I recently purchased yet another old collection of science fiction stories. Anthologies are the one thing I simply can’t resist, especially if they include major figures such as Brunner and Clarke. I’ll even buy them if they’re edited by Judith Merril, whose selections normally leave me scratching my head.
So I bought Yet More Penguin Science Fiction by Brian Aldiss, and it eventually cycled to the top of my TBR pile.
Now, I was curious about what this one would look like. Aldiss, after all, was smack in the middle of the New Wave, which I didn’t much enjoy. But 1964 was pretty early in the game when it came to the New Wave, so there was hope for this antho.
I wasn’t disappointed. This one if full of stories from top writers, adding Kornbluth, Blish, Van Vogt, Walter Miller Jr., Tenn and Knight to the aforementioned Clarke and Brunner. Best of all, though the tendrils of what later became the New Wave had not yet become pervasive, and the stories could easily be considered “late Golden Age” tales – with literary sensibilities, but still putting the ideas and the story first. Even James Blish managed to write an idea-driven story without losing itself in too much introspection (although he was close).
A couple were somewhat predictable, although whether this is because of the fact that they were obvious in their day or that the genre later imitated them to death, I can’t really say, but the rest were more readable than what I expected from SF from the sixties, although the Tenn, “Eastward Ho!”, probably interesting and groundbreaking in its day, has the unfortunate distinction of foreshadowing today’s identity-politics-driven SF.
On the other hand, Kornbluth’s “MS Found in a Chinese Fortune Cookie” is both experimental and interesting. “The Rescuer” (Porges) was one of the predictable ones, but likely groundbreaking in its own time.
Interestingly, the best story in the book was by a lesser-known writer called Theodore Cogswell, whose “The Wall Around the World” definitely deserved its lead spot in the antho.
If you only have money for one antho from a fifty-odd years ago, buy 17 x Infinity. But if you happen to run across this one, it’s an interesting snapshot of a time of transition which also holds some fun stories.
Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine Novelist and short story writer whose latest Science Fiction novel is Outside. Check it out here!