Besides Heinlein novels (and some of the classic classics – Wells, Verne), my early introduction to science fiction was through the pages of the magazines and the numerous anthologies – either newly minted or reissued classics.
Some titles that spring immediately to mind are “Adventures in Time & Space”, “The Big Book of Science Fiction”, “Astounding Tales of Space and Time”, “The Science Fiction Hall of Fame”, Merrils’ Best of the year, Carr & Wollheim’s Best of the year – and so many others.
Like the magazines, the anthologies offered an opportunity to experience a hand and a half of authors who’s works I was unfamiliar with; quick reads as well.
If you were to grab ahold of just those first four anthologies I mentioned and read through them all, you’d get a pretty darned good panorama of the ‘classic’ era. (And I recommend doing so if you want to gain an appreciation for where all of us old fogeys are coming from.)
Recent debates on the relevance of old SF, the out-dated science in old SF, the lack of characterization in old SF, the horribly stifling reliance on IDEA in old SF, the ancient historical context of old SF…
…all of these discussions have prompted me to unearth exemplars that illustrate that at least some earlier works are exceptions to these challenges. Finding such examples has made me wonder – how many are there and
wouldn’t it be a good idea to put together an anthology entitled something like “And You Thought Old SF Was OLD”.
(This of course would have a companion volume entitled “Science Fiction For People Who Hate Science Fiction”.)
Without an immediate re-reading to verify that my feelings about some of the classics aren’t just wishful thinking, I hesitate (at this moment) to put my own list up. I do definately have some titles in mind that I believe have compelling characters, decent writing, no overt tapestries that reveal its datedness and a fine balance between story, character and idea.
But before I put my own list up, I thought I’d ask everyone else if they had any suggestions. Extra points if your suggestions are in the public domain.