First Graf: The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1

THERE ARE BOOKS, AND THERE are books. This one contains “The Greatest Science Fiction Stories of All Time Chosen by the Members of the Science Fiction Writers of America,” and is standard issue to all geeks and geekettes who want to know the first thing about things SFnal. (It’s subtitled “Volume One, 1929-1964;” Volume Two (which I haven’t read) is itself two 1973 volumes devoted to novellas written and published between 1895 and 1961.)

I first read this (these? it’s an anthology, after all) when I was eight years old, as part of the first package I ever got from the Science Fiction Book Club. Without it for years, I now have a spiffy new trade paperback which seems almost a facsimile of the original contents in terms of fonts, layout, etc. And the memories! Stuck in Fredric Brown’s alien showdown (which became a Star Trek episode)! Trapped with Lewis Padgett’s mad teaching machines! Exploring Tibetan mythology with Arthur C. Clarke!

Seriously. You need this book. From Robert Silverberg’s introduction:

This is as nearly definitive an anthology of modern science fiction stopries as is likely to be compiled for quite some time. Its contents were chosen by vote of the membership of the Science Fiction Writers of America, an organization of some three hundred professional writers whose roster includes virtually everyone now living who has ever had science fiction published in the United States. The book you now hold represents the considered verdict of those who themselves have shaped science fiction — a roster of outstanding stories selected by people who know more intimately than any others what the criteria for excellence in science fiction should be.

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