YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES: 1952 Edited by Everett F. Bleiler & T. E. Dikty

I was struck by the fact that none of these “Best” stories came from Astounding Science Fiction. This breaks a string of Astounding stories from 1949, 1950, and 1951 that were included in Bleiler & Dikty’s previous YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION volumes. Also, various “new” SF magazines like Worlds Beyond and New Worlds are now represented. By 1951, the SF publishing landscape was changing. This volume includes C. M. Kornbluth’s “The Marching Morons” about a future when the average IQ is 45. Fredric Brown and Mack Reynolds shocked the SF field with their “Dark Interlude.” Time travel plays a role in several of these stories. My favorite is “Of Time and Third Avenue” by Alfred Bester with its clever ending. Anthony Boucher’s fabulous “Nine-Finger Jack” shows how to defeat a Venusian invasion. Jack Vance’s “Men of Ten Books” explores the positives and negatives of motivation on a societal level. GRADE: A
Introduction (The Best Science-Fiction Stories: 1952) – (1952) – essay by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty 7
The Other Side – (1951) – shortstory by Walter Kubilius (SUPER SCIENCE STORIES, April 1951) 21
Of Time and Third Avenue – (1951) – shortstory by Alfred Bester (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1951) 38
The Marching Morons – (1951) – novelette by C. M. Kornbluth [as by Cyril Kornbluth] (Galaxy Science Fiction, April 1951) 47
A Peculiar People – (1951) – shortstory by Betsy Curtis (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August 1951) 81
Extending the Holdings – (1951) – shortstory by Donald A. Wollheim [as by David Grinnell] (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1951) 97
The Tourist Trade – (1951) – shortstory by Wilson Tucker (Worlds Beyond, January 1951) 102
The Two Shadows – (1951) – novelette by William F. Temple (Startling Stories, March 1951) 113
Balance – [Max Larkin] – (1951) – shortstory by John Christopher (New Worlds, Spring 1951) 140
Brightness Falls from the Air – (1951) – shortstory by Margaret St. Clair [as by Idris Seabright] (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1951) 159
Witch War – (1951) – shortstory by Richard Matheson (Startling Stories, July 1951) 166
At No Extra Cost – (1951) – shortstory by Peter Phillips (Marvel Science Stories, August 1951) 172
Nine-Finger Jack – (1951) – shortstory by Anthony Boucher (Esquire, May 1951) 190
Appointment in Tomorrow – (1951) – novelette by Fritz Leiber (Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1951) 196
The Rats – (1951) – shortstory by Arthur Porges (Man’s World, February 1951) 225
Men of the Ten Books – (1951) – shortstory by Jack Vance (variant of The Ten Books) (Startling Stories, March 1951) 235
Generation of Noah – (1951) – shortstory by William Tenn (Suspense, Spring 1951) 258
Dark Interlude – (1951) – shortstory by Fredric Brown and Mack Reynolds (Galaxy Science Fiction, January 1951) 271
The Pedestrian – (1951) – shortstory by Ray Bradbury (The Reporter, August 7, 1951) 280
About the Authors (The Best Science-Fiction Stories: 1952) – (1952) – essay by uncredited 286

25 thoughts on “YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES: 1952 Edited by Everett F. Bleiler & T. E. Dikty

      1. Todd Mason

        There was briefly a US edition at the turn of the ’60s…and we did get best-of anthologies from Berkley and others after Michael Moorcock and his successors took over editorial duties. Of course, A Lot of the New Wave was also birthed by Frederik Pohl’s GALAXY and IF and WORLDS OF TOMORROW, Avram Davidson’s FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, Cele Goldsmith Lalli’s FANTASTIC and AMAZING, Ted Carnell’s NEW WORLDS and SCIENCE FANTASY, Judith Merril’ s best of the year anthology, and eventually the likes of Damon Knight’s ORBIT anthology series, Harlan Ellison’s DANGEROUS VISIONS, and the likes of Samuel Delany and Marilyn Hacker’s QUARK going about as experimental as the Moorcock NEW WORLDS or the Harry Harrison/Keith Roberts SF IMPULSE would in the UK.

