Friday, December 4, 2020

Isaac Asimov Presents the Best Science Fiction of the 19th Century (1816-1899)

In 1981, Isaac Asimov contributed another anthology to his massive bibliography, Isaac Asimov Presents the Best Science Fiction of the 19th Century (co-edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh). This collection of short stories and novellas covers the period 1816 to 1899 and includes both well-known authors (such as Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, Jack London, Nathaniel Hawthorne, etc.) and several less known writers (J. H. Rosny aîné, C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne, Edward Page Mitchell, etc.). In 1991, the 1981 SF collection was repackaged with a new cover and title (The Birth of Science in Fiction). Synopses of each of these stories can be found below.


  • "The Sandman" ("Der Sandmann") (E. T. A. Hoffmann, 1816)
  • "The Mortal Immortal" (Mary Shelley, 1833)
  • "A Descent Into the Maelstrom" (Edgar Allan Poe, 1841/52)
  • "Rappaccini's Daughter" (Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1844)
  • "The Clock That Went Backwards" (Edward Page Mitchell, 1881)
  • "Into the Sun" (Robert Duncan Milne, 1882)
  • "A Tale of Negative Gravity" (Frank R. Stockton, 1884)
  • "The Horla, or Modern Ghosts" ("Le Horla") (Guy de Maupassant, 1887)
  • "The Shapes" ("Les Xipéhuz") (J. H. Rosny aîné, 1887)
  • "To Whom This May Come" (Edward Bellamy, 1889)
  • "The Great Keinplatz Experiment" (Arthur Conan Doyle, 1885)
  • "In the Abyss" (H. G. Wells, 1896)
  • "The Thames Valley Catastrophe" (Grant Allen, 1897)
  • "The Lizard" (C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne, 1898)
  • "A Thousand Deaths" (Jack London, 1899)

Another anthology of this type concentrating on fantasy was subsequently published in 1982 (Isaac Asimov Presents the Best Fantasy of the 19th Century). 

From Weird Tales Vol. 1, E.T.A. Hoffman, 1885
“The Sandman”, E. T. A. Hoffmann (1816)

During his childhood, Nathaniel is sometimes forced to go to bed early when his mother tells him that the “sandman” is coming to “put sand in his eyelids”. Nathaniel eventually notices that these early bedtimes are prompted by his father’s late night appointments with a strange, ugly man named Coppelius. One night a curious Nathaniel sneaks into his father’s room during one of these sessions and sees the two men working on a small object inside a hidden hearth. Nearby he catches “a glimpse of human faces lying around without any eyes - but with deep holes instead”. Coppelius detects Nathaniel’s presence and attacks him, apparently in order to steal his eyes. The boy loses consciousness. The next day nothing is spoken of the previous night’s events.

Years later, Nathaniel falls in love with his best friend Lothaire’s sister, Clara. However, before their marriage, Nathaniel is obliged to study in a nearby city with a professor named Spalanzani. During these studies he gradually becomes obsessed with Spalanzani’s daughter Olympia, who he only sees from afar - Spalanzani does not permit her to go outside. One day Nathaniel is visited by a strange man named Coppola, who is horrifyingly similar in appearance to the “sandman” of his childhood. Suppressing his suspicions, Nathaniel allows Coppola to sell him a small telescope. With this telescope he spies on Olympia and becomes increasingly obsessed her. Finally, Spalanzani holds a party to “debut” his daughter to the world. Nathaniel finally meets Olympia in person at the party and, despite her somewhat moronic demeanor and inability to speak more than the words “ah-ah”, he falls deeply in love with her. One day he approaches Spalanzani’s house intending to ask for Olympia’s hand in marriage. However, as he enters he catches Spalanzani and Coppola (Coppelius) wrestling over a mannequin-like object. This turns out to be Olympia, who is a lifeless automaton. When Nathaniel sees Olympia’s artificial eyes lying on the floor, he becomes traumatized and is put into a madhouse.

Some time later Nathaniel is nursed back to sanity at home with Lothaire and Clara. He seems to have blocked out all memory of Olympia and Coppelius and resumes his betrothal to Clara. One day while sightseeing from a church steeple with Clara, Nathaniel remembers the small telescope he bought from Coppola/Coppelius. When he pulls it out and looks through it, Clara accidentally appears in the scope’s view. This prompts all of his memories of spying on Olympia to come back in a rush. Maddened and insane he tries to kill Clara, thinking her to be a robot. Lothaire rushes in and saves his sister from the frenzied Nathaniel. Then, when Nathaniel looks down on the street below him, he sees Coppelius in the crowd. He jumps down to his death.

