FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #499: THE GREAT SF STORIES #2 (1940) Edited By Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg

A number of famous Science Fiction stories were published in 1940. Harry Bates’s “Farewell to the Master” became the source material for the classic movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Also included in this anthology are two of the most chilling SF monster stories ever: Theodore Sturgeon’s “It” and A. E. van Vogt’s “Vault of the Beast.” I’m also fond of Fritz Leiber’s crafty “The Automatic Pistol” about a witch’s unusual familiar.

For some reason, Robert A. Heinlein’s publishers wouldn’t allow Asimov/Greenberg to include some of Heinlein’s classic stories. Fortunately, I had the banned stories in other collections. “Requiem” is a bit of a maudlin story about one of the space pioneer’s in Heinlein’s Future History. “Coventry” show’s Heinlein’s extreme political position on freedom and liberty (Asimov disagrees with it…and I do, too). “Blowups Happen” was the first story to suggest nuclear power stations could present dangerous problems. The Great SF Stories #2 records the development of the SF genre and its evolution in quality. GRADE: A-
Introduction 9
*”Requiem” by Robert A. Heinlein (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, January 1940) 12
“The Dwindling Sphere” by Williard Hawkins (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, March 1940) 13
“The Automatic Pistol” by Fritz Leiber (WEIRD TALES, May 1940) 30
“Hindsight” by Jack Williamson (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, May 1940) 46
“Postpaid to Paradise” by Robert Arthur (ARGOSY, June 1940) 65
* “Coventry” by Robert A. Heinlein (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, July 1940) 79
“Into the Darkness” by Ross Rocklynne (ASTONISHING STORIES, June 1940) 80
“Dark Mission” by Lester del Rey (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, July 1940) 108
“It” by Theodore Sturgeon (UNKNOWN, August 1940) 125
“Vault of the Beast” by A. E. van Vogt (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, August 1940) 149
“The Impossible Highway” by Oscar J. Friend (THRILLING WONDER STORIES, August 1940) 176
“Quietus” by Ross Rocklynne (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, September 1940) 191
* “Blowups Happen” by Robert A. Heinlein (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, September 1940) 205
“Strange Playfellow” by Isaac Asimov (SUPER SCIENCE STORIES, September 1940) 206
“The Warrior Race” by L. Sprague de Camp (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, October 1940) 219
“Farewell to the Master” by Harry Bates (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, October 1940) 237
“Butyl and the Breather” by Theodore Sturgeon (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, October 1940) 276
“The Exalted” by L. Sprague de Camp (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, November 1940) 297
“Old Man Mulligan” by P. Schuyler Miller (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, December 1940) 321
*”A set of stories by Robert A. Heinlein were intended for this volume but arrangements for their use could not be made. Greenberg and Asimov’s notes for each are included in their stead.”

16 thoughts on “FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #499: THE GREAT SF STORIES #2 (1940) Edited By Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg

  1. Steve Oerkfitz

    Read some of these a longtime ago. Such as the Heinlein, Sturgeon, Asimov, De Camp and Van Vogt. I still find most Sf from this time as dated. Not just the science but in the execution. Many of these writers had their best work ahead of them. Farewell to the Master by Harry Bates was the basis for movie The Day the Earth Stood Still.

    1. Todd Mason

      Nothing dated about “It”…of course, it, like “The Automatic Pistol” and “Postpaid to Paradise” had basically nothing to do with science fiction so much as fantasy…and it’s a rare trio where the Leiber story is by some distance the weakest of the three!

  2. Todd Mason

    Heinlein’s agent was being obdurate, probably at Heinlein’s instruction, at that point, as I recall. It’s been some decades since I looked at this volume…is the Friend story remotely good? The Asimov is pretty minor, and I suspect Asimov probably objected more strongly to this inclusion from his works than in most if not all other cases where Greenberg (and probably Wollheim) decided an Asimov story needed to be included in the volumes in this series.

    1. george Post author

      Todd, Asimov mentions his disagreement with Heinlein’s politics. That may have influenced the withholding of publishing Heinlein’s short stories in this series.

  3. Jeff Meyerson

    I noticed in a couple of these early stories the comments about Heinlein’s stories not being made available to them. I also have a collection of a lot of his early stories and read some of them that weren’t available to Greenberg & Asimov. I think Todd is right that they’re not great.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, I think “great” is an elastic term in this series. Sometimes some historical factor influences the inclusion of some of the stories. How was the STEELY DAN concert?

      1. Jeff Meyerson

        Outstanding. They did the complete AJA (including, of course, Deacon Blues), and another of your favorites – FM.

  4. Rick Robinson

    Not a bad set of stories, if the reader can settle into a 1940s mindset and not expect the developments of SF in the Fifties and Sixties, let alone late in the century, etc. My book today is an old Heinlein, though not this old.

  5. Jim Harris

    I was hoping you’d compare these stories with the later ones you read in Bleiler & Dikty. This is the era which many fans call the Golden Age of Science Fiction, but tend to think the golden age wasn’t until the 1950’s.

    Excluding the Heinlein, I think my favorite story in this collection was “Quietus” by Ross Rocklynne.

    1. george Post author

      Jim, I’ll make some comments about the Bleiler & Dikty series in my review of THE GREAT SF STORIES #3 next month. Even though they weren’t published in THE GREAT SF STORIES #2, Heinlein’s stories dominated the collection.


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