FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #575: THE GREAT SF STORIES #18 (1956) Edited by Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg

As a kid, I was a big fan of Alan E. Nourse. I loved Nourse’s Scavengers in Space (1958) and read it several times in my teens. “Brightside Crossing” shows Nourse’s approach to his craft: presenting convincing characters and scientific applications (for the time) blending in action and adventure. My favorite story in The Great SF Stories #18 is Murray Leinster’s “Exploration Team” that also won a Hugo Award. Leinster had been writing for 40 years and being recognized near the end of his writing career moved me at the time. Damon Knight’s “The Country of the Kind” and “Stranger Station” displays Knight’s versatility. Mack Reynolds specialized in writing SF about economics and business. “Compounded Interest” gives readers a glimpse of the Universe Mack Reynolds would develop over the next 25 years in his unique work. Greenberg’s and Asimov’s introductions to the stories in this volume are particularly informative and entertaining. GRADE: A
“Brightside Crossing” by Alan E. Nourse (GALAXY, January 1956) 13
“Clerical Error” by Mark Clifton (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, February 1956) 35
“Silent Brother” by Algis Budrys (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, February 1956) 75
“The Country of the Kind” by Damon Knight (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, February 1956) 96
“Exploration Team” by Murray Leinster (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, March 1956) 111
“Rite of Passage” by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, May, 1956) 161
“The Man Who Came Early” by Poul Anderson (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION), June 1956) 203
“A Work of Art” by James Blish (SCIENCE FICTION STORIES, July 1956) 230
“Horrer Howce” by Margaret St. Clair (GALAXY, July 1956) 248
“Compounded Interest” by Mack Reynolds (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, August 1956) 261
“The Doorstop” by Reginald Bretnor (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, November 1956) 276
“The Last Question” by Isaac Asimov (SCIENCE FICTION QUARTERLY, November 1956) 286
“Stranger Station” by Damon Knight (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, December 1956) 300
“2066: Election Day” by Michael Shaara (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, December 1956) 327
“And Now the News…” by Theodore Sturgeon (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION) 344

24 thoughts on “FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #575: THE GREAT SF STORIES #18 (1956) Edited by Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg

  1. Prashant C. Trikannad

    George, I occasionally read sf stories from some of the magazines mentioned above at, but not as often as I should considering that there is so much in the public domain. I’d ideally like to read sf in book anthologies.

  2. James W. Harris

    I recently finished 13 and started on 14, so I’m just past the half-way mark in the series. But you are on the far turn, soon to be on the home stretch.

    Have you been buying these books? People want a fair amount for them on eBay and ABEbooks. I wondering how many people out there are doing what we’re doing, reading them through the entire series?

    1. george Post author

      Jim, I bought THE GREAT SF STORIES series as they were published. I read them and enjoyed them. But, they sat on my shelves for decades until you motivated me to reread the entire series, one volume per month. You’re right: I’ll be wrapping up reading the series by the FALL of 2020. I’m already thinking about what I will do next.

  3. Steve Oerkfitz

    My favorite story here is The Country of the Kind by Damon Knight. I’m sure I have read most of these stories at one time or another. A couple don’t sound familiar to me-the St.Clair and the Bretnor, although I am familiar with their work. I also like Stranger Station, The Man Who Came Early, Silent Brother, And Now the News, and A Work of Art. Reread Exploration Team a few years ago and although liking the story I had problems with some really awful dialogue.
    I read a lot of Nourse when I was a teen. Not that there was a lot of Nourse. He seems largely forgotten now.

    1. george Post author

      Steve, you’re right about Nourse. Greenberg’s introduction to “Brightside Crossing” says Nourse wrote non-fiction for juveniles in the late 1960s and 1970s.

  4. Jerry House

    For me, 1956 was a good year for magazine science fiction, but not a great year. Campbell’s ASTOUNDING appeared to be weaker than in previous years; Boucher’s F&SF, while not diminished, seemed to be coasting; and Gold’s GALAXY offered as many so-so stories as it did great stories. Nonetheless, this Asimov/Greenberg volume is far ahead of the two annual “best of” books for that year: T. E. Dikty’s BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES AND NOVELS, 9TH SERIES and Judith Merril’s SF: THE YEAR’S GREATEST SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY: SECOND SERIES.

    At least the big three magazines offered some great serials that year: Heinlein’s DOUBLE STAR and THE DOOR INTO SUMMER, Herbert’s UNDER PRESSURE (THE DRAGON IN THE SEA), Asimov’s PEBBLE IN THE SKY, Pohl’s SLAVE SHIP, and Bester’s THE STARS MY DESTINATION.

