Friday, January 16, 2015

FFB: A Century of Fantasy: 1980-1989 The Greatest Stories of the Decade -- Robert Silverberg, Editor

I picked this up at Half-Price Books for two bucks because who could resist?  It appears to be part of a series, but I don't have any of the other books.  Before I say more, here's the Table of Contents, taken from the ISFDb:

1 • Introduction (A Century of Fantasy 1980-1989) • (1996) • essay by Robert Silverberg
4 • The George Business • (1980) • shortstory by Roger Zelazny
13 • Lindsay and the Red City Blues • (1980) • shortstory by Joe Haldeman
29 • A Pattern of Silver Strings • [Cerin Songweaver] • (1981) • novelette by Charles de Lint
51 • The Quickening • (1981) • novelette by Michael Bishop
80 • Remembering Melody • (1981) • shortstory by George R. R. Martin
98 • The Unicorn Masque • (1981) • novelette by Ellen Kushner
122 • Instant With Loud Voices • (1982) • shortstory by Alan Dean Foster
133 • Not Our Brother • (1982) • novelette by Robert Silverberg
154 • Beyond the Dead Reef • [Quintana Roo] • (1983) • shortstory by James Tiptree, Jr.
172 • Wong's Lost and Found Emporium • (1996) • shortstory by William F. Wu [as by William Wu ]
186 • Laugh Track • (1984) • shortstory by Harlan Ellison
207 • Dead Run • (1985) • shortstory by Greg Bear
233 • The Boy Who Plaited Manes • (1986) • shortstory by Nancy Springer
247 • Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight • (1987) • novelette by Ursula K. Le Guin
276 • The Dowry of the Rag Picker's Daughter • (1988) • novelette by Andre Norton
294 • The Edge of the World • (1989) • shortstory by Michael Swanwick
310 • Lost Boys • (1989) • shortstory by Orson Scott Card
329 • The Wishing Game • (1989) • shortstory by Larry Niven

So are these really the best of the decade?  I'm not going to argue with Robert Silverberg, and many of these received nominations for major awards (Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy Award).  Some of them won.  I'd read some of them before, but those were all worth a second look.  "Dead Run" was an episode of the "new" Twilight Zone in the '80s, so maybe some of you saw it there. 

There are several types of fantasy represented in the book.  Some stories begin in a recognizable world, though the setting might be strange and unfamiliar, and the fantastic element comes in only at or near the end.  Some of them are science fantasy, or at least that's what I'd call them.  A couple of them are horror stories by my definition.  And some of them are just out-and-out fantasies.  Those are the ones I preferred.  

One thing I didn't like was that the original appearances of the stories weren't noted anywhere.  I like to know where a story was published, but you don't learn that in this book.  Maybe I'm the only one who cares about that kind of thing.


George said...

I like to know where stories are published originally, too. I have some of the volumes in these series and liked them all.

Richard said...

No, Bill, you're not the only one who wants to know where a story was initially published. I do too. There are some good stories here, of those I've read I liked most. Of the rest, I can't judge, of course. Still for $2 it's a deal.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I definitely like to know that too. How do you know if a story is new or 20 years old?


Todd Mason said...

Well, follow the link Bill provides for ISFDB, or look to William Contento's indices to speculative fiction anthologies at addresses such as this:

(whoops, this index is still devoted almost eclusively to science fiction anthos and collections, with anything explicitly only fantasy less likely to be included):

I wouldn't put the Card in a best of much of anything's one of the stories that rather put me off Card.

Todd Mason said...

For the range of Contento and Stephensen-Payne online indices:

I've contributed a little to some.

Bill Crider said...

I'd heard about the Card story for years or at least seen the name and knew it had been expanded into a novel. Turns out I hadn't missed a lot by not having read it. Now that I have, I'm not impressed.

Todd Mason said...

Looks like this volume was the only one published in the fantasy sequence, and only one in the companion sf sequence, surveying the 1950s, looks rather better by my lights (not because I like sf better than fantasy, mind you):

Contents (view Concise Listing)

1 • Introduction (A Century of Science Fiction 1950-1959) • (1996) • essay by Robert Silverberg
9 • Coming Attraction • (1950) • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
23 • The Mindworm • (1950) • shortstory by C. M. Kornbluth
37 • The Pedestrian • (1951) • shortstory by Ray Bradbury
43 • Common Time • (1953) • novelette by James Blish
65 • Crucifixus Etiam • (1953) • shortstory by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
86 • Mother • (1953) • novelette by Philip José Farmer
114 • The Nine Billion Names of God • (1953) • shortstory by Arthur C. Clarke
122 • Or Else • (1953) • shortstory by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore [as by Henry Kuttner ]
132 • Warm • (1953) • shortstory by Robert Sheckley
142 • Down Among the Dead Men • (1954) • novelette by William Tenn
166 • The Father-Thing • (1954) • shortstory by Philip K. Dick
180 • Dreaming Is a Private Thing • (1955) • shortstory by Isaac Asimov
197 • The Game of Rat and Dragon • [The Instrumentality of Mankind] • (1955) • shortstory by Cordwainer Smith
213 • The Gift of Gab • (1955) • novella by Jack Vance
264 • Call Me Joe • (1957) • novelette by Poul Anderson
299 • World of a Thousand Colors • (1957) • shortstory by Robert Silverberg
313 • The Man Who Lost the Sea • (1959) • shortstory by Theodore Sturgeon
325 • The Wind People • (1959) • shortstory by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Bill Crider said...

I've read almost all of those, Todd, and I like a lot of them very much. I'd definitely buy the book if I ran across it for 2 bucks.