      2. george Post author

        Todd, I was mildly interested in the New Wave especially Michael Moorcock’s work in the Sixties. Some of the New Wave stories seemed like gibberish to me.

  1. Steve Oerkfitz

    Lots of good writers here. Probably read a lot of these in other collections. Big fan of the Bester and Kornbluth.

      1. Todd Mason

        He was writing, but not publishing in SF…more like a decade, from the early-mid ’60s (“They Don’t Make Life Like They Used To” 1963/”The Flowered Thundermug” 1964) to the early-mid ’70s (“The Animal Fair” 1972)…he was mostly writing travel journalism and interviews for HOLIDAY magazine in those years, but when Curtis Publishing collapsed, he found himself out of his dream job, and turned back to sf, trying to make a career of it for a while. It didn’t work out so well for him…

      2. george Post author

        Todd, you’re right. Bester’s “window of opportunity” closed when he tried to reignite his writing career.

  2. Jeff Meyerson

    Yes, Deb, it’s been anthologized many times, but perhaps never more relevant than it is now.

    Great collection of authors.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, you’re right. This anthology is full of great stories. The 1950s, with all the new SF digest magazines, was bursting with new writers and new stories.

  3. Rick Robinson

    A good batch of stories / long stories. I’m also surprised no entries from ASF, as there were plenty of good things in the 1952 issues, but apparently not what the editors were looking for.

  4. Todd Mason

    I suspect that wither John Campbell, ASTOUNDING’s editor, or Street and Smith, or both, were in some sort of snit with the BOTY editors, and didn’t want to let them reprint any stories. This also happened with the Dutton BEST DETECTIVE STORIES OF THE YEAR when Brett Halliday was editing…ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE wouldn’t allow any stories from their issues be reprinted, perhaps in part because of Halliday’s association with MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE.

    1. Todd Mason

      That should be Either Campbell or S&S or both were in a snit. They were definitely getting into a snit with GALAXY at this point for the GALAXY NOVELS magazine/books for reprinting stories that had been first published in ASTOUNDING.

      1. Todd Mason

        Yes, I know. That doesn’t mean that Campbell or Street and Smith didn’t have a beef, justified or not, with Fell or the annual’s editors, as well.

  5. Todd Mason

    A lot of people like to think of Cyril Kornbluth’s story as endorsing eugenics, and he certainly had an ultraviolet view of humanity, but I think his criticism certainly extends to those who want to rid themselves of their burden of unintelligent people. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think the last passages in the story suggest this rather strongly. Meanwhile, the film IDIOCRACY is a dumbed-down ripoff of the story, if with some clever touches to it.

    It was certainly relevant then as much as now…with Nixon as a very activist VP, having come to prominence, as did Robert Kennedy, as an aide to Joe McCarthy…

    1. george Post author

      Todd, Kornbluth’s “The Marching Morons” is a mashup of eugenics and Malthusian theory. Trying to “fix” the population problem through Time Travel was a very Kornbluthian strategy.

      1. Todd Mason

        Or through outsourcing mass-murder…outsourcing probably not a term anyone used for a few decades after the story was published. Mass-murder, alas, already over-familiar.

      2. wolf

        I still remember the stories and novels by Kornbluth and Pohl – they had a big influence on me!

        Shouldn’t Gravy Planet (The Space Merchants as a novel) be contained here – or at least be mentioned?

  6. Jim Harris

    I wish I had more time to read these stories. I wish you had more time to write about them. I want to know more about each year of science fiction.

    1. george Post author

      Jim, I plan to finish up the Bleiler & Dikty series this Summer. Then I plan to reread one volume of Asimov/Greenberg’s DAW series per month. Like you, I really enjoy these SF stories from the past.


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