Back in the early 1970s, ACE Books started publishing a series of books called “Science Fiction From the Great Years.” The series comprised 15 titles (see the list below) before the series was terminated. I have many of these books, but my favorites are Frederik Pohl and Carol Pohl’s Science Fiction: The Great Years (1973) both Volume 1 and Volume 2. Today I’m just focused on Volume One. A good chunk of this anthology is “And Then There Were None by Eric Frank Russell. This short novel displays Russell’s dark side in contrast with his humorous SF stories. I enjoyed Frederic Brown’s “Placet is a Crazy Place.”

Perhaps the best known story in this anthology is C. M. Kornbluth’s classic, “The Little Black Bag.” It still chills me after multiple readings. If you’re looking for an excellent SF collection, I highly recommend Science Fiction: The Great Years, Volume 1. I’ll be reviewing Volume 2 soon. GRADE: A


“Introduction the First — 7

“And Then There Were None — Eric Frank Russell (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, 1951) 13

“The Liberation of Earth” — William Tenn (FUTURE SCIENCE FICTION, 1953) 102

“Old Faithful” — Raymond Z. Gallun (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, 1934) 124

“Placet Is a Crazy Place” — Fredric Brown (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, 1946) 173

“Wings of the Lightning Land” — James MacCreigh (ASTONISHING STORIES, 1941) 193

“The Little Black Bag” — C. M. Kornbluth (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, 1950) 235

“A Matter of Form” — H. L. Gold. ( ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, 1938) 271


Armageddon 2419 A.D., Philip Francis Nowlan (1972, 192 pages, $0.75)
The Mightiest Machine, John W. Campbell (1972, 217 pages, $0.95)
The Moon Is Hell, John W. Campbell (1973, 255 pages, $0.75)
Alien Planet, Fletcher Pratt (1973, 189 pages, $0.75)
Science Fiction: The Great Years, Volume I, edited by Frederik Pohl & Carol Pohl (1973, 349 pages, $1.25)
The Brain-Stealers, Murray Leinster (1974, 177 pages, $1.50)
Metropolis, Thea von Harbou (1975, 222 pages, $1.25)
The Galaxy Primes, Edward E. ‘Doc’ Smith (1976, 238 pages, $1.25)
The Radio Planet, Ralph Milne Farley (1976, 297 pages, $1.50)
Science Fiction: The Great Years, Volume II, edited by Frederik Pohl & Carol Pohl (1976, 276 pages, $1.50)
A Brand New World, Ray Cummings (1976, 205 pages, $1.25)
The Ultimate Weapon, John W. Campbell (1976, 123 pages, $1.25)
The Radio Beasts, Ralph Milne Farley (1976, 231 pages, $1.50)
Sentinels from Space, Eric Frank Russell (1976, 244 pages, $1.50)
The Blind Spot, Austin Hall & Homer Eon Flint (1976, 346 pages, $1.75)

32 thoughts on “FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #607: SCIENCE FICTION: THE GREAT YEARS, VOLUME 1 Edited by Frederik Pohl & Carol Pohl

  1. Todd Mason

    Ace in 1973 was broke, just before it was bought out again, and Pohl had had enough of being their editor by about then, so this line of books was both a reasonable stab at nostalgia marketing and within the limited budget they had, since few of these books they reprinted were too highly sought after by other publishers. (You missed an And between Hall’s and Flint’s names on THE BLIND SPOT…one of the “classics” Damon Knight thoroughly autopsied in the various editions of IN SEARCH OF WONDER.) The Carol and Frederik Pohl anthologies were the pick of the litter…I think they were on the verge of break-up at about that time, and wonder if the anthologies were a kind of let’s work together to see if we can stay together kind of thing. “James McCreigh”, as you know, was Pohl himself…as he would note in memoirs, when he was editing ASTONISHING STORIES, it took him a while to catch on that pulp editors were so poorly paid at Popular Publications subsidiary Fictioneers because the editors were expected to write for their own magazines. So Pohl started to do so…

    1. george Post author

      Todd, once Donald A. Wollheim left ACE Books, that publisher drifted until Penguin acquired them. I consider Pohl one of the great SF editors of all time.

  2. Jerry House

    A great collection! (Although a number of books in this series should have been called “Science Fiction From The Creaky Years.”)

    I never knew that the author of “The Liberation of Earth” was so young.

      1. george Post author

        Todd, I fixed the “and” in THE BLIND SPOT and now I’ll fix the maddening Spellchecker Tenn/Teen nonsense. Thanks for the heads up on these corrections.

      2. george Post author

        Jerry, I fixed “Fredric” THREE TIMES! And, the minute my head is turned, the Spellchecker changes it! Arrrgggggh!

  3. Jeff Meyerson

    I know I’ve read the Kornbluth and Fred Brown stories. Amazing how many anthologies there were in those days.

