Published by: Tachyon Publications
ISBN 13: 9781616961633
Published: July 2014
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Publisher Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five
An anthology of pieces from the magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, we travel back and go through the past 60 years of the most notable authors that the magazine kickstarted into their writing career.
Familiar names throughout, we see them tackle various sub-genres such as alternate history, time travel, urban fantasy, virtual reality, modern myth, horror, interstellar travel, epic fantasy, mystery, and space opera.
Though all are re-prints, this is a worthy anthology as it makes older pieces so much easier to get hold of and experience.
“The Third Level” by Jack Finney
Charley has been to the third level of Grand Central Station (in New York) despite the fact it has only two levels. He also figures that he travelled back to June 11, 1894 as he chanced to see a newspaper while there. He visits a psychiatrist friend who explores what this could mean, however Charley is at a loss for how to manage the journey again, until he discovers confirmation in the neatest of ways.
That’s how best I can describe the first, very short piece in this anthology. It’s neat. Everything ties together seamlessly and leaves you with a grin afterwards.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ October 1952.
“The Cosmic Charge Account” by C. M. Kornbluth
A writer and his publisher are on a journey, and it’s here that black comedy takes over to a very amusing tale. They begin with taunting each other over their fears and congratulating each other coldly for their reactions. Zombies are a welcome inclusion.
The writing flows well in this surreal piece, and you can visualise this so vividly it’s practically calling out to be made into a short film.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ January 1956.
“The Country of the Kind” by Damon Knight
A man who can instantly strike silence in a person as soon as they realise who he is, is an instantly gripping tale. Who is he, and why is everyone afraid of him? Why do they all instantly obey him?
A strange, disturbing tale. We see how the man came to be, and what makes him think he’s so entitled to act in the way he does. This tale was one of those that lasted with me the longest.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ February 1956.
“The Anything Box” by Zenna Henderson
A girl in a First-Year class has an Anything Box, something that quite worries her teacher until she comes to accept that maybe a little bit of hallucination is okay for a child. We see teachers discussing this and that’s where the humour comes in – the other teachers are such characters!
This story seems to symbolise more than I can grasp, and while on the outside it can be seen as a simply fantasy piece, it could also be so much more, with many more layers.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ October 1956.
“The Prize of Peril” by Robert Sheckley
A fantastic piece where voluntary suicide has been made legal by Congress, which means you’re able to sign up to star in a reality television show where everyone is out to kill you. A Tv crew follow you around and people invite you into their home to give shelter, food, a disguise…
What a messed up idea, all the way back in the 50s. I wonder what Sheckley thinks of our reality tv now? I love how this touches on the human psyche, and the effects such a thing could have on a person.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ May 1958.
“—All You Zombies—” by Robert A. Heinlein
Time travel! Space! Paradoxes! All one needs in a short story. Though in some sex and you have something engaging.
An interesting piece that’s probably more advanced than what we have in real life today. Interesting characters and plot, that’s well written and slight wit that’s easy to miss. It’s very clever in how it all ties in together, and probably my favourite piece of the anthology so far.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ March 1959.
“A Kind of Artistry” by Brian W. Aldiss
A man leaves Earth to study alien life, which takes us into a tale that investigates self-introspection, existence and life itself.
While seemingly larger than the last piece, it left me a little cold and I didn’t feel that I got to know the character as well. Still darn good, but it’s always hard to follow up on a favourite piece. Also felt rather longer than it possibly needed to be.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ October 1962.
“Green Magic” by Jack Vance
Is ignorance bliss?
Just the right length, all in all. Well written, engaging, and leaves you wondering whether ignorance is bliss or if knowledge is paramount.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ June 1963.
“Narrow Valley” by R. A. Lafferty
Land is allocated to Pawnee Indians in the year 1893, but they’re required to pay taxes on it. Clarence Big-Saddle takes offence to this, stating he won’t be paying any sorts of taxes, and puts a spell/curse on his land instead. There things lie until a white family, many many years later, comes to claim it once it’s free when sold to claim said unpaid taxes. When they arrive at the land, they’re certainly in for a surprise, much to the amusement of the land-owners on either side of the narrow valley.
This piece, though I have enjoyed others, is what really made me agree that this anthology really is the Very Best.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ September 1966.
