BUG-EYED MONSTERS edited by Anthony Cheetham

This is a nice little anthology, containing ten stories (more accurately NINE stories and one radio play adaptation) spanning thirty years 1938-1968. It is edited by Anthony Cheetham, with whom I am totally unfamiliar.

TITLE: BUG-EYED MONSTERS
EDITED BY: Anthony Cheetham
CATEGORY: Short Fiction
SUB-CATEGORY: Anthology
FORMAT: Hardback, 280 pages
PUBLISHER: Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1972.
ISBN: 0 283 97864 3

CONTENTS:

  • Introduction by Anthony Cheetham
  • “Invasion from Mars” by Howard Koch (with Orson Welles) – 1938 radio adaptation of War of the Worlds, CBS, October 30, 1938
  • “Not Only Dead Men” by A. E. Van Vogt (1942) (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1942)
  • “Arena” by Fredric Brown (1944) (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1944)
  • “Surface Tension” by James Blish (Galaxy, August 1952)
  • “The Deserter” by William Tenn (1953) (reprinted from Star Science Fiction Stories, edited by Frederik Pohl, Ballantine, February 1953)
  • “Mother” by Philip JosĂ© Farmer (1953) (Thrilling Wonder Stories, April 1953)
  • “Stranger Station” by Damon Knight (1956) (Fantasy & Science Fiction, December 1956)
  • “Greenslaves” by Frank Herbert (1965) (Amazing Stories, March 1965)
  • “Balanced Ecology” by James H. Schmitz (1967) (Analog, March 1965)
  • “The Dance of the Changer & Three” by Terry Carr (1968) (reprinted from The Farthest Reaches, edited by Joseph Elder, Trident 1968)

According to Cheetham’s interesting little introduction, the title of the book is a gentle, fun jibe at the old, stereotypical “bug-eyed monster” of the pulps. However the ten stories in the anthology are of an altogether higher quality than those old yarns in the pulps, almost a “rehabilitation” of the old bug-eyed monster.

There’s quite a mix in this anthology. We start off with one which is very apt, given the title of the anthology. Howard Koch’s (and Orson Welles’s) classic 1938 radio adaptation of H. G. Wells’s seminal 1898 interplanetary invasion novel War of the Worlds. It first appeared in book form in the anthology Invasion from Mars), edited by Orson Welles (Dell, 1949). The Martian invaders are probably the original archetype for all the B.E.M.s that came afterwards, so this one is as good a place to start as any. I’ve read it before in a number of publications, and it’s always nice to revisit it.

As for the other nine stories, as usual, there are a few that I’m familiar with, and a few that I’m not. Fredric Brown’s classic Arena and James Blish’s Surface Tension are the two that I remember best. Both have always been favourites of mine. Frank Herbert’s Greenslaves is another one that I recall liking, although my memory is a bit fuzzier on the details of that one. I have very vague memories about encountering the Van Vogt, Knight, Tenn and Carr stories at some point in the distant past, but don’t recall anything about them except the briefest details. I don’t recall ever reading either the Farmer or Schmitz stories before.

I may not know (or recall) a few of the stories, but with the exception of Koch, the other nine authors in the anthology are all VERY familiar to me. No obscure writers here, although I must admit that I’m much more familiar with Terry Carr as one of my favourite anthologists, rather than as an author. Overall, this looks like a good one. With those names in it, how could it not be? I think I’m going to really enjoy reading BUG-EYED MONSTERS. 🙂

A SENSE OF WONDER edited by Sam Moskowitz

At only 197 pages long, A SENSE OF WONDER is quite a short anthology. But it’s also an old favourite of mine.

TITLE: A SENSE OF WONDER
EDITED BY: Sam Moskowitz
CATEGORY: Short Fiction
SUB-CATEGORY: Anthology
FORMAT: Hardback, 197 pages
PUBLISHER: Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1967. Originally published in the US in 1967 by Doubleday and Company, Inc. under the title THREE STORIES.

