Series

One of the first major SF novels that I picked up was Dune. Something about the copy at the library was striking: a figure against a desert. I tore into it and to this day, I can still visualize various parts of the book. It got me thinking about science fiction in ways that I hadn’t before, and I still count it as one of my favorite books. I’ve never read the sequels: I never wanted to be disappointed or let down by the other novels (much like I’ve never read the 2nd and 3rd installments of the Ringworld and Foundation trilogies).

I read Dreamer of Dune a number of years ago, and reading through it again to source this article, I was surprised at how much of an unlikable person Herbert was – he seemed to have a number of character flaws that made him cranky, angry and generally in trouble with the IRS. At the same time, it’s interesting to see just how big of a hill he had to climb to reach the heights he achieved over the course of a career. It’s a bit of a shame that he didn’t live long enough to really enjoy it or continue his series by himself.

Go read Frank Herbert’s Epic Dune Series over on Kirkus Reviews.

Sources:

  • Dreamer of Dune: The Biography of Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert. I read this a number of years ago, and reading it again, this is a really painful book to read. It’s disorganized, not terribly well written, and not critical in any sense of the imagination. However, it did provide a number of details into when and how Herbert went about writing.
  • Frank Herbert, Timothy O’Reilly. This is an early biography of Herbert published in 1981, and it provides some outstanding detail to Herbert and his work.
  • The History of Science Fiction, by Adam Roberts. Roberts’ text, as always, is a helpful book for figuring out the context for Dune in the grand scheme of things, and provides some excellent information on the literary side.
  • Frank Herbret, William F. Touponce. This text mainly analysis the literary elements of Herbert’s books (most of them), and it’s a useful resource here.

Online sources:

 

It’s also worth mentioning that Jodorosky’s Dune is a phenomenal documentary that you should see if you have any interest in Dune.

Octavia E. Butler: Expanding Science Fiction’s Horizons

For years, I’ve had friends tell me that I should be reading Octavia Butler’s works, especially Kindred. I actually own a copy, and it’s been sitting on my shelves for years, waiting for me to pick it up. When it came to the point where I’d start writing about the 1970s, it was pretty clear that Butler would be one of the authors that I’d be covering, and I picked up the book as part of my research. She’s a powerful author, and I’m a little sad that I didn’t read the book earlier. Researching Butler’s life is fascinating, and it’s becoming clear to me that some of the genre’s most important works emerge from outside of it’s walls.

Go read Octavia E. Butler: Expanding Science Fiction’s Horizons over on Kirkus Reviews.

Sources:

Book Sources to come – I don’t have them on hand at the moment.

Pasadena College
Carl Brandon Society
McCarthur Foundation
SFWA Interview
LA Review of Books: One / Two

Many thanks as well to Steven Barnes, Ann Leckie and Gerry Canavan for their input for this.

Larry Niven’s Ringworld and Known Space Stories

Ringworld is a novel that’s always stuck with me. I picked it up alongside authors such as Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein, and other authors from that point in time. Foundation and Dune are two books that are among my favorites, but Ringworld has long been the best of the lot. It’s vivid, funny, exciting and so forth. Reading it again recently in preparation for this column, I was astounded at how well it’s held up (as opposed to Foundation) in the years since it’s publication, and I can’t wait to read it again. Plus, that cover is just beautiful.

Go read Larry Niven’s Ringworld and Known Space Stories over on Kirkus Reviews.