“Sundance” by Robert Silverberg
This piece is written in all three tenses – alternating between first, second, and third person – and though it’s not as confusing as that may seem, it simply wasn’t my thing. It would be such an interesting attempt at layering a piece I would love to hear what someone else thinks of this – someone who has a far deeper ability at interpreting and enjoying short stories that are truly intelligent. This one simply was a bit too much for my ability.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ June 1969.
“Attack of the Giant Baby” by Kit Reed
A scientist father left to babysit his young toddler soon regrets his distraction when the baby manages to get a culture into his mouth, and from there grows to mammoth proportions. Even with the help of the city and all emergency personal, there’s little they can do, which gives us quite a fun romp of a tale.
Well written and enjoyable this was a bit of a lark and a bit silly, but if you take it all in good fun, then you have an enjoyable short in your lap to read.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ January 1976.
“The Hundredth Dove” by Jane Yolen
A fowler for a kingdom is tasked by the King to catch 100 birds for the upcoming royal wedding. An easy task for a master fowler. However, if things went easily we wouldn’t have a story. In a tale written in a fairytale manner, we have a beautiful piece of work that stays with you for a long time.
What I loved about this especially was that it took the idea of the old type of fairytale, rather than the shiny Disney sort. I would love to see more of Jane Yolen’s work after reading this piece.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ April 1977.
“Jeffty Is Five” by Harlan Ellison
Two children play together when they’re young, then one has to move away, but returns every few years… to find the other child never ages. Jeffty remains five throughout the years, even when his childhood friend grows to be an adult, opens his own business, and continues to return now to babysit his once friend.
A touching story, this starts slow but then gathers speed as it looks at what one misses about the past and how one may wish they were still able to experience things now gone… but also looks at what trouble that could bring.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ July 1977.
“Salvador” by Lucius Shepard
A solider fighting in El Salvador takes tablets in order to be able to deal with combat. Soon we’re able to tell reality from what’s brought on by the tablets.
A hard read, this gives the sense of the Vietnam war that’s still reflected today in the wars that still go on. A hard read, but worthwhile.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ April 1984.
“The Aliens Who Knew, I mean, Everything” by George Alec Effinger
Written from the point of view of the President with aliens arrive. That’s all that really needs to be said for this one in order to get you reading, surely!
I love how this was written with slight humour. Presented with the news that aliens have arrived, the President says ‘I see.’ and then asks ‘Well?’ when that’s the only information given. He knows how to cover the panic and act as though this is all very interesting but he can’t very well make a decision without data. The writing is sly and intelligent, and this piece is easily one of my favourites. I loved how it went into how all great intelligence sounds marvellous, but in reality it makes you put your guard up and you’re soon annoyed by insufferable know-it-alls!
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ October 1984.
“Rat” by J. P. Kelly
With a main character capable of human thought but in the body or appearance of a rat, we have a surreal drug-fuelled punk tale of crime in a futuristic yet noir sort of way. You’re not really sure which side you’re cheering for in this one!
Certainly more adventurous than the others in the anthology so far, in a way. This one stretches the bounds of what’s considered normal, and leaves you unable to guess what’ll happen next.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ June 1984.
“The Friendship Light” by Gene Wolfe
One of the few horror pieces in the anthology, we have ‘Ty’ and ‘Jack’ and are left to assume they are not their real names. We have a journal for ‘Ty’ and a tape for ‘Jack’, and we’re soon told of certain instances that make up the horror in this piece.
This one needed to be read twice, for me – though I’m sure others will find it easier to take in. I’m not overly great with horror, but this one had me reading on intently. Loved it!
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ October 1989.
“The Bone Woman” by Charles de Lint
A story of a couple of homeless people, one who seems utterly vacant and another that collects bones, and a third who follows them, curious to know more.
Folktore taken from the American Southwest makes up the backbone of this haunting, honest story. Told well, it’s another that resonates with you.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ August 1993.
“The Lincoln Train” by Maureen F. McHugh
A mother and daughter have to leave their home, thanks to the war, and move across the country. The mother is quite ill in the head for reasons unknown – perhaps also attributed to the war – so it’s up to the daughter to somehow pull things together.
A hard tale, that seems just a little too real and possible. Well written, with hard, interesting characters.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ April 1995.
