FORGOTTEN BOOKS #254: WHAT IF? Edited by Richard A. Lupoff

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Ramble House and Surinam Turtle Press achieve something close to a publishing miracle with the appearance of What If? Volume #3. The first volume of What If? Stories that Didn’t Win a Hugo, But Should Have was published in 1980. The second volume of What If? was published in 1981. The third volume of What If? was in the galley stage of the publishing process when the series was canceled. Decades passed. Then editor Richard A. Lupoff found those long-missing galleys and bought them from a dealer. Now, we have all three volumes of stories that should have won the Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction story of the year. The bonus is Lupoff’s detailed history of the Hugo Awards year-by-year. I was astonished to learn that in 1953 there were 43 different science fiction magazines available on the newstand! Sadly, little by little, the publishing business changed and paperbacks became more popular than SF magazines. If you’re interested in great science fiction stories with intriguing essays by Lupoff on the development of the genre in the Fifties to the Seventies, I highly recommend the What If? series.

What If? Volume 1
Introduction: Earned Glory-Richard A. Lupoff
1952 “Firewater!:-William Tenn
1953 “Four in One”-Damon Knight
1954 “The Golden Helix”-Theodore Sturgeon
1955 “One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts”-Shirley Jackson
1056 “The Man Who Came Early”-Poul Anderson
1957 “The Mile-Long Spaceship”-Kate Wilhelm
1958 “Two Dooms”-Cyril Kornbluth

What If? Volume 2
Introduction: My Aunt Cora-Richard A. Lupoff
1959 “The Pi Man”-Alfred Bester
1960 “The Lost Kafoozalum”-Pauline Ashwell
1961 “The Sources of the Nile”-Avram Davidson
1962 “Where Is the Bird of Fire?”-Thomas Burnett Swann
1963 “Stand-by”-Philip K. Dick
1964 “Now Is Forever”-Thomas M. Disch
1965 “All the King’s Men”-Barrington J. Bayley

What If? Volume 3
A Note on Publishing History-Richard A. Lupoff
Shining Examples: An Introduction-Richard A. Lupoff
1966 “Light of Other Days”-Bob Shaw
1967 “The Star-Pit”-Samuel R. Delany
1968 “The Barbarian”-Joanna Russ
1969 “Sundance”-Robert Silverberg
1970 “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories”-Gene Wolf
1971 “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow”-Ursula K. Le Guin
1972 “Painwise”-James Tiptree, Jr.
1973 “My Brother Leopold”-Edgar Pangborn

17 thoughts on “FORGOTTEN BOOKS #254: WHAT IF? Edited by Richard A. Lupoff

  1. George Kelley

    Deb, there are some great stories in these WHAT IF? volumes. Lupoff’s informative introductions provide plenty of insights into the writers and the publishing industry of those days.

  2. Jerry House

    It has always seems disingenuous to me to proclaim anything as the “best.” Any Davidson story (or Knight story or Sturgeon story or any story by many of the others) could easily be called the best of whatever year they were published, but then we’d end up with a zillion “bests” of the year — which may be closer to the truth. The Hugo winners were all great stories and Lupoff has provided us with many other great stories in these volumes.

    1. george Post author

      Jerry, Lupoff’s history of the Hugo Awards and his insights into the publishing industry at the time were eye-openers to me. And, as you point out, “best” is a highly subjective term. There can be multiple “best” stories and novels in a given year.

  3. Richard

    Though I have at times found Lupoff to be somewhat unreliable in his “how things were” statements (such as on con panels), he should know this territory. I acknowledge Jerry’s statement, since awards are almost all popularity contests so the darling of the day may gather the votes to come out on top. Yet the stories in these books is just one man’s opinion of another set of stories. If I had to rely on that, I rather see Bova, Budrys, Fred Pohl or a number of other critic-reviewers than Lupoff. All that said, these do sound interesting. When was volume 3 published?

  4. Todd Mason

    Speaking of Surinam Turtle releases, George, did you see Grania Davis’s collection? With certain exceptions, I like Davis’s work a lot…collaborating with Avram Davidson never hurts…


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