Visions of Paradise

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Reprint anthologies

One of my favorite ways of keeping up with the sf field’s diversity and authors I might have missed is by reading reprint anthology series. I enjoy original anthologies, but those tend to be a mixed bag, not much different from an issue of a prozine with highs and lows, fantasy and science fiction all mixed together.

Reprint anthologies tend to be more exclusively science fiction, some of them restricted to specific themes or periods of time, but others which sprawl over the entire genre both thematically and temporally. Here are some of my favorite series. I will begin with best-of-the-year anthologies, of which there have been numerous series in the past 60 years. Recently, many of them tend to combine f&sf in the same volume, which disappoints me a bit. While I enjoy reading occasional fantasy, too much of it falls into one of my blind spots: either it is contemporary, or deals with tedious tropes such as vampires, zombies or werewolves, or is too close to horror fiction. So the best-of-the-year series I have read have always been pure sf:

The Best Science Fiction of the Year, edited by Terry Carr (15 volumes before he combined it with fantasy);
Year’s Best Science Fiction, edited by Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr (7 volumes before they went their separate ways);
Science Fiction: The Great Years, edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin Greenberg (my collection runs from 1951 through 1964, although the series actually started with 1939);
Nebula Award Stories, various editors (I have 19 volumes of the 46 years the series has been published; recent editions have been too idiosyncratic with too much nonfiction, poetry, and non-nominated fiction);
The Year’s Best Science Fiction, edited by Gardner Dozois (27 volumes to date; perhaps not as high an overall quality as Carr’s series, but its huge size enables it to contain many outstanding stories, including several novellas each year);
Best Short Novels, edited by Jonathan Strahan (4 volumes; although this series contains both f&sf, my love of novellas trumped that weakness);
Year’s Best SF, edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer (15 volumes; this series is narrower in focus than either Carr’s or Dozois’, but its choice of traditional/hard sf is invariably good reading);

Sometimes the other reprint anthology series are even better than the best-of-the-year ones:

The Hugo Winners, various editors (I only have 4 volumes edited by Isaac Asimov, and since they are limited to winners only, they are all worthwhile reading);
The Mammoth Books of [Short Novels of the Decade], edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin Greenberg (5 volumes from the1930s through the 1970s; a lot of very good stuff, although the stories might not represent the absolute best of any decade);
▸ various compilation anthologies edited by David G. Hartwell (I have 4 of them covering sf: The Ascent of Wonder, The Science Fiction Century, The Space Opera Renaissance and The World Treasury of Science Fiction; 2 fantasy: Masterpieces of Fantasy and Enchantment and Masterpieces of Fantasy and Wonder; and 1 horror The Dark Descent; all of the mare highly recommended);
Alpha, edited by Robert Silverberg (9 volumes which tend to emphasize the 1950s, but cover the entire pre-1970 history of science fiction; since Silverberg’s taste tends to parallel my own, I enjoyed this series a lot);
▸ various compilation anthologies edited by Brian W. Aldiss (I have 5 of these so far: Galactic Empires 1 & 2, Farewell, Fantasy Venus, and Decade the 40s / 50s, co-edited by Harry Harrison; I’m looking to find used copies of his 1970s anthologies Space Odysseys, Space Opera, Evil Earths, Perilous Planets, and Decade the 60s, with Harry Harrison).

There is a ton of great reading in this volumes; sometimes I seriously consider not buying any new books and just reread all this great stuff I already have!


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