Monday, May 11, 2009

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame by Ben Bova

It's funny the things you find resting on your bookshelves, barely noticing them. Last night, I rediscovered an old two volume set entitled The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume 2 (1973), edited by Ben Bova. I searched online for the table of contents and found a Wikipedia entry. Turns out this volume collects twenty-two great novellas published before 1961, the year the Nebula Awards began. Volume 1 brings together great short stories also from the pre-Nebula Era.

Here is the Table of Contents for Volume 2 - The Novellas:

Volume Two A
Poul Anderson, "Call me Joe" 1957
John W. Campbell, "Who Goes There?" 1938
Lester del Rey, "Nerves" 1942
Robert A. Heinlein, "Universe" 1941
Cyril M. Kornbluth, "The Marching Morons" 1951
Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, "Vintage Season" 1946
Eric Frank Russell, "...And Then There Were None" 1951
Cordwainer Smith, "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell" 1962
Theodore Sturgeon, "Baby is Three" 1952
H.G. Wells, "The Time Machine" 1895
Jack Williamson, "With Folded Hands" 1947

Volume Two B
Isaac Asimov, "The Martian Way" 1952
James Blish, "Earthman Come Home" 1953
Algis Budrys, "Rogue Moon" 1960
Theodore Cogswell, "The Spectre General" 1952
E.M. Forster, "The Machine Stops" 1909
Frederik Pohl, "The Midas Plague" 1954
James H. Schmitz, "The Witches of Karres" 1949
T. L. Sherred, "E for Effort" 1947
Wilmar H. Shiras, "In Hiding" 1948
Clifford D. Simak, "The Big Front Yard" 1958
Jack Vance, "The Moon Moth" 1961

I'll admit that I've read exactly one of these stories, the oldest, H. G. Wells' The Time Machine. I know most of the names, however. Any SF reader should know most if not all these names. The one that stands out is E. M. Forster. Who knew that the A Passage to India guy wrote SF? Another observation about this collection is the dates. You have exactly three stories (Wells', Forster's, and Campbell's) written prior to the 1940s. If you include the two stories published in in 1941 (Heinlein) and 1942 (del Rey), that makes five stories published prior to World War II. The other seventeen all were published after the war and, more importantly (I think; haven't read these stories yet) after the Atomic Age had begun. That says a lot about how we humans probably viewed the world post-Hiroshima/Nagasaki.

But you can't discount the lack of material in the first half of the twentieth-century. No story from the 1910s, nothing from the 1920s, and only one story from the 1930s. I know SF was being published during those decades (Burroughs, at least) but, perhaps, Bova and the other folks who compiled these novellas didn't think those offerings worthy of a collection.

This presumption only makes me more curious about the types of stories selected. I'm curious to know how SF is defined within these 22 stories. I'll let you know what I find out. I'm thinking about reading the stories chronologically just to see how the definition of SF progressed.

Anybody read any of these novellas? Have any favorites?

3 comments:

  1. I've read about half the stories in Vol. 2A. As far as the lack of early twentieth century stories go, I think part of the problem lies in the writers of the time. All the best, at least those we still remember, came along in the late thirties. Jack Williamson is one of the earliest of the big names working back then.
    People like Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke, to name a few, were still learning their trade during that early period.
    And John W. Campbell was one who helped mature the genre into genuine stories as opposed to the wild stuff of those times.

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  2. I highly recommended series.

    My review of Volume III: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2004/01/review-the-science-fiction-hall-of-fame-volume-iii/

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