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Reading Around in Groff Conklin's Anthologies

Extollager

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#43: Raymond Z. Gallun's "Stamped Caution" as reprinted in Conklin's 5 Unearthly Visions -- a solid contribution to the first contact genre, published originally in the Sept. 1953 Galaxy issue, a time when, evidently, it was still possible to propose that Mars was inhabited by an old civilization that had built canals. Nothing flashy here, but the author has tried to think through all the issues involved in his immediate story. (He doesn't attempt to evoke much the public response to confirmed contact with extraterrestrials, etc., but just tells what happened to a handful of men involved.) 3/5

 
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Extollager

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#44: I really liked Horace L. Gold's "A Matter of Form," in which a cold-blooded scientist partnered with a corrupt public figure has devised a way to switch the identities of men and animals based on operating on the pineal gland. The protagonist is Wood, who spends most of the story in a collie's body. Of course it's a silly idea, but it's played straight for excitement and is paced nicely. It has a classic New York feel that reminded me of old movies I've been watching. I'm perhaps overrating it at 4/5, but, as I said, I really liked it. Conklin included it in The Big Book of Science Fiction, one of his thick anthologies for Crown. It first appeared in Astounding for Dec. 1938.
 

Extollager

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#45: Morrison Colladay's "The Planetoid of Doom" from Wonder Stories (Dec. 1932) describes the sights after an asteroid, I suppose, or other space object strikes the Gulf of Mexico and swamps New Orleans. Monstrous snakes and even tyrannosaurs devour corpses and the living. A wierd green radiance glows at night; the space object seems to have brought a strange substance with it that stimulated growth of some earth creatures, or they might have been cast up from deep-sea haunts (but tyrannosaurs?). Earthquakes ensue. The devastated New Orleans angle (I suppose some or all of the numerous specific locations mentioned were genuine) and recent speculation about what would happen if a meteorite hit the earth gave this one a bit of extra interest. Characterization is nil and there isn't much of a plot, just an evocation of a bizarre event and its immediate aftermath. Conklin reprinted it in The Big Book. Contento lists just two stories by Colladay, both reprinted by Conklin, the other being "Giant in the Earth" in The Best of Science Fiction. 2/5

 

Extollager

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#46: G. Peyton Wertenbaker's "The Ship That Turned Aside" appeared in the March 1930 Amazing. The cover art must be for a different story, but I thought you might like to see it anyway.

The story is reprinted, as by Green Peyton, in Conklin's Big Book of Science Fiction. A passenger ship crosses unsuspectingly into a different dimension, voyaging for days across days of sunless sea, then arriving on a deserted shore. Three men, however, go exploring, and see, across the grasslands, a city in the distance.... I liked most of this old yarn. 3/5
 
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Extollager

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#47: S. Fowler Wright's "Obviously Suicide" in Fifty Short Science Fiction Tales. A civic-minded wife does her duty when her husband possesses knowledge that could lead to the end of the world. 1/5
 

Extollager

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#48: David Grinnell's "Top Secret," a 2-pager from Invaders of Earth, originally the Fall 1950 issue of F&SF. The author's name was a pseudonym for Donald Wollheim.

I round out my Conklin reports for 2013 with, alas, a 1/5 dud. Aliens, y'see, are already among us, in Washington, DC.

This year of browsing Conkliniana has revealed he sure reprinted a lot of stories that (so far as I'm concerned) have not stood the test of time at all well, even though he must have been the pre-eminent sf anthologist for many years, as regards editors who were free to draw upon multiple magazines. (Could it be that the anthologies devoted to one specific title -- The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction; The Galaxy Reader -- ended up with higher overall quality? I doubt it. I'm fuzzy about whether Astounding/Analog had a comparable anthology series.

Looking ahead to the new year, I'm thinking of a minimum goal of one story per month from a Conklin anthology to keep this thread going. Comments on some stories more deserving of attention should be showing up here!

Once again: how about other readers? Surely others have Conklin anthologies on their shelves. Conklin's books used to be everywhere.
 

Victoria Silverwolf

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I'm fuzzy about whether Astounding/Analog had a comparable anthology series.
I can confirm that there was an anthology of stories from Astounding (later split into smaller parts) and eight anthologies from Analog, as well as something called Prologue to Analog, which seems to be stories from Astounding just before the title change. Also one from Unknown.
 

