FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #547: THE GREAT SF STORIES #13 (1951) Edited By Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg

Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Sentinel” (aka, “Sentinel of Eternity”), the story that became the basis of 2001: A Space Odyssey, may be the most famous SF story in The Great SF Stories #13. Isaac Asimov delivers a scathing tale about his “role” in the movie opening. C. M. Kornbluth’s bitter classic “The Marching Morons” might be my favorite story in this volume. I’m also fond of Fritz Leiber’s incredible “A Pail of Air.” Fredric Brown’s “The Weapon” still packs a wallop! And it’s last sentence is still a stunner!

Where earlier The Great SF Stories volumes were dominated by stories from Astounding Science Fiction, Galaxy Science Fiction is the prime source of stories in 1951. New writers with new story themes show up while older SF writers like A. E. Van Vogt and Robert Heinlein are nowhere to be found. The times are changing! GRADE: A
INTRODUCTION by Martin H. Greenberg ix
“Null-P” by William Tenn (WORLDS BEYOND, January 1951) 1
“The Sentinel” by Arthur C. Clarke (TEN STORY FANTASY, Spring 1951) 15
“The Fire Balloons” by Ray Bradbury (IMAGINATION, April 1951) 27
“The Marching Morons” by C. M. Kornbluth (GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, April 1951) 48
“The Weapon” by Fredric Brown (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, April 1951) 83
“Angel’s Egg” by Edgar Pangborn (GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, June 1951) 88
“Breeds There a Man…?” by Isaac Asimov (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, June 1951) 130
“Pictures Don’t Lie” by Katherine MacLean (GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, August 1951) 171
“Superiority” by Arthur C. Clarke (MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, August 1951) 193
“I’m Scared” by Jack Finney (COLLIERS, September 1951) 206
“The Quest for Saint Aquin” by Anthony Boucher (NEW TALES OF TIME & SPACE, 1951) 222
“Tiger by the Tail” by Alan E. Nourse (GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, November 1951) 244
“With These Hands” by C. M. Kornbluth (GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, December 1951) 253
“A Pail of Air” by Fritz Leiber (GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, December 1951) 274
“Dune Roller” by Julian May (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, December 1951) 291

23 thoughts on “FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #547: THE GREAT SF STORIES #13 (1951) Edited By Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg

  1. Steve Oerkfitz

    I would have read all of these at one time or another. I find The Marching Morons problematic. It reminds me too much of the right wing argument for eugenics.
    I remember liking Angel’s Egg by Edgar Pangborn a lot. A much underrated writer.
    Katherine MacLean just passed away a couple of weeks ago.

    1. Todd Mason

      I’ve never understood why I seem to be among the few who sees Kornbluth as holding the “intelligent elite” in “The Marching Morons” in contempt, even while deploring the posited genetic drift. No one comes off well in the story…which is the way Kornbluth, much as Swift, liked it.

      1. Todd Mason

        The 1950s was the decade in which most of the best, and particularly the best new, writers were writing to standards of prose that needed no special pleading, as compared to magazine sf in previous decades, where the pulp tropes and the hobbyist-writer/tall tale-style Gernsbacianism had mostly fallen from the forefront. (A fair amount of sf in book form up through the ’40s and even still at times had/has that naive Look at this new thing I’ve just invented! goshwow when written by people who haven’t bothered to read sf before their own, or as little as possible.) That helped making the fiction more accessible and certainly more attractive on average to beginning readers in the field in those years.

      2. george Post author

        Todd, the 1950s offered a variety of markets for SF and fantasy. Many stories that wouldn’t have been published in the 1940s found a magazine that would in the 1950s.

      3. Todd Mason

        Oh, if and when such stories were written, they usually could find a market, even if Frederik Pohl, Robert Lowndes, or FANTASY BOOK couldn’t pay much for them. Not markets you could pay for groceries, much less rent, from…

      4. Todd Mason

        Indeed…and by the ’50s and early issues/volumes of Pohl/Ballantine’s STAR SF, the pay would be almost as good as earliest PLAYBOY, though not up to the top slicks yet…

  2. Jeff Meyerson

    I have this one on hand. I have read “The Marching Morons” and a couple of the others. A bunch of favorite authors here.

  3. Todd Mason

    Less fantasy, though there are some edge-runners, than most previous volumes…and a nice diversity of sources. Though PLANET and the Thrilling Group did publish stories better than “Dune Roller”, by me…

      1. Todd Mason

        I’m not so much puzzled as seeing the ASF-leaning taste of Asimov, the somewhat fannish taste of Greenberg express themselves when it comes to a story like “Dune Roller”…neither editor is quite as likely to seek out a fine Anderson space opera if a slightly less fine, more sober or even more blatantly metaphorical Anderson story (such as his chess stories from F&SF) are available. Julian May’s later fiction definitely seemed primed to attract a coterie fannish audience for her, and “Roller” does tweak the fannish pleasure centers in a certain way.

        De gustibus…

      2. george Post author

        Todd, I’m with you on some of the curious choices in THE GREAT SF STORIES. But I do see a shift from ASTOUNDING to GALAXY and other SF magazines in the 1950s.

  4. Todd Mason

    Yeah, both editors were definitely fond of GALAXY and F&SF selections as they came available…but I suspect were too ready to dismiss TWS/STARTLING and PLANET in the latter ’40s and early ’50s…except when a story all but couldn’t be ignored…

    1. george Post author

      Todd, I can’t imagine reading dozens of SF magazines published in 1951 to find a handful of “The Great SF Stories.” That would take all the fun out of reading for me.


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