      1. Jeff Meyerson

        I’m reading Silverberg’s ALIEN ARCHIVES, and it is interesting reading his comments on dealing with Pohl as an editor (and friend) in the late ’60s, when he objected to the “darkness” (and sex) in Silverberg’s stories.

      2. george Post author

        Jeff, Silverberg’s sex in his SF stories and novels always seemed contrived to me. Apparently Pohl felt the same way I did. As for the “darkness,” many of Silverberg’s early SF stories are downbeat, too.

      3. Todd Mason

        Pohl was always worried about parents confiscating issues of his magazines from young readers…and if he wasn’t, publisher Robert Guinn probably was encouraging him to be so, and he probably at the urging of the newsstand distributors in part.

        Then when Guinn sold the magazines to UPD Publictations, long-term porn paperback publishers as well as the owners of the Award Books paperback line, a lot of those concerns went by the wayside…at least after Heinlen’s I WILL FEAR NO EVIL was censored.

        See also Pohl’s editorial memoir wrapped around samples from his various editorial gigs, YESTERDAY’S TOMORROWS…he was indeed an important editor, to say the least, in the sf field.

      4. Todd Mason

        Farmer, and others…though James Gunn, at least as late as in the 1970s and in his history of sf ALTERNATE WORLDS, could think of no real place for sex in sf.

        Meanwhile, Robert Mills’s VENTURE SCIENCE FICTION magazine, the first sfnal companion to F&SF in the late ’50s, was notable for its embrace of sexual themes , in a more sophisticated manner than the would-be “spicy” MARVEL STORIES had sported briefly in the ’30s. F&SF, as Boucher noted to writers in the earliest years, was also open to A Little More sex than most of the magazines in the field at that time. Unsurprisingly, so too was Damon Knight’s short-lived WORLDS BEYOND…and STARTLING STORIES and THRILLING WONDER STORIES after “The Lovers”–notable that Farmer sold his continuing series of sexual explorations to both F&SF and the THRILLING Group magazines. And H. L. Gold’s BEYOND FANTASY FICTION was even more rife with sexual tension, if less explicitly and more tacitly than VENTURE would be, or certainly than Gold’s GALAXY was. Though there were moments there, too.

  4. Michael Padgett

    Of the stories, the only one I’m certain I read was the Kornbluth, certainly the most famous story in the anthology. Of the novels listed I know I read “The Galaxy Primes”, but I’m pretty certain I read it in a magazine rather than in book form. By 1976 I was reading very little, if any, SF. And if I had it wouldn’t have been E. E. Smith.

    1. george Post author

      Rick, Pohl also did a fine anthology of 1950 stories, too. I’ll have to dig around and find it. The 1950s was a boom decade for SF magazines!

  5. Rick Robinson

    By the way, I may be “off the air” for a while, I’m having serious problems with the computer, a virus problem, and can’t strip it. Apple has zero appointments for the next 10 days, and maybe further out than that. Damn Covid. This comes from the iPhone, but the buttons are too damn small for my fat fingers.

    1. wolf

      Rick, good luck with this!
      It probably is no help for you but I have the same problem with my “Wurstfinger” (sausage fingers) as we say in German.

  6. Jeff Smith

    Somehow I missed this promotion, even though I was working at a Waldenbooks for part of the time. I don’t know if I would have bought them or not—it certainly wasn’t my preferred reading, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have bought them. I do have the earlier 60s Ace versions of Metropolis and The Blind Spot, and DID read those. (I liked Metropolis better.)

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, I have a few of SCIENCE FICTION FROM THE GREAT YEARS volumes, but not all of them. The Pohl anthologies are the pick of the litter.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, I’ve had nothing but problems with the WORDPRESS Spellchecker. First the “Tenn/Teen” problem. Then the “Frederic/Fredric” problem. I type in the correct word and the Spellchecker changes it. Grrrrrrr!

  7. Art Scott

    My brief (ca. 2 yr) affair with SF began with my reading “The Liberation of Earth”. Not in a sci-fi mag or anthology, but reprinted in Harvey Kurtzman’s HELP! magazine. The dark, satirical tone appealed to me, so I read more Tenn, then Pohl & Kornbluth & on from there. Once saturated with the genre, I gave up cold turkey, and haven’t been back.

  8. Todd Mason

    And HELP! had the same sort of partially sublimated, partially overt sexual tone as BEYOND did a decade later…perhaps in part since HELP! was explicitly meant to appeal to teen audiences in part…hence the same push-me/pull-you concerns with Not Being TOO Racy that Pohl, perhaps no more foolishly, danced around with the GALAXY group of magazines in the ’60s.

  9. Todd Mason

    “The Liberation of Earth” was famously bounced by many markets–H. L. Gold was afraid to publish it at the height of McCarthyism, for example–and as a result was one of the many impressive stories Robert Lowndes was able to publish in his low-budget Columbia Publications sf magazines…most notable FUTURE SF, SCIENCE FICTION STORIES and SCIENCE FICTION QUARTERLY…


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