Monday, November 19, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide: American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s edited by Gary K. Wolfe

When I pulled American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s (Library of America) out of the box, I gave a little “whoop” of delight. Beautifully presented in a boxed, two-volume set, the packaging instantly evokes the most tantalizing volumes of my childhood.

This anthology includes nine groundbreaking works from the infant age of novels of science fiction. The works included here defined a genre. Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, A Case of Conscience by James Blish, Who? by Algis Budrys, The Big Time by Fritz Leiber, The Space Merchants by Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth, More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon, The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett and The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson.

Read back to back in this way, one hears a naiveté and a very different tone and direction than one hears in contemporary science fiction. It is indeed arguable to say that today’s science fiction has a less self-conscious edge. And I would also hazard that the best contemporary works are more writerly and generally skilled. But there is a raw, exploratory tone to some of these novels. These writers were exploring territory as new as the worlds they were writing about, and just as uncharted. Where could these explorations possibly go? And yet, 50 and 60 years on, here they still are.

Have someone mad for science fiction on your holiday list? American Science Fiction would be a good choice. ◊

Lincoln Cho is a freelance writer and editor. He lives in the Chicago area, where he works in the high-tech industry. He is currently working on a his first novel, a science-fiction thriller set in the world of telecommunications.

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