Extollager

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In his early, thick hardcover anthologies Conklin reprinted often from Astounding, but without having my books at hand, I have the impression that, in his later paperback anthologies he didn't reprint so often from Astounding or Analog. I wonder if he wouldn't have liked to, but (1) was unable to offer sufficient payment and (2) found that many authors didn't want their short stories reprinted because they used them in fix-ups, i.e. novels. Anyone have any thoughts on this?
 

dask

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I like the idea of having the stories that spawn fix-ups being made available somewhere other than its original magazine or original anthology appearance. Sometimes the original short is more favorably looked upon than the novel it eventually grows into. I think an early Zelazny is an example of this. If an author publishes a fix-up and later puts out an short story collection, stick it in there. Fans would love it and the author might make a few more bucks off it.
 

neopeius

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Your project is amazing! It reminds me thematically of my current project--you might consider starting your own, or perhaps guesting on my blog! :) Your anthologies are a little earlier than the current date of my site (1959), but there's never anything wrong with revisiting classics.

 

Extollager

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#49 in this series and my first (perhaps only) entry for January is "Galley Slave" by Asimov, reprinted from the Dec. 1957 Galaxy by Conklin in Six Great Short Science Fiction Novels.

It's a 2034 courtroom drama with flashbacks, a puzzle story in which the puzzle, for many readers, will not be whodunit or why he did it, but just how he did it. As the story ends with perhaps the most emphasis on whodunit and why, it's not a great conclusion. The story remains readable, reasonably interesting and entertaining, though, of course, dated as a future scenario. Asimov seems here to have missed the emergence of the personal computer and the extent of automation, while on the other hand appearing overly optimistic about space travel (weren't they all?). Of course, someone might argue that with 20 years to go till 2034, there's still time for space travel (mentioned in passing) to develop! 3/5
 

Extollager

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Extollager

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No. 48: "The Great Keinplatz Experiment" by Arthur Conan Doyle, an 1885 story reprinted in The Best of Science Fiction, Conklin's pioneering 1946 anthology. A German professor wishing to show the independence of consciousness and body mesmerizes himself and a student, but their consciousnesses return to the wrong bodies, with farcical results; it takes a while for each man to realize his appearance doesn't match his sense of who he is. 3/5. I guess.

Mistaken identity farces go back to -- I suppose precede -- Shakespeare. This idea of consciousness transference was used at novel length in Vice Versa by "F. Anstey" (1882). where a magical Garuda Stone effects the change. The idea is used for weird-tale purposes in subsequent stories by various authors, most notably by Lovecraft in his science fictional "The Shadow Out of Time."

Personally, I may have run into the concept first in a multi-issue sequence in Marvel's Daredevil, where our hero finds his body switched with that of Dr. Doom:


It shows up on the final episode of the original Star Trek series, "Turnabout Intruder" --
 

Extollager

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#49 is H. G. Wells's "The Remarkable Case of Davidson's Eyes," the next story after Doyle's "Keinplatz Experiment." Davidson is able to see scenes of a remote antipodal island and of undersea places because, it appears, of a "'kink in space'" and an "extraordinary twist given to his retinal elements through the sudden change in the field of force" caused by an electromagnetic effect. Having conceived the (admittedly unlikely) naturalistic anomaly, Wells seems economically to work out the results, results both plausible and wonderful in this 1895 story. 4/5
 

Extollager

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For #50, I departed from what's been my practice so far, of reading stories in Conklin anthologies that I own. I got Conklin's Science-Fiction Adventures in Dimension from 1953 on interlibrary loan. If I'm not mistaken, this was one of Conklin's last thick hardcover anthologies, along with a sequel, Science-Fiction Adventures in Mutation (1955).

The story is A. Bertram Chandler's "Castaway," a nifty Twilight Zone-ish tale about a man marooned on a tropical island who finds a crashed spaceship from the future and the answer to accumulating puzzles. 4/5
 

Extollager

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#51 is also from Science-Fiction Adventures in Dimension, Raymond F. Jones's "Pete Can Fix It." This story, firstprinted in Astounding for Feb. 1947, too gets something of a Twilight Zone-ish quality going, but it becomes kind of talky. If someone were to compile an anthology of atomic war-fear stories from the first five years of the post-Hiroshima era, this one would make it. 3/5
 
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