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The Science Fiction Century Hardcover – October 15, 1997
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The Science Fiction Century is editor David G. Hartwell's ambitious attempt to create an anthology spanning 100 years of science fiction, beginning with stories from the 1890s. It is a veritable tome of science fiction that contains 45 tales in all, some from well-known genre authors such as Robert Silverberg and Jack Vance, and others from less science fictionally inclined writers such as Jack London and E. M. Forster. While Hartwell's selections will probably be seen as somewhat controversial (except for five stories, the anthology spans the period from 1950 onward, which is less than half a century at best), they all undeniably make for good--and more often great--reading.
From Library Journal
This anthology contains 45 short stories, mostly post-World War II and mostly American, representing the earliest writers in the genre (H.G. Wells, C.S. Lewis), Golden Age authors (Poul Anderson, A.E. Van Vogt), hard science and cyberpunk writers (William Gibson, Bruce Sterling), women authors (James Tiptree Jr., Connie Willis), and writers known outside science fiction (Michael Shaara, E.M. Forster). In his introduction, Hartwell places sf in the context of literary history and prefaces each story with a short biographical and bibliographical essay. While he purposely omits certain authors who have been heavily anthologized (Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin), Hartwell has chosen excellent examples representing 100 years of science fiction. Highly recommended for sf and literature collections.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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This book here is of course is not a yearly anthology, but what I liked most was that it introduced me to authors I have never heard of before, especially some authors from overseas, or from the distant SF past (I'm talking even pre-1940's of which I had read most of the short story canon of during my teens in the 1970's.)
This book made me realize how narrow my reading sources have been for the last decade or two, and makes me want to go and read all of Hartwell's anthologies, and read more of some of the authors in this collection.
I was wrong. It is terrible. Just check out who is in there and who isn't. No Heinlein? Arguably the most significant sci-fi writer of the last century was left out, perhaps because he has been "anthologized too much".
I almost always re-read a book I've read. This one, however, is going to become an important resource. It's pretty large so I'm going to hollow out the center and use it as an inconspicuous storage 'safe' for my bookcase. I used to use a 20-year old Guiness Book of World Records for that, but it's gotten too battered. This large, hard-cover monstrosity will be a welcome addition.
This book isn't a collection of the greatest sci-fi from the last century, which is a real bummer because that's exactly what I was hoping for. Instead it's just a collection of random sci-fi stories from various authors spanning about a hundred years. The Acknowledgments page notes the absence of Asimov, Campbell, Clark, and Heinlein because they have been honored elsewhere and the editor didn't need them to clarify his point with this book. I'm not really sure what his point was though. To bring to light largely unknown sci-fi writers? That would be great if their work was worth remembering. I certainly didn't know C.S. Lewis wrote some sci-fi, of course that's probably just because it's not very good stuff and not worth remembering. This isn't to belittle the authors or their selected works. It's just that a title with the word "century" in it leads one to think the selections would mostly be the heavy-hitters instead of just the farm teams (with occasional standouts).
Only 13 of these stories are worth the time to read:
Beam Us Home (James Tiptree, Jr.)
A Work of Art (James Blish)
The Machine Stops (E.M. Forster)
The Hounds of Tindalos (Frank Belknap Long)
The Angel of Violence (Adam Wisniewski-Snerg)
Time in Advance (William Tenn)
Veritas (James Morrow)
The King and the Dollmaker (Wolfgang Jeschke)
Fire Watch (Connie Willis)
Greenslaves (Frank Herbert)
Consider Her Ways (John Wyndham)
Swarm (Bruce Sterling)
Beggars in Spain (Nancy Kress)
As a somewhat interesting aside, the intro paragraphs of each selection DO in fact give a good indication of what's to come. Swanwick's for instance (who at his best is only good about 50% of the time) reprints a statement from Science Fiction Writers that his style is largely "without a strong, action-oriented plot." Really, you could say the same thing about this volume as a whole.