Friday, March 07, 2014

FFB: Omnibus of Science Fiction -- Groff Conklin, Editor

Here's a bit of nostalgia for you.  Imagine that you're a kid in the mid-1950s and that you've fallen in love with SF.  And that you see the ad to the left on the back cover of a magazine you've just bought.  That's what happened to me, and the ad is why I joined the Science Fiction Book Club.  I bought the three books at the top of the circle, and I still have them.

 My favorite of the three was Groff Conklin's Omnibus of Science Fiction.  A look at the table of contents below should give you a clue as to why.  First of all, it was a huge book, over 550 pages.  And secondly, the stories are all great.  Okay, maybe not now, maybe not to you, but they were to me way back then.  And the price was right, a mere 33-1/3 cents per book.  Plus postage, of course, but postage back in those days wasn't like postage is now.  It was cheap.  You could mail a letter for 3 cents of a postcard for a penny.

I've never forgotten some of the stories.  "Spectator Sport" was my first encounter (and certainly not my last) with John D. MacDonald.  I still think this is one of the best VR stories ever written.  Maybe the first one, too.  A definite classic in my book.  I thought then and think now that Arthur C. Clarke's "History Lesson" was a great commentary on our society.  Ray Bradbury's "Kaliedoscope" really touched me then, and still does.  (I'm a sentimental guy.)  Fredric Brown's "The Weapon" is also a great commentary.  I'm sure it had a lot to do with some of my current thinking on similar topics, and I know it did back then.  "The Rag Thing" by David Grinnell (Donald A. Wollheim) I found creepy and scary, and H. P. Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space" was even creepier.  Richard Matheson's "Shipshape Home," too, even with the punny title.  

Inexpensive copies of this book abound on the Internet.  If you like the good old stuff, here it is, in plenty.  A wonderful book, at least to me, and one that almost certainly contributed a lot to whatever my reading tastes are even now.

Table of Contents
vii · Introduction · Groff Conklin · in
· Part I: Wonders of Earth and of Man
3 · John Thomas’s Cube · John Leimert · ss Atlantic Monthly Aug ’45
10 · Hyperpilosity · L. Sprague de Camp · ss Astounding Apr ’38
18 · The Thing in the Woods · Fletcher Pratt & B. F. Ruby · ss Amazing Feb ’35
29 · And Be Merry... · Katherine MacLean · ss Astounding Feb ’50
45 · The Bees from Borneo · Will H. Gray · ss Amazing Feb ’31
55 · The Rag Thing · David Grinnell · ss F&SF Oct ’51
58 · The Conqueror · Mark Clifton · ss Astounding Aug ’52
· Part II: Inventions, Dangerous and Otherwise
65 · Never Underestimate... · Theodore Sturgeon · ss If Mar ’52
78 · The Doorbell · David H. Keller · ss Wonder Stories Jun ’34
88 · A Subway Named Mobius · A. J. Deutsch · ss Astounding Dec ’50
100 · Backfire · Ross Rocklynne · nv Astounding Jan ’43
117 · The Box · James Blish · ss Thrilling Wonder Stories Apr ’49
132 · Zeritsky’s Law · Ann Griffith · ss Galaxy Nov ’51
137 · The Fourth Dynasty · R. R. Winterbotham · ss Astounding Dec ’36
· Part III: From Outer Space
146 · The Colour Out of Space · H. P. Lovecraft · nv Amazing Sep ’27
167 · The Head Hunters · Ralph Williams · ss Astounding Oct ’51
178 · The Star Dummy · Anthony Boucher · ss Fantastic Fll ’52
189 · Catch That Martian · Damon Knight · ss Galaxy Mar ’52
199 · Shipshape Home · Richard Matheson · ss Galaxy Jul ’52
214 · Homo Sol [Tan Porus] · Isaac Asimov · ss Astounding Sep ’40
· Part IV: Far Traveling
230 · Alexander the Bait · William Tenn · ss Astounding May ’46
241 · Kaleidoscope · Ray Bradbury · ss Thrilling Wonder Stories Oct ’49
249 · “Nothing Happens on the Moon” · Paul Ernst · ss Astounding Feb ’39
263 · Trigger Tide · Wyman Guin · ss Astounding Oct ’50
273 · Plague · Murray Leinster · nv Astounding Feb ’44
302 · Winner Lose All · Jack Vance · ss Galaxy Dec ’51
313 · Test Piece · Eric Frank Russell · ss Other Worlds Mar ’51
327 · Environment · Chester S. Geier · ss Astounding May ’44
· Part V: Adventures in Dimension
341 · High Threshold [Dr. McEvoy] · Alan E. Nourse · ss Astounding Mar ’51
350 · Spectator Sport · John D. MacDonald · ss Thrilling Wonder Stories Feb ’50
355 · Recruiting Station · A. E. van Vogt · na Astounding Mar ’42
420 · A Stone and a Spear · Raymond F. Jones · nv Galaxy Dec ’50
436 · What You Need · Lewis Padgett · ss Astounding Oct ’45
449 · The Choice · W. Hilton-Young · vi Punch Mar 19 ’52
· Part VI: Worlds of Tomorrow
450 · The War Against the Moon · André Maurois · ss The Forum Jul ’27; F&SF Sum ’50
464 · Pleasant Dreams · Ralph Robin · ss Galaxy Oct ’51
472 · Manners of the Age · H. B. Fyfe · ss Galaxy Mar ’52
484 · The Weapon · Fredric Brown · ss Astounding Apr ’51
486 · The Scarlet Plague · Jack London · nv The London Magazine Jun ’12
524 · Heritage · Robert Abernathy · nv Astounding Jun ’42
545 · History Lesson · Arthur C. Clarke · ss Startling Stories May ’49
551 · Instinct · Lester del Rey · ss Astounding Jan ’52
562 · Counter Charm · Peter Phillips · vi Slant Spr ’51

