Time Warp: Exploring the Short Fiction of Yesteryear

One thing that this year’s Hugo Voting Packet (a downloadable collection of all the works nominated for the 2012 Hugo Awards) brought home to me was the extent of high-quality SF that’s only available in short fiction forms such as short stories, novelettes and novellas. Many of these stories often appear only in magazines and anthologies that quickly go out-of-print.

My goal is to highlight some of the best stories of yesteryear that are still worth reading today.While I’ve read a fair bit of short fiction over the years, I’ve never really focused on it. Realizing that I may have missed out on some excellent short fiction over time, I decided to actively explore the shorter works of past years…and blog about my findings. My goal is to highlight some of the best stories of yesteryear that are still worth reading today.

What I’m envisioning is a series of blog entries, where each entry focuses on a particular year. I’d love to do the years in order, but I probably can’t due to the necessity of tracking down the major stories for each year. My hope is for these entries to evolve into an enjoyable and useful survey of older short fiction. To this end, I must also recommend Jo Walton’s excellent retrospective of the Hugo Awards (1953 – 2000) for Tor.com, which was an inspiration for this series.

My starting point for my explorations are some of the relatively widely available “Best of…” anthologies that have been published in mass-market form. The older editions of these anthologies are out-of-print, but most are available in the second-hand market. Some of these anthologies are listed below:

  • The Year’s Best SF (1956 – 1967), edited by Judith Merril
  • World’s Best Science Fiction (1965 – 1971), edited by Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr
  • Best Science Fiction of the Year #1 – #17 (1972 – 1987), edited by Terry Carr
  • The (1972 – 1990) Annual World’s Best SF, edited by Donald A. Wollheim and Arthur W. Saha
  • Stellar #1 – #7, (1974 – 1981), Stellar Short Novels (1976) edited by Judy-Lynn Del Rey
  • Year’s Best SF #1 – #16 (1996 – 2011), edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer

Stellar, edited by the late Judy-Lynn del Rey, may be a bit of an outlier here. The others are reprint anthologies, while Stellar was an original anthology, meaning that it solicited authors to contribute original stories to the anthology.

As far as I know, Stellar isn’t considered to be one of those truly ground-breaking anthologies. It has one distinguishing characteristic, though. I loved them when I first encountered them, so much so that I collected all of them. I’m kind of looking forward to reading them again after all these years.

You may also note that there’s a gap, from 1991 to 1995, that isn’t covered by these anthologies. This is because Terry Carr died in 1987 and Donald Wollheim died in 1990, thus ending each of their anthology series. The gap wasn’t filled until David Hartwell began publishing his more comprehensive anthology series in 1996. I’ll be looking to fill that gap as well — suggestions are welcome.

Here are my retrospectives of the short fiction of yesteryear, with more coming soon (it takes time to read all of the stories).

1971 — (2012/10/21)
1974 — (2012/10/28)
1978 — (2012/11/16)
1979 — (2012/12/28)

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1 Comment

  1. Posted November 1, 2012 at 5:24 PM | Permalink

    Yes, I’m aware of the Gardner Dozois anthology series, beginning in 1984 and continuing to the present day. However, that’s a trade paperback series, and much harder to track down second-hand.

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