Back in 1952, this massive (585 pages!) anthology set the bar for SF anthologies. John W. Campbell, Jr.’s “Introduction” explains why he didn’t include stories from the 1930s–he wanted to focus on the development of Science Fiction from 1941 to 1951. Campbell also stresses the importance of robots…in 1951! Clearly, the man was a visionary. In defending his choices for The Astounding Science Fiction Anthology, Campbell explains that he picked stories about “ideas” and not necessary “the best” stories written by these authors. The stories are presented in chronological order. This is another aspect of Campbell’s strategy to demonstrate the development of the SF genre over a decade.

I’m also pleased that like Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg’s THE GREAT SF STORIES anthology series, Campbell includes multiple stories by the great writers of this time period. All the great writers are here: Heinlein, Williamson, van Vogt, de Camp, Asimov, Kuttner & Moore, Leinster, Russell, Sturgeon, Simak, and del Rey. Later SF anthologies would include better stories and explore bolder themes, but The Astounding Science Fiction Anthology set the standard in the early 1950s. Have you read these great stories? GRADE: A
“Introduction”, John W. Campbell Jr (1951) ix
“Blowups Happen”, Robert A. Heinlein, (1940) 1
“Hindsight”, Jack Williamson (1940) 43
“Vault of the Beast”, A. E. van Vogt (1940) 60
“The Exalted”, L. Sprague de Camp (1940) 84
“Nightfall”, Isaac Asimov (1941) 105
“When the Bough Breaks,” Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore (1944) 137
“Clash by Night”, Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore, (1943) 160
“Invariant”, John R. Pierce (1944) 213
“First Contact”, Murray Leinster (1945) 218
“Meihem in ce Klasrum” (essay), W. K. Lessing (1946) 247
“Hobbyist”, Eric Frank Russell (1947) 250
“E for Effort”, T. L. Sherred (1947) 280
“Child’s Play”, William Tenn (1947) 326
“Thunder and Roses”, Theodore Sturgeon (1947) 351
“Late Night Final”, Eric Frank Russell (1948) 371
“Cold War”, Kris Neville (1949) 404
“Eternity Lost”, Clifford D. Simak (1949) 415
“The Witches of Karres”, James H. Schmitz (1949) 440
“Over the Top,” Lester del Rey (1949) 480
“Meteor”, William T. Powers (1950) 492
“Last Enemy”, H. Beam Piper (1950) 506
“Historical Note”, Murray Leinster (1951) 561
“Protected Species” H. B. Fyfe (1951) 573
A Note About the Editor 585
“When The Bow Breaks” was published under the “Lewis Padgett” byline. “Clash By Night” was originally published under the “Lawrence O’Donnell” byline. “Meihem in ce Klasrum”, a satirical piece, originally appeared under the “Dolton Edwards” pseudonym.


  1. wolf

    Many of these stories I remember well, read them in the America House in the early 60s where they had so many US books for us – couldn’t afford to buy as a poor student.
    My personal favourites:
    E for effort
    But I liked all those stories – somehow they hit a nerve!
    German SF at that time was really simplistic, not for me.
    A bit OT:
    After I had read all the SF there I had a kind of problem, but …
    A bookstore on my daily march from the train station to the university (no bus …) had some US paperbacks – I bought all the SF I saw, kind of luxury for me. And when I started making some money I got the owner of the bookstore to order more books for me – took more than a month for them to arrive, some didn’t come, others were in error – but still …
    Those were the days!

  2. Todd Mason

    I’ve certainly read most of them…had done by the time I first picked up this volume, which is probably why I haven’t read my copy through over the decades. A fair amount of good stories…but, goodness, George, robots were common coin in sf, and applications in the real world in sf fans’ discussions, by the ’50s…Contrast, say, STAR SCIENCE FICTION no. 1 and you see how the pace was being set in the early ’50s…which takes nothing away from a good cross-section of at least the better work ASF ran in the ’40s and turn of the ’50s…though not the best possible, which would mean (probably) overlapping too much with Groff Conklin’s anthologies, Judith Merril and Frederik Pohl’s (including the ghost job for Robert Heinlein TOMORROW, THE STARS), Donald Wollheim’s, and ADVENTURES IN TIME AND SPACE (which last particularly was heavily mining ASF even more than the others did).

