FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #504: THE GREAT SF STORIES #3 (1941) Edited by Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg

Some of the best stories of 1941 don’t appear in The Great Stories #3 (1941). Robert A. Heinlein’s stories could not be included in this volume because of contract problems. Martin Greenberg and Isaac Asimov provide insightful introductions for each of the missing stories however. Heinlein’s “Universe” is the iconic generational starship story. Heinlein’s “By His Bootstraps” might be one of the best time travel stories ever published. This volume also includes Theodore Sturgeon’s best SF story (according to Asimov): “Microscopic God” about a scientist who creates an entire microscopic race. Asimov’s classic, “Nightfall” and Alfred Bester’s “Adam and No Eve” round out the roster of famous stories in this anthology. Clearly, 1941 was a especially excellent year for Science Fiction! GRADE: A+
INTRODUCTION By Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg 9
“Mechanical Mice” by Maurice A. Hugi (aka, Eric Frank Russell) (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, January 1941) 13
“And He Built a Crooked House” by Robert A. Heinlein (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, February 1941) 37
“Shottle Bop” by Theodore Sturgeon (UNKNOWN, February 1941) 38
“The Rocket of 1955” by C. M. Kornbluth (STIRRING SCIENCE STORIES, April 1941) 66
“They” by Robert A. Heinlein (UNKNOWN, April 1941) 69
“Evolution’s End” by Robert Arthur (THRILLING WONDER STORIES, April 1941) 70
“Microcosmic God” by Theodore Sturgeon (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, April 1941) 86
“Jay Score” by Eric Frank Russell (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, May 1941) 113
“Universe” by Robert A. Heinlein (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, May 1941) 130
“Liar!” by Isaac Asimov (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, May 1941) 131
“Solution Unsatisfactory” by “Anson MacDonald”(aka, Robert A. Heinlein) (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, May 1941) 148
“Time Wants a Skeleton” by Ross Rocklynne (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, June 1941) 149
“The Words of Guru” by C. M. Kornbluth (STIRRING SCIENCE STORIES, June 1941) 203
“The Seesaw” by A. E. van Vogt (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, July 1941) 211
“Armageddon” by Fredric Brown (UNKNOWN, August 1941) 231
“Adam and No Eve” by Alfred Bester (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, September 1941) 237
“Solar Plexus” by James Blish (ASTONISHING STORIES, September 1941) 251
“Nightfall” by Isaac Asimov (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, September 1941) 263
“A Gnome There Was” by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (UNKNOWN, October 1941) 298
“By His Bootstraps” by “Anson MacDonald” (aka, Robert A. Heinlein) (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, October 1941) 323
“Snulbug” by Anthony Boucher (UNKNOWN, December 1941) 324
“Hereafter, Inc.” by Lester del Rey. (UNKNOWN, December 1941) 339

12 thoughts on “FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #504: THE GREAT SF STORIES #3 (1941) Edited by Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg

  1. Jeff Meyerson

    Good one. I always wondered, when reading these collections (I have half a dozen or so), what the deal was with Heinlein and the rights to the stories. Was it money?

      1. Steve Oerkfitz

        I have read somewhere that it is a problem with Heinlein’s estate.
        I have read most of these stories in the long distant past and don’t remember them well. Just as well they couldn’t include Heinlein’s Universe since it dates badly.

      2. george Post author

        Steve, you’re right about some SF stories from that era aging badly. For its time, “Universe” was a bolt of literary lightning. Heinlein didn’t invent the idea of a generational starship, but in “Universe” he explored the implications of such an endeavor. It was a remarkable story for its time. Sturgeon’s “Microcosmic God” holds up a lot better than “Universe.”

  2. Todd Mason

    The remarkable thing about Asimov’s citation of “Microscopic God” as Sturgeon’s “greatest story” is that it was his “Nightfall”…the story that unthinking sorts would run up to the writer and blurt out “It’s the best thing you’ve done!” even though it was one of their early stories…”You’ve never been this good again!” however many years and decades of experience later…and while they’re both good stories, the Sturgeon a bit more than the Asimov, they are Not Hardly the best they ever wrote. I usually cite Robert Bloch’s “Yours Truly, Jack the Riipper” and Jorge Luis Borges’s “Streetcorner Man” (<>) as similarly haunting their authors (and the huge amount of plagiarism of the Bloch probably didn’t help). One wonders if it was a private joke between Asimov and Sturgeon.

    Given what Heinleins there are in this book, maybe the estate wanted to keep the Future History stories to themselves for the time…I can find out…

      1. george Post author

        Todd, I was a huge fan of C.M. Kornbluth. Loved his solo work and his stories and novels with Frederick Pohl. His early death was a shock to me.

    1. george Post author

      Todd, you’re right about early success haunting writers. I can think of a dozen SF writers (and mystery writers) whose early work burst on the scene and became burdensome in later years when later works didn’t sell as well (and the awards became scarce).

  3. James W. Harris

    It’s a shame the collection couldn’t have reprinted the Heinlein stories, since they were the best of the year.

    Even though it was weird and clunky, I liked “Time Wants a Skeleton” by Ross Rocklynne.

    1. george Post author

      James, I enjoyed “Time Wants a Skeleton,” too. Clunky and weird capture that story’s essence! But I am going to dig out some of my Ross Rocklynne books that I’ll read for future FFBs.


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