Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, April 27, 2018

FORGOTTEN BOOK: FUTURES TO INFINITY

Futures to Infinity edited by Sam Moskowitz (1970)


Sam Moskowitz was arguably the most prominent science fiction historian of the Fifties and Sixties.  An avid science fiction fan and collector, his history of early science fiction fandom, The Immortal Storm, won a Hugo award in 1955.  His profiles of individual science fiction authors, collected in Explorers of the Infinite and Seekers of Tomorrow, while flawed, remain an important resource.  As editor and ghost-editor, many of his anthologies traced the historical growth of science fiction themes.  Often, though, his emphasis on historic rather than quality hurt the readability of his books.

This was most evident in many of the paperback anthologies he produced late in his career, and in his four-issue revival of Weird Tales in 1973-74.  The Classics of Science Fiction line of early science fiction books Moskowitz edited for Hyperian Press released well over three dozen books first published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century; again, readability was not an essential requirement.

Futures to Infinty was released as a Pyramid Books paperback in 1970 and has never been reprinted in English, although there were Italian, French, and German editions -- one each -- in the early Seventies.  It contained ten never-before-reprinted stories by nine science fiction greats and Moskowitz himself.  If one wonders why these stories had never been reprinted before, one must simply read the book.  The stories themselves range from to good to readable to slight.

  • Alfred Bester, "The Probable Man," from Astounding Science Fiction, July 1941.  Written two years after his first story was published, this was Bester's eighth story.  It was eventually republished in a Bester retrospective, Redomolished, published thirteen years after the author's death.
  • Clifford D. Simak, "Rim of the Deep," from Astounding Science Fiction, May 1940.  Another early work by an author who would one day become a science fiction legend, this story was eventually republished in Volume 10 of The Collected Works of Clifford D. Simak, The Shipshape Miracle and Other Stories (2017)
  • Robert A. Heinlein, "Heil!," firt published in Ray Bradbury's fanzine Futuria Fantasia, Summer 1940, under the pen name Lyle Monroe.  Heinlein revised the story for Futures to Infinity and allowed it to be printed under his true name.  The story was later reprinted in the author's Expanded Universe (1980) under the title "Successful Operation."
  • L. Sprague de Camp, "The Incorrigible," from Astounding Science Fiction, January 1939.  this is the second of four stories about intelligent bear Johnny Black and has not been reprinted. (the third story in the series, "The Emancipated," has also not been reprinted, while the first and fourth stories have been reprinted numerous times.
  • Henry Kuttner, "Beauty and the Beast," from Thrilling Wonder Stories, April 1940.  The cover of this issue showed a giant reptile attacking Washington, D.C., and -- as was often the case -- the cover art came first and an author (Kuttner, this time) was assigned to write a story around it.  "Beauty and the Beast" was later reprinted several times, first in Terry Carr's Creatures from Beyond (1975), then in Michael Parry's The Rivals of King Kong:  A Rampage of Beasts (1978), then in Hank Davis' The Baen Big Book of Monsters (2014), and finally in The Watcher at the Door: The Early Henry Kuttner, Volume 2 (2016).
  • L. Ron Hubbard, "The Dangerous Dimension," from Astounding Science Fiction, July 1938.  Before Dianetics and Scientology, Hubbard was a reliable pulp writer who produced some very good and some mediocre fiction.  F. Orlin Tremaine, editor of Astounding, convinced Hubbard to try his hand at science fiction; this was his first SF story, although by the time it was published, John W. Campbell, Jr., had replaced Tremaine as editor.  Hubbard's large ego and mythomania has been subsumed by the Church of Scientology, which has been releasing his pulp stories in short, trade paperback editions; "The Dangerous Dimension" was reprinted in one such, The Professor Was a Thief (2009), and in the massive, thousand page-plus Stories from the Golden Age (2012).
  • A. E. van Vogt, "The Green Forest," from Astounding Science Fiction, June 1949.  This story eventually became chapters 14-16 of van Vogt's fix-up novel The War Against the Rull (1959).  The story itself was reprinted in the British paperback The Best of A. E. van Vogt (1974).
  • Isaac Asimov, "The Secret Sense," from Cosmic Stories, March 1941.  It "was my twelfth published story and I think it's lousy," Asimov has admitted.  The story had been "donated" to editor Donald A. Wollheim's magazine, and on advice from others in the field, Asimov went and asked payment for the tale; Wollheim paid Asimov $5, at a rate of $2.50 a word, telling Asimov that he was paying for Asimov's name, the only worthwhile part of the story.  Asimov included it in The Early Asimov or, Eleven Years of Trying (1972)
  • Ray Bradbury, "The Piper," from his fanzine Futuria Fantasia, Summer 1940, under the pen name Ron Reynolds.  Bradbury and his agent at the time, Julius Schwartz, supposedly sat down on a curb and revised the story for professional publication and the revision appeared in the February 1943 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories.  the revised version has been reprinted in Fantastic Story Magazine (Spring 1955) and Peter Haining's The Future Makers (1968),  Both versions were apparently reprinted in The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury:  A Critical Edition, Volume 1:  1938-1943 (2011).
  • Sam Moskowitz, "The Way Back," from Comet, January 1941.  Moskowitz writes that he personally submitted this story to editor F. Orlin Tremaine, who made him expand the story in order to leave no loose ends.  The story was reprinted in the Canadian magazine Uncanny Tales, February 1942.  It also appeared in Potugese, French, Dutch, and German translations.  Clunkiness, thy name is Moskowitz.
Ten stories and/or curiosities.  Not prime SF, but interesting.  Most written by authors before they perfected their craft.  Worth while?  I think so.

7 comments:

  1. I've always enjoyed Sam Moskowitz SF collections. I don't have Futures to Infinity but I'll definitely watch for it at the upcoming Library Book Sales.

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  2. The Moskowitz story wasn't the one about banging one's spaceship through the Asteroid Belt, was it?

    One other notable aspect of Moskowitz...he did tend to blatantly tell his personal and shared history, clunkily, in such a way as to celebrate himself...and he would not allow any criticism of his hero Hugo Gernsback...perhaps not unique flaws in a historian, but not credits, either...I wonder how much he wrote about Leo Margulies, his publisher at the WEIRD TALES revival and the most frequent client, I think, for his ghost-editor services on anthologies.

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  3. I still have the copy of this I bought at the age of 13 or 14 in 1970. Most of the additional information on the stories is new to me. Thanks.

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  4. I read this a few years ago; the only stories I recall having enjoyed are the Bester and the Hubbard. The anthology was clearly, as you mention, for preservation purposes, & I would not recommend it beyond it being a curiosity. Thanks for the interesting side-notes. Made your review more interesting than the stories themselves.

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