“Maneki Neko” by Bruce Sterling
A man converts outdated video into new formats for a living, and as such earns favours in exchange for favours. Just little things here and there. Everything is a network. And everything is good, until things start getting a bit interesting…
‘Cute baby clothes from Darwin, Australia’ – how specific, and as always odd to see, especially from an American writer. Like Jason M. Hough, I wonder if he picked the location off a map without second thought? I really enjoyed this piece, but I’m easy to please when there’s light humour and Japanese-related things in play. I thought the plot was clever and interesting, and would love to see a novel in this style.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ May 1998.
“Winemaster” by Robert Reed
Unfortunately this one just didn’t capture my interest.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ July 1999.
“Suicide Coast” by M. John Harrison
A journalist daredevil tells the tale of a fellow daredevil who’s now a paraplegic thanks to their shared lifestyle. He now lives in virtual reality games to try and capture the life he’s no longer able to lead.
A sharp ending that leaves you thinking. What makes life worth living?
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ July 1999.
“Have Not Have” by Geoff Ryman
‘Mae lived in the last village in the world to go online’ is such a fantastic opener. A tale of a village that has to make a large jump to join the rest of the world in technology, we see the struggles faced, told with interesting and quiet characters that last with you.
It seems this short story became a novel in 2005 called Air, which is perfect, as reading this you want to see so much more.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ April 2001.
“The People of Sand & Slag” by Paolo Bacigalupi
A creature is on the loose, and it’s up to those left at a very isolated mining site to deal with it.
Parts of this were… more gruesome than I thought they needed to be. I’ve enjoyed one piece of work by Bacigalupi (and the rest has sadly passed me by), so it seems this is joining the taller pile for now. A shame.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ February 2004.
“Echo” by Liz Hand
A woman waits to hear from her lover. She lives on an island with a do, Finn, for company. They don’t see anyone else, and we’re lead to believe there’s been some kind of devastation in the world that has caused this.
Beautifully written, this is a sad tale that also lasts with you.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ October/November 2005.
“The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates” by Stephen King
Ghosts! A woman is contacted by her dead husband via the telephone. He’s at Grand Central Station, only it’s more like a movie set – if she knows what he means.
As a preface, I’m not a fan of Stephen King. I’ve tried a few of his books and just can’t get into the tone/attitude of them. I’ve enjoyed and agreed with a lot of what he has to say in his writing advice book On Writing, but again, his attitude put me off there, too. My loss, as I wish I could get the enjoyment from his books so very many people do.
This piece though? It was very nice. Very well done.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ October/November 2008.
“The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu
Jack is the son of a mail-order Chinese bride, so half Chinese, half American. In efforts to be more like his American side, he ignores the attempts his mother makes during his childhood and her life to share their Chinese heritage, and what she can offer him in general. It’s only when she passes that he discovers what they could have had together, and what her life was like.
Read first for Hugo Packet reading in 2012, this short remains as incredibly sad and touching as it was when first read. A powerful piece that lasts with you.
First published in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’ May/June 2011.
Overall this is a strong anthology, proving that it lives up to the title of the Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction – some anthologies are named as such, but this delivers on that promise. It’s also interesting to see what ideas were in play 60 years ago, and both how we have come from that time as technology develops, as well as how things are still eerily stagnant.
I highly recommend this anthology, and thank Tachyon for offering me a copy to review.
- A Kind of Artistry
- All You Zombies
- Attack of the Giant Baby
- Brian W. Aldiss
- Bruce Sterling
- C. M. Kornbluth
- Charles de Lint
- Damon Knight
- Gene Wolfe
- Geoff Ryman
- George Alec Effinger
- Gordon Van Gelder
- Green Magic
- Harlan Ellison
- Have not Have
- I mean
- J. P. Kelly
- Jack Finney
- Jack Vance
- Jane Yolen
- Jeffty Is Five
- Ken Liu
- Kit Reed
- Liz Hand
- Lucius Shepard
- M. John Harrison
- Maneki Neko
- Narrow Valley
- Paolo Bacigalupi
- R. A. Lafferty
- Robert A. Heinlein
- Robert Reed
- Robert Sheckley
- Robert Silverberg
- Stephen King
- Suicide Coast
- Tachyon Publications
- The Aliens Who Knew
- The Anything Box
- The Bone Woman
- The Cosmic Charge Account
- The Country of the Kind
- The Friendship Light
- The Hundredth Dove
- The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates
- The Paper Menagerie
- The People of Sand & Slag
- The Prize of Peril
- The Third Level
- The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction
- Zenna Henderson