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Contents of Book 1: "The Man Who Evolved" by Edmond Hamilton (Good) "The Jameson Satellite" by Neil R. Jones (Good) "Submicroscopic" by Capt S. P. Meek (Excellent) "Awlo of Ulm" by Capt S. P. Meek (Sequel to above)(Excellent) "Tetrahedra of Space" by P. Schuyler Miller (strange but Good) "The World of the Red Sun" by Clifford D. Simak (Good) "Tumithak of the Corridors" by Charles R. Tanner (Very Good) "The Moon Era" by Jack Williamson (Excellent)
All stories were copyrighted 1931. In my opinion the stories vary from good to Excellent. If you like Sci-Fi / Fantasy of the early 20th century you will probably enjoy these stories or most of them anyway. The book also contains an interesting autobiography of the Editor Isaac Asimov discussing his childhood and his introduction to Sci-Fi through these and other stories.
Contents of Book 2: (1933 and 1934) "The Man Who Awoke" Laurence Manning (Good) "Tumithak in Shawm" Charles R. Tanner (Excellent) "Colossus" Donald Wandrei (Good) "Born of the Sun" Jack Williamson (Good) "Sidewise in Time" Murray Leinster (Excellent) "Old Faithful" Raymond Z. Gallum (Good)
Contents of Book 3: (1935-1938) "The Parasite Planet" Stanley Weinbaum (Excellent) "Proxima Centauri" Murray Leinster (okay) "The Accursed Galaxy" Edmond Hamilton (okay) "He Who Shrank" Henry Hasse (okay) "The Human Pets of Mars" Leslie Frances stone (awful) "The Brain Stealers of Mars" John W. Campbell, Jr. (Excellent) "Devolution" Edmond Hamilton (okay) "Big Game" Isaac Asimov (okay) "Other Eyes Watching" John W. Campbell, Jr. (Non-fiction) "Minus Planet" John D. Clark (okay) "Past, Present and Future" Nat Schachner (Good) "The Men and the Mirror" Ross Rocklynne (Good)
The stories collected here are supplemented by the memories of Asimov--where he was, what he was doing, and how he felt as he read them all for the first time. In this way, "Before the Golden Age" is a book which reveals quite a bit about Asimov himself, as well as providing an exciting hop into 1930's space opera. Edmond Hamilton, Jack Williamson, the early stories of John W. Campbell, and many lesser lights unjustly forgotten are well-represented here. The heroes tend to be handsome and noble, the heroines beautiful and chaste, and the villains are as evil as can be. Adventures take place in space, inner space, the smallest dimensions and the largest, as well as the distant past and the unseen future. A real joyride into the adventurous world of science fiction, before the more scientifically-informed, literary "golden age" essentially masterminded by John W. Campbell began
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Several years after I had graduated from Sewanee Military Academy (by the skin of my teeth), I was invited to return to teach a one month seminar on science fiction. I enjoyed this tremendously; and at the end of the seminar, the class presented me with a copy of this anthology, autographed by all the members of the seminar. I would not sell my copy for all the tea in China. Now at that time, I tended to have a pretty low opinion of magazine science fiction prior to the 1940s. And I still believe that to a large extent, I was right. Much of it was formulaic, badly written, cliched, and racist. But a reading of Isaac Asimov's _Before the Golden Age_ (1974) convinced me that there was some fiction of value during the thirties. It was not just the stories themselves. It was Asimov's basic approach. He made the anthology autobiographical-- an assembling of stories that he read in his youth. There are some limitations to this approach. Stanley Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" could not be included because Asimov didn't read the story until much later in life. But on the whole, it works. In his forwards, Asimov captures the magic of what it was like to read those stories for the first time, and then tempers his enthusiasm with a more critical look in his afterwards. You sense that this anthology was truly a labor of love for Asimov, and so it becomes a pleasure book for the reader as well.
There are five stories in this anthology that evoke a sense of wonder in me through their descriptive passages. They are: "Tumithak of the Corridors" by Charles R. Tanner, "The Moon Era" by Jack Williamson, "Born of the Sun" by Jack Williamson, "Old Faithful" by Raymund Z. Gallun, and "He who Shrank" by Henry Hasse. In contrast, action oriented stories like Stanley Weinbaum's "Parasite Planet" and John W.Read more ›
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I can't say for certain anymore, but I believe that this massive 1974 anthology was one of my very first purchases from the Science Fiction Book Club, around 1977 or 1978; of all those early buys it is certainly the one I have returned to most often and it's left an indelible mark on my taste, contributing especially to a love of the pulp and earlier eras in genre fiction that has never left me.
Editor Isaac Asimov interweaves his own biographical details with warmth, much humor and even occasional pathos into a survey and history of American science fiction magazines from their beginnings in the late 1920s through his own first appearance as a science fiction writer a decade later, which marked the beginning of the "official" Golden Age of science fiction, but the end of his own personal one. The stories presented date from 1931-38; the editor only includes examples that he has personal memories of reading at the time, so certain better-known stories from the period are excluded (and generally available in other anthologies, anyway). He is often critical of the stories themselves - the racism and prejudice in particular, but also the often ludicrous science - but he's also willing to give his younger self, and his peers of the time, a little leeway, and not hold too closely to the more enlightened values of a half-century later. It's a book, then, with much worthwhile critical and historical analysis mixed in with the nearly always entertaining and often wonderful relics of a more innocent and adventurous era in the genre.
Here's a rundown of the stories - I'll * my own personal few favorites, though truthfully I like almost all of them and have re-read most more than once over the past 30+ years.Read more ›