Sources:

  • Trillion Year Spree: History of Science Fiction, by Brian Aldiss. Aldiss’s book has some good context for Niven’s rise, as well as the impact of his books.
  • Gateway to Forever: The story of the Science-Fiction Magazines from 1970 to 1980, by Mike Ashley. Ashley recounts some of Niven’s early works in the Known Space, along with the state of magazine fiction during that time.
  • Transformations: The Story of the Science Fiction Magazines from 1950 to 1970, by Mike Ashley. Niven’s stories taper off in the 1970s, but Ashley looks over his works during that point in that time.
  • Science Fiction Writers, 2nd Edition, Richard Bleiler. Bleiler has a biographical essay on Niven and his life in this book.
  • Science Fiction, Today and Tomorrow, edited by Reginald Bretnor. There’s some good background information on Niven’s works here.
  • The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, by Farah Mendlesohn and Edward James. There’s some good political context for SF in the 1960s/70s here, and some solid information on Niven’s works.
  • Survey of Science Fiction Literature, vol 4. Frank Magill. Excellent review of Ringworld in this volume.
  • Science Fiction Dialogues, edited by Gary Wolfe. There’s a great essay here talking about the connections between Ringworld and the Oz books.

Internet Sources:

Finally, many thanks to Larry Niven himself for answering my questions. I’ll post up the interview at some point in the near future.

Andre Norton’s YA Novels

When I worked at a bookstore (the now defunct Walden Books), I had a co-worker that loved Andre Norton. I’d never read any of her books throughout High School, although I was certainly familiar with her name. I wish now that I did.

Norton wrote largely for what we now call the YA audience: teenagers, with fantastical adventures throughout numerous worlds and times. She was also largely ignored or dismissed for writing ‘children’s literature’, which is a shame, because it’s likely that she had as great an influence on the shape of the modern genre as Robert Heinlein, who’s Juvenile novels attracted millions of fans to new worlds. Norton was the same, and influenced countless readers and writers for decades. It’s fitting that the major SF award for YA fiction is titled The Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Go read Andre Norton’s YA novels over on Kirkus Reviews.
Sources:

  • Trillion Year Spree, Brian Aldiss. Aldiss contends here that Norton was part of a growing movement in science fiction in the 1950s, along with a small core of other authors.
  • Who Wrote That? Andre Norton By John Bankston. This book designed for YA readers seems to be the only Norton biography on the market right now. I used the chronology to help structure this post.
  • Science Fiction, Today and Tomorrow, edited by Reginald Bretnor. Anne McCaffrey has an essay in this book that mentions Andre Norton briefly.
  • The Creation of Tomorrow: Fifty Years of Magazine Science Fiction, Paul Allen Carter. Carter talks about Norton very briefly here in a larger context within the genre.
  • Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction, by James Gunn. Norton has a couple of mentions here, talking about her work in the 1950s.
  • Science Fiction after 1900, Brooks Landon. Landon’s book is a great look, and he talks about Norton a couple of times in this book regarding her influence in the genre.
  • The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, edited by Farah Mendlesohn and Edward James. This book also mentions Norton sparingly, but does so within the context of SF, Women and the 1950s.
  • The Faces of Science Fiction: Intimate Portraits of the Men and Women who Shape the way we look at the future, Patti Perret. Norton has a portrait in here, where she talks about science fiction as an entertainment medium.

Web:

  • Andre Norton correspondence, literary and dollhouse, Cleveland Public Library. There’s some interesting letters here that talk quite a bit about Norton’s character and personality.
  • Obituaries: Los Angles Times and The Guardian. Both were helpful, as they provided some good (although at times, inaccurate) details about her life.

L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Land of Oz

As I’ve been writing this column, I’ve realized that there’s points where I have to move ahead and skip authors, or, after some reflection, research and writing, that I missed someone critical. Over the last couple of months, I’ve been realizing that not covering L. Frank Baum has been a drastic oversight, and that at the next available opportunity, I need to cover him and his wonderful world of Oz.

I defy you to find someone who doesn’t know the story of The Wizard of Oz. It’s an enormously popular story, so ingrained into our popular culture world that statements such as ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore’ need no reference. Oz is on par with stories from Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley – we know what happens without even reading the works. As such, it’s good to go back and take a look at their place in SF’s canon, because they are very influential, and it’s easy to see why: they’re fantastic, eminently readable stories that hold up with their sense of wonder.

