FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #506: THE GREAT SF STORIES #4 (1942) Edited by Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg


One of the aspects that I really admire about The Great SF Stories series is Asimov and Greenberg’s inclusion of multiple stories by writers. In Volume 3, they selected FIVE Robert A. Heinlein stories as best stories of 1941 (I agree!). In this 1942 volume, Asimov and Greenberg chose three A. E. van Vogt stories: “Cooperate–Or Else!,” “Asylum,” and “The Weapon Shop.” And then there’s the classic “Foundation” novelette by Isaac Asimov that kicked off his legendary Foundation series. I’m fond of Lewis Padgett and C. L. Moore’s “The Twonky.” Once again, this series provides wonderful stories in a historical context. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
INTRODUCTION 7
“The Star Mouse” by Fredric Brown 11
“The Wings of Night” by Lester del Rey 32
“Cooperate–Or Else!” by A. E. van Vogt 50
“Foundation” by Isaac Asimov 77
“The Push of a Finger” by Alfred Bester 110
“Asylum” by A. E. van Vogt 150
“Proof” by Hal Clement 205
“Nerves” by Lester del Rey 222
“Barrier” by Anthony Boucher 295
“The Twonkey” by Lewis Padgett and C. L. Moore 327
“QRM-Interplanetary” by George O. Smith 369
“The Weapons Shop” by A. E. van Vogt 403
“Mimic” by Donald A. Wollheim 442

37 thoughts on “FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #506: THE GREAT SF STORIES #4 (1942) Edited by Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg

    1. Todd Mason

      Prashant, I hope they’re in a handy library, since they are getting expensive over here. And Not All the famous sf writers are included, but they are a pleasant and valuable survey of the field from Greenberg, Asimov, and occasionally Barry Malzberg. You should definitely check out some of the other Best of the Year anthologies, as well…none of which can give you a Complete Picture of the field by themselves…

      Reply
      1. george Post author

        Todd, as a result of rereading THE GREAT SF STORIES series, I’m picking up other YEAR’S BEST volumes from various editors: Terry Carr, Wollheim, Hartwell, etc. I confess that in the 1980s and 1990s I read these anthologies sporadically, not in any organized fashion. Now, I’ll try to fill in the gaps.

      2. Prashant C. Trikannad

        Thanks, Todd. I will either have to check out in the secondhand bookshops I frequent or order them from Amazon. I’d be surprised if I saw any in a library. British Council Library would have been a sure bet but it closed down a few years ago, while American Centre Library is out of the way for me.

  1. Jerry House

    George, it’s hard to go wrong with an Asimov/Greenberg anthology and this series is one of the best they have done..

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Jerry, you’re right. THE GREAT SF STORIES is a wonderful series! It sets a high standard. James Wallace Harris says the price of these volumes are going up!

      Reply
    1. george Post author

      Jim, I’m planning on rereading one volume of THE GREAT SF STORIES per month (and blogging about it here). I enjoy your comments on the series!

      Reply
  2. Jeff Meyerson

    I’m enjoying the reviews. Great group of authors this year. I am still sitting on a few of these that I picked up several years ago before the prices got crazy. I agree with you that it was better to go for multiple entries in a year than artificially say only one story per writer.

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Jeff, you’re right. But many anthologies–even YEAR’S BEST–seem to limit writers to one story per volume. That’s why I admire Asimov & Greenberg’s approach. Also, this 1942 anthology reflects the fact that some SF writers were serving in Active Duty during WWII and not writing stories.

      Reply
    1. george Post author

      Rick, I think to appreciate these historical anthologies, the reader needs to set these stories in context. The science in many of the stories is hopelessly outdated. But, the ideas are still powerful.

      Reply
  3. Art Scott

    The Twonky was made into a legendarily awful flop movie of the same name. Starred Hans Conried & directed by Arch Oboler of radio’s Lights Out fame. Never seen it; have you? Anybody?

    Reply
  4. Michael Padgett

    Not that I remember much about them, but I think I’ve read most of these, even the three by van Vogt, who I never much liked. Do people still read him? He supposedly displayed tons of the old “sense of wonder” so prized in golden age SF, but the primary “wonder” I got from his books was to wonder what the hell was going on. Reading Nevala-Lee’s “Astounding” has convinced me that I ought to reread some of these classics. Maybe I’ll give old A. E. another shot.

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Michael, you’re right about van Vogt getting more flakey as he got older. I found the “new” works DAW published in the 1970s and early 1980s unreadable.

      Reply
  5. Steve Oerkfitz

    I know I’ve read most of these but don’t remember much about them other than The Twonky. I’m a big fan of Alfred Bester but this one is new to me. It doesn’t show up in any of his collections so it must be a lesser work. Not a fan of the Foundation series. They were just not well written. Ditto for Van Vogt. Mimic was made into a decent film by Guillermo del Toro.

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Steve, “Mimic” is an under-appreciated story. When I reread THE FOUNDATION SERIES a few years ago I was surprised at all the dialogue and the slow pace. Early van Vogt is better than later van Vogt.

      Reply
  6. Rick Robinson

    I read the FOUNDATION trilogy in high school, and thought it was Big Stuff. I tried to re-read it a decade ago, and it was hard going. I barely Finished FOUNDATION, didn’t go on to FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE and SECOND FOUNDATION.

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Rick, I liked SECOND FOUNDATION the best. I read the “sequels” and “prequels” to the FOUNDATION series, but found them lacking.

      Reply
  7. wolf

    Just looking at the list of authors gives me fond memories – and then the stories! Foundation, weapons shop etc introduced me to SF.

    PS : Just found this in my book list:
    ASIMOV PRESENTS THE GREAT SF STORIES 1 (1939)(SERIES COMPLETE) (last one was 1963) 🙂

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Wolf, there are 25 volumes in THE GREAT SF STORIES series. I have them all and will be reviewing a volume each month for the next couple of years.

      Reply
      1. wolf

        I got all of them too!
        Maybe I should also read them again following your example – sometimes the old stuff is better for us old geezers … 🙂

      2. george Post author

        Wolf, I remember some of these old SF stories, but others I had completely forgotten! I was a big fan of Heinlein and van Vogt when I was a kid.

  8. Steve Lewis

    I replied to a fanzine poll in the early 70s in which we were asked to list our favorite SF authors. My first two were Philip K. Dick and A. E. van Vogt. Haven’t read the latter since then!

    PS. I don’t remember the rest of my list, but I’m sure Heinlein and Asimov were in there somewhere and close to the top.

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Steve, we had similar reading tastes back in the early 1970s. Poul Anderson, Clifford Simak, Eric Frank Russell, Edmond Hamilton, and Keith Laumer would have made my list, too

      Reply

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