"Many of Hoffmann’s stories are permeated with fantastic or science-fictional elements such as humanoid robots. He is a subtle writer who often uses experimental forms and synesthetic images. And as “The Sandman" demonstrates, his strengths include powerful narrative drive, vivid pathological characterizations, and convincingly realistic presentations of'grotesque and supernatural elements."

From Tales and Stories, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, 1891
“The Mortal Immortal, Mary Shelley (1833)

The speaker, Winzy, claims to be 323 years old. He explains that, as a young man he had been an assistant to the alchemist Cornelius Agrippa. One day, after a fight with his lover, Winzy drinks one of Agrippa’s potions, believing it to be a cure for love. Agrippa tells Winzy that the elixir was actually an "elixir of immortality". Skeptical, Winzy continues his life as always and marries Bertha (the girl who had earlier spurned him). Because she ages and he does not, they are later forced to move to a new city to escape evil rumors of witchcraft. Eventually Bertha dies of old age and Winzy begins to curse his immortality. At the end of the account, he vows to go on a long journey in the hope that the ordeal will kill him, as he is too weak to commit suicide.

Other Shelley science fiction stories include Frankenstein, The Last Man (1826), and the fantasy "Transformation" (1831).

“A Descent Into the Maelstrom”, Edgar Allan Poe (1841/52)

On Mount Helseggen above the whirlpool of the Maelström, a white-haired sailor tells his young fearful companion of his experience with the whirlpool below. Three years in the past he and his brother had become caught in the whirlpool after a storm (partly due to misread readings on a stopped timepiece). The sailor escapes the whirlpool by tying himself to a barrel, knowing that cylindrical objects are slower to be sucked down into a whirlpool. His brother remains with the ship and goes down with it. The sailor escapes to safety, but his hair, originally jet black, has become white.

More on Poe here.

1968 PB edition
“Rappaccini's Daughter”, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1844)

A mad scientist exposes her daughter to poisonous plants in order to make her a poisonous being herself (and invulnerable to disease). The speaker falls in love with her and unwittingly begins to take on poisonous characteristics himself. His friend gives the speaker a “cure” which has the power to counter the effects of the poisonous plant. When the girl realizes how her father has manipulated her into becoming a poisonous creature, she drinks the cure in an act of rebellious self-destruction.

Other fantasy and sf stories can be found in Hawthorne's Twice Told Tales (1837) and Mosses From an Old Manse (1846).

The Crystal Man, 1973
“The Clock That Went Backward”, Edward Page Mitchell (1881)

The speaker describes his great-aunt Gertrude, who seems evasive about her ancestry. However, she places great value on a 300-year-old clock (made by a famous Dutch clock-maker named Jan Lipperdam) whose hands do not move. Gertrude claims that the clock broke after being struck by lightning one day. One night, the speaker and his cousin Harry catch Gertrude winding the clock, after which its hands begin to move backwards. Suddenly the clock stops and Gertrude drops dead. Harry is given the clock in her will and the two boys are sent to the University of Leyden (as per instructions in her will). They befriend the philosophy professor Van Stopp, who strangely resembles Gertrude. Van Stopp tells the two boys of the city’s 16th century Burgomaster Van der Werf, who ruled Leyden during the time of an attack from the Spanish fleet. The Burgomeister’s portrait also has a strange resemblance to Gertrude. Van Stopp also explains (in a strange knowing manner) that an unknown hero had foreseen a breach in the city wall by the Spaniards by explosives. For some reason, Harry had been familiar with this fact.

One night during a thunderstorm, Van Stopp visits the boys hone and inspects Gertrude’s clock. He winds it and the hands begin moving backwards. In a strange flash, the speaker and Harry find themselves transported back in time to the 16th century defense of Leyden against the Spanish fleet. Harry promptly saves the Burgomaster’s daughter from an unruly mob. A sudden explosion causes a breach in the city wall. The speaker soon discovers Van Stopp helping lead the defense of the wall. The townspeople know Van Stopp as “Jan Lipperdam” (builder of Gertrude’s clock and the Burgomeister’s brother-in-law). The speaker also learns that his cousin Harry had been the one man prepared for the breach at the city wall, making him a hero. In other words, Harry’s contemporary knowledge of the explosion at the wall forewarned him that such an explosion would occur at this point in the past (a paradox). The speaker also learns that the girl Harry had saved is Gertrude, their great-aunt. The speaker and Van Stopp are then thrust back to the 19th century, although Harry remains in the past (possibly becoming Gertrude’s husband and therefore his own father).