CONTENTS:

  • Introduction by Sam Moskowitz
  • “Exiles on Asperus” by John Wyndham [as by John Beynon Harris] (Wonder Stories Quarterly, Winter 1933)
  • “The Mole Pirate” by Murray Leinster (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1935)
  • “The Moon Era” by Jack Williamson (Wonder Stories, February 1932)

The edition that I have is the 1967 UK 1st edition hardback, in excellent condition, and complete with pristine condition dustjacket. It was published back in 1967 by good old UK SF reliables, Sidgwick & Jackson. The US 1st edition had been published earlier the same year by Doubleday and Company, Inc. under the much more bland title THREE STORIES.

The anthology is edited by SF legend Sam Moskowitz, contains only three stories, all novellas, and an introduction by Moskowitz himself. Whilst there are only three (pretty long, admittedly) stories in this anthology, the introduction by Moskowitz is also a fascinating read in itself. I often find a really good introduction to a book to be just as interesting as the stories themselves. And this one, though relatively short, at only three pages, is definitely interesting.

According to Moskowitz’s introduction, this 1967 anthology marked the first time that any of these three stories had appeared since their original publication in the SF “pulps”, back in the early-to-mid 1930’s. So we have Moskowitz to thank for rescuing these three old gems from the depths of literary obscurity, although it must be pointed out that this anthology is forty-seven years old, and is in itself a forgotten gem by today’s standards. It’s scary to think that the publication date of the book is actually closer to the original first appearances of the stories in those ancient SF magazines than it is to the present day.

The first of the three novellas is “Exiles on Asperus” by John Wyndham, which was first published in the Winter 1933 edition of Wonder Stories Quarterly. It was written under his real name, John Beynon Harris. It’s a long time since I’ve read any Wyndham, and I don’t recall ever reading this one before.

The second story is “The Mole Pirate” by Murray Leinster, which first appeared in the November 1935 edition of Astounding Science Fiction. I’m familiar with this one only by reputation, as I’ve never read it. I haven’t read any Murray Leinster in a long time, but I just recently bought the two volumes of Murray Leinster Wildside Press Megapacks on Amazon, so I reckon it’s well past time for me to reacquaint myself with the old master.

The third and final story is “The Moon Era” by Jack Williamson, which was first published in the February 1932 edition of Wonder Stories. I remember reading this one as a teenager (in an old paperback edition of A SENSE OF WONDER, no less), and it has always remained a favourite of mine, one of those stories that still sticks in your mind thirty-five or forty years after you first read it.

Despite being written in 1931, this is essentially an updated nineteenth century “scientific romance” in the style of H. G. Wells, which is no bad thing in my book. And we all know that Jack Williamson was a huge fan of Wells and the other scientific romance authors, with the Wells influences showing through very heavily in a lot of his early writing. Since I absolutely love scientific romances (that’s how I started off reading SF in the first place, with H. G. Wells and Jules Verne), this story was already a winner from the first time I laid eyes on it.

I’m looking forward to reading this anthology again. It’s been many years since I read “The Moon Era”, and I’m itching to re-read it. As far as I recall, back when I read A SENSE OF WONDER all those years ago, I just read “The Moon Era” over and over again (I was really obsessed with it as a teenager), and didn’t even bother with the other two stories. So it’ll also be nice to actually read “Exiles on Asperus” and “The Mole Pirate” for the first time, as I don’t recall ever reading either of them before, despite having this anthology on my bookshelves for many years.

The Best of Arthur C. Clarke 1937-71

Here’s another book of excellent short fiction, this time it’s a single-author collection, THE BEST OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE 1937-71.

TITLE: THE BEST OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE 1937-71
AUTHOR: Arthur C. Clarke
EDITED BY: Angus Wells
CATEGORY: Short Fiction
SUB-CATEGORY: Collection
FORMAT: Hardback – Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1973, ISBN: 0 283 97979 8); Paperback – Sphere Books, London, 1973, ISBN: 0 7221 2426 0)

I have both the above hardback and paperback editions. The paperback was initially released as one volume, but later reissues were split into two volumes. Here is a listing of the contents:

  • 1937: Travel by Wire
  • 1938: Retreat from Earth
  • 1942: The Awakening
  • 1942: Whacky
  • 1947: Castaway
  • 1949: History Lesson
  • 1949: Hide and Seek
  • 1951: Second Dawn
  • 1954: The Sentinel*
  • 1955: The Star
  • 1955: Refugee
  • 1956: Venture to the Moon
  • 1960: Into the Comet
  • 1960: Summertime on Icarus
  • 1961: Death and the Senator
  • 1961: Hate
  • 1965: Sunjammer
  • 1972: A Meeting with Medusa**

This is an interesting one, although there are certainly some stories missing from it that you might expect to appear in any self-respecting Arthur C. Clarke Best of…. To name but a few: The Nine Billion Names of God, “If I Forget Thee, O Earth…”, The Wind from the Sun, Transit of Earth, I Remember Babylon, and Expedition to Earth, among others.