Recently, I attended ICFA down in Orlando Florida, where I had dinner with a couple of authors, notably Ted Chaing. We had gotten on the topic of robotics, and he mentioned that Tik Tok from Ozma of Oz could be considered one of the first robots in SF. It’s certainly an early appearance of a robot, and with that in mind, it’s interesting to see how much of Oz prefigured some of the modern SF genre.

Go read L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Land of Oz over on Kirkus Reviews.

The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin, Brian Attebery. There’s an entire chapter on Oz here, and it’s got some excellent background on the nature of Oz and how it relates to the fantasy canon.
The Marvelous Land of Oz, L. Frank Baum. It’s always good to go to the original source – this was helpful in picking out details about the story. Baum remains extremely readable.
Ozma of Oz, L. Frank Baum. Available on Gutenberg, this was helpful for the quotes about Tik Tok.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum. I have a reprinted edition of the original, from Barnes and Noble (which I can’t wait to read to my son), which has the original forward.
Oz and Beyond: The Fantasy World of L. Frank Baum, by Michael O. Riley. This book is an in depth, exaustive look at Baum’s Oz novels and his other works, presented in clear, chronological order with a good amount of detail.
Teenage: The Prehistory of Youth Culture 1875-1945, Jon Savage. Savage devotes several pages to Baum and Oz, which provides some excellent context to the impact that Oz had on readers.
When Dreams Came True, Jack Zipes. This book also has an entire chapter devoted to Oz, with story details and biographical information.

Online:

Baum, L. Frank: As usual, the SF Encyclopedia has a good entry on my subject and looks at the wider genre-context.
NY Times Review: The original review of Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Interview with Robert Silverberg about the Science Fiction Hall of Fame anthology

Yesterday, my latest column on SFWA and the Science Fiction Hall of Fame was published on Kirkus Reviews (read it here). One of my main sources was Grand Master Robert Silverberg, who kindly agreed to be interviewed for this piece. Here’s our exchange below:

Q: Where did this project (the anthology) originate and what was the particular impulse to look back at that point in time? 

Robert Silverberg: Science Fiction Writers of America was founded in 1965 by Damon Knight.  There were about 70 charter members (I was one) and by the time I became president, succeeding Knight, in 1967, there were some 300 members.  But Knight had set the dues at $1 per year, so the organization’s total income was $300 a year, maybe $4000 in modern purchasing power but still not enough to cover our expenses, which included two publications (the Forum and the Bulletin) and ongoing office expense.  Knight set up the Nebula Awards in 1966 and persuaded Doubleday to publish an annual anthology of the award-winning stories, but SFWA’s share of the advance on the anthology just barely covered the money we lost on the annual awards dinner, so that when I became president I found myself in charge of an organization that had hardly anything in its treasury.  I went to Larry Ashmead, the science-fiction editor at Doubleday, told him about our financial problems, and persuaded him to do a second SFWA anthology, a Hall of Fame book that would select the best short stories up until the inception of the Nebula awards.  (The first award-winning stories had originally been published in 1965. so the cutoff date for this book was 1964.)  Ashmead came through with a $3000 advance, a substantial amount at that time.  We split this the way the advance for the annual anthology was being split: 50% to the writers of the stories used, 25% to the SFWA treasury, 25% to the editor.  Since our financial crisis was extreme and I wanted to get the book published fast (half the advance was due on publication) I simply appointed myself as editor rather than get involved in a prolonged selection process.  With that out of the way, I was able to begin the process of choosing the stories immediately after signing the Doubleday contract.

Q: How was the publisher, Avon, selected, and what were their thoughts on publishing such an anthology?

Robert Silverberg: Avon wasn’t the original publisher.  Doubleday was.  After hardcover publication, Doubleday sold reprint rights to Avon, and Avon kept the book in print for several decades.  Eventually the original contracts lapsed and we were able to re-sell the book to Tor, the current publisher.

Q: The Anthology covers stories from 1929 through 1964: why the long range of time, and why 1929 as a starting point? 