Toc Source: Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections, Combined Edition


George said...

I remember reading this thick anthology as a kid and being blown away by many of the stories. You're right: this is one of the great SF collections!

Ed Gorman said...

You sure now how to speak's to a geezer's heart, Bill. This is one of he first hardcover books I ever owned via the SF Book Club of course. If there'd been SF Book Club shirts, socks, boxers and capsI woulda owned them, too. But you're right. Conklin's book was one of the most rewarding and lasting.

Anonymous said...

I've been catching up with a bunch of the older sf stories I never read as a kid and this certainly sounds worth pursuing. I do remember that Lovecraft vividly,


Rick Robinson said...

I joined the SF Book Club as a result of those ads too. I didn't get this one but I got the Astounding anthology and the two volume Treasury of Science Fiction edited by Anthony Boucher. Still have 'em, still think I'm going to reread them any day now, though they've been reread several times.

Unknown said...

I'll be talking about the other two books I got in a week or so. The ASF anthology is one of them.

Todd Mason said...

What's always seemed odd to me is that Conklin's many early fat anthologies seem, at least over the decades though less so I think at time of first publication, to be taken less seriously than ADVENTURES IN SPACE AND TIME, despite that volume not being in any way notably better than Conklin's (in fact, some of the nonfiction included by McComas and Healey in their book is a nearly pure waste of time for the reader not seeking an historical sense of some of the nonfictional fillers Campbell and others would run). Aside from the default overvaluing of ASTOUNDING, I can only assume that putting out one big book and having the good fortune of Random House keeping it in print nearly forever (its luck ran out with the passing of the Del Reys at Random House/Ballantine/Del Rey) was a better strategy for sustained love than putting out scores, for Crown Publishers and other less faithful partners.

Todd Mason said...

GALAXY and H.L. Gold's relatively lackluster interest in Best-ofs from GALAXY didn't help that magazine's bottom line, much, either, compared to the Boucher & McComas work in getting F&SF anthologies going, and the only slightly less representative and frequent ASTOUNDING/ANALOG best ofs...books that made money for the magazines and served, on spinner racks in paperback and in libraries in hardcover as ads for the magazines...

Dergi said...

thank you..

Rick Robinson said...

Well, I did buy this, and it has been on the shelf, and I've decided to - finally, or again, I don't know which - read it. So far so good, though nothing has knocked my sock awry.

Unknown said...

Even now I remember some of those stories vividly. Not all, but some of them did indeed knock my socks awry, and some of them still do.