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Quite possibly the greatest science fiction collection of all time - past, present and future. What if life was neverending? What if you could change your body to adapt to an alien ecology? What if the pope were a robot? Spanning galaxies and millennia, this must-have anthology showcases classic contributions from H. G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Octavia E. Butler, and Kurt Quite possibly the greatest science fiction collection of all time - past, present and future. What if life was neverending? What if you could change your body to adapt to an alien ecology? What if the pope were a robot? Spanning galaxies and millennia, this must-have anthology showcases classic contributions from H. G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Octavia E. Butler, and Kurt Vonnegut, alongside a century of the eccentrics, rebels, and visionaries who have inspired generations of readers. Within its pages, you'll find beloved worlds of space opera, hard SF, cyberpunk, the New Wave, and more. Learn about the secret history of science fiction, from titans of literature who also wrote SF to less well-known authors from more than twenty-five countries, some never before translated into English. In The Big Book of Science Fiction, literary power couple Ann and Jeff VanderMeer transport readers from Mars to Mechanopolis, planet Earth to parts unknown. Immerse yourself in the genre that predicted electric cars, space tourism, and smartphones. Sit back, buckle up, and dial in the coordinates, as this stellar anthology has got worlds within worlds. Including: . Legendary tales from Isaac Asimov and Ursula K. Le Guin . An unearthed sci-fi story from W. E. B. Du Bois . The first publication in twenty years of the work of cybernetic visionary David R. Bunch . A rare and brilliant novella by Chinese international sensation Cixin Liu Plus: . Aliens! . Space battles! . Robots! . Technology gone wrong! . Technology gone right!"


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Quite possibly the greatest science fiction collection of all time - past, present and future. What if life was neverending? What if you could change your body to adapt to an alien ecology? What if the pope were a robot? Spanning galaxies and millennia, this must-have anthology showcases classic contributions from H. G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Octavia E. Butler, and Kurt Quite possibly the greatest science fiction collection of all time - past, present and future. What if life was neverending? What if you could change your body to adapt to an alien ecology? What if the pope were a robot? Spanning galaxies and millennia, this must-have anthology showcases classic contributions from H. G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Octavia E. Butler, and Kurt Vonnegut, alongside a century of the eccentrics, rebels, and visionaries who have inspired generations of readers. Within its pages, you'll find beloved worlds of space opera, hard SF, cyberpunk, the New Wave, and more. Learn about the secret history of science fiction, from titans of literature who also wrote SF to less well-known authors from more than twenty-five countries, some never before translated into English. In The Big Book of Science Fiction, literary power couple Ann and Jeff VanderMeer transport readers from Mars to Mechanopolis, planet Earth to parts unknown. Immerse yourself in the genre that predicted electric cars, space tourism, and smartphones. Sit back, buckle up, and dial in the coordinates, as this stellar anthology has got worlds within worlds. Including: . Legendary tales from Isaac Asimov and Ursula K. Le Guin . An unearthed sci-fi story from W. E. B. Du Bois . The first publication in twenty years of the work of cybernetic visionary David R. Bunch . A rare and brilliant novella by Chinese international sensation Cixin Liu Plus: . Aliens! . Space battles! . Robots! . Technology gone wrong! . Technology gone right!"

30 review for The Big Book of Science Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    How do you read an anthology? I always buy them and they sit on my shelf. Well I started a few stories from the end and read forward, and at some point will pick another starting point. I'll write tiny reviews of the stories when I finish them. I didn't want to retype the table of contents, but this one is alphabetical by author last name rather than in the order the book has them. Behind a spoiler tag for space. (view spoiler)[ Yoshio Aramaki, “Soft Clocks” 1968 (Japan) – translated by Kazuko How do you read an anthology? I always buy them and they sit on my shelf. Well I started a few stories from the end and read forward, and at some point will pick another starting point. I'll write tiny reviews of the stories when I finish them. I didn't want to retype the table of contents, but this one is alphabetical by author last name rather than in the order the book has them. Behind a spoiler tag for space. (view spoiler)[ Yoshio Aramaki, “Soft Clocks” 1968 (Japan) – translated by Kazuko Behrens and stylized by Lewis Shiner Juan José Arreola, “Baby H.P.” 1952 (Mexico) – new translation by Larry Nolen Isaac Asimov, “The Last Question” 1956 J.G. Ballard, “The Voices of Time” 1960 Iain M. Banks, “A Gift from the Culture” 1987 Jacques Barbéri, “Mondo Cane” 1983 (France) – first translation by Brian Evenson John Baxter, “The Hands” 1965 Barrington J. Bayley, “Sporting with the Chid” 1979 Greg Bear, “Blood Music” 1983 Dmitri Bilenkin, “Crossing of the Paths” 1984 – new translation by James Womack Jon Bing, “The Owl of Bear Island” 1986 (Norway) - translation Adolfo Bioy Casares, “The Squid Chooses Its Own Ink” 1962 (Argentina) - new translation by Marian Womack Michael Bishop, “The House of Compassionate Sharers” 1977 James Blish, “Surface Tension” 1952 Michael Blumlein, “The Brains of Rats” 1990 Jorge Luis Borges, “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” 1940 (Argentina) – translation by Andrew Hurley Ray Bradbury, “September 2005: The Martian” 1949 David R. Bunch, “Three From Moderan” 1959, 1970 Octavia Butler, “Bloodchild” 1984 Pat Cadigan, “Variations on a Man” 1984 André Carneiro, “Darkness” 1965 (Brazil) – translation by Leo L. Barrow Stepan Chapman, “How Alex Became a Machine” 1996 C.J. Cherryh, “Pots” 1985 Ted Chiang, “The Story of Your Life” 1998 This was a re-read for me, but it had been long enough where the parts came together in a surprising way once again. I understand from the VanderMeer introduction to the story that this will be a film in the upcoming year or so (article on film may have story spoilers) and that would definitely be interesting! I hope they don't just have the aliens off-stage. Arthur C. Clarke, “The Star” 1955 John Crowley, “Snow” 1985 Samuel R. Delany, “Aye, and Gomorrah” 1967 Philip K. Dick, “Beyond Lies the Wub” 1952 Cory Doctorow, “Craphound” 1998 Fun story with alien pickers. And somehow in the zany narrative Doctorow seems to be asking what aliens are really looking for. I think I got what he was saying between the lines, but maybe they just like cowboys. W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Comet” 1920 Jean-Claude Dunyach, “Paranamanco” 1987 (France) – translation by Sheryl Curtis S. N. Dyer, “Passing as a Flower in the City of the Dead” 1984 Harlan Ellison, “‘Repent Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktock Man” 1965 Carol Emshwiller, “Pelt” 1958 Paul Ernst, “The Microscopic Giants” 1936 Karen Joy Fowler, “The Lake Was Full of Artificial Things” 1985 Sever Gansovsky, “Day of Wrath” 1964 (Ukraine) – new translation by James Womack William Gibson, “New Rose Hotel” 1984 Angélica Gorodischer, “The Unmistakable Smell of Wood Violets” 1973 (Argentina) – first translation by Marian Womack Edmond Hamilton, “The Star Stealers” 1929 Han Song, “Two Small Birds” 1988 (China) – first translation by John Chu Alfred Jarry, “The Elements of Pataphysics” 1911 (re-translation by Gio Clairval; France) Gwyneth Jones, “The Universe of Things” 1993 Langdon Jones, “The Hall of Machines” 1968 Kaijo Shinji, “Reiko’s Universe Box” 1981 (Japan) – translation by Toyoda Takashi and Gene van Troyer Gérard Klein, “The Monster” 1958 (France) – translation by Damon Knight Damon Knight, “Stranger Station” 1956 Leena Krohn, “The Gorgonoids” 1992 (Finland) – translation by Hildi Hawkins R.A. Lafferty, “Nine Hundred Grandmothers” 1966 Kojo Laing, “Vacancy for the Post of Jesus Christ” 1992 (Ghana) Geoffrey A. Landis, “Vacuum States” 1988 Tanith Lee, “Crying in the Rain” 1987 Ursula K. Le Guin, “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow” 1971 Stanisław Lem, “Let Us Save the Universe” 1981 (Poland) – translation by Joel Stern and Maria Swiecicka-Ziemianek Cixin Liu, “The Poetry Cloud” 1997 (China) – translation by Chi-yin Ip and Cheuk Wong I started with this story after Jeff VanderMeer posted that someone emailed him that this was the best story of the anthology. A hollow earth, dismissive elitist gods, and Chinese poetry... also the limits of technology. I think I'd need to read it again. I love humanity being portrayed as uncivilized. Katherine MacLean, “The Snowball Effect” 1952 Geoffrey Maloney, “Remnants of the Virago Crypto-System” 1995 George R.R. Martin, “Sandkings” 1979 Michael Moorcock, “The Frozen Cardinal” 1987 Pat Murphy, “Rachel in Love” 1987 Misha Nogha, “Death is Static Death is Movement” 1990 Silvina Ocampo, “The Waves” 1959 (Argentina) – first translation by Marian Womack Chad Oliver, “Let Me Live in a House” 1954 Manjula Padmanabhan, “Sharing Air” 1984 (India) Frederick Pohl, “Day Million” 1966 Rachel Pollack, “Burning Sky” 1989 Robert Reed, “The Remoras” 1994 Kim Stanley Robinson, “Before I Wake”1989 Joanna Russ, “When It Changed” 1972 Josephine Saxton, “The Snake Who Had Read Chomsky” 1981 Paul Scheerbart, “The New Abyss” 1911 (Germany) – first translation by Daniel Ableev and Sarah Kaseem James H. Schmitz, “Grandpa” 1955 Vadim Shefner, “A Modest Genius” 1965 (Russia) –translation by Matthew J. O’Connell Robert Silverberg, “Good News from the Vatican” 1971 Clifford D. Simak, “Desertion” 1944 Johanna Sinisalo, “Baby Doll” 2002 (Finland) – translation by David Hackston Science fiction in the sense that the world isn't quite real, but almost. Children are highly sexualized and become a commodity. Uncomfortably close to the real world I suppose, but a strange ending to the anthology. The intro mentions a parallel with a few other stories in the book so perhaps once I reread the Tiptree I will understand it better. Cordwainer Smith, “The Game of Rat and Dragon” 1955 Margaret St. Clair, “Prott” 1985 Bruce Sterling, “Swarm” 1982 Karl Hans Strobl, “The Triumph of Mechanics” 1907 (Germany) – first translation by Gio Clairval Arkady & Boris Strugatsky, “The Visitors” 1958 (Russia) – new translation by James Womack Theodore Sturgeon, “The Man Who Lost the Sea” 1959 William Tenn, “The Liberation of Earth” 1953 William Tenn, “Ghost Standard” 1994 James Tiptree, Jr., “And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side” 1972 Tatyana Tolstoya, “The Slynx” 2000 (Russia) – translation by Jamey Gambrell This is an excerpt from the novel of the same name. What beautiful writing. I have meant to read this novel for a while. Like many Russians, it is a bit of a tease, writing about nature and possibly meaning something else. Yasutaka Tsutsui, “Standing Woman” 1974 (Japan) – translation by Dana Lewis Lisa Tuttle, “Wives” 1979 Miguel de Unamuno, “Mechanopolis” 1913 (Spain) – new translation by Marian Womack Élisabeth Vonarburg, “Readers of Lost Art” 1987 (Canada/Quebec) – translation by Howard Scott Kurt Vonnegut, “2BRO2B” 1962 H.G. Wells, “The Star,” 1897 James White, “Sector General” 1957 Connie Willis, “Schwarzschild Radius” 1987 Gene Wolfe, “All the Hues of Hell” 1987 Alicia Yánez Cossío, “The IWM 1000” 1975 (Chile) – translation by Susana Castillo and Elsie Adams Valentina Zhuravlyova, “The Astronaut” 1960 (Russia) – new translation by James Womack Yefim Zozulya, “The Doom of Principal City” 1918 (Russian) – first translation by Vlad Zhenevsky (hide spoiler)]