Many of Mitchell's stories were collected in The Crystal Man (1976). Stories include:

  • "The Ablest Man in the World" (1879): replacement of a man's brain with a computer
  • "The Crystal Man" (1881): disadvantages of invisibility (precedes Wells) 
  • "The Balloon Tree" (1883): an intelligent flying plant, probably the first friendly alien story

1980, Donald M. Grant
“Into the Sun”, Robert Duncan Milne (1882)

A comet hits the sun, causing it to flare and incinerate everything on the Earth's hemisphere facing the sun. As the Earth rotates, the heat wave moves westwards, destroying first Europe and then the East Coast of the United States. Since the narrator and his scientist friend live in San Francisco, they are able to receive advance news flashes ahead of the impending doom. The scientist conceives of a desperate plan to ascend into the sky using a hot air balloon. As the the two men ascend, the air thins and the temperature slightly drops (from lack of atmospheric heat conduction). However, a massive convection current (caused by the movement of heat across the planet’s surface) strikes the balloon, hurtling the professor overboard to his death. The balloon itself is then eventually driven into the ground, killing the narrator and ending the narration.   

Milne wrote over 60 sf short stories, usually of a "hard" sf nature. His work was collected in 1980 as Into the Sun and Other Stories. His fiction described steam technology, a helicopter, "genetic manipulation, wireless transmission, the fourth dimension, baseball, interplanetary exploration, television and prehistoric monsters."

A Chosen Few Short Stories, 1895
“A Tale of Negative Gravity”, Frank R. Stockton (1884)

An inventor invents a device which can negate the effects of gravity by directing centrifugal force against the Earth’s gravitational pull. He keeps the device in a knapsack so that when he wears the knapsack, he can roam about the countryside with agile ease. In the meantime, his son falls in love with a woman, whose father eventually forbids his daughter from seeing the inventor’s son. Later, the inventor and his wife take a stroll with two negative gravity knapsacks assisting them. His wife accidentally loses her device when it goes out of control and floats away. The inventor then increases the power of his own device so that it can support both himself and his wife, allowing them to comfortably journey back to their inn without great strain. Unfortunately, after he releases his wife, the single device causes the inventor to float several feet into the air. Eventually his wife finds him and uses a fishing pole to bring him back down. However, while aloft, he had accidentally overheard that the father of his son’s lover had disapproved of his daughter’s suitor due to the strange behavior of the boy’s father (the inventor). The inventor explains his device to the man, which convinces him to allow his daughter to continue seeing the inventor’s son. The inventor decides to allow the negative gravity devices to float away into the sky, since they have caused so much trouble for him.

"Although Stockton were four science-fiction novels—The Great War Syndicate (1889), The Vizier of the Two-Horned Alexander (1889), The Adventures of Captain Horn (1895) and The Great Stone of Sardis (l898)—his strength lay in short stories, some of which have been recently collected in The Science Fiction of Frank R. Stockton (1976)."
“The Horla, or Modern Ghosts”, Guy de Maupassant (1887)

The speaker begins to sense an invisible presence in his house, which moves things around and drinks his water and milk. At times it also manages to take control of the speaker’s mind, controlling him as if he were under a form of conscious hypnosis. He learns that a similar plague of madness had recently been observed in South America and believes that when he had recently witnessed a ship from South America sailing nearby, one of the supernatural creatures must have latched onto him. Eventually he lures the creature (which he senses is called a “horla”) into his bedroom and then jumps out of the room, locking the horla within. He then sets his house on fire, hoping that the burning pyre will also destroy the horla (presumably still trapped in the upstairs bedroom). However, he later decides that the horla would not die by such a normal means, and that his only escape from the horla is to kill himself.

Maupassant was interested in the supernatural and bizarre, and many of his stories exploring such topics were published in Allouma and Other Tales (1895) and Tales of Supernatural Terror (1972).

Art: Michael Bukowski, 2017
“The Shapes”, J. H. Rosny aîné (1868/87)

In ancient Mesopotamia (ca. 5000 BC), alien creatures land and make camp nearby a territory inhabited by nomadic tribes. These creatures are shaped as cones, cylinders and “slabs”, and kill all who come in contact with them (apparently through short-range force bolts of some kind). At first occupying only a relatively small area of land, they procreate and begin expanding their territory. The nomad leaders realize that if something is not done then the creatures (named “Xipehuz”) will eventually overrun the continent and exterminate mankind. The tribe ask a settled (non-nomadic) wise man named Bakhun for help. Bakhun then spends a year observing and taking notes on the Xipehuz. He eventually learns that the weak spot of the Xipehuz lies in their “star”, the part of their body which emits heat rays (primarily for cooking and writing). This star aperture, if struck, will kill a Xipehuz instantly. In the next month, Bakhun gathers a massive army from all of the tribes of the surrounding areas. Several battles ensue, with the nomads and the Xipehuz each adapting new tactics (battle formations, shield formations, etc) as the war progresses. Eventually, the bravery of the nomads and the leadership of Bakhun leads mankind to victory and the Xipehuz are completely wiped out. Bakhun regrets the necessity of destroying the Xipehuz in order that man could survive.  