    I’ll agree with “Child’s Play” and “E for Effort”, and I’m definitely fond of “Thunder and Roses” and “Invariant”…the Moore/Kuttners not too shabby, either, among others.

  3. Michael Padgett

    This certainly brings back some memories. I was hit by the SF bug in the mid-50s, and one of the first things I did was join the SF Book Club. My introductory offer was three books for a buck (maybe less), and this was one of them. I’m not as certain of the other two, but both were massive anthologies. One was edited by Groff Conklin, but I don’t recall the name of it. The third was a a two volume anthology edited by Anthony Boucher that may have been called “The Treasury of Great Science Fiction”. It had lots of stories and either two or four novels, including one of Alfred Bester’s novels (possibly “The Stars My Destination”) and one by Poul Anderson. Lots of great reading!

    1. Todd Mason

      four novels indeed…and THE STARS MY DESTINATION and BRAIN WAVE were in V2…

      A Treasury of Great Science Fiction, Vol. 1 ed. Anthony Boucher (Doubleday, 1959, hc)
      Before the Curtain… · Anthony Boucher · in
      Re-Birth · John Wyndham · n. Ballantine 1955
      The Shape of Things That Came · Richard Deming · ss F&SF Oct 1951
      Pillar of Fire · Ray Bradbury · nv Planet Stories Sum 1948
      Waldo · Robert A. Heinlein · na Astounding Aug 1942
      The Father-Thing · Philip K. Dick · ss F&SF Dec 1954
      The Children’s Hour · Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore · nv Astounding Mar 1944, as by Lawrence O’Donnell
      Gomez · C. M. Kornbluth · nv The Explorers, Ballantine 1954
      The (Widget), the (Wadget), and Boff · Theodore Sturgeon · na F&SF Nov 1955 (+1)
      Sandra · George P. Elliott · ss F&SF Oct 1957
      Beyond Space and Time · Joel Townsley Rogers · nv All-American Fiction Feb 1938
      The Martian Crown Jewels · Poul Anderson · ss Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Feb 1958
      The Weapon Shops of Isher [Isher] · A. E. van Vogt · n. Greenberg Publishers 1951

      A Treasury of Great Science Fiction, Vol. 2 ed. Anthony Boucher (Doubleday, 1959, hc)
      Brain Wave · Poul Anderson · n. Ballantine 1954
      Bullard Reflects [Bullard] · Malcolm Jameson · ss Astounding Dec 1941
      The Lost Years · Oscar Lewis · ex Knopf 1951
      Dead Center · Judith Merril · nv F&SF Nov 1954
      Lost Art [Venus Equilateral] · George O. Smith · nv Astounding Dec 1943
      The Other Side of the Sky · Arthur C. Clarke · gp Infinity Science Fiction Sep 1957 (+1); Special Delivery, ss Infinity Science Fiction Sep 1957; Feathered Friend, ss Infinity Science Fiction Sep 1957; Take a Deep Breath, ss Infinity Science Fiction Sep 1957; Freedom of Space, ss Infinity Science Fiction Oct 1957; Passer-By, ss Infinity Science Fiction Oct 1957; The Call of the Stars, ss Infinity Science Fiction Oct 1957
      The Man Who Sold the Moon [D.D. Harriman] · Robert A. Heinlein · na The Man Who Sold the Moon, Shasta 1950
      Magic City [Meg] · Nelson S. Bond · nv Astounding Feb 1941
      The Morning of the Day They Did It · E. B. White · ss The New Yorker Feb 1950
      Piggy Bank · Henry Kuttner · nv Astounding Dec 1942
      Letters from Laura · Mildred Clingerman · ss F&SF Oct 1954
      The Stars My Destination [revised from Tiger! Tiger!] · Alfred Bester · n. Galaxy Oct 1956 (+3); New American Library Mar 1957


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