  2. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I HAVE FINISHED THIS BIG GREEN BEAST!! It's been a journey of almost two years at one story per week. Sometimes I let a few stories pile up before reading them all at once, but the overall average rate was one per week. This book is huge, like a telephone book, with telephone book-like pages, so it was a daunting project. And for someone who tends to start things with the best of intentions, but then doesn't finish for whatever reason, I am very happy that I stuck with this short story project to I HAVE FINISHED THIS BIG GREEN BEAST!! It's been a journey of almost two years at one story per week. Sometimes I let a few stories pile up before reading them all at once, but the overall average rate was one per week. This book is huge, like a telephone book, with telephone book-like pages, so it was a daunting project. And for someone who tends to start things with the best of intentions, but then doesn't finish for whatever reason, I am very happy that I stuck with this short story project to the end. The stories were not always great, or even good. And some of them I had no clue what they were even about. But there were several very good stories that were either pretty creepy, or else thought-provoking. Overall I had a pretty enjoyable experience with reading this book. I think what I liked best was that the stories are all in chronological order, and each one is prefaced with an author bio. And sometimes the bio was more interesting than the story. It was a great way to get a nice sampling and overview of a variety of authors in the field. I would say for the stories themselves, the book gets a rating of 3 stars as there was quite the range of stories on the spectrum - from one to five stars. But I'm tacking on another star just because I always looked forward to see what I would be reading next. And if the story wasn't very good, at least it wasn't very long, then it was on to the next one. ****************************** Previous update: Embarking on a beast of a buddy read. Tentative schedule - 1 story per week. 105 stories total by 105 authors are included in this book. Bonus for the way my brain works - the stories are organized in chronological order and encompass the 20th century. I appreciate the page before each story which describes the author's background and mentions longer works to consider. One story down, "The Star" by H.G. Wells, 104 to go.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    The Next 58 Following on from https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... **** 1968 (continued) The Dance of the Changer and the Three : Terry Carr Going Down Smooth : Robert Silverberg The Comsat Angels : J G Ballard 1969 "Franz Kafka" by Jorge Luis Borges : Alvin Greenberg The Holland of the Mind : Pamela Zoline Sundance : Robert Silverberg 1970 Heresies of the Huge God : Brian W Aldiss The Worm that Flies : Brian W Aldiss Where No Sun Shines : Gardner Dozois 1971 The Sliced-Crosswise Only-on-Thursday World The Next 58 Following on from https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... **** 1968 (continued) The Dance of the Changer and the Three : Terry Carr Going Down Smooth : Robert Silverberg The Comsat Angels : J G Ballard 1969 "Franz Kafka" by Jorge Luis Borges : Alvin Greenberg The Holland of the Mind : Pamela Zoline Sundance : Robert Silverberg 1970 Heresies of the Huge God : Brian W Aldiss The Worm that Flies : Brian W Aldiss Where No Sun Shines : Gardner Dozois 1971 The Sliced-Crosswise Only-on-Thursday World : Philip Jose Farmer 1972 Ozymandias : Terry Carr The Milk of Paradise : James M Tiptree, Jr The Head and the Hand : Christopher Priest When we Went to See the End of the World : Robert Silverberg The Meeting : Frederick Pohl and C M Kornbluth 1974 The Last Flight of Dr Ain : James M Tiptree, Jr 1975 The Air Disaster : J G Ballard 1976 I See You : Damon Knight Tricentennial : Joe Haldeman 1977 If this is Winnetka, you must be Judy : F M Busby Air Raid : John Varley The Screwfly Solution : James M Tiptree, Jr Particle Theory : Edward Bryant 1981 The Start of the End of it All : Carol Emshwiller 1982 Fire Watch : Connie Willis Swarm : Bruce Sterling 1983 Hardfought : Greg Bear 1985 Snow : John Crowley All my Darling Daughters : Connie Willis Roadside Rescue : Pat Cadigan 1986 Hatrack River : Orson Scott Card R&R : Lucius Shepherd Note : these two long stories (awright, novelettes) are wonderful examples of how the new sf writers of the 1980s found that magical thing all the critics said sf never had : style. The writing is gorgeous, never mind the ideas, which are also. 1987 At the Cross-Time Jaunters' Ball : Alexander Jablokov 1990 Bears Discover Fire : Terry Bisson Mr Boy : Patrick Kelly 1991 Beggars in Spain : Nancy Kress 1993 Papa : Ian McLeod 1994 Flowering Mandrake : George Turner Cocoon : Greg Egan Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge : Mike Resnick None so Blind : Joe Haldeman 1995 Hot Times in Magma City : Silverberg Judgement Engine : Greg Bear We were out of our Minds with Joy : David Marusek Mortimer Gray's "History of Death" : Brian Stableford 1996 The Dead : Michael Swanwick The Flowers of Aulit Prison : Nancy Kress Bicycle Repairman : Bruce Sterling 1997 Moon Six : Stephen Baxter 1998 Taklamakan : Bruce Sterling 1999 The Wedding Album : David Marusek Macs : Terry Bisson People Came from Earth : Stephen Baxter 2000 Tendeleo's Story : Ian Macdonald The Thing about Benny : M Shayne Bell 2002 In Paradise : Bruce Sterling 2004 The People of Sand and Slag : Paolo Bacigalupi Note : it may be observed that the selections trickle to a halt after the year 2000 – this is because I have a giant heap of Dozois and other anthologies that I have not got round to yet. 2010 Ant Colony : Alissa Nutting ****** As with the first 100 list - which ones are missing ??