J. H. Rosny aîné's real name was Joseph-Henri Boex, and in France he wrote about two dozen sf works. "The Shapes" was his first sf story. A collection appeared in 1973 as Recits de Science-Fiction.

Jess Nevins review

“To Whom This May Come”, Edward Bellamy (1889)

A shipwreck victim lands on an uncharted island populated by telepaths. Generations ago, those with psychic tendencies were gathered and sent away, after which they eventually found and settled this uncharted territory. Now, generations later, they no longer speak, but only communicate telepathically. The traveler eventually becomes part of this tribe and marries. During this period he experiences a true bond with his patrons, as telepathy has done away with most human personality faults. Some time later, whilst on a boating errand, his craft gets caught in a current and he is swept away from the island, unable to return due to a rocky barrier. Later, rescued by a passing American ship, he finds normal “speaking” humanity burdensome and believes that he will soon die from despair. 

Bellamy is most well-known for his book Looking Backward, 2000-1887 (1888).  

"Bellamy also produced other, less well-known works of science fiction. There is an earlier novel, Mrs. Ludington's Sister (1884), which deals with immortality."

1894 (
“The Great Keinplatz Experiment”, Arthur Conan Doyle (1885)

A scientist of Keinplatz named Baumgarten becomes interested in psychic phenomena. His assistant, Fritz, is in love with Baumgarten’s daughter. In order to gain the girl’s hand in marriage, Fritz allows Baumgarten to use him in an experiment. Baumgarten puts Fritz into a trance and then himself. He hopes that their two consciousnesses can converse as “astral projections” while their bodies are mesmerized. When they wake up, the consciousnesses are switched, although the two men are unaware of this. Several comic events then occur (involving the professor’s family and Fritz’ drinking friends), but Baumgarten and Fritz eventually realize that they have switched bodies. They then repeat the procedure to restore themselves to their rightful bodies.

Doyle wrote many sf stories, the first being "The American's Tale" (1879). His other sf works include The Lost World (1912), “The Terror of Blue John Gap“ (1910), “The Poison Belt” (1913), and “When the World Screamed" (1929). A collection of his stories appeared in 1979 as The Great Supernatural Stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. His sf works were also collected in The Science Fiction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1981).

Art: Frank R. Paul, Amazing Stories, September 1926
“In the Abyss”, H. G. Wells (1896)

A scientist-inventor named Elstead journeys 5 miles deep into the ocean and encounters a race of primitive, chameleon-like lizard creatures, who live in ruins on the sea bottom. The creatures are fascinated by the glowing bathysphere and take it to their city by dragging it by its tether cord. Just before air runs out in the sphere, the cord breaks and the sphere rises back to the surface. After a period of recovery, Elstead modifies his sphere so that the cord can be released from within. He embarks on another journey below the sea, but is never heard from again.

"...His novels have to a large extent overshadowed and obscured his short stories, which contain some of his most creative thinking and effective writing. The best of these shorter works can be found in Thirty Strange Stories (1897) and Twenty Eight Science Fiction Stories (1952)."

More on H.G. Wells here.

The Strand Magazine, December 1897

“The Thames Valley Catastrophe”, Grant Allen (1897)

A wave of lava erupts out of a volcanic fissure in the Thames Valley. The speaker, a bicyclist, spots the lava wave and flees, just barely able to keep ahead of the lava front. During his flight he tries to warn the people lying in the path of the lava wave but they do not believe his warnings (and are soon incinerated). In the end, London is completely destroyed, but not before the bicyclist successfully reaches his family and helps them escape to the highlands.

"Allen‘s shorter works of science fiction and fantasy are very well written and many can be found in Strange Stories (1884) and Twelve Tales (1899)."

The Strand
“The Lizard”, C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne (1898)

A cave explorer discovers a deeply-buried underground lake. Nearby is the husk of a strange beast. He is also disappointed to find someone’s penknife, meaning that he is not the first to discover this hidden lair. As the explorer chips away at a large mass, it seems to stir. Eventually a tentacled dinosaur-like creature awakens and chases the man around the cave. He kills it with his knife and escapes. He dedicates his tale to the owner of the penknife, who he suspects died horribly at the hands of one of the creatures.