    All this, of course, is my humble opinion. Your mileage may vary.

    1. george Post author

      Jerry, your mileage aligns with my mileage for 1956. In retrospect, 1956 was a pivotal year where SF paperbacks became a factor in the market. I think the decline of SF digests can be traced to the rise of paperbacks especially ACE Doubles, Pyramid, and AVON.

    1. wolf

      My wife likes both SF and Fantasy while I concentrate on SF – in the times of Communism/Socialism (before 1989) when she was younger she read everything that was translated into Hungarian, most of the Russian titles but also some US/British titles.
      We just gave away some of these old paperbacks, they were really cheap then, but printed on low quality paper – real pulp … 🙂
      I probably read all of the stories in these anthologies – but forgot a lot, just too many books!

      1. george Post author

        Wolf, I’m about to donate a couple thousand SF and mystery paperbacks to the State University of New York at Buffalo’s Special Collections. Yes, too many books is a Real Thing!

  5. Rick Robinson

    I well remember the great Astounding cover for “Exploration Team”!

    I disagree with Jerry, this was a very good year for SF, and I like the contents of this anthology better than the last few. Tip-top.

  6. Kevin Cheek

    I have read most of these stories, but it’s been many, many years. My recollection is a tad hazy.
    I remember being shaken by both Damon Knight stories. The man was an amazing editor in his Orbit Series, but he was also an amazing writer in his own right.
    I think the common thread shared by most of these stories was using science fiction to hold up a mirror to our society. Even Nourse’s “Brightside Crossing”, the most straight-ahead, golden-age style story of the bunch is as much a commentary on the indomitableness of the human spirit as it is a clever classic SF yarn (though to be honest, that’s pretty much the summary of most golden-age SF). “Stranger Station” asks very uncomfortable questions about how far we’ll go for profit and at what cost. I’d almost put this in a bucket with Lafferty’s “Ride a Tin Can”–perhaps the most devastating story about imperialism for profit ever written. “The Country of the Kind” is a direct mirror on our desire to create a better world and the unintended cost on individualism. Ouch, this one left a mark. Even 5 decades after reading it, I can’t fully come to terms with it. I reject the narrator’s call to pain and destruction. Yet I cannot help but feel for his estrangement. This, along with Alfred Bester’s more psychological stuff is perhaps one of the wellsprings from which flowed the New Wave. It was also the beginning of the drive to work Freud and Jung into popular fiction.

    1. george Post author

      Kevin, I agree with your analysis of the stories in THE GREAT SF STORIES #18. I was also impressed by the Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore story, “Rite of Passage,” which is the last story Off theirs included in the THE GREAT SF STORIES series. Kuttner died a couple years later and C. L. Moore pretty much stopped writing.

    1. george Post author

      Carl, I like the covers on most of the volumes of THE GREAT SF STORIES. I’m very fond of Murray Leinster’s work. His career spans decades. I first read Leinster back in the early 1960s with the ACE Doubles I bought.

  7. Todd Mason

    Always were some women writing and reading (and editing) some science fiction.

    I find myself agreeing more with Rick than Jerry…1956 was an impressive year in short fantastic fiction. Of course, “The Country of the Kind” by itself would make for a good year.

    And don’t forget Mack Reynolds’s political radicalism, and the skeptical eye it led him to cast over all sorts of political philosophy. His father, Verne Reynolds, you might remember, was the presidential candidate of the ultra-orthodox US Socialist Labor Party (founder Daniel De Leon criticized Marx for his own deviations, which might’ve been the incident which inspired Marx to note he wasn’t a Marxist–I should look that up). Stories such as “Pacifist” had an effect on the young me.

    1. george Post author

      Todd, I’m a fan of Mack Reynolds and his economic-based SF. Economics is always political. Look for more Mack Reynolds in future FFBs this year.

  8. Todd Mason

    Kevin Cheek: ““The Country of the Kind” is a direct mirror on our desire to create a better world and the unintended cost on individualism. Ouch, this one left a mark.”

    More than that…it deals with the notion of the artist as a maladjusted member of society, all but by necessity, and how a practical utopian society might not be too friendly to artists…and how that might not be the worst trade-off (or is it?). Of course, the example employed is a working model of Charles Manson (then still a very young adult at time of publication), but the point is made. Individualism is less threatened per se than the desire to create also often being related to the desire to destroy, or at least to come out of the sense of injustice the oppressed…and therefore the less-valued…the artist experiences or at least observes. Quite aside with how difficult many artists are to deal, or live, with. Knight leaves all the questions severely pointed and purposely unanswered. You decide. It’s the opposite of facile.


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