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jared Millet

    After reading the introduction by the editors, Holy Crap am I excited for this anthology. The VanderMeers have got to be the most well-read SF goons on the face of the planet. They appreciate the entirety of the genre, with a breadth that even a lifelong fan like myself hardly knew existed. This is gonna be good. One year, four months later… OMG I finished it. That was a fantastic anthology, and it was a monster. 105 stories by 104 authors (William Tenn sneaks in twice). 100 years of stories from After reading the introduction by the editors, Holy Crap am I excited for this anthology. The VanderMeers have got to be the most well-read SF goons on the face of the planet. They appreciate the entirety of the genre, with a breadth that even a lifelong fan like myself hardly knew existed. This is gonna be good. One year, four months later… OMG I finished it. That was a fantastic anthology, and it was a monster. 105 stories by 104 authors (William Tenn sneaks in twice). 100 years of stories from all over the globe, representing almost every sub-genre and style imaginable. There are a few inevitable omissions: Heinlein and Herbert are missing, probably due to rights issues, but there’s plenty of skiffy goodness to fill in the gaps. Odder still is the lack of time travel; I’d have thought that was a science fiction staple but unless I’m forgetting something it isn’t touched on in this volume. Mere quibbles! Here’s the good stuff: An International Sampler Science Fiction isn’t just an English language phenomenon (uh… Jules Verne, anyone?) and the editors make it a point to showcase the richness and diversity of ideas from around the world. The second story in the volume, “Sultana’s Dream”, is from a turn-of-the-19th Century Bengali feminist writer from Bangladesh. I particularly enjoyed the French author Gérard Klein’s story “The Monster” and modern Chinese star Cixin Liu’s “The Poetry Cloud.” Statistically among the international contingent there seems to be a plethora of Argentinian and Russian SF authors. The Argentinians didn’t grab me – too philosophical and didactic – but I love the Russians for their dry, bleak wit. Hitchhiking the Galaxy Space travel and exploring other planets? Check. In this humble fan’s opinion, flying around in spaceships and visiting alien worlds is what SF is for. Everything else is just extra. This book’s got plenty of what I like, whether from authors who ignore the cosmic speed limit or those who embrace it, such as Ursula Le Guin, who examines what kind of dysfunctional personalities it would take to leave Earth for hundreds of years in the sublime “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow.” On the other end of the spectrum is the rip-roaring early space opera of Edmond Hamilton’s “The Star Stealers.” Which leads us to what is by far the overriding theme in this collection: Shaking Hands (and Brains) with Little Green Men You could easily lump three quarters of this volume into the category “Encountering the Alien” and still not feel that the stories repeat themselves. Whether the aliens come to Earth or we encroach their territory, it’s fascinating to watch the shift in how authors tackle the meeting of human and non-human minds. In the early days it’s either combative Wellsian invasions or unintentionally destructive encounters, such as Ray Bradbury’s tragic “September 2005: The Martian.” A few authors go Full Lovecraft and propose that encountering a truly alien mind would lead to madness, such as in Chad Oliver’s “Let Me Live In a House” or Damon Knight’s “Stranger Station.” I really, really wish I could go back in time and get these authors to read Ted Chiang’s bittersweet mind-bending “Story of Your Life”, which is included toward the end of the collection. A turning point seems to be James White’s “Sector General,” set in a multi-species intergalactic hospital where all patients are welcomed and treated regardless of how many appendages they have or what they breathe. From there on there is a trend in stories in which contact with aliens is, while still fraught with missteps and danger, a potentially enlightening encounter and broadening on both sides. This comes to full expression with Cory Doctorow’s wonderful “Craphound” in which man and alien come together over a shared love of kitschy memorabilia. Pick a Future, Any Future Utopias and Dystopias abound, although Utopian fiction seems to have had its heyday in the early part of the 20th century, before those pesky World Wars and the accompanying atom bombs. After that, there are plenty of examinations of humanity’s possible “failure modes” (as David Brin would put it). Nuclear annihilation was the planetary death of choice for most of the twentieth century, but there is a definite shift toward environmental and sociological collapse toward the later parts of the collection. The only modern author (outside of Gene Roddenberry) with the gall to imagine a working utopia is Iain M. Banks, represented here in “A Gift From the Culture,” though he focuses a lot on the non-Utopian fringe of his perfect society more than the society itself. Machines Will Save Us / Eat Us All At its core, SF has always been a literature about the advance of technology and the effect that technology might have on society for good or ill. In “Good News From the Vatican,” Robert Silverberg snarkily presents the A.I. takeover of the theocratic realm, while in “Death Is Static Death Is Movement” Misha Nogha dives headfirst into the cyberpunk real of human/machine interface that blurs the very concepts of reality and identity. In “The Hall of Machines” Langdon Jones turns a catalog of mysterious creations into a mysterious creepshow more nightmare-inducing than any haunted house. SF’s patron saint Isaac Asimov, however, gets the last word on the long term benefit of artificial intelligence in his classic “The Last Question.” All Good Things Science Fiction is also about taking the Deep View, as Asimov does in his above mentioned story. It’s a field that will take an idea to its logical and inevitable end, right up to the end of all things. J.G. Ballard’s “The Voices of Time” brings the slow, grinding death of the universe into the immediate present, while the death of civilizations is examined from afar in C. J. Cherryh’s “Pots” and Arthur Clarke’s “The Star” (which, btw, may be my favorite SF short story ever). I could go on for days. Originally I tried to review each individual story as I finished it, but the Goodreads word count limit would never let me get away with that. Still, before I go, shout-outs to Harlan Ellison, Michael Moorcock, Connie Willis, Theodore Sturgeon, Kurt Vonnegut, Stanley G. Weinbaum, James Blish, Cordwainer Smith, and the incomparable Gene Wolfe. And many, many thanks to the Vandermeers for putting this Bible of SF together. I don’t care how thick it is, dammit. READ IT!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Full disclosure: I received an ARC of this book on Goodreads giveaways in exchange for my honest opinion. Secondly, I haven't fully read the book yet. That may take me a long time to do, given the enormous size (1178 pages) of this book. Therefore, an update will be forthcoming once I finish the book. This is an incredible anthology of science fiction. I think all of these works have been previously published, although a number of them are either newly translated into English or have been Full disclosure: I received an ARC of this book on Goodreads giveaways in exchange for my honest opinion. Secondly, I haven't fully read the book yet. That may take me a long time to do, given the enormous size (1178 pages) of this book. Therefore, an update will be forthcoming once I finish the book. This is an incredible anthology of science fiction. I think all of these works have been previously published, although a number of them are either newly translated into English or have been retranslated into English, so those stories will probably be new even to the most avid of science fiction readers. It looks like the VanderMeers decided to create an anthology that is representative of all the major eras and traditions in science fiction, by including stories published over a span of more than 100 years. I'm sure some readers will flip through the book and say, "but why isn't [insert famous/important/incredible author name here] included?" but I would guess that list is fairly short. In this book, you'll find just about every major name in science fiction and some of the most famous stories in science fiction. Flipping through this book, I see a whole bunch of stories that I've wanted to read for a long time now. The book has a nice introduction to the history of science fiction, and each story has a short biography of the author, demonstrating why that author and that story in particular are so influential. I like that, since it helps me understand how these works fit together and how they've influenced the genre. Since I haven't seen anyone publish the table of contents anywhere and viewing that is always important to me when I consider buying an anthology, I'm listing it here for anyone who's interested. I'm always wary of buying anthologies because I might have the stories in other volumes, especially when the anthology is full of classics like this one. However, given the size of this and the relative obscurity of most of the translated works, I suggest that this is worth it if you like to collect short science fiction. Contents: H. G. Wells: The Star Rokheya Shekhawat Hossain: Sultana's Dream Karl Hans Strobl: The Triumph of Mechanics Paul Scheerbart: The New Overworld Alfred Jarry: Elements of Pataphysics Miguel de Unamuno: Mechanopolis Yefim Zozulya: The Doom of Principal City W. E. B. Du Bois: The Comet Clare Winger Harris: The Fate of the Poseidonia Edmond Hamilton: The Star Stealers Leslie F. Stone: The Conquest of Gola Stanley G. Weinbaum: A Martian Odyssey A. Merritt: The Last Poet and the Robots Paul Ernst: The Microscopic Giants Jorge Luis Borges: Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius Clifford D. Simak: Desertion Ray Bradbury: September 2005: The Martian Juan Jose Arreola: Baby HP James Blish: Surface Tension Philip K. Dick: Beyond Lies the Wub Katherine MacLean: The Snowball Effect Margaret St. Clair: Prott William Tenn: The Liberation of Earth Chad Oliver: Let Me Live in a House Arthur C. Clarke: The Star James H. Schmitz: Grandpa Cordwainer Smith: The Game of Rat and Dragon Isaac Asimov: The Last Question Damon Knight: Stranger Station James White: Sector General Arkady and Boris Strugatsky: The Visitors Carol Emschwiller: Pelt Gerard Klein: The Monster Theodore Sturgeon: The Man Who Lost the Sea Silvina Ocampo: The Waves Will Worthington: Plenitude J. G. Ballard: The Voices of Time Valentina Zhuravlyova: The Astronaut Adolfo Bioy Casares: The Squid Chooses Its Own Ink Kurt Vonnegut Jr.: 2 B R O 2 B Vadim Shefner: A Modest Genius Sever Gansovsky: Day of Wrath John Baxter: The Hands Andre Carneiro: Darkness Harlan Ellison: "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman R. A. Lafferty: Nine Hundred Grandmothers Frederik Pohl: Day Million F. L. Wallace: Student Body Samuel R. Delany: Aye, and Gomorrah Langdon Jones: The Hall of Machines Yoshio Aramaki: Soft Clocks David R. Bunch: Three from Moderan Stanislaw Lem: Let Us Save the Universe Ursula K. Le Guin: Vaster Than Empires and More Slow Robert Silverberg: Good News from the Vatican Joanna Russ: When It Changed James Tiptree Jr.: And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side Dmitri Bilenkin: Where Two Paths Cross Yasutaka Tsutsui: Standing Woman Alicia Yanez Cossio: The IWM 1000 Michael Bishop: The House of Compassionate Sharers Barrington J. Bayley: Sporting with the Chid George R. R. Martin: Sandkings Lisa Tuttle: Wives Josephine Saxton: The Snake Who Had Read Chomsky Kajio Shinji: Reiko's Universe Box Bruce Sterling: Swarm Jacques Barberi: Mondocane Greg Bear: Blood Music Octavia E. Butler: Bloodchild Pat Cadigan: Variation on a Man S. N. Dyer: Passing as a Flower in the City of the Dead William Gibson: New Rose Hotel C. J. Cherryh: Pots John Crowley: Snow Karen Joy Fowler: The Lake Was Full of Artificial Things Angelica Gorodischer: The Unmistakable Smell of Wood Violets Jon Bing: The Owl of Bear Island Elisabeth Vonarburg: Readers of the Lost Art Iain M. Banks: A Gift from the Culture Jean-Claude Dunyach: Paranamanco Tanith Lee: Crying in the Rain Michael Moorcock: The Frozen Cardinal Pat Murphy: Rachel in Love Manjula Padmanabhan: Sharing Air Connie Willis: Schwarzschild Radius Gene Wolfe: All the Hues of Hell Geoffrey A. Landis: Vacuum States Han Song: Two Small Birds Rachel Pollack: Burning Sky Kim Stanley Robinson: Before I Wake Misha Nogha: Death Is Static Death Is Movement Michael Blumlein: The Brains of Rats Leena Krohn: Gorgonoids Kojo Laing: Vacancy for the Post of Jesus Christ Gwyneth Jones: The Universe of Things Robert Reed: The Remoras William Tenn: The Ghost Standard Geoffrey Maloney: Remnants of the Virago Crypto-System Stepan Chapman: How Alex Became a Machine Cixin Liu: The Poetry Cloud Ted Chiang: Story of Your Life Cory Doctorow: Craphound Tatyana Tolstaya: The Slynx Johanna Sinisalo: Baby Doll

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    The SpecFic Buddy Reads group read this mammoth anthology starting in January 2017 at a rate of one story per week and just finished it about a week ago in January 2019. It was a long, often frustrating, but voluminous, education on what one pair of really notable editors consider to be important waypoints from the origins of the genre to its most modern antecedents. Along the way there are some amazing gems, Bloodchild and Story of Your Life among them, but there are also plenty of stories that The SpecFic Buddy Reads group read this mammoth anthology starting in January 2017 at a rate of one story per week and just finished it about a week ago in January 2019. It was a long, often frustrating, but voluminous, education on what one pair of really notable editors consider to be important waypoints from the origins of the genre to its most modern antecedents. Along the way there are some amazing gems, Bloodchild and Story of Your Life among them, but there are also plenty of stories that would best be described as "of academic interest only", including a lot of literary experimentation. I've read the Vandermeer's stuff before, and it's very clear that their tastes in story selection match their own fiction, with quite a number of these stories stretching science fictional concepts to horror and even bizarro fiction in places. I nearly always appreciated what I was reading through this anthology, for a look at when different science fictional concepts were showing up in fiction, and also to see some of the genre traditions of other countries. But because the editors have such a strong and obvious preference for certain bents in fiction (highbrow literature, experimental fiction, horror), I never got an impression of a chronicle of science fiction as such, but much more of a "this is what we think was important" list. And ultimately, other than academic interest, I simply don't share much of the tastes of the Vandermeers in this realm, and I probably only enjoyed (rather than appreciated) one story in three in this anthology. I'm still glad I read it though.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Feld

    They're not kidding when they call this The Big Book of Science Fiction -- the book is the size of a dictionary, with two columns of text on every page. It is mind-blowingly, wrist-snappingly huge. But there is a method to this madness. Over the past few years, there's been a great deal of tension in the science fiction community over what constitutes the field's canon. There are those who claim you need a grounding in the (primarily white and male) Golden Age pulp authors to understand the They're not kidding when they call this The Big Book of Science Fiction -- the book is the size of a dictionary, with two columns of text on every page. It is mind-blowingly, wrist-snappingly huge. But there is a method to this madness. Over the past few years, there's been a great deal of tension in the science fiction community over what constitutes the field's canon. There are those who claim you need a grounding in the (primarily white and male) Golden Age pulp authors to understand the field. Others have tried to reclaim the regularly erased contributions of women, LGBT people and people of color in anthologies that focus on the reclaimed groups, which inadvertently keeps them divorced from the whole. And that's not even counting people who only read subgenres like Cyberpunk. The field has gotten so broad that not only are there multiple conversations going on, but it's entirely possible to read broadly and immerse yourself in the genre without realizing just how much still remains unexplored outside your little bubble. The BBSF seems to be an attempt to bring everyone back to the table by creating a new, broader canon. It represents a century's worth of science fiction, including entries by great writers from around the world, with good representation by women writers, LGBT writers, and writers of color, and biographical notes on each author that show who is in conversation with whom. There were some old favorites here like James Tiptree Jr, Joanna Russ, and Octavia Butler, but I also got introduced to a number of authors I didn't know, like James White and Chad Oliver, whose work I now want to hunt down. And one of my favorite stories here was written by an author not known for his SF, WEB du Bois. While I loved about a dozen of the stories, there were a bunch that were not my thing. Honestly, in an anthology this wide-ranging, no one is going to love every story. I also highly recommend getting this in ebook format to save your wrists. But I think it's a hugely important work in terms of getting everyone to take a step back and see how we all make up part of a larger whole.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Loring Wirbel

    Time was when an ideal collection of sci-fi could be judged solely by its Thud Factor. Monstrous collections would try to include a couple old-masters works by Asimov and Bradbury, some scary new efforts from Sturgeon or Knight, and a few unknown space-opera chestnuts. But then along came the 1980s fragmentation into New Wave, feminist, humanist, absurdist, cyberpunk, ad infinitum, and it became harder and harder to find the monster collection that pleased everyone. Jeff and Ann VanderMeer have Time was when an ideal collection of sci-fi could be judged solely by its Thud Factor. Monstrous collections would try to include a couple old-masters works by Asimov and Bradbury, some scary new efforts from Sturgeon or Knight, and a few unknown space-opera chestnuts. But then along came the 1980s fragmentation into New Wave, feminist, humanist, absurdist, cyberpunk, ad infinitum, and it became harder and harder to find the monster collection that pleased everyone. Jeff and Ann VanderMeer have returned us to Thud Factor with a vengeance, producing a monster work weighing in at 1160 pages, beginning with Alfred Jarry and H.G. Wells, and dancing through all the major sub-genres of science fiction without missing a beat. OK, maybe the collection aims for politically correct by excluding conservatives like Robert Heinlein and Eugene Wolfe, and certainly the modern provocateurs like Vox Day (Theodore Beale), but you know what? I don't miss that segment a bit. While there are plenty of feminist and environmental works here, there is no intention of focusing on sci-fi stories that opt for dystopia and corrective measures. Instead, the VanderMeers concentrate on the well-told-tale, and give us J.G. Ballard, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ursula K. LeGuin, William Gibson, Kurt Vonnegut, and on and on. Occasionally, the stories are chosen to terrify, as with the back-to-back offerings of Greg Bear and Olivia Butler, but many other works, such as those from Ted Chiang and Cixin Liu, are intended to educate and amaze. The editors have gone to great lengths to make this a global collection, with lesser-known works, sometimes translated for the first time, by authors from South America, China, Russia, and Southeast Asia. Thud Factor? This book is too massive to carry on a plane or to the beach, but it's one of those definitive collections you'll be proud to place on your coffee table. If a few of the Hugo Awards disrupters think the selection is too politically correct, let them build their own alternative-sci-fi facts for the Trump era. It would be very surprising if such a collection had even a fraction of the Thud Factor of this one.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chris Bauer

