Reading Around in Groff Conklin's Anthologies

2DaveWixon

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Welcome, bwrynn!

Those thick early Conklin sf anthologies -- I suppose I mean from the mid-1940s through the early 1950s or so -- are rich sources for notable sf from the period. His later anthologies seem to me -- based on my limited reading -- to be less appealing. I don't know if others would agree.
Oh, I do agree!
 

LoZioOscuro

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Dave, it's Brian Aldiss - it was on top of my previous post.
All the best
Roberto
 

2DaveWixon

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Dave, it's Brian Aldiss - it was on top of my previous post.
All the best
Roberto
My bad, Roberto -- thank you!

(It's been umpty-ump years since I read that story, but I have to say that I would never have thought to connect it with Aldiss...also my bad!)

Dave
 

2DaveWixon

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... in those years I was so excited over the concepts I was discovering in science fiction stories, that I seldom paid attention to who wrote them...
(Referring to the period in which the younger me was excitedly discovering science fiction in part through the anthologies of Conklin and others): my lack of concern over such details as authors and dates led me to some misinterpretations of sf history: if in the sixties I "discovered" a story in an anthology, I tended to attribute it, in my mind, to that period, even if the story was in fact written and published in the 40's or 50's...

Sorry, all!
 

J-Sun

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I've only scanned this thread and it appears this may not be playing in it the way I'm supposed to but I just read/reviewed Conklin's Great Science Fiction by Scientists and thought it might interest readers of this thread, especially as this particular one doesn't seem to have come up yet.

Review: Great Science Fiction by Scientists, ed. by Groff Conklin

To quote part of the conclusion: "I particularly liked:
  • “Summertime on Icarus” by Arthur C. Clarke
  • “Learning Theory” by James McConnell
  • “The Gostak and the Doshes” by Miles J. Breuer
  • “The Gold-Makers” by J. B. S. Haldane
  • and perhaps “The Tissue-Culture King” by Julian Huxley"
If nothing else, it'll at least bump the thread. :)
 

Extollager

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I propose to read at least two stories a month from science fiction anthologies edited by Groff Conklin, and to report here.


The earliest one I have is The Best of Science Fiction (1946), and the most recent in my collection is Another Part of the Galaxy (1966). Conklin died in 1968, so I suppose one could say that the conclusion of his anthologizing coincided with the arrival of the New Wave.

It would be great if other Chronsfolk read around in Conklindom and also commented here.

Here's an article about his anthologies:

Anthopology 101: 41 Above the Rest
I'm reviving this thread, with the intention of reading at least one story a month, in 2019, found in a Conklin anthology. Anyone else interested?
 

Extollager

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I'm hoping lots of Chronsfolk will chime in here.

Why a thread on Conklin's anthologies?

1.They were historically important. [a] Conklin's Best of Science Fiction was either the first hardcover sf anthology or one of the first. Its immediate hardcover successors were also early and notable volumes. Quite a few of them penetrated the public and school library market, and, thus, became key books in many readers' early exposure to sf.

2.Conklin has a reputation as one of the best pre-New Wave sf anthologists, sustained through quite a series of paperback anthologies.

3.Many of us have some of his anthologies, I'm sure, and for those who don't but are interested, it should be easy to buy some of them at low prices; they are readily available.

However, we might find there are stories we haven't read yet, and ones we'd enjoy reading again. Observations could be shared.

If anyone wants to rate stories, perhaps this system would work:

5/5: Outstanding stories in one's whole personal experience of reading sf and a cherished classic

4/5: Exceptionally good

3/5: Worth reading

2/5: Perhaps passable entertainment, but eminently skippable

1/5: Not worth reading

Something like that?
I've made a pitch for the importance of Conklin's anthologies in this message, and proposed a scale for rating stories.

It would be interesting to hear at least this much from as many Chronsfolk as possible: Do you own any Conklin anthologies? At one time (here I show my age) almost any sf reader, I suppose, would have had one or more. Images of some of them will be found in this thread.
 