Hyne is best known for The Lost Continent (1900), a novel about Atlantis. 

"While only four of the Captain Kettle adventures contain fantastic elements—Captain Kettle on the Warpath (1916), Ice Age Woman (1925), Mr. Kettle, Third Mate (1931) and Ivory Valley: An Adventure of Captain Kettle (1938)—Hyne did write seven other science-fiction and fantasy novels (besides The Lost Continent) which explore such diverse themes as diamond-making, a hollow earth, imaginary war, immortality and magical objects."

“A Thousand Deaths”, Jack London (1899)

A young man is saved from drowning by a scientist (by coincidence his long-lost father) and brought back to the scientist’s island hideout. The scientist believes he can bring the dead back to life through a combination of anti-coagulant drugs, radiation and respiratory resuscitation (through control of atmospheric pressure). In order to carry out his experiments he forces his son to be an unwilling subject, killing him again and again through various poisons, and then resuscitating him with his scientific methods. Naturally reluctant from the first, the subject eventually becomes desperate to escape when he senses that his father may soon vivisect him. Using his own background in science, the man deduces a method by which atomic elements can be disassembled into their constituent parts through an electromagnetic field. He lays a trap consisting of electrically-powered magnets pointed at his entrance-way. When his father steps into the field he is immediately disintegrated.

"A Thousand Deaths" was London's first sf story.  

"Four of his novels are science fiction: Before Adam (1906), a form of “prehistoric fiction set in the Stone Age that reflected London's aversion to urban life; The Iron Heel (1907). an outstanding work that prefigures the Fascist experience; The Scarlet Plague (1915), a catastrophe novel that is marred by his acute racism: and The Star Rover (1915). In addition he produced thirteen shorter stories of science fiction, which can be found in The Science Fiction of Jack London and Curious Fragments: Jack London’s Tales of Fantasy Fiction (both 1975)."

Many of these stories can be found through links posted at

Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Hugo Winners, Volume Three (1977)

In 1977, a third volume of Hugo award-winning short fiction from the preceding years was published, again with anecdotal introductions by Isaac Asimov. The first volume had collected winning novellas, novelettes and short stories published between 1955 and 1960. The second volume had collected winners from 1962 to 1968. This third edition covered sub-novel length Hugo winners published from 1969 to 1974. Below are complete summaries (or interpretations) which might be useful for those wishing to revisit the plots and concepts contained in these stories for analysis purposes. Included are covers of the original magazines these stories first appeared in (primarily from the Internet Archive or the ISFDB). 


  • "Ship of Shadows" (1969), Fritz Leiber
  • "Ill Met in Lankhmar" (1970), Fritz Leiber
  • "Slow Sculpture" (1970), Theodore Sturgeon
  • "The Queen of Air and Darkness" (1971), Poul Anderson
  • "Inconstant Moon" (1971), Larry Niven
  • "The Word for World Is Forest" (1972), Ursula K. Le Guin
  • "Goat Song" (1972), Poul Anderson
  • "The Meeting" (1972), C. M. Kornbluth and Frederik Pohl
  • "Eurema's Dam" (1972), R. A. Lafferty
  • "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" (1973), James Tiptree, Jr.
  • "The Deathbird" (1973), Harlan Ellison
  • "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" (1973), Ursula K. Le Guin
  • "A Song for Lya" (1974) George R. R. Martin
  • "Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38° 54' N, Longitude 77° 00' 13" W" (1974), Harlan Ellison
  • "The Hole Man" (1974), Larry Niven 

“Ship of Shadows”, Fritz Leiber (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1969)

A dim-witted man named Spar, with no teeth and bad eyesight (caused by a biological syndrome), works at a bar named the “Bat Rack” in a large ship named the Windrush. Over the course of several days, he makes plans with the ship’s Doc to have his teeth and eyesight restored. Newly-armed with clarity and metal teeth, Spar is able to stop an insurrection lead by the ship’s shady coroner, Crown. Afterwards, Spar learns that the Windrush is a “survival ship”, and that the Earth has been destroyed by war. Spar had originally been sent to the Windrush from another survival ship named the Circumluna, but his contraction of the disease had caused him to lose his memory.