    I'll keep it simple. If you either read much speculative fiction or write, this is kinda a MANDATORY book for you to own. It is a Bible of science fiction short stories and probably weighs as much as a Guttenberg. I have not had such a sense of accomplishment in finishing a book from cover to cover since I finished reading James Joyce in high school. So very worth it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    RJ

    $25 cover price, marked down at BN.com, less 40% off coupon and free shipping = about 1200 pages of sci-fi goodness for less than $9. I've read "The Star" by Arthur C Clarke and "New Rose Hotel" by William Gibson (from back when he was good) and both are excellent. Looking forward to this one.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    This is one of the best science fiction anthologies I've ever read. Not a dud in the bunch. And not the usual stories either.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Moonglum

    I read this book from cover to cover, first story to last. It was a rewarding quest, and it gives you a sense of the evolution of science fiction, as the stories are arranged roughly chronologically. One of the really cool things about this anthology is that it includes a selection of stories from many non-english speaking countries. This was probably my first real exposure the Japanese literary science fiction, and I absolutely loved the stories from Japan. But there are many wonderful science I read this book from cover to cover, first story to last. It was a rewarding quest, and it gives you a sense of the evolution of science fiction, as the stories are arranged roughly chronologically. One of the really cool things about this anthology is that it includes a selection of stories from many non-english speaking countries. This was probably my first real exposure the Japanese literary science fiction, and I absolutely loved the stories from Japan. But there are many wonderful science fiction stories from places like India, South America, Russia, and the Nordic countries. The Big Book of Sci Fi also includes many stories by women, including stories from many countries and from many periods. For example, it was cool to read the story 'Sultana's Dream', a philosphical 'utopian' fiction by an Indian woman, and to see cool science fiction being written by women in the 1950s ('The Snowball Effect', by Katherine Maclean, 'Prott' by Margaret St. Clair). Reading this anthology also gave me a chance to re-read several stories that I had read previously, but often decades ago, and had loved. 'Rachel in Love', 'The New Rose Hotel', 'Repent Harlequin! said the Tick Tock Man', 'The Star', 'Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius', 'The Martian', 'The Story of Your Life' (I actually read this a couple years ago, but the re-read was still great), etc.. all made for awesome re-reads, and I envy the person encountering these marvelous tales for the first time. But what reading an anthology like this is really good for is discovering new writers, and reading awesome tales that you have not previously encountered. Here is a list of some of the wondrous, new discoveries found within this tome: “Soft Clocks”, by Yoshio Aramaki: Japanese science fiction that reminded by of Rudy Rucker at his best. It concerns bio-engineering martian reality to be more like a Salvador Dali painting, because Salvador Dali is just that cool. “Vacancy for the Post of Jesus Christ”, by Kojo Laing. An African writer from Ghana, writing in english, the story has a poetic, beat sensibility. It has something of the kind of take on science fiction that Burroughs did in, say, 'The Soft Machine', or 'The Wild Boyz', in that it re-purposes science fictions metaphors into radical prose, but his sensibility is different from Burroughs. The story also makes use of the street culture and folklore of Ghana to quite cool effect. “The Poetry Cloud”, by Cixin Liu. I had read 'The Three Body Problem' by Liu (translated by Ken Liu, an America writer who I am also a fan of), but that was about the extent of my encounter with this amazing writer. "The Poetry Cloud" is far reaching, super imaginative space opera that conveys that creepy feeling that I love of being lost in a vast, cold, strange space ('Three Body Problem' does likewise). Also I just love the moniker 'The Devouring Empire'. “Sandkings”, by George R.R. Martin. I loved this tale of science fiction horror that has a nice, twisty ending. The story is apparently quite famous, but I had never read it before. “The Liberation of Earth”, by William Tenn. Another awesome, apparently famous story that I had never encountered before. This one was famous in the 60s as an anti-war fable, but highly relevant today. “Standing Woman”, by Yasutaka Tsutsui. More super groovy Japanese science fiction. This one is a creepy, somewhat Kafkaesque political story. The matter of fact acceptance of the surreal change to the world of having people punished by being metamorphosed into trees reminded me of Murakami's Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. "Pots", by C.J. Cherryh. In my quest to read every Hugo winning novel, I have attempted twice to read Cherryh's 'Down Below Station'. I can never get past the first few chapters, though perhaps that's because the cheap paperback copy I have has such small print. This story totally makes me want to give that novel another go! It combines space opera, intense suspense, a gloomy tragic understanding of the precariousness of civilization, and a half cynical, half hopeful take on the power of stories.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mike Jansen

    A little light reading for the holidays. The first 75% of the book I liked a lot; several stories I read in other anthologies, so a bit like coming home. After that I hit a bit of a snag with stories I just couldn't relate to. Fortunately there were a few gems in there still. A memorable collection.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Joe Backus

    The Big Book of Science Fiction is a book of marvelous adventures and different opinions. My opinion of the book depends on the story in which I read. If I read a story related to more adventure and philosophy, I enjoy it. If I read a book more about talking and a process, then I start to lose interest. Since there are so many different stories and plots in this book, Im going to review one of my favorites so far called The Star by H.G. Wells. The basic plot of this book is that a dangerous star The Big Book of Science Fiction is a book of marvelous adventures and different opinions. My opinion of the book depends on the story in which I read. If I read a story related to more adventure and philosophy, I enjoy it. If I read a book more about talking and a process, then I start to lose interest. Since there are so many different stories and plots in this book, I´m going to review one of my favorites so far called The Star by H.G. Wells. The basic plot of this book is that a dangerous star is continuing on a path and it's messing with the planets like Jupiter and all its moons. The research of a mathematician is shown throughout the world. The mathematician reveals to others that the star and Earth's Sun are exerting gravitational connection, and as a result the star is being sucked deeper into the Solar System. According to its location, it is proven that the star will either touch Earth or move by at close proximity, which would lead to a ton of issues for Earth. As this idea disrupts nights on Earth, many people begin to feel nervous. People and Scientist also anticipated the world's end as this star approaches. Finally, why I gave this book a four out of five is because some stories get you on the edge of your seat due to all the knowledge and excitement stored within. Other stories, however, make you feel really lost and confused, which makes people start to lose interest for reading such a great novel. This is a book that people don't want to lose interest in The Big Book Science Fiction is one book that I will always be able to call one of the greatest books out there.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alaa Yusuf

    I'll read it one story at a time , giving time to devour and enjoy each one as it should be done.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Carper

    If there had been a Sci-Fi lit course in college instead of just Brit, Am, and World, this would have been the textbook and I would have been inspired and flummoxed in similar proportions.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ebenmaessiger