And there are also quite a few personal favourites that I thought should’ve definitely been in there – Rescue Party, All the Time in the World, The Forgotten Enemy, The Fires Within, Time’s Arrow, Out of the Sun, and a few others.

But that’s the problem with all Best of… collections, isn’t it? There’s never enough room for every story that the readers (or editors) think should definitely be in there. And, in the end, it’s totally up to the personal choice of the editor. Still, even with the omissions, this is still a nice collection of Clarke’s short fiction.

This was the very first collection of Arthur C. Clarke short stories that I ever read, way back when I was a kid (we’re talking forty years ago here), so it holds significant sentimental value for me, even though it isn’t by any means the most comprehensive collection of Clarke’s best short fiction. For that, read instead the later collection MORE THAN ONE UNIVERSE: THE COLLECTED STORIES OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE (US, 1991), which would be much more deserving of the title THE BEST OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE.

* The Sentinel is erroneously dated in the contents listing as being published in 1954. The correct publication date is 1951.

** The collection is dated 1937-1971, but one story in the collection, A Meeting with Medusa, was published in 1972.

The Best of Arthur C. Clarke 1937-71

Here’s another book of excellent short fiction, this time a single-author collection, THE BEST OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE 1937-71.

TITLE: THE BEST OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE 1937-71
AUTHOR: Arthur C. Clarke
EDITED BY: Angus Wells
CATEGORY: Short Fiction
SUB-CATEGORY: Collection
PUBLISHER: Hardback – Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1973, ISBN: 0 283 97979 8); Paperback – Sphere Books, London, 1973, ISBN: 0 7221 2426 0)

I have both the above hardback and paperback editions. The paperback was initially released as one volume, but later reissues were split into two volumes. Here is a listing of the contents:

  • 1937: Travel by Wire
  • 1938: Retreat from Earth
  • 1942: The Awakening
  • 1942: Whacky
  • 1947: Castaway
  • 1949: History Lesson
  • 1949: Hide and Seek
  • 1951: Second Dawn
  • 1954: The Sentinel*
  • 1955: The Star
  • 1955: Refugee
  • 1956: Venture to the Moon
  • 1960: Into the Comet
  • 1960: Summertime on Icarus
  • 1961: Death and the Senator
  • 1961: Hate
  • 1965: Sunjammer
  • 1972: A Meeting with Medusa**

This is an interesting one, although there are certainly some stories missing from it that you might expect to appear in any self-respecting Arthur C. Clarke Best of…. To name but a few: The Nine Billion Names of God, “If I Forget Thee, O Earth…”, The Wind from the Sun, Transit of Earth, I Remember Babylon, and Expedition to Earth, among others.

And there are also quite a few personal favourites that I thought should’ve definitely been in there – Rescue Party, All the Time in the World, The Forgotten Enemy, The Fires Within, Time’s Arrow, Out of the Sun, and a few others.

But that’s the problem with all Best of… collections, isn’t it? There’s never enough room for every story that the readers (or editors) think should definitely be in there. And, in the end, it’s totally up to the personal choice of the editor. Still, even with the omissions, this is still a nice collection of Clarke’s short fiction.

This was the very first collection of Arthur C. Clarke short stories that I ever read, way back when I was a kid (we’re talking forty years ago here), so it holds significant sentimental value for me, even though it isn’t by any means the most comprehensive collection of Clarke’s best short fiction. For that, read instead the later collection MORE THAN ONE UNIVERSE: THE COLLECTED STORIES OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE (US, 1991), which would be much more deserving of the title THE BEST OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE.

* The Sentinel is erroneously dated in the contents listing as being published in 1954. The correct publication date is 1951.

** The collection is dated 1937-1971, but one story in the collection, A Meeting with Medusa, was published in 1972.