Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, June 22, 2012


Shot In the Dark (1950)
Beyond Human Ken (1952)
Tomorrow the Stars (1952)
Beyond the Barriers of Space and Time (1954)
Human? (1954)
Galaxy of Ghouls (1955)

Her first science fiction story, That Only a Mother (1948), is an acknowledged classic.  Her first novel, Shadow on the Hearth (1950), was a well-received depiction of life after an atomic war but was not reprinted in the United States for 58 years.  Her only other solo science fiction novel has only seen print in paperback editions -- the last in 1968.  She was an incisive critic, an active promoter of science fiction, and was designated an Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy at the Toronto Public Library is the premier research center of its kind.  She was not the first person to edit an annual series of the best science fiction and fantasy (that honor jointly belongs to E. F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty), but her Year's Best SF series (1956-1968, with a lapse of one year in 1967) was the most influential of her time, stretching the boundaries of the field, ever experimenting, always reflecting the mood of the times.  But before her annual best series, Judith Merril showed her editorial chops with six well-regarded anthologies, mixing science fiction and fantasy.  (For this Forgotten Books post, I will refer to both science fiction and fantasy under the generic term SF.)

     The first, Shot in the Dark, had its only edition published by Bantam Books.  Its twenty-two stories (and one poem) mixed popular authors such as James Thurber, Edison Marshall, and Stephen Vincent Benet with some of the best SF authors of the postwar era