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The SF Hall of Fame, Vol. 1 - My Favorite SF Anthology: READ IT! It will be your favorite too!
on February 3, 2014
The SF Hall of Fame series was established to recognize quality SF writing before the era of the HUGO and NEBULA awards. What a wonderful gift to the early SF pioneers who were shamefully treated by the mainstream of creative writers. Of course, SF writers themselves changed these negative impressions by the higher literary standards achieved in the 1950s and beyond by such writers as Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Roger Zelazny, Ursala Le Quin, Joanna Russ, Frank Herbert (I'm having fun proving my point with this list, which could go on and on . . . .). This first volume is framed by two stories of a journey to Mars: "A Martian Odyssey" from 1934 (I wanted to make a movie version with Jack Nicholson as the hero) and "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" from 1963 (I wanted to make a movie version with Jack Nicholson as the hero). In those intervening 29 years SF writing matured from Stanley Weinbaum's rather primitive pulp fiction to Roger Zelazny's stunning modernist prose. The first story is just an action fantasy, with little science and the most rudimentary fiction techniques. Still it's a great read! It has action, humor, suspense and one of the great alien characters in the whole genre, the bird-like and noble-hearted Martian, named Tweel. Trust me: once you meet Tweel you will never forget it (?). The later distinction between Hard SF and Soft SF did not yet exist and I doubt it would have mattered to Weinbaum, who was not a professional writer. However, three decades later, we have a very professional, and polished writer in Roger Zelazny, who had internalized the main currents of modern literature as his references to Hart Crane, Rainer Maria Rilke, the Mahabharata, Shakespeare, Rimbaud attest. You get the point. For Zelazny, goddamit, SF is literature and occupies its own niche in world literature. His main character is a poet, an anti-hero with illusions of heroism, a scoundrel and a brilliant, imaginative individual who single-handedly saves a dying civilization from imploding. And what does he get for his efforts. Nothing, no material rewards, no recognition. In this, he resembles the existentialist anti-hero of main stream fiction in the 1960s. And Zelazny's style is breathtaking: metaphorical, lyrical, sarcastic (even sardonic), allusive, persuasive and, beneath Gallinger's tough talk, deeply moving, even empathetic. And Zelazny knew he was writing Soft SF, so he could indulge his imagination in creating his version of a SF Mars and an alien race inhabiting it. The distinction between Hard and Soft forms of SF clarified the intentions of writers so that their readers did not misinterpret the results. This volume is contains a plethora of short masterpieces which together create a vivid primer in the varieties of SF.