“Ill Met in Lankhmar”, Fritz Leiber
(The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1970)

Two freelance thieves, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, meet when they each decide to rob some Guild thieves. However, the Guild thieves’ rat-like familiar Slivikin escapes back to the Thieves Guild. Later, Fafhrd and the Mouser’s girlfriends convince them to kill Korvas, leader of the Thieves Guild, in order to enact revenge for one of the girls’ honor. Inside the Thieves Guild headquarters (disguised as beggars), they spot a wizard named Hristomilo sending Slivikin on an errand with some strange smoke creatures. When the Mouser and Fafhrd are exposed as mercenaries, they just barely escape the building. Back at the Mouser’s den, they discover that their girlfriends have been slain by Slivikin and Hristomilo’s smoke creatures, and their remains left for Hristomilo’s rats. Fafhrd takes a dagger covered with the blood of one of the dead rats (killed by one of the girls before they had succumbed to the smoke).The Mouser and Fafhrd head back to Hristomilo to exact revenge. Hristimilo’s sorcerous black smoke tendrils keep them at bay, but the dagger stained with Hristomilo’s rats’ blood pierces the smoke web and is able to slay the Wizard. Still mourning their losses, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser depart Lankhmar forever.

“Slow Sculpture”, Theodore Sturgeon
(Galaxy Magazine, February 1970)

A young woman meets an older man by chance in an orchard. The man uses one of his own inventions (based on electrostatic charge) to cure the woman of a malignant breast tumor. The woman learns that the man is an avid Bonsai tree grower, but more importantly he has become embittered at humanity for rejecting his inventions, typically for short-sighted commercial reasons. The woman suggests that two damaged people may be able to help one another grow into something like a beautful Bonsai tree.

“The Queen of Air and Darkness”, Poul Anderson
(The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1971)

On a newly-settled planet named Roland, children go missing, and some of the outlying settlers believe that they have been kidnapped by native aborigines (the “Old Folk”). When Barbro’s son goes missing, she hires a detective named Sherrinford to help her look for him in the wilderness. Encamped in the “forbidden territory”, strange semi-mythical creatures approach their armoured vehicle. Sherrinford captures one of the now-grown missing children, while Barbro is lured away and captured by the Old Folk. It is revealed that the natives use their mental powers to project a “faerie”-like texture over their captives’ environment, which they eventually grow to accept and lead docile, harmless lives within the wilderness. Barbro meets the “Queen of Air and Darkness”, who tells Barbro that their powers of enchantment will someday allow them to conquer the humans’ colonies. However, Sherrinford exposes his young human rescuee to the truth of his “friends”, after which the boy leads him to the “Dwellers’” main base. There, Barbro and her son are rescued and they return to the human city. Sherrinford later explains to Barbro that the natives had used their mental powers to expand on the ancient myths brought to the planet by the settlers, and had created a mythical “archetype” by which they could gain an advantage over the invaders. Now, the humans will open diplomatic relations to enable both races to coexist on the planet to both races’ benefit.

“Inconstant Moon”, Larry Niven
(All the Myriad Ways, 1971)

When the moon becomes strangely bright, the narrator suspects that the sun has gone nova. He and his girlfriend roam about Los Angeles on a “last night on Earth” spree, and ultimately end up back at her 14th story apartment. By that time, signs indicate that the Earth will not be destroyed, but rather is being assaulted by a massive solar flare, such as the one which had melted rocks on one side of the moon (possibly causing the biblical flood). The two lovers prepare supplies as best they can in their high-rise during the ensuing hurricane and flood, and wonder at the future.

“The Word for World Is Forest”, Ursula K. Le Guin
(Again, Dangerous Visions, Ed. Harlan Ellison, 1972)

  1. On the planet New Tahiti, mankind has enslaved the native “creechies” (Athsheans) in order to harvest the forests for wood to be exported back to Earth (which no longer has much wildlife at all). The brutal and racist logger chief Davidson visits Central City to inspect some female arrivals, but when he returns to his camp, he finds that the creechies have rebelled and destroyed his camp. Davidson vows vengeance.
  2. An Athshean native named Selver (whom Davidson had once maimed and who had just organized the destruction of the “yuman” camp) reaches a distant Athshean city (Cadast) and explains what he has done to the wisemen (Dreamers) there. The news travels around the world and a force of Athsheans gather to oppose the yumans. The Old Dreamer Coro Mena tells Selver that he has had a vision that Selver will bring destruction, but in the aftermath new growth will result. Selver resolves to gather a greater force of Athsheans to oppose the yuman invaders.
  3. At a meeting with representatives from the Earth government, the true nature of the loggers’ abuse of the Athshean natives comes out. The scientist Lyubov believes that if the Earth forces do nothing, the human colonists will wipe out the Athsheans.
  4. Although, the Earth diplomats have no direct power over the colony, the colony commanders obey orders from Earth and a policy of non-interference with the Athsheans is issued. However, Davidson believes this new policy respecting the natives is part of an alien conspiracy. After he is reassigned to the southern New Java colony, he convinces a few sympathetic loggers to join him on a ruthless attack on a nearby Athshean camp.
  5. Lyubov visits an Athshean village and runs into Selver. Selver warns Lyubov to leave Central City in two days. Lyubov returns to his base but decides to report nothing out of the ordinary. Two nights later, Central City is attacked and destroyed by the Athsheans (Selver dies in the attack).
  6. Days later, all of the humans of the main base at Central City have been imprisoned in pens. Selver offers them a peace treaty, allowing them to only occupy the area they have already deforested through logging. Colonel Dongh agrees to Selvers’ terms, at least until the next Terran ship arrives in 3 years.
  7. Davidson takes over command of New Java and refuses to accept the peace terms. He and his men continue to attack the nearby Athshean villages. Finally, the New Java camp is overrun by the natives and Davidson is captured. Selver tells Davidson that, like himself, Davison is a “god”, but will be exiled to a lifeless area of the continent (previously destroyed by the human colonists).
  8. Three years later, a Terran ship arrives and Selver is informed that humanity will no longer try to colonize Athshe. However, Server acknowledges that the “dream” which had brought the concept of killing to his people may never be extinguished after this encounter with man.

