Extrapolation. It's the basis of most fiction. If A happens, then B, or C. or D...
In science fiction it can be an easy way to come up with a plot. How many end of the world stories were there in the Fifties when fury of the atom became general knowledge? How many mutant monster tales radiated to drive-in movie screens? In the Sixties, when overpopulation began to be a favored topic, or when geopolitical concerns and an unpopular war burned their existence into the minds of a whole generation, didn't science fiction follow suit? Pick a topic -- any topic -- from ecology to feminism to racism to religious fervor and you will find the science fiction prophets riding the wave, and -- following Sturgeon's Law -- most of these hodads wipe out. Obvious, right?
For a rookie SF anthologist, as Nuetzel was, it may seem that "if this goes on" would be a good theme for a book. And it may explain why Nuetzel's career as an anthologist never took off. As an author, Nuetzel found his niche as a minor writer of potboilers and exploitation books published by small, short-lived California paperback publishers and of stories in second- and third-tier magazines using such pseudonyms as Alex Rivere, David Johnson, Alberto Augustus, Jr., and Charles English -- just four of at least thirty names under which he has been published.
If This Goes On was published by Book Company of America, a Beverly Hills paperback publisher which born in 1964 and died the following year after publishing 17 titles. The anthology was one of three SF titles; the others being an A. E. van Vogt reprint collection and an original novel Felix Mendelsohn, Jr.'s Club Tycoon Sends Man to Moon (remember that one?). (Of the remaining fourteen books, nine were non-fiction -- with five reprints -- and two were suspense novels; there were also one contemporary novel, one western, and one war novel.) Cheap packaging and design and spotty production values seem to have been the norm for this publisher. The cover of If This Goes On has (IMO) a poorly rendered, slightly phallic painting by the editor's father, science fiction artist Albert Nuetzell (please note the extra "l"). There is no table of contents or a copyright page; an acknowledgements page serves kinda/sorta as a copyright page. The cover, the acknowledgements page, the introduction, and the preface ALL boast a Ray Bradbury story which is not included in the book. The introduction to each story is disconcertingly attached to the end of the previous story. There are a bunch of typos, the most glaring of which is the misspelling of an author's name. The fifty-year-old paper has held up well but the paper's acid smell is the strongest I have ever encountered.
With all of this said and done, what we have here is an enjoyable (albeit minor) minor book just right for anyone in the mood for a non-demanding read.
- Introduction by Forrest J. Ackerman and Preface by Charles Nuetzel. Understandingly praise-worth hyperbole, more so on the part of Ackerman.
- "The Test" by Richard Matheson. From The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1954. Not the best best Matheson but good enough so you can't throw a stick at a pile of anthologies without hitting this story.
- "The Earth Killers" by A. E. van Vogt. From Super Science Stories, April 1949. A minor story from the author published when he was near the end of his glory days.
- "The Racer" by Ib Melchior. From Escapade, October 1956. Filmed as Death Race 2000 in 1975 (with David Carradine, Sylvester Stallone,and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it performance by John Landis) and as Death Race in 2008 (with Jason Stratham and Joan Allen).
- "All the Troubles in the World" by Isaac Asimov. From Super-Science Fiction, April 1958. An oft-reprinted super-computer story.
- "Friends and Enemies" by Fritz Leiber. From Infinity Science Fiction, April 1957. Another minor story, seldom reprinted.
- "No Land of Nod" by Sherwood Springer. From Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1952, and inexplicably reprinted in the 1953 anthology The Best from Startling Stories (which had only five of the eleven stories coming from Startling Stories, the remaining six coming from Thrilling Wonder Stories; both magazines were from the same publisher, so what the heck). Anyway, the story was a daring -- but not too daring -- tale, popular when it was first published.
- "A Very Cultured Taste" by "George Frederic." From who knows where; the story was copyrighted in 1960 by Billingsley Publications which I suspect produced lower-tier men's magazines. A gimmick story whose ending is telegraphed by the title. "Frederic" is one of the editor's many pseudonyms.
- "The Mute Question" by Forrest J. Ackerman. Originally printed in a 1945 fanzine, the story got its first professional publication in Other Worlds Science Stories, September 1950. A very short gimmick story and 4EJ-ish.
- "The Homo Sap" by Charles Nuetzel. Apparently original to this anthology. The third gimmick story in a row.
- "Aquella" by Donald A. Wollheim. From Super Science Stories, November 1942, where it appeared under the title "A Planet Called Aquella" under the pseudonym "Martin Pearson." OMG, another gimmick story! Wollheim holds an important place in science fiction, but as a writer, he was middling.
- "The Climbing Wave" by Marion Zimmer Bradley. From The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 1955. An early story from Bradley and the longest story in the book. An attempt at feminism flawed by stereotype.
- "Your Life in 1977!" by Willy Ley. From Science Fiction Digest, February 1954. An essay.
- "Preposterous" by Fredric Brown. From Brown's 1954 collection Angels and Spaceships. Flash fiction. Gimmicky.
Gee, I see I've used the word "gimmick" a lot.
An entertaining but very minor collection. It's like eating from a bowl of mixed nuts where the vast majority of the nuts are peanuts and it's difficult to find the cashews and other really good nuts but you just keep on eating because the peanuts are okay.