A Blast from the Science Fiction Past
Posted by: Neil Hollands
I was excited this week to see the arrival of the Library of America’s two-volume set of American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s. The volumes, with works selected and edited by science fiction scholar Gary K. Wolfe are beautiful, but more important, they’re an important reminder of the lasting legacy of our genre fiction past.
The first volume, covering 1953 to 1956, contains Fredrik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants, Theodore Sturgeon’s More than Human, Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow, and Richard Matheson’s The Shrinking Man. The second, with books selected from the years 1956 to 1958, includes Robert Heinlein’s Double Star, Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination, James Blish’s A Case of Conscience, Algis Budrys’s Who?, and Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time. These books are over 50 years old now, but they still have relevant things to say about our present and future.
Next year, I plan to make these books a theme for a meeting of my Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Group here in Williamsburg, with each of the novels covered by at least one of our readers. The Library of America website has support essays by contemporary writers like Connie Willis, William Gibson, Neil Gaiman, and Tim Powers that will aid our discussion and more from Wolfe about the Golden Age of Science Fiction from which these works were selected.
It’s been nice to see The Library of America discover science fiction writers in the last few years, with volumes from Shirley Jackson, Philip K. Dick, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Kurt Vonnegut becoming available. I hope that readers discover not only the novels in these collections, but other selections by the same authors, and through them, other classic genre works.