“Goat Song”, Poul Anderson
(The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 1972)

In a world where a computer (SUM) maintains efficiency and promises a future resurrection of all who have died, a musician named Harper (who has lost his lover) beseeches the Dark Queen (SUM’s representative amongst humanity) to have his lover resurrected before the promised time. SUM allows Harper to visit it in its underground bowels, and tells Harper that his lover will be resurrected, and will follow Harper as he heads for the surface. However, Harper mustn’t look behind him - this will be a test of his loyalty to SUM. Harper of course turns around and loses his lover forever (this is essentially a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth). Angered, Harper decides to wage war against SUM (an event which SUM actually anticipates as an interesting experiment) and travels around the world decrying SUM’s promise of a future resurrection. In the end, Harper prepares to meet with some of his more extreme followers (another parallel to Orpheus’ episode with the maenads). The title is a literal translation of the Greek phrase for “tragedy”.

“The Meeting”, C. M. Kornbluth and Frederik Pohl
(The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1972)

Harry’s autistic son Tommy attends a school for mentally-challenged students. At a parent-teacher meeting, Harry hears that Tommy has made some slight improvements, but there are no miracle cures. When he returns home, the reader learns that Harry had been offered the opportunity of having his son’s brain replaced by a normal one from a boy who had just been fatally wounded in an accident. The story ends as Harry makes the phone call to deliver his answer.

“Eurema's Dam”, R. A. Lafferty
(New Dimensions II, Ed. Robert Silverberg, 1972)

A man named Albert is a complete “dolt” when it comes to normal human relations and basic mathematics. Fortunately, he is a brilliant inventor who is able to create thinking machines which do everything for him. However, he never finds satisfaction, as his inventions always overshadow their creator. Albert decides end his life, but his robot Hunchy (designed to be good at “hunches”) convinces Albert that he is looking at his fellow man the wrong way. Instead of looking at them as avenues for companionship, he should look at them as “patsies” - i.e. victims of his genius. Albert happily agrees. (Eurema is the goddess of invention).

“The Girl Who Was Plugged In”, James Tiptree, Jr.
(New Dimensions III, Ed. Robert Silverberg, 1973)

A disfigured, suicidal teenager named P. Burke is given the opportunity to be wired-up so that her consciousness can control (occupy) “Delphi”, an artificially-generated homunculus who looks exactly like a beautiful teenage girl. Delphi becomes hugely successful as a celebrity and is used to promote advertising campaigns through product placement in soap operas. One day, a young man named Paul (a son of a network exec) falls in love with Delphi, although he does not know that Delphi is an artificial being controlled by a remote operator. When he senses that some outside force is influencing Delphi, he mistakenly believes that Delphi is a human girl being mind-controlled through remotely-triggered “electrodes”. He brings Delphi to corporate headquarters hoping to force her handlers to remove the “electrodes”. However, he soon discovers the deformed, wired up figure of P. Burke reaching out to him. Disgusted, he rips apart P. Burke’s control wires, causing a shock to her system and killing her (and Delphi, of course). Paul eventually joins the corporate board in order to destroy it from within, while a new Delphi eventually appears, controlled by a different remote operator. At the very end, the corporations begin dabbling in time travel in order to create new timelines.