    "Sultana's Dream," by Rokheya Shawkat Hossain (1905): 8.25 - wonderfully essentialist feminist tale. I like the complete reversal of oppression rather than gleichberechtigkeit. and you can guess a lot about the authors class and education therefrom. enjoyable nonetheless, esp. the abrupt ending! "The Doom of Principal City," by Yefim Zozulya (1918): 7 - it's kind of blank vagueness is both asset and detriment, as the former allows it to remain timeless, as we can fill the gap and flush out the "Sultana's Dream," by Rokheya Shawkat Hossain (1905): 8.25 - wonderfully essentialist feminist tale. I like the complete reversal of oppression rather than gleichberechtigkeit. and you can guess a lot about the authors class and education therefrom. enjoyable nonetheless, esp. the abrupt ending! "The Doom of Principal City," by Yefim Zozulya (1918): 7 - it's kind of blank vagueness is both asset and detriment, as the former allows it to remain timeless, as we can fill the gap and flush out the illusion to our own satisfaction, while the latter demonstrates The difficulty of finding anything to hold onto, even in the allegory, let alone the characters "The Triumph of Mechanics," by Karl Hans Strobel (1907): 6.5 - more noteworthy as an historical curio than piece of leisure entertainment reading now but interesting nonetheless in its clear german- and period-markers (taylorism, American innovation and mechanical prowess) which I can't see many others getting excited by. "Baby Doll," by Johanna Sinisalo (2002): 4.5 - a one-trick pony and even that trick is quite unimpressive. the same story could exist, with the actual same (conservative) message, even if you aged-up each character to "appropriate" ages: a sin that the gimmick was both pointless and not essential to the point trying to be made. still, some good: I did like the muted undertones of disintegrating morality, esp. in the nice delayed reveal that she stopped the boy not because he was raping her, but because she was jealous (and that she took a positive message away from dollhouse). still, a big ehh "Craphound," by Cory Doctorow (1998): 6 - eh, the charm's lost on me here. allegory-wise. at first was thinking capitalism, then colonialism, then I actually think it's just relative consumerism, and a kind of uninteresting whack at it at that. a bit like the final baby doll story-stale symbolism wrapped in lackluster storytelling. but eh. maybe it's the fault of the book title and the unrealistic expectations it heaps upon each story (both in terms of story AND thematic relevance). "The Star," by H.G. Wells (1897): 9 - great. the wide lens. the martian astronomers. "Slynx," by Tatiana Tolstoya (2000): 8 - hard to know exactly what to give, as its an excerpt from a novel, but if measured by wanting to read the novel then pretty good. the tone was that affected simplicity that worked well considering the context here and I liked the suggestions and implications about the world (the half human Degenerants and the sense that they don't know why they call enemies Chechens). "The Gorgonoids," by Leena Krohn (1993): 6.5 - the truest yet to the form of "philosophical disquisition " with speculative elements as means of investigating larger questions. This, unfortunately, went too much in favor of the later at the expense of fleshing out the former at all. "The Fate of the Poseidonia," by Clare Winger Harris (1927): 8.5 - I hope I'm not tinging too many of my scores with a patronizing 'appreciation' of things in older stories that I would find irredeemable in newer ones, but I enjoyed this kind of paranoid big-scale and small-window adventure, and more in spite of its obvious flaws than many others: those being, namely, clunky prose and characterization, a fairly muddled timeline, and loose ends galore [does anything come of the Profs visit at the end?]. Still, a fun macro vision here and little threads nicely untied [the "German" spy and others], as well as a pleasingly actual malevolence in the character of Martell. "The Poetry Cloud," by Cixin Liu (1997): 9 - strange enough to outweigh the obvious Borges replication and otherwise staid scifi trope of artistic glorification in confrontation with cold science. "The Star Stealers," by Edmond Hamilton (1929): 9 - okay, so this seems to be what is meant by 'classic sci fi,' what all the conservative readers want a return to. indeed, this seems to set the template for all the, again, 'classic' images I have in my head, even without knowing their provenance: the bridge with the mighty vistas; the dually new/retrograde gender politics [the beauty parlor seemed even too much]; the strangely omnipotent, strangely understandable, strangely defeatable, fully malign alien force; and, basically the complete re-tread of a long history of pulpy naval adventures translated to space [dashing escapes; huge ports; sudden rescues]. "The Conquest of Gola," by Leslie F. Stone (1931): 8.5 - nice little playing with gender here, although in a decidedly antebellum way (ie without contemporary gender tropes, such that the 'gender power reversal' here is entirely malign and simply a women dominating men instead of the other, while, similarly, the invading men here are entirely malicious in their intent, AND the clear anti-capitalism, a marker of prewar fiction). Still, a successful early perspective shift in both the gender way and protagonist, as this is clearly taking place on Venus and these are earth men (and an effective 'othering' of the human anatomy as well). "The Last Poet and the Robot," by A. Merritt (1934): 7.5 - got some of that big thinking and sweep of classic sf I enjoy, although some of the negatives of that style came out in their negative manifestations here [Big Great Man; confusing exposition; clunky dialogue]. Yet, interesting sinister nuggets spread throughout that benefit from his minimal engagement with them [the "truth" of the robot malevolence; the ship attacking]. "Vacancy for the Post of Jesus Christ," by Kojo Laing (1992): 6.5 - Didn't read closely enough to suss out larger metaphor, so total take depends on the effectiveness of the allusions for the reader. But a bit narratively scattershot and not purposefully always, if with some good panoramic views of the society. Does giantman represent secular rulers or man, presupposing power to upset old socio-religious orders, only to be laid low by same? "The Universe of Things," by Gwyneth Jones (1993): 6.5 - So, I might not totally have all of the actual mechanics down and intricacies of plot, I couldn't read the thing that closely, but as just simple story of alienation and difference and the inescapability of self, no matter how different the other, it kind of worked. Kind of. More so as a reflection on this strange melancholy alien, and not on the mechanic, who I could've spent even less time with it in an already short story. But the writing was too hackneyed to be profound and the plotting a bit clunky "The Remoras," by Robert Reed (1994): 9.25 - such a strange story that's doing such a common thing; transplanting the narrative of the rich lady, bored as housewife, allured by the poor cool underworld and strange subculture into a place in which she's out of her depths until that dislocation is made abundantly clear. So, the question then is whether this is good BEYOND that smart Scifi allusion to mainstream tropes or if it can even stand on its own apart from that. here i think it does; there's enough strange compelling stuff going on in this Cruise Ship in Space and allusions to a broader world that work "The Ghost Standard," by William Tenn (1994): 8.75 - strange little story with the philosophy foregrounded, rather than latent, which I imagine'll be more common in the "great" SF stories. narratively, I enjoyed it, although I don't know how formally inventive it was--language game as different means of demonstrating engineering problems. might have dug a bit more into its central Phil. quandary, ie give us more of comp. but good. "Remnants of the Virago-Crypto System," by Geoffrey Maloney (1995): 7.5 - (quite) affecting, although is it anything more than the sum of its (one) parts?? the hit comes from the machine's question and his answer back, yet that doesn't require really any of the preceding action, his desultory aimlessness, or, especially, her maudlin end. "How Alex Became A Machine," by Stephan Chapman (1997): 7.25 - picked up towards the end, or at least the strangeness overwhelmed me, or I just gave into it. But still, there's little to hold onto on either a character or narrative level, unless you want to put a whole lot into it "The Microscopic Giants," by Paul Ernst (1936): 7.5 - Altogether a little trifle, and one, at that, not doing much more than these things from this time tend to do: big theme, exposition, clunky prose, concluding action, and out. The story: the operators at a deep mineshaft have discovered, down at the bottom, a very small race of humanoids who possess great power and the ability to walk through solid-ish pieces of matter that we cannot. Two people confront them, one dies, and the other narrowly escapes, [*50s genre film voice*] hoping, nay, praying(!) that he won’t be alive when they inevitably come once again to the surface to wreak havoc upon the earth! A solid B-movie narrativization, then. Yet, what it does do well--and what precisely these eras stories can do quite wonderfully that ones now would be less likely to--is imbue this ‘other’ with a straight, uncomplicated, and unvarnished malevolence that, at its best, makes the narrative at times read like a strange horror story just as much if not more than a science fiction story. "The Brains of Rats," by Michael Blumlein (1986): 9.5 - So, one of the negative byproducts of this rapid blowing through of short stories and the subsequent rushed cataloging and inane analysis is that, while the method works pretty well on the average-to-bad short story --in that the thoughts can rise (or not rise) to meet the level and subtlety of the story fairly easily -- it struggles to adequately deal with the more fine-grained, complex, or contemplative tale. Case being, our story here, in which a scientist ruminates over the space between sexual/biological difference and gender expression, interspersing (fairly pat and often ahistorical, but fine for a genre story) scholarly observations with anecdotes about his patients and his own struggles with gender identification. Importantly for the story, he's a man who both "acts" feminine and moderately desires to be a woman, whereas his wife "acts" masculine, and works at conventionally masculine professions while also presenting as quite masculine herself. (Most most importantly, all of this needs to be read through the 1986 filter first and foremost, which simultaneously brings back down to earth any too-large claims for its innovation [think Foucault and pub dates] while also reiterates the quite impressive things his gender play is doing nonetheless [and, moreover, the reason why they would need to be demonstrated through these particular gendered stereotypes, which might seem a bit laughably essentialist, or black and white, today]). Interestingly, the only SF element here -- beyond the kind-of dream state in which some of his interactions occur (thinking esp. of the scene where he tells that woman about his one-time homosexual encounter) -- is the ability to turn the whole world either all male or all female--a Macguffin of a genre conceit, in that it's the vehicle for the story's gentleness but almost an afterthought the whole time. Fairly wonderful. Indeed, the "point" of the story -- which I would locate in its gradual, and 1980s-ish, blurring of the lines between male and female, all while presumably detailing one man's apocalyptic ability to separate sexes definitively -- turns away from the device nearly totally itself. This is also to say nothing of the prose, which was sparse, sometimes beautiful, often counter-intuitively astute, and always indicative of a deep intelligence from the source itself. More than anything, refreshing; and a necessary reminder of the possibilities of genre fiction and the boon that is a voice with teeth, after the tepid dreck of some recent offerings. Impressive. "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius," by Jorge Luis Borges (1940): 8.5 - My thoughts on Borges are even less necessary than these lesser-known stories. I've read this story of unknown worlds and the slow blending of reality and fantasy before, and this time laughed at the ending, a wetdream ending for the authoritarian-disposed antiquarians, in that they achieve near complete victory in the ascension of their own creation and worldview -- as closely as our Argentian might've preferred. "Death is Static Death is Movement," by Misha Nogha (1990): n/a - Life's too short to read novel excerpts.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Nick

    The selection is suspect as there is an obvious feminist, even intersectional, agenda at work here. Nevertheless, the masters are at least nominally represented. But some are notably absent, again, likely for political reasons, like Orson Scott Card. Introduction *** Learned about the (unfortunate) existence of subgenres like "Humanist" and "Feminist" sci-fi, and others--basically, sci-fi as a commentary on the sociological and otherwise impact of technology, aliens, or other "science-y" stuff. I The selection is suspect as there is an obvious feminist, even intersectional, agenda at work here. Nevertheless, the masters are at least nominally represented. But some are notably absent, again, likely for political reasons, like Orson Scott Card. Introduction *** Learned about the (unfortunate) existence of subgenres like "Humanist" and "Feminist" sci-fi, and others--basically, sci-fi as a commentary on the sociological and otherwise impact of technology, aliens, or other "science-y" stuff. I thereafter expected I'd be skipping some stories, but realized that I had enjoyed such sci-fi by John Brunner (The Sheep Look Up)--who is neglected in this tome--in the past, and as I read the first story by H. G. Wells ("The Star"), which is to a degree about mankind's reaction to an extinction event, I realize it might not be such a deal-breaker after all, and I thus plan to be somewhat more open-minded about the coming stories--at least up to the point of encountering any feminist dreck. The Star *** Apparently the origin of "impact fiction", and thus reminiscent of guilty cinematic pleasures along the lines of Armageddon and Deep Impact (God that title sounds corny now … !), it entertains exactly along those lines, without any further consequence. As the first story in the anthology, it's likely there for chronological reasons, but also to soothe any worries a casual reader might have about the agenda the editors have in selecting stories for this tome. Sultana's Dream * What, like the raisin … ? … and the feminist sci-fi genre is … "born" (?) Echhhh. This is NOT sci-fi, but the excuses abound in the preamble about the author of this story, as the editors twist themselves into pretzels to argue that it is, as a "conte philosophique" … and, presuming success, open the door for any "story" to be included herein, peppered among genuine classics and true envelope pushers, in the hopes of infiltrating impressionable young minds still susceptible to the siren song of the progressive left. Hell, according to biographical material, all this was, was a way for her to practice her English composition while her husband was away on some sorta tour ... The Triumph of Mechanics ** "Rise of The Machines" trope and its Nazi party origins. Who knew ... ? The New Overworld * Yeah, I dunno what that was all about ... Elements of Pataphysics *** You see, I likely won't know what's going on w/ this one, either, but because it's Alfred Jarry, it won't matter--everything he writes is sublime, the master absurdist! Yay! It's fun to see his absurdity come quite close to wandering into the realm of the plausibly rational--but not quite. There is a way to read this stuff such that you just allow yourself to be transported on its waves of nonsense--delightful! Mechanopolis **** Even the editors admit to the paucity of sci-fi output from Unamuno, and yet somehow it's still an "excellent example of Spanish" sci-fi at less than three pages in length--more evidence of suspect quality of the selections in this anthology, if you're driving an agenda which includes feminism, internationalism, and intersectionalism. You can't have it both ways ... That being said, this second tale featuring the theme of AI Dominance--this time in it's stable, post-human state--though unremarkable in its content or action, features the most thoughtful and philosophical conclusion reached thus far in this collection: "That is the worst thing about loneliness, how easily it becomes filled." It speaks volumes to me on a personal level, despite my not being entirely sure what it means, or how such a thing even can be. It's one of those things that seems reasonable and clever when you hear it, induces emotional resonance almost immediately, and yet proves ever more elusive the more you think about it. Gold. An alternative translation by Emily A. Davis doesn't have quite the same impact or, really, message: "That’s the worst thing about being alone, when your loneliness gets all filled up with imagined companions." The Doom of Principal City

  19. 5 out of 5

    Akemi G.