Extollager

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I might as well get started now.

#61 in my readings in Conklin's anthologies is Cliff Simak's "Lobby" from 1944. The story is set in the author's near future and concerns the imminent establishment of atomic power for peacetime uses. It's good-hearted scientists and progressive businessmen versus a "Primitives" sect, an old senator, and, especially, the vested interest of the existing power companies. Street preachers denounce the impiety of nuclear power. (That prompted me to think how wrong Simak turned out to be about that one; in fact, from the early 1970s era of the establishment of nuclear power, I recall no opposition from clergy, but rather from popular musicians, Hollywood, and university types, etc..) The story looks hopefully towards a one-world scientific government of specially trained professional rulers -- yecchhhh!

The story is reprinted in Conklin's first thick anthology, The Best of Science Fiction, from an issue of Astounding.

2.5/5

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Extollager

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#62: "The Embassy" by Martin Pearson is a good example of the rubbish that could be published in the old-time sf magazines, even in Astounding, and then even be anthologized (here, in Conklin's Treasure of Science Fiction). It's something of an example of the wiseguy humor vein. You'll laugh your head off if stories with episodes of a "mentally retarded" cop being squashed by a safe make you laugh your head off; or if stories ending with a humanoid Martian woman who "broke free [from a restraining grasp and] kicked the mutilated face" of a humanoid Venusian entertain you, you'll find that this story delivers the goods. 1/5. Phooey! -- as Nero Wolfe would say.
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Al Jackson

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I started reading SF in 1953 .... it was just a fluke that I fell in with teenage fans who were knowable science fiction … heard stories about how good Astounding was during the 1940s … finding issues was impossible … so the Conklin anthologies were indispensable. From the perspective of 65 (!) years later .... having read SF pretty thoroughly between 1953 and the early 1980s …. my sense of things is that just about every great SF idea was used up between 1940 and 1960 the rest filled in by 1970. That is if you read all the short stories.
There still are a few tings discovered but mostly it is ideas that have been around now better elaborated.
 

Extollager

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Al, isn't it interesting, too, that Conklin organized (some of) his anthologies according to the categories of topics that the story-ideas would be about, e.g. atomic power, new inventions, outer space travel, etc.? I imagine this would be useful if someone wanted to raid these anthologies and other sources to help him or her to create a "taxonomy" of sf ideas, like the Stith Thompson (is that the name?) taxonomy of folk-tale motifs. Probably something like this has already been done for sf.
 

Extollager

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#63 Simak's "Desertion" in the Big Book of Science Fiction gets 5/5, not surprisingly. On a serious level I would have some religious questions about notions underlying this story, but it's a classic of its time and genre, and could have been adapted for an episode of the original Outer Limits series, even in budget.
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Extollager

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#64 "The Enchanted Village" by A. E. van Vogt, reprinted by Conklin in Possible Worlds of Science Fiction. 3/5 It reminded me of the Simak story just mentioned, which was published first. It's a story of a human being's survival on an alien planet, in this case Mars. Pretty good combination of eerie mood, suspense, and clever idea -- except that Simak had something fairly close to it, published six years earlier.

I have a hardcover edition of this Conklin anthology. The paperback had fewer stories, I expect, but a nice cover:
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Picture from the original appearance in one of the sf magazines,




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Extollager

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#65 is Mack Reynolds's "The Discord Makers," found in Conklin's anthology Invaders of Earth. 2.5/5 The surprise ending will come as no surprise, in this story about a lone investigator searching out evidence that aliens have infiltrated our planet. The story should be looked up by Charles Fort fans ("we are property"). Aliens foster ill-will despite its being obvious that humans need to juist get along. Our instinctive dislike of spiders and snakes, rats and cockroaches, is explained as evidence that these are creatures from another world that were set loose long ago on our planet, hence we dislike them more than some animals that are actually more dangerous to us.

Well, that's the way the story proceeds.
 

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