Back in 1952, Everett F. Bleiler and T.E. Dikty decided their yearly anthology of YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES wasn’t including some of best stories because of their length. Their solution was to edit a companion volume titled YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS: 1952. What Bleiler and Dikty call “novels” we today would call “novellas.” These stories are about 70 pages long. Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s “Izzard and the Membrane” is a typical Cold War story where an American cyberneticist is tricked into helping the Soviets in World War III attack on America directed by an intelligent computer (we would call this Artificial Intelligence). Eric Frank Russell’s famous “…And Then There Were None” presents the dilemma of Freedom. “Flight to Forever” is one of Poul Anderson’s patented Time Travel stories. My favorite story in this anthology is another Cold War story, “The Hunting Season” by Frank M. Robinson. A totalitarian society punishes dissent by allowing “citizens” to hunt down dissidents and kill them. Arthur C. Clarke’s “Seeker of the Sphinx” explores the results of a lack of Progress in the Future. All in all, this is an entertaining collection of novellas. GRADE: A-
Introduction, by Everett F. Bleiler & T. E. Dikty 9
“Izzard and the Membrane”, by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (Astounding Science Fiction) 17
“…And Then There Were None”, by Eric Frank Russell (Astounding Science Fiction) 81
“Flight to Forever”, by Poul Anderson (Super Science Stories) 165
“The Hunting Season”, by Frank M. Robinson (Astounding Science Fiction) 225
“Seeker of the Sphinx”, by Arthur C. Clarke (Two Complete Science-Adventures) 295

9 thoughts on “FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #479: YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS: 1952 Edited By Everett F. Bleiler & T. E. Dikty

  1. Steve Oerkfitz

    Familiar with all 5 authors. Miller wrote a lot of good short fiction but haven’t read this one. It hasn’t been reprinted in any of his short fiction collections. He is of course the author of the great A Canticle for Leibowitz. Also don’t remember reading the Robinson. Robinson wrote one of my favorite SF novels-The Dark Beyond the Stars. He was also a speechwriter for Harvey Milk. The Russell is probably his best story. I am sure I have read the Anderson and the Clarke but don’t remember them. The Clarke is also known as The Road to the Sea and appeared as such in his collection Tales of Ten Worlds.

  2. Jeff Meyerson

    I’ve never gotten an understanding why so many of these SF or mystery books were sold as novels when they are clearly novellas.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, I’m not sure the word “novella” had taken hold back in the early 1950s. Sometimes these 70+ page stories were called “short novels.” I have a few SF anthologies that include “Short Novels” in the title.

  3. Todd Mason

    I suspect “novella” was seen as an affectation. Meanwhile, the pulp tradition of promising Even More Value For Money than they actually offered encouraged the lie that they included COMPLETE NOVELS (of sometimes perhaps 30 pages) in a given issue…

    1. george Post author

      Todd, you’re right about the “fuzzy” definition of “novel” in science fiction magazines. I’m guessing the term “novella” didn’t catch on until the Sixties.

    1. george Post author

      Rick, as I read these SF anthologies from 1950s, World War III and the Cold War factored into many of the stories. Scary stuff!

    2. wolf

      Yes, I also remember stories based on the Cold War – and the fear that it might turn into a hot war – might have been doomsday for humanity..
      Also this led to many “invasion” stories/novels where mankind has to fight a superior enemy from space and with novel concepts like telepathy and teleportation wins in the end.
      Totally OT:
      Many of these stories/novellas/novels were translated into German – but severely abridged so sometimes you wondered at the end:
      Was this all?
      That was one of the reasons I learned English (my third foreign language after French and Latin) to be able to read these in the original -I got many at the America House in my city.
      The German publishers had fixed sizes for their pocket books (200 pages) and pulps (64 pages) so some brutal editing was applied …


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