    Great read. The introduction is already very considerate, and the choice of works is global. (Some are translated into English for the first time.) I'm still working on this tome, but here is my quick notes. (it's hard to discuss short fiction without spoilers, so I'll hide the whole thing.) (view spoiler)[ The Star (H. G. Wells) Read this in The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction before. I love the last paragraph, which offers an alternative perspective of the incident. Sultana’s Dream Great read. The introduction is already very considerate, and the choice of works is global. (Some are translated into English for the first time.) I'm still working on this tome, but here is my quick notes. (it's hard to discuss short fiction without spoilers, so I'll hide the whole thing.) (view spoiler)[ The Star (H. G. Wells) Read this in The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction before. I love the last paragraph, which offers an alternative perspective of the incident. Sultana’s Dream (Rokheya Shekhawat Hossain) Rokheya--a female writer from British India, present-day Bangladesh--already wrote a gender-swap story. The Triumph of Mechanics (Karl Hans Strobl) Austrian author, who later became a Nazi. This work is from 1907. It's literally a weird tale; robot rabbits terrorizing people by the power of their number. Sadistic humor. The New Overworld (Paul Scheerbart) German author. Two very different species on Venus find a way to coexist--segregation. It's not about racial discrimination, but still I don't quite like it. Elements of Pataphysics (Alfred Jarry) French author. Mechanopolis (Miguel de Unamuno) from Spain. Early example of machine vs human conflict, or the machine are so scary story. The Doom of Principal City (Yefim Zozulya) This 1918 work by the Soviet-era Russian author reminds me of what is said about We, written by Yevgeny Zamyatin in 1920-21. I wrote "what is said about" because I haven't read it yet, but I understand Orwell took ideas for 1984 from it. Grim satire. The Comet (W. E. B. Du Bois) Racism at the end of the world--oh, wait, not the end. Too allegorical for my taste. The Fate of the Poseidonia (Clare Winger Harris) Read this in Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century Another early feminist SF, quite good. The Star Stealers (Edmond Hamilton) The Conquest of Gola (Leslie F. Stone) Read this in Wesleyan. Many early SF stories were about space colonization, and this reverses the perspective. Perhaps not coincidental that it was written by a woman. A Martian Odyssey (Stanley G. Weinbaum) The Last Poet and the Robots (A. Merritt) The Microscopic Giants (Paul Ernst) Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius (Jorge Luis Borges) Desertion (Clifford D. Simak) Read in Wesleyan. I'd love to read more of this author. September 2005: The Martian (Ray Bradbury) from The Martian Chronicles Baby HP (Juan José Arreola) Surface Tension (James Blish) Beyond Lies the Wub (Philip K. Dick) The Snowball Effect (Katherine MacLean) Prott (Margaret St. Clair) The Liberation of Earth (William Tenn) Read in Wesleyan. I tend to think of this as the counterpoint of The Conquest of Gola. Let Me Live in a House (Chad Oliver The Star (Arthur C. Clarke) Grandpa (James H. Schmitz) The Game of Rat and Dragon (Cordwainer Smith) The Last Question (Isaac Asimov) ((shrug)) Stranger Station (Damon Knight) Sector General (James White) The Visitors (Arkady and Boris Strugatsky Pelt (Carol Emshwiller The Monster (Gérard Klein ) The Man Who Lost the Sea (Theodore Sturgeon) The Waves (Silvina Ocampo) Plenitude (Will Worthington) The Voices of Time (J. G. Ballard) The Astronaut (Valentina Zhuravlyova) The Squid Chooses Its Own Ink (Adolfo Bioy Casares) 2 B R 0 2 B (Kurt Vonnegut Jr.) A Modest Genius (Vadim Shefner) Day of Wrath (Sever Gansovsky) The Hands (John Baxter) Darkness (André Carneiro) “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman (Harlan Ellison) Read in Wesleyan. OK. Nine Hundred Grandmothers (R. A. Lafferty) Well. This is almost like rakugo, in that it so depends on the way the story is told. Day Million (Frederik Pohl) Read in Wesleyan. Like Lafferty, it's very much about the way the story is told. Well, I like it. Student Body (F. L. Wallace) Aye, and Gomorrah (Samuel R. Delany) The Hall of Machines (Langdon Jones) Soft Clocks (Yoshio Aramaki) Three from Moderan (David R. Bunch) Let Us Save the Universe (Stanisław Lem) Vaster Than Empires and More Slow (Ursula K. Le Guin) Good News from the Vatican (Robert Silverberg) When It Changed (Joanna Russ) Read in Wesleyan. Not my favorite feminist SF, but I guess this represents the common sentiment. And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side (James Tiptree Jr.) Where Two Paths Cross (Dmitri Bilenkin) Standing Woman (Yasutaka Tsutsui) The IWM 1000 (Alicia Yánez Cossío) from Ecuador. The machine is just like a tablet+the internet. Forecast of the future technology. The House of Compassionate Sharers (Michael Bishop) Sporting with the Chid (Barrington J. Bayley Sandkings (George R. R. Martin) Wives (Lisa Tuttle) Read in Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century, and gosh, what a story! The Snake Who Had Read Chomsky (Josephine Saxton Reiko’s Universe Box (Kajio Shinji) Swarm (Bruce Sterling) I love Sterling's We See Things Differently. This is also a great read. Mondocane (Jacques Barbéri) Blood Music (Greg Bear) Bloodchild (Octavia E. Butler) So many themes in this relatively short fiction: coexistence, coming of age, (psedo)sex and pregnancy ... I'm rather overwhelmed Variation on a Man (Pat Cadigan) Passing as a Flower in the City of the Dead (S. N. Dyer New Rose Hotel (William Gibson Pots (C. J. Cherryh) Snow (John Crowley) The Lake Was Full of Artificial Things (Karen Joy Fowler The Unmistakable Smell of Wood Violets (Angélica Gorodischer The Owl of Bear Island (Jon Bing Readers of the Lost Art (Élisabeth Vonarburg A Gift from the Culture (Iain M. Banks Paranamanco (Jean-Claude Dunyach Crying in the Rain (Tanith Lee The Frozen Cardinal (Michael Moorcock Rachel in Love (Pat Murphy) my review Sharing Air (Manjula Padmanabhan Schwarzschild Radius (Connie Willis All the Hues of Hell (Gene Wolfe Vacuum States (Geoffrey A. Landis Two Small Birds (Han Song) from China. A strange story of ... time travel? Chinese SF is a genre in itself. Burning Sky (Rachel Pollack Before I Wake (Kim Stanley Robinson Death Is Static Death Is Movement (Misha Nogha The Brains of Rats (Michael Blumlein Gorgonoids (Leena Krohn Vacancy for the Post of Jesus Christ (Kojo Laing The Universe of Things (Gwyneth Jones The Remoras (Robert Reed The Ghost Standard (William Tenn Remnants of the Virago Crypto-System (Geoffrey Maloney How Alex Became a Machine (Stepan Chapman The Poetry Cloud (Cixin Liu) Did I say Chinese SF is a genre in itself? Gorgeous images, organic integration of science and fantasy. Lacking a conflicts-driven plot, but readers would hardly notice it. Story of Your Life (Ted Chiang) my review If you only watched the movie, you are missing a lot. Craphound (Cory Doctorow The Slynx (Tatyana Tolstaya Baby Doll (Johanna Sinisalo (hide spoiler)]

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I can't give this book a rating as I didn't read every single story in it (it was over 1000 pages and frankly some of them just didn't interest me), or I had already read some of them before previously. However, in my mind this is a 5 star collection as a whole. The introduction gave some great history into the sci-fi genre, where it came from, where it is now, and where it's going, and a good short synopsis over the many eras of sci-fi. There was a very conscious effort to fill the collection I can't give this book a rating as I didn't read every single story in it (it was over 1000 pages and frankly some of them just didn't interest me), or I had already read some of them before previously. However, in my mind this is a 5 star collection as a whole. The introduction gave some great history into the sci-fi genre, where it came from, where it is now, and where it's going, and a good short synopsis over the many eras of sci-fi. There was a very conscious effort to fill the collection with many diverse authors, from many different time periods. It felt incredibly comprehensive, and you could tell that the editors have sci-fi in their hearts, and really care about this genre of fiction. Highly highly recommend this to anyone, long or short term fans of science fiction can find something to get out of this collection. I enjoyed almost every story I read in here, but in no particular order my favorites that I read -keeping in mind I did skip some along the way- were : 2 B R 0 2 B - Kurt Vonnegut Aye and Gemmorah - Samuel Delaney Standing Woman - Yasutaka Tsutsui September 2005 : The Martian - Ray Bradbury Beyond Lies The Wub - Phillip K. Dick Day Million - Frederick Pohl And I Awoke and Found Me Here On the Cold Hill's Side - James Tiptree Jr. Variation On a Man - Pat Cadigan Remnants of the Virago Crypto-System - Geoffrey Maloney Baby Doll - Johanna Sinisalo Story of Your Life - Ted Chiang

  21. 4 out of 5

    Susan Marcus

    Science fiction stories and novels have engaged me since my teens. My hero authors then were Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Ursula K. LeGuin. Happily devouring all their works, I was oblivious to the wealth of writings in the genre from dozens of other creative minds. This anthology, edited and annotated by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, contains sample works, mostly short stories, by those writers I ignored in my youth. Varied in agendae, whether politcal or aesthetic, in tone, imagery, and Science fiction stories and novels have engaged me since my teens. My hero authors then were Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Ursula K. LeGuin. Happily devouring all their works, I was oblivious to the wealth of writings in the genre from dozens of other creative minds. This anthology, edited and annotated by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, contains sample works, mostly short stories, by those writers I ignored in my youth. Varied in agendae, whether politcal or aesthetic, in tone, imagery, and subject, many stories astounded me (appropriate, right?). For example, the 1887 story by H.G. Wells, 'The Star'--an 'impact genre' tale--compares favorably with Kajio Shinji's 'Reiko's Universe Box,' appearing nearly 100 years later. The Vendermeers' lengthy and essential introduction supplies a detailed overview of the genre's history and trends influencing the writings. I especially enjoyed the premonitory piece by Yefim Zozulya, 'The Doom of Principal City,' truly a story for our own times and James Blish's 'Surface Tension,' concerning terraforming and human modification with an uncanny twist. In all, this is an exciting and valuable work.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This anthology turned out to be an educational experience for me as a reader. I would have called myself a sci-fi buff, but it turns out that I am buffed only for sci-fi in the form of short stories that tend toward fantasy or humor or genuine human feeling that just happens to be felt on another planet. Turns out I wasn't all that enthusiastic for the lengthier novelettes or the SCIENCE science fiction. So I just skipped those, and thoroughly enjoyed the gorgeous "The Story of Your Life" (Ted This anthology turned out to be an educational experience for me as a reader. I would have called myself a sci-fi buff, but it turns out that I am buffed only for sci-fi in the form of short stories that tend toward fantasy or humor or genuine human feeling that just happens to be felt on another planet. Turns out I wasn't all that enthusiastic for the lengthier novelettes or the SCIENCE science fiction. So I just skipped those, and thoroughly enjoyed the gorgeous "The Story of Your Life" (Ted Chiang). "Rachel in Love" (Pat Murphy) very touching. And it's always a pleasure to meet my old friend from grammar school, Ray Bradbury (even if the included story isn't my favorite of his.) "Sandkings" (George R R Martin) snarky fun. "Bloodchild" (Octavia Butler) postapocalyptic and darker than I usually care about, but wonderful in a way that creeps up on you. Can't deny that the book has plenty of everything for every kind of sci-fi buff, and that is its strong suit.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    There's a saying that goes "Quantity has a quality all its own," and I think they decided to go with that in spades. More than 100 short stories from the history of SF. It's a FAT book. I just couldn't get myself to read them all. After reading the first dozen or so, it just wasn't paying off. The old stuff is a walk down memory lane of SciFi, and if you like the OLD stuff, great. It's here. But lots of it just felt moldy and old fashioned. Dated. Almost silly sometimes. So I skipped ahead to There's a saying that goes "Quantity has a quality all its own," and I think they decided to go with that in spades. More than 100 short stories from the history of SF. It's a FAT book. I just couldn't get myself to read them all. After reading the first dozen or so, it just wasn't paying off. The old stuff is a walk down memory lane of SciFi, and if you like the OLD stuff, great. It's here. But lots of it just felt moldy and old fashioned. Dated. Almost silly sometimes. So I skipped ahead to the stories by authors whose name's I recognized. That was about a dozen more. Again, nothing compelling. So I quit. Not a huge fan of the short story, I guess. Hopefully you'll enjoy them more. But be warned.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Glenn

