impatientape (impatientape) wrote,

  • Music:

The Reading Room: Groff Conklin

I have just finished reading a great fat Groff Conklin anthology, The Classic Book of Science Fiction, known as The Big Book of Science Fiction upon its original release in 1950.  How good is it after sixty-two years, how relevant?  Well, of the 32 stories included, I distinctly recall reading only Ray Bradbury's "Forever and the Earth" and Damon Knight's "Not With a Bang," though I must also have read "Arena" in The Best of Fredric Brown.  I had read about a few others, such as T. L. Sherred's "E for Effort" and Eric Frank Russell's "Dear Devil," but the rest, even those by authors I know, were entirely new to me.

Conklin issued other big anthologies around the same time, e.g., The Omnibus of Science Fiction and Treasury of Science Fiction -- not to be confused with The Treasury of Science Fiction Classics (Harold W. Kuebler, editor, 1954), A Treasury of Great Science Fiction (Anthony Boucher, 1959, this being the two-volume set owned by everybody who ever brushed up against the Science Fiction Book Club), or The World Treasury of Science Fiction (David Hartwell, 1989).  Possibly I am overlooking a treasury or two.  In any case, Conklin also edited more than three dozen paperback anthologies, in one of which I am pretty sure that I read my first Bradbury story, "The Million-Year Picnic."  As Barry Malzberg writes, "all of our postwar history exists in the penumbra of his work."

Currently I'm reading C. P. Snow's The Sleep of Reason and, parsecs away from The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne's Tanglewood Tales, a book for young readers.  I never expected to find Hawthorne, whom I habitually picture as a dour Puritan, in such a playful mood.


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