Robert Silverberg: The oldest story nominated for inclusion in the book by the membership was D.D. Sharp’s “The Eternal Man,” first published in 1929.  It didn’t make the final cut, but, since the range of stories voted upon had covered the span from 1929 to 1964, I used those years in the subtitle for the book.  H.G. Wells was writing brilliant s-f stories back at the turn of the century, and I’m not sure why his work wasn’t chosen for the book, since my original call for nominations had said not set any limitations on nationality of authors or date of first publication.  But the voters completely passed Wells over in the nominating process.

Q: Is there a relation between the start up of the Nebula Awards in 1966 and a need to collect similar notable work that preceded it? 

Robert Silverberg: As I said, the book was generated by financial need.  The Nebulas would honor the best stories of the year from 1965 on, and when I needed an idea for a second anthology I decided that that book would honor the pre-Nebula stories.

 

Q: The stories were voted upon by SFWA members: how did the voting process work?

Robert Silverberg: In the summer of 1967 I announced the new anthology in the SFWA Bulletin and called for nominations, the stories to be no longer than 15,000 words.  (I noted that a second anthology containing longer stories would be published later.)  The deadline for nominations was December 31, 1968.   The stories to be nominated were to have been published no later than 1964.   There were no qualifications set for date of publication other than that, nor was country of origin a consideration, other than that the stories had to have been published in the English language.  Nominations came in sporadically all through 1967 and 1968, until finally I had a list of perhaps 75 stories.  (I don’t have a copy of the list any more.)  From this I devised a ballot that was mailed to the membership early in 1969, with a strict deadline set for voting.  The plan was to include the top fifteen vote-getters in the book plus as many of the second fifteen as would fit within the size of the volume that Doubleday was expecting.

When I had completed the master tally, I could see, in general, which the top fifteen stories were going to be — the voting wasn’t ambiguous — but certain problems arose.  Ray Bradbury, for example, had had four short stories nominated, the most of any writer, two from THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and two from THE ILLUSTRATED MAN.  As a result, the Bradbury vote was split just about equally among the four, and no one of them landed in the top twenty vote-getters, though his aggregate vote placed him well up toward the leaders.  It seemed absurd to me not to include a Bradbury story in the book, thus penalizing him for prolific high-quality production, and I arbitrarily made room for him in the final list.  I asked him which of the four he preferred to represent him and he chose “Mars is Heaven.”  A second Bradbury problem then arose, because my $1500 budget for reprinted stories allowed only a little more than $50 per story, and Bradbury’s agent required a $500 reprint fee, obviously impossible for us to meet.  Once again I turned to Bradbury, pointing out that the honorarium offered was just that, an honorarium for high accomplishment, everybody being paid the same amount, and that I would have to omit him from the book if his agent did not yield.  Bradbury prevailed and we were allowed to have the story.  (Over the succeeding decades, of course, his royalties on the story amounted to many times the original fee.)

Another problem cropped up in the case of Clifford D. Simak.  Two of the seven stories making up his book CITY finished in the second fifteen, one vote apart, but the story that had the higher vote total was not the one that Simak himself preferred to see used in the book.  With his permission I chose to look upon the one-vote differential as statistically insignificant and reversed the order of finish so that “Huddling Place” was the one reprinted.

A third problem involved William Tenn’s “Child’s Play,” which finished well up in the voting, but for which I was unable to get reprint permission because Tenn’s agent at the time (whom I will not name, because he is still active professionally) believed that SFWA was some kind of personal plaything of Damon Knight’s, whom he disliked, and refused to let the story be included in the book.  I appealed personally to William Tenn (actually, Philip Klass), but Klass rarely answered his mail and did not reply by my deadline time, so, reluctantly, I had to leave the story out of the book.