    I got this book to read Ted Chiang's story that the film Arrival is based on. That story (The Story of Your Life) was a great mix of hard sci-fi and human emotion, but I ended up leaving this book on my bedside table for the next month and reading almost half the stories in an 1,100 page anthology. There were great re-reads of stories by Philip K. Dick, JG Ballard and Greg Bear and awesome new finds by Bruce Sterling, Ursula LeGuin and Liu Cixin. Each story is introduced with a one page summary I got this book to read Ted Chiang's story that the film Arrival is based on. That story (The Story of Your Life) was a great mix of hard sci-fi and human emotion, but I ended up leaving this book on my bedside table for the next month and reading almost half the stories in an 1,100 page anthology. There were great re-reads of stories by Philip K. Dick, JG Ballard and Greg Bear and awesome new finds by Bruce Sterling, Ursula LeGuin and Liu Cixin. Each story is introduced with a one page summary of the author's work and some background on the story chosen. I loved this collection so much that even the phone book size format didn't bother me!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Darth

    Just got this to read "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang and holy shit. It took me a while to get into the beat/pace of the short tale but after I did, and near the end, I was pretty blown away. The story was a lot more subtle and mysterious than the movie adaptation too. But both the movie and this story were good in their own right. I do like the story a bit better though.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kristina Leonard

    A must read for lovers of science fiction.

  27. 4 out of 5

    John Jr.

    Science fiction keeps arguing with itself and interested others over what it really is. Potentially, every anthology makes a case for what constitutes SF; this one certainly does. It offers 105 stories, follows chronological order, essentially limits itself to the 20th century, ranges across languages and countries of origin, includes work by women as well as men, and represents widely varying angles of approach, thematic concerns, and stylistic movements. The breadth of its view hits you Science fiction keeps arguing with itself and interested others over what it really is. Potentially, every anthology makes a case for what constitutes SF; this one certainly does. It offers 105 stories, follows chronological order, essentially limits itself to the 20th century, ranges across languages and countries of origin, includes work by women as well as men, and represents widely varying angles of approach, thematic concerns, and stylistic movements. The breadth of its view hits you quickly; the first story is one by H. G. Wells (“The Star,” from 1897), and the second is by a Bengali woman named Rokheya Shekhawat Hossain (“Sultana’s Dream,” from 1905). Gone at a stroke is any notion—if you harbored it at all—that SF is largely the work of men in the Anglophone world. If in the past the prevailing ideas of SF were like Saul Steinberg’s 1976 illustration “View of the World from 9th Avenue,” in which part of Manhattan looms large, the rest of the country has been condensed, and most of the world barely exists, reading this volume is like discovering a genuine piece of cartography—many regions are still sketchy, but we have a better picture of the whole. A reader might ask whether this forceful broadening of our horizons needs to be done at all, or you might support it but disagree with the particulars. If personal experience is any guide, I can report that I began learning the lesson long ago. My first contact was with white male Anglophone writers such as Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke, but I soon discovered the work of a Polish man named Stanisław Lem and a Russian man named Yevgeny Zamyatin and an American woman named Ursula K. Le Guin. For me, then, this volume has value not because it changes my view but because it confirms and extends it. But the lesson is probably needed, since many “best of” lists still barely look beyond the English language; two examples that I happen to have saved are this one, from the AbeBooks reseller site, and this one, from MIT Technology Review. As for the details of what’s included in The Big Book of Science Fiction and what’s not, I have no expertise in the field and will make no general judgment (beyond the comments below), but this thorough assessment, by the Los Angeles Review of Books, while granting the volume high praise overall, takes issue with its underplaying of the pulp era, its almost total lack of hard SF, and its inclination toward “the weird or the surreal or the fantastic.” For my part, a few things struck me as unusual. I didn’t expect to find Jorge Luis Borges here, represented by “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” (first published in 1940); he’s an example of this book’s taste for the fantastic. It’s even more of a surprise to find Alfred Jarry, a delightful French lunatic who is now, I think, known almost entirely for his play Ubu Roi. Jarry’s contribution to the present volume is “Elements of Pataphysics” (an excerpt from a novel first published in 1911), which is less a story than an essay and less an essay than an I-don’t-know-what. Maybe most surprising is the proposal in the introduction—which should probably be read only after you’ve read everything else in the book—of “a simple yet effective definition for science fiction: it depicts the future, whether in a stylized or realistic manner” (emphasis in the original). The editors, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, go on to clarify this somewhat; what seems to be their final position is that, though SF always depicts the future, it may be about the future, or it may “[use] the future to comment on the past or present.” This doesn’t even cover everything in their own volume. Nor does it allow for works of alternative history such as The Man in the High Castle (1962, written by Philip K. Dick, asking what if the Nazis had won World War II) or The Difference Engine (1990, co-written by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, supposing that Charles Babbage and others had succeeded after all in building computers in the 19th century). Dick’s tale is clearly speculative, if not science, fiction, and Gibson and Sterling’s piece, with its concern for the effects of technology on society, is widely regarded as science fiction. If I were the VanderMeers, I might’ve left this question alone; definitions are important, but they’re also, sometimes, nearly impossible. I have a couple of complaints about the notes introducing each author. They display a fetish for naming awards, which tells me very little, given the number of awards out there. The LARB review comments that the SF field goes to great lengths by means of these awards to convince itself and others of its own worth, and I agree with the implicit criticism: it looks insecure and self-conscious to harp on them. What’s more, the intros are sometimes awkward or unintentionally funny. In the introduction to a story by James Blish, the editors identify John Milton as “a famous apocalyptic English poet from the 1600s who used supernatural imagery.” Elsewhere, Frederick Pohl is described as a “highly adaptive” SF writer. What the devil does that mean? Sever Gansovsky is described as “Soviet.” I had to look him up to learn that he was Russian. To borrow a phrase, The Big Book of Science Fiction is vaster than empires, in terms of page count (1,178), the number of stories, and the sheer bulk of the thing, wrist-challenging for anyone who reads in bed. Rather than trying to account for most of its content—if you want that, consult the LARB review, which seemingly mentions everything that’s here and much that isn’t—I’ll just sketch a few pieces I found striking, with one or two extended remarks. H. G. Wells, “The Star” (1897): A glowing wanderer from space enters our solar system, draws nearer and nearer to Earth, causes wonder, then alarm, then devastation. In one sense, we can’t credit Wells with inventing a new fright, since humankind had been linking comets with doom for a long time (the comet later named for Edmund Halley appears in the Bayeux Tapestry). In another sense, there is something new here, in that Wells anticipates the modern scientific understanding of threats from comets, meteors, and the like. Jorge Luis Borges, “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” (1940): An astonishing tale-within-a-tale, which involves “a brief description of a false country” found in “a certain pirated encyclopedia,” then an entire volume of an entire encyclopedia devoted to a fabricated world, “a vast and systematic fragment of the entire history of an unknown planet, with its architectures and its playing cards, the horror of its mythologies and the murmur of its tongues, its emperors and its seas…” Arthur C. Clarke, “The Star” (1955): Clarke’s story, which gave me a shiver when I first read it, deals with the pathos of a lost civilization. The frisson derives from the religious angle, which Clarke used elsewhere as well. James White, “Sector General” (1957): Though the story involves a host of alien species and a handful of futuristic technologies, it’s basically a doctor drama following a young medico as he learns the ropes in a space hospital—the general hospital for an entire sector of a galaxy, hence the title, akin to Massachusetts General. In America, doctor dramas go back at least to the 1930s, when the Dr. Kildare character first appeared, but White’s take on the idea—doctors in space—seems innovative, and it’s solidly done. Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, “The Visitors” (1958): A satiric, somewhat Lem-like first-contact tale involving inscrutable aliens and uncomprehending humans. Theodore Sturgeon, “The Man Who Lost the Sea” (1959): Begins in a blur of dislocated impressions. Are we hearing about a man on a beach at night, a man who seems to be sick, or a kid with a flying toy who seems to be there too? Memories, of diving, of almost dying, float in. A moving fleck of light in the sky overhead, a satellite, prompts some reckoning with time and orbits, and then a reckoning with where he must be. Clarity arrives with finality. The story deals adroitly with memory and point of view, in a way I didn’t expect from midcentury American SF, while its perspective on a valiant astronaut has a Romantic aspect. J. G. Ballard, “The Voices of Time” (1960): A strong sense of things winding down, running out, veering off course—of science and nature going awry—is conveyed in elusive, indirect, roundabout ways. The setting is somewhere in a desert. Here, an abandoned bombing range; there, inside an institution of some sort, an empty swimming pool. A neurosurgeon has fallen prey to “narcoma,” a progressive condition that entails “lengthening intervals of dreamless sleep” (thus its victims have literally lost their dreams). Patients in the end state, called “terminals,” are housed by the hundreds in a clinic. Another sufferer, an astronomer, has received an experimental treatment that prevents him from ever sleeping at all. A biologist who had done fieldwork on the site of bomb tests in the Pacific committed suicide not long ago. Some animals and plants are modifying their own form to protect themselves from radiation—hence a lead-armored frog, and cacti plating themselves with bits of gold. Others have been subjected to genetic experiments, again involving radiation, again leading to strange changes of form. Countdown-clock signals from space, picked up by radio telescopes, imply that the universe itself is approaching an end. Stanisław Lem, “Let Us Save the Universe” (1971): If the term “Deep Mind” (which is an Alphabet AI project) were to be given as a nickname to an SF writer, it might belong to Lem ahead of all others. But he also excelled at comedy in many modes—satiric, parodic, playful, silly. Solaris (1961) is profound but not likely to raise smiles; this complaint against space trash and space tourism does, like many of Lem’s other stories featuring explorer Ijon Tichy. Two words: sentient potato. Ursula K. Le Guin, “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow” (1971): The members of a scientific survey team struggle to comprehend the nature of life on an alien planet as they struggle with one another. They’re seeking sentience, among other things; they’re in want of something more like forbearance, compassion, mutual acceptance. The story’s 10 characters become clear in their peculiarities and are distinct from the roles they play. Its dynamic view of cultures—the culture here being the research team—reflects Le Guin’s anthropological imagination. Its movement toward balance, from discord to concord, reflects her Eastern, Taoist orientation. It’s of a piece with much of her other work, even in its title, drawn from Andrew Marvell, which may remind us that Le Guin wrote poetry as well as other forms. C. J. Cherryh, “Pots” (1985): In the company of a spacefarer named Lord Desan, we arrive on what we take to be an alien planet, where a great scientist named Gothon and her team are patiently studying the archaeology of a dead civilization. As on Earth, pots are among the artifacts that the researchers read, hence the title. Something important must be at stake, though. Desan notes that Gothon is investigating “the greatest mystery in the universe.” The question, obscure at first, clearer as the story proceeds, appears to be whether the now-vanished species sometimes referred to as “the Ancients” escaped the planet before a calamity and hence whether this could have been “the world of origin.” Did the Ancients die out, or did they seed life elsewhere in the universe? Although Desan and Gothon are each, in separate ways, pursuing conclusive evidence, it’s widely assumed that the Ancients did survive, and this has hardened into an orthodoxy, amounting to a fervent religious belief; the term “heresy” is often applied to the opposing view. There’s also a question about who’s who. At first we’re likely to suppose that the researchers—Desan, Gothon, and the whole mission they’re part of—are members of humankind who are digging into the past of another species. But telltale clues emerge that suggest otherwise. References to a probe, strikingly like the Voyager probes, that the “sapients” on this planet sent out; a set of artifacts that were found on their single moon; a calamity that ended almost all life here and that left a huge impact crater: these and other details allow us to suspect that this planet might itself be Earth and that the investigators are aliens looking into our own disappearance. Either way you read it, parallels with Earth, with the Alvarez hypothesis of dinosaur extinction, and with the possible end of human life are clear. Cherryh’s story functions as a subtle, profound warning about the precariousness of our position. The story proceeds mostly through suggestion and implication, and one or two of its notes are sounded unsurely. It’s never as clear as I might like how the orthodoxy became so extreme. Gothon says of the Ancients that “we needed them so much”; likewise, near the end, Desan remarks on his species as “Fools who had desperately needed proof…that they were not alone.” That may be enough, given that traditional religious beliefs are no better founded and yet equally fervent. The story’s tone, its voice, its themes and motifs (the text is marked with frequent references to dust, death, bones, solitude), the careful fine weave of its background details, its handling of mystery: all strike me as masterful. It’s the only story in this volume I felt compelled to reread. Karen Joy Fowler, “The Lake Was Full of Artificial Things” (1985): Fowler dramatizes a virtual-reality-like psychological treatment involving the immersive recreation of a figure from a patient’s memory. A Black Mirror episode called “Be Right Back” (2013) hurtles headlong into a similar idea—the attempt to bring back someone now lost—and hits us pretty hard with its points (as that show is wont to do). Fowler’s approach is simpler, briefer, calmer, gentler. Yoshio Aramaki, “Soft Clocks” (1968): The SF aspect of this lovably weird story mainly involves biotechnology, with a nod to the colonization of Mars, but it’s much more striking for its surrealistic elements drawn from Salvador Dalí. George R. R. Martin, “Sandkings” (1979): A man seeks to lord it over his new pets and gets his comeuppance. The story may sound like a trifle; in truth, it’s a methodically elaborated tale of oppression and revenge, essentially a power struggle. In that respect, it resembles Martin’s working out of power relations on a much grander scale in his Song of Ice and Fire novels (1996–?). Ted Chiang, “Story of Your Life” (1998): In a recent New Yorker review of Chiang’s second story collection, Joyce Carol Oates described his work as “literary-humanist science fiction,” labeled this story “beautifully elegiac,” and summarized it as “[reexamining] the phenomena of time and memory in terms of language.” A reader looking for solid science will find it; Chiang explicitly discusses Fermat’s principle of least time and builds the entire tale on an assumption about the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. But his main interest, and ours, lies elsewhere. The movie version, called Arrival (2016), loses something essential about the story, which depends on its first-person point of view and its narrator’s voice and even its verb tenses.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Manu