“The Deathbird”, Harlan Ellison
(The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1973)

An alien being named Dira is chosen to lead a man named Nathan Stack through the history of mankind. Stack begins as Adam, and God separates Nathan and Dira by characterizing Dira as the biblical serpent. Stack lives many incarnations on Earth through the ages. The Snake eventually sends Stack to the core of the Earth, where he sleeps for a quarter million years. Eventually Snake brings Stack back to the surface and leads Stack towards a black peak. As they approach, Stack is attacked by a psychic force from above (God). Stack eventually reaches the peak and enters a glass structure, behind which he finds a senile, stubborn God wandering in a forest. Despite God’s unwillingness to relinquish control, Stack allows the Earth to die through a form of “euthanasia” (the planet’s molten core is allowed to goes out), which signals a cosmic entity called the Deathbird to come and end all life on Earth. The story is dedicated to Mark Twain who once wrote (upon the sudden loss of a loved one), “If there is a God, he is a malign thug.”

“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, Ursula K. Le Guin
(New Dimensions III, Ed. Robert Silverberg, 1973)

A utopian city named Omelas celebrates a wonderful festival. However, the narrator explains that this state of splendour exists at the price of the abuse of one small imprisoned child, who is miserably treated in a state of extreme poverty. The knowledge of this crime encourages the people of Omelas to be their best selves, and they rationalize the abuse of the child by telling themselves that the chld would be no better off if freed. However, some witnesses to this child’s pathetic situation leave the city forever to an unknown destination (probably one where they do not have to face such a moral choice).

“A Song for Lya”, George R. R. Martin
(Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, June 1974)

On the planet Shkea, the mature Shkeen end their lives by bonding with a cave parasite called the Greeshka which creates a great sense of peace and love in its victims, while at the same time absorbing its hosts’ bodies (eventually killing them). Two telepaths, Robb and his lover Lya are called in to investigate why some of the human colonists have also begun to succumb to the native “cult” (and allowing themselves to be absorbed). Being a more sensitive telepath, Lya ends up embracing the Greeshka and allows herself to be fully absorbed into its existence of “perfect love”. In a dream, she contacts Robb and tells him that the fate of those absorbed is to join a mass consciousness made up of all of the Shkeen (and now humans) who have previously been absorbed in the last 14 thousand years. She tells Robb that this is the first time she has encountered true, fearless love without any kind of mental barrier. Robb reports his findings to the colony administrator Valcarenghi, but Valcarenghi simply explains that the Greeskha are sending out some kind of psychic lure to feed itself with unwitting victims. Robb is skeptical that the Greeshka are so easily dismissed and proposes that the Greeshka are a form of “God”. Although greatly tempted to join Lya in the Greeshka mass-mind, he resists and departs the planet, and eventually finds solace in Laura, a woman who’s love had been earlier spurned by the emotionally-closed-off Valcarenghi.

“Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38° 54' N, Longitude 77° 00' 13" W”, Harlan Ellison
(The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1974)

Larry Talbot, a werewolf, visits Information Associates, a secret organization which obtains for him the exact location of his soul. Talbot travels to his old friend Victor Frankenstein (probably the Creature) in the Carpathian mountains and asks for Victor’s help (Victor runs an advanced particle accelerator facility). Victor eventually comes up with a solution and uses his technology to create a miniature doppelganger of Talbot, which is then allowed to enter Talbot’s own unconscious body. After a long journey through Tabot’s digestive system (the islets of Langerhans are part of the pancreas), Talbot reaches the coordinates given to him by Information Associates and finds his lost soul, actualized as a rusty Howdy Doody button buried in the sand. He then liberates an woman named Martha imprisoned nearby. Back in Victor’s lab, Talbot awakens and has Victor create a miniature of his aged assistant Nadja (who is apparently Talbot’s mother). After Nadja’s doppelganger enters Talbot’s body and joins the Talbot and Martha “mites” within, Victor fulfills Larry’s last wish and freezes both Talbot and Nasho in a cryogenic chamber.

“The Hole Man”, Larry Niven
(Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, January 1974)

A survey expedition to Mars discovers an ancient, abandoned alien base on the surface. The ship's astrophysicist, Lear (who is frequently humiliated and abused by the ship’s captain, Childrey), theorizes that the aliens have harnessed a miniature black hole with which they use to send pulsed messages to passerbys. Lear begins to research the nature of the mass-based “communicator”. One day Childrey challenges Lear to prove his “crazy theory” of a captured black hole. Lear releases the aliens’ containment field and the microscopic black hole floats through Childress’ body, drilling a hole through him and killing him. When confronted, Lear declares that no court would convict him of murder due to the complexity and theoretical nature of the circumstances. He also predicts that the black hole will now swing pendulum-like (back and forth) past Mars’ gravitational center, eventually hollowing it out and swallowing it, and ending up as an orbiting black hole located between Earth and Jupiter.