The fourth problem was created by the same agent, who also represented Roger Zelazny.  I regarded the Zelazny story, the most recently written of the nominees, as essential to the book, since it brilliantly demonstrated the evolution of s-f since the Gernsback and Campbell eras.  Here some fancy footwork saved the day.  The Zelazny story had been published by Ace Books in a collection of four of his stories, and, as I suspected, Ace had retained contractual control of anthology rights to the individual stories.  The agent had never had the right to grant permission anyway.  So I bought the reprint rights from Ace, which took 50 percent of Zelazny’s very considerable royalties over the years for the story.  The obstructive agent got nothing.

 

Q: What were some of the stories that just missed the cutoff? Is there a complete list of nominees anywhere?

Robert Silverberg: I no longer seem to have the complete list of nominees.  In any case, I would not want to make public the names of the stories that missed the cut, in case any of the writers are still alive.

 

Q: How did you come to be the editor of this book? 

Robert Silverberg: As described above — I thought the book up and, as president of SFWA, named myself editor.

 

Q: What level of editing did you do for these stories? 

Robert Silverberg: None. I reprinted them exactly as originally published.

 

Q: What can you tell me about the reception of the book when it was first released? How were its sales? 

Robert Silverberg: The sales were excellent, and when Doubleday’s own hardcover edition went out of print, the Avon reprint edition went through twenty or thirty printings over the years.  It is still selling well under the aegis of Tor.

 

Q: There’s several additional volumes of this: The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two, Vol. 3 and Vol 4. Did you have any involvement in those books?

Robert Silverberg: Discussed below.

 

Q: Was there any sort of handoff to Ben Bova while he edited those volumes? 

Robert Silverberg: I don’t think so.  Ben would have seen the nominating process for the first book while it was happening and would have known what to do.

 

Q: Vol. 3 collects the Nebula winners from 1965 and 1969, while Vol 4 collects nebula winners from ’70 to ’74: can you tell me anything about the production of those books?

Robert Silverberg: I did not take part in the production of these two books.  As I recall, the first two volumes were so successful that Avon, by now the publisher of the series, wanted to add a volume or two to the set, and, with the best of the pre-Nebula stories already used, the only thing to do was to start collecting the best of the Nebula winners.

 

Q: Why did the SFHOF series end after volume 4? 

Robert SilverbergI don’t know.  Avon underwent major changes, eventually disappearing into HarperCollins, and perhaps there was no longer any desire to continue the series.  The rights to the earlier books reverted to SFWA and were eventually sold to Tor, and no new volumes have appeared, but I don’t know why.

 

SFWA and the ‘Science Fiction Hall of Fame’ Anthologies

SFHOF

I started reading SF when I was in High School, and was supported by the school’s librarian, Sylvia Allen, who encouraged me to pick up new works. At one point, someone had donated a treasure trove of Science Fiction novels to the school, a lot of which they couldn’t catalog, due to age and space. A lot of them went up for sale, and she let me have a crack at them early. One of the books in the pile was The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume 1, which contained a story from an author I’d been reading, Isaac Asimov, and a number of others. I took it home, and was immediately hooked.

A couple of years later, when I worked at the Brown Public Library in Northfield, I had struck up a friendship with an older patron who (if I remember correctly) had been connected to fandom in New York City. He recounted several stories of authors such as Walter Miller Jr. and a couple of others. At one point, I mentioned the anthology that I’d been re-reading, and he told me that there were two others, and ended up bringing them in for me to have. Later, I bought the re-released version of the first volume, so as to relieve my old copy of wear and tear that it desperately didn’t need.

For years, I thought that the three books were the only ones. It wasn’t until I started seeing the title pop up in my research that I started to look deeper into the anthology, and to my surprise, found that two others had been printed in the 1980s, but which had been largely forgotten.

The anthologies have a curious history, and never would have come about but for the creation of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) and some of their financial troubles. For those interested in science fiction history, the focus of the books are a nice match: the first three volumes were explicitly put together with the idea of charting the evolution of the genre. While they’re incomplete (two women in the entire book – I’m really sad that there wasn’t a Moore Northwest Smith story in there, or anything by Francis Stevens) by modern standards, it’s pretty much the entire Golden Age of SF in a single book. In and of themselves, they are a historical curiosity, and an interesting read all together – a lot of the stories still hold up nicely.