    If science fiction is even remotely of interest to you, this is a veritable treasure trove! 105 stories spanning 1160 pages. Only a couple of authors get to have more than one story, and that means there is a diversity of work that's arguably unparalleled in any collection of this nature. The stated objective of the book is indeed that - diversity. And it happens on multiple counts - non-English writings (and therefore, the variety of geographical settings - other than Antarctica, all continents If science fiction is even remotely of interest to you, this is a veritable treasure trove! 105 stories spanning 1160 pages. Only a couple of authors get to have more than one story, and that means there is a diversity of work that's arguably unparalleled in any collection of this nature. The stated objective of the book is indeed that - diversity. And it happens on multiple counts - non-English writings (and therefore, the variety of geographical settings - other than Antarctica, all continents are represented), gender (of authors and characters), and most importantly, the type of science fiction - dystopian, alien encounters, space operas, post-apocalypse, and even satire. The stories are broadly in a chronological order of when they were written. The introduction to each author before the beginning of a story is very helpful in terms of context setting. While I do love science fiction, I really haven't read enough to comment on the choices of representation made by the authors. I can count on one hand the number of stories I have previously read. But at least a couple of them are my all-time favourites in fiction - Asimov's "The Last Question" and Ted Chiang's "Story of your life". I also found a story - Sandkings -by an author familiar to many of us from an alternate "universe" - George R.R. Martin. An absolute thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed. My other favourites are these : The Triumph of Mechanics by Karl Hans Strobl, a macabre, dystopian tale with a sense of humour! Desertion by Clifford D. Simak, a story based on pantropy - modifying humans for space exploration, as opposed to changing the alien environment. Another favourite that uses this theme is Surface Tension by James Blish. Philip K. Dick's Beyond Lies the Wub seems quite prescient about "we are what we eat"! Katherine Maclean's The Snowball Effect is about an experiment by academia in a sociological setting that leads to a more-than-anticipated impact. William Tenn's Liberation of Earth is a brilliant commentary on US intervention in Korea/Vietnam, even while doing a great job of reducing the collective ego of the apex species of earth! His other work The Ghost Standard, later in the book, is an absolutely delightful satire. Grandpa, by James H. Schmitz has alien ecology as a theme and builds the tension excruciatingly well! Stranger Station by Damon Knight is an intense first-alien-contact story that dwells on the complexities very well. Vadim Shefner's A Modest Genius is a lovely tale of romance and invention while Sever Gansovsky's Day of Wrath is a thriller based on biotech experimentation gone wrong. The Hands by John Baxter is a creepy tale that reminded me of Aliens. F.L. Wallace's Student Body would make it to my top 5 in the book, exploring both alien contact and environmental impact really well. The feminist utopian world created by Joanna Russ in When it Changed is subtle yet impactful. Yasutaka Tsustsui's Standing Woman is as poignant as it is surreal. Sporting with the Chid by Barrington J. Bayley is dark and builds up to a terrifying climax. Josephine Saxton's The Snake Who Read Chomsky is another incisive tale on biotech experimentation with some excellent twists and turns. Reiko's Universe Box by Kajio Shinji is somehow sad and upbeat at the same time. Greg Bear's Blood Music combines microscopic phenomena and macroscopic impact really well. Robert Reed's The Remoras uses a space opera setting for an excellent human drama. The last story in the book - Baby Doll by Johanna Sinisalo - is a disturbing take on sexualisation of children that falls well within the realms of possibility, sadly. Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. Le Guin, Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells - the book has work by all the greats of the genre, and you are also likely to discover authors whose stories you will enjoy!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kira Nerys

    I was in a bookstore, with Borne in one hand and this in the other (well, in my lap), and you can guess which one I purchased. Ann can take it as a compliment. I planned to start with the authors I recognized (not that there were many, at first) until I read the introduction, which implies a benefit to reading the stories chronologically, some larger knowledge to be gained about sf trends and developments over time. It's a scholarly essay I'll understand better once I've made it through some of I was in a bookstore, with Borne in one hand and this in the other (well, in my lap), and you can guess which one I purchased. Ann can take it as a compliment. I planned to start with the authors I recognized (not that there were many, at first) until I read the introduction, which implies a benefit to reading the stories chronologically, some larger knowledge to be gained about sf trends and developments over time. It's a scholarly essay I'll understand better once I've made it through some of the book. The intro also reads as an argument for open-mindedness about what falls under the umbrella "sf" category. I took a speculative fiction class in college, I'm eagerly looking for that. What's obvious from a glance at the table of contents is the large proportion of female authors and abundant ethnic diversity, for this book includes a multitude of stories translated from other languages and a conscious choice to highlight international authors. ("Abundant" being relative, perhaps, since this traverses sf throughout the twentieth century, and we all know publishers have prejudices.) I've already found a couple quibbles, such as H.G. Wells' introduction giving joint credit (with Verne) to "modern science fiction" despite mentioning Mary Shelly in the Intro and Clare Winger Harris', which seems inclined to credit her imagination (and not just her love of SF) to her Verne-loving father and engineer husband. Who knows which intent--authors I recognize, discovering female authors, surprise at diversity--will lead my story choices as I go? Harris, Clara Winger. "The Fate of the Poseidonia." 4 stars. Finished 3/4/19. - well, obvious Poseidon reference; the writing reminds me of someone else circa 1900--Wells, Stevenson?; feels futuristic yet also dated; slightly racist; engaging aside from that feeling of being reminded of something Hossain, Rokheya Shekhawat. "Sultana's Dream." 3 stars. Finished 3/5/19. - utopias generally don't age well, but this kind of women-only (-lead, -centric) world always has an impact; needs to offer explanations, which reveal character concerns and motives, definitely speculative Scheerbart, Paul. "The New Overworld." 3 stars. Finished 3/6/19. - inventive, Douglas Adams-like randomness, unusual concept of symbiotic relationship, not meant to make sense Strobl, Karl Hans. "The Triumph of Mechanics." 2 stars. Finished 3/5/19. - I get that it's humorous, but I didn't like much beyond the punchline; kinda capitalist for my SF tastes; like intro's take of optimism vs threat in industrialization Wells, H.G. "The Star." 3 stars. Finished 3/5/19. - dated/believable in some ways and not in others; doesn't paint a pretty picture

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rena Sherwood

    Man, reading this 1200-page monster was hard work. I think it has cured me from ever reading a science fiction anthology ever again. And it wasn't worth the bother. About 100 pages of introductions and detailed descriptions of each writer (and translator) presented could have been cut out to make room for a short story (ANY short story) by Robert A. Heinlein. That's right, folks -- a science fiction anthology claiming to be the best thing since slicing bread with laser beams -- and there is NO Man, reading this 1200-page monster was hard work. I think it has cured me from ever reading a science fiction anthology ever again. And it wasn't worth the bother. About 100 pages of introductions and detailed descriptions of each writer (and translator) presented could have been cut out to make room for a short story (ANY short story) by Robert A. Heinlein. That's right, folks -- a science fiction anthology claiming to be the best thing since slicing bread with laser beams -- and there is NO inclusion by one of the widely acknowledged Grand Masters. (Apparently there were problems with the estate of the late Heinlein. These should have been ironed out to make a better anthology.) I mean, SERIOUSLY! I pick up an anthology of science fiction stories and all I want to read are science fiction stories. I don't care about the history of scifi or the detailed writing-critic-with-a-hard-on jargon-filled careers of each freaking contributor. And I don't want to read snippets from novels I probably will never read. These snippets were described as "self-contained" but they weren't. Many selections were translated from other languages and appears here for the first time -- however, 99% of these selections sucked and so were not worth the bother of translating into English. Many of the English selections can be found in numerous other anthologies, such as George R. R. Martin's "Sandkings", "The Nine Billion Names of God" by Arthur C. Clarke, "Snow" by John Crowley, "Rachel in Love" by Pat Murphy, "The Remoras" by Robert Reed and the short story with the best title I've ever read (too bad the story did not live up to the title), Harlan Ellison's ""Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman". How bad was this? I put this aside and read AN ENTIRE OTHER ANTHOLOGY (edited by Orson Scott Card) before I could work up the energy to go back to this.

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