Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, August 24, 2013


I mention in yesterday's post that The Eureka Years ended with a representative sample of book reviews written jointly by Anthony Boucher and Mick McComas.  The very first column covered the best book of 1949:
  • What Mad Universe by Fredric Brown
  • The World Below by S. Fowler Wright (As the year's "most notable reissue."  George Kelly covered this one as a FFB yesterday.)
  • Without Sorcery by Theodore Sturgeon
  • The Best Science Fiction Stories:  1949 edited by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty
  • The Conquest of Space by Chesley Bonestell and Willy Ley (The "most beautiful and informative...volume of factual material...")
  • Honey for the Ghost by Louis Golding (A supernatural novel and, alas, one I have not read.)
  • The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (A "forgotten classic" by the man once known as the Ettrick Shepherd.)
  • The Ghostly Tales of Henry James edited by Leon Edel (Hard to argue with this one.)
  • Gallery of Ghosts by James Reynolds (A collection of "non-fiction ghost stories;"  Reynolds followed this one up with several other influential collections.)
Mention was also given to Jack Williamson's The Humanoids, L. Sprague de Camp's reprinted Lest Darkness Fall, and Shirley Jackson's collection The Lottery.

A very good and catholic (small "c") list.

A longer list covered the best of 1950:

  • Monster Rally by Charles Addams
  • The Best Science Fiction Stories:  1950 edited by Everett Bleiler and T. E. Dikty
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  • Brimstone in the Garden by Elizabeth Cadell (Another one I have not read.)
  • Beyond Time and Space edited by August Derleth
  • Ghostly Tales To Be Told edited by Basil Davenport
  • Men Against the Stars edited by Martin Greenberg (the earlier Martin Greenberg; that is, the s.o.b. Greenberg, not the very nice Martin H. Greenberg.)
  • Waldo and Magic, Inc. by Robert A. Heinlein
  • The Man Who Sold the Moon by Robert A. Heinlein
  • The Flying Saucers Are Real by Donald Keyhoe (One of the early -- and more literate -- of the UFOlogy books.)
  • Gather, Darkness! by Fritz Leiber
  • A Spell for Old Bones by Eric Linklater (A collection of stories by the author of the well-known story "Sealskin Trousers;" another book that I have to read.)
  • Through a Glass, Darkly by Helen McCloy (A mystery.)
  • Shadow on the Hearth by Judith Merril
  • Shot in the Dark edited by Judith Merril
  • The Alabaster Hand by A. N. L. Munby (A very effective ghost story collection.)
  • A Gnome There Was by Lewis Padgett (Wherein Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore display their collective genius.)
  • The Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon
  • The 13 Clocks by James Thurber
  • The Vintage by Anthony West (A fantasy of hell by the son of H. G. Wells, published in England as On a Dark Night.  Another TBR for me.)
  • The Greater Trumps by Charles Williams (The Tolkien colleague and fellow Inkling, not the Gold Medal author.)
  • The Throne of Saturn by S. Fowler Wright (A collection from Arkham House.)
Another well-selected and varied lot, although I would have think about including the Davenport and the Keyhoe.

Let's take a look at 1951:
  • The Fabulous Wink by Kem Bennett
  • The Innocence of Pastor Muller by Carlo Beuf
  • The Best Science Fiction Stories1950 edited by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty
  • The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
  • The Devil in Velvet by John Dickson Carr
  • Dance of Death by Jean Charlot (I reviewed this one as a FFB recently.)
  • Prelude to Space by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Rockets, Jets, Guided Missiles and Spaceships by Jack Coggins and Fletcher Pratt (A beautifully illustrated nonfiction book.)
  • Fancies and Goodnights by John Collier
  • Possible Worlds of Science Fiction  edited by Groff Conklin
  • Rogue Queen by L. Sprague de Camp
  • New Tales of Space and Time edited by Raymond J. Healy
  • The Black Fox by Gerald Heard (A fantasy by the author also known as H. F. Heard.)
  • Between Planets by Robert A. Heinlein
  • The Green Hills of Earth by Robert A. Heinlein
  • The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Two Novels by L. Ron Hubbard (Boucher and McComas are referring to Fear & Typewriter in the Sky, published in one volume by Gnome Press.)
  • Bullard of the Space Patrol by Malcolm Jameson (And edited by Andre Norton.)
  • Pogo by Walt Kelly
  • The Lost Years by Oscar Lewis (An alternate history novel later included by Boucher in his anthology A Treasury of Great SF.)
  • Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel by Willy Ley (Nonfiction, naturally.)
  • Worlds of Wonder edited by Fletcher Pratt
  • We Always Lie to Strangers by Vance Randolph (Appalachian folktales.)
  • The Great Disciple and Other Stories by W. B. Ready (A collection retelling Irish legends.)
  • Slan by A. E. van Vogt
  • The Place of the Lion by Charles Williams
  • The Disappearance by Philip Wylie (Included by the editors in spite of the author's many, many sins against good writing throughout his career.)
  • The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
Another hard to argue with list with a number of works that might have not been familiar (Bennett, Beuf, Charlot, Lewis, Ready, Randolph -- although Ready and Randolph did have some work reprinted in F&SF) with the average reader of the magazine.

1952's best:
  • The Best Science Fiction Stories1952 edited by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty
  • Lands Beyond by L. Sprague de Camp and Willy Ley (Nonfiction)
  • Cloak of Aesir by John W. Campbell, Jr.
  • The Exploration of Space by Arthur C. Clarke (Nonfiction)
  • Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Invaders of Earth edited by Groff Conklin
  • Chivers' Life of Poe edited by Richard Beale Davis
  • Index to the Science-Fiction Magazines 1926-1950 edited by Donald B. Day
  • In the Name of Science by Martin Gardner (Nonfiction.)
  • Gabriel and the Creatures by Gerald Heard
  • Tomorrow the Stars edited by Robert A. Heinlein (Actually ghost-edited by Frederik Pohl and Judith Merril.)
  • Selected Stories by Franz Kafka
  • I Go Pogo by Walt Kelly (The possum was the editors' preferred candidate for the 1952 presidential election.)
  • Takeoff by Cyril M. Kornbluth
  • Beyond Human Ken edited by Judith Merril
  • Robots Have No Tails by Lewis Padgett (The "Gallagher" series about the inventor who could only invent when he was drunk.)
  • Beyond the End of Time edited by Frederik Pohl
  • Across the Space Frontier edited by Cornellius Ryan (A symposium of articles from Collier's.)
  • City by Clifford D. Simak
  • The Heads of Cerebus by Francis Stevens (A weird story from 1919's The Thrill Book, written by Gertrude Bennett under her better-known pseudonym.)
  • The Long Loud Silence by Wilson Tucker
  • Away and Beyond by A. E. van Vogt
  • Destination:  Universe! by A. E. van Vogt
  • The Weapon Makers by A. E. van Vogt
  • Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
And, finally, from the banner year of 1953:
  • The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
  • Best Science Fiction Stories:  1953 edited by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty
  • The Lights in the Sky Are Stars by Fredric Brown
  • Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Expedition to Earth by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Science-Fiction Adventures in Dimension edited by Groff Conklin
  • The Supernatural Reader edited by Groff and Lucy Conklin
  • Post Mortem by Guy Cullingford
  • Tales to Be Told in the Dark edited by Basil Davenport
  • The Syndic by C. M. Kornbluth
  • The Green Millenium by Fritz Leiber
  • Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore
  • Star Science Fiction Stories edited by Frederik Pohl
  • The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth
  • Tales from Gavagan's Bar by Fletcher Pratt and L.Sprague de Camp
  • Satan in the Suburbs by Bertrand Russell
  • More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
  • Children of Wonder edited by William Tenn
  • Out of the Deeps by John Wyndham
This was the first year that Boucher and McComas did not include any nonfiction on their year's best list.  In any given year there are a few standouts, but 1953 brought us more than a few -- even some of the minor novels in any other year could reasonably be considered great.  Novels by Bester, Brown, Clarke, Leiber, Moore, Sturgeon, and Wyndham -- few years were better than this one.

There you have it.  The best books in the genre for 1949-1953.  Some may be tarnished by age, but most hold up remarkably well.  A lot of good reading here for both the avid fan and the curious. 


  1. Jerry, thanks for compiling this list of sf and fantasy books from the period mentioned. It's going to help my reading from the genre.

  2. Boucher would later make the same point about 1953's crop in one of his annual round-ups for Judith Merril's year's best least that even some of the novels that seemed minor, if impressive, in 1953 would've been easily the best of whichever late '50s year he was dealing with in that case.

    And, fwiw, I've recently FFB-reviewed the second Davenport selection of horror fiction and related matter, the one cited in the 1953 list (at least in its slightly abridged Ballantine paperback). Boucher and McComas were very supportive of Davenport's sticking his oar into the fantasy/sf publishing waters.

  3. In fact, one of my major beefs with Boucher particularly was his assumption that certain fantasies were simply too subtle to appeal to F&SF readers...something he wasn't afraid to mention in the magazine itself.