Go read SFWA and the ‘Science Fiction Hall of Fame’ Anthologies over on Kirkus Reviews.

Sources:

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume 1, Robert Silverberg. Silverberg’s introduction has a lot of detail about how this project came about, and it’s worth a read into the work and background for this.
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume 2A/B, Ben Bova. Bova’s introduction also provides some good details on his entry.
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume 3, Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke’s introduction here isn’t all that useful, but it does show a pivot for the anthology: a focus now on Nebula winners, rather than historical works. What I found interesting here was also that it’s the first book in the series not published by Doubleday.
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume 4, Terry Carr. As with Clarke’s introduction, there’s more an emphaisis on the Nebula designation rather than on the selection.

SFWA Bulletin, December 1967: I was able to get a scan of the original Bulletin that issued the call for stories.

SF Encyclopedia:

Damon Knight: Damon Knight’s biography of the Futurians doesn’t mention this, but the SFE3 entry provides some good details into this time of his life.
SFWA: This has some good backstory on SFWA’s formation.
Nebula Award: Similarly, this provides some good background information.

ISFDB Entry – Science Fiction Hall of Fame: This was particularly helpful in figuring out publication dates and publishers.

Huge thanks to Former SFWA president Michael Capobianco and Robert Silverberg for their help with this one.

Edward Everett Hale’s Brick Moon

The Brick Moon - FC I’ve got a bit of a bonus installment for my column on SF History. I’ve got a limited amount of space that I’ve got to work with for Kirkus, and as such, I’ve had to blow past a couple of things. Fortunately, with Jurassic London’s new release of The Brick Moon by Edward Everett Hale, I’ve had the opportunity to circle back and write about this particular novel.

The Brick Moon is the first science fiction story that uses the idea of an artificial satellite, and it’s an excellent example of what science fiction is: extrapolation into the near future. In this instance the need for a navigational beacon in the skies. It’s a cool premise, and in one fell swoop, Hale comes up with the idea for a satellite, communications satellite and space station. (Yes, Clarke came up with the idea as well. His invention is notable because it wasn’t in SF, but a non-fiction speculation).

 

Read Edward Everett Hale’s Brick Moon over on Pornokitsch. Here’s the sources which I used:

  • Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it, by Mike Ashley. Ashley has a nice chunk of text devoted to this book, and it provides some helpful context.
  • The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction, edited by Mark Bould, Andrew M. Butler, Adam Roberts and Sherryl Vint. There’s a single mention in this book, but it’s a juicy one that places it in a bit of context with similar works from around the same time in Arthur B. Evan’s piece, ‘Ninteenth-Century SF.)
  • To A Distant Day, Chris Gainor. It’s not often that I get to break out books on space history. This book is about the dawn of the rocket age, from the fantastic People’s History of Spaceflight series. Hale gets a good mention here.
  • Alternate Worlds, James Gunn. Gunn has a mention of The Brick Moon, with a little background.
  • The Brick Moon, by Edward Everett Hale. This new edition from Jurassic London has an incredible historical essay on The Brick Moon, which helped provide some vital details to this piece from Richard Dunn and Marek Kukula.
  • Explorers of the Infinite: Shapers of Science Fiction. Sam Moskowitz. Moskowitz is someone I’m reluctant to use, and I’m realizing that much of the perception of SF and its history is really framed by him. There’s an entire essay about Hale, and it provides some good information, but nothing hugely specific.
  • The High Frontier, Gerard K. O’Neill. There’s a single mention of Hale in this book, about habitats in space.
  • Edward Everett Hale, Harvard Square Library. This is an excellent short biography that provides some good detail on Hale’s early life.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t put something in that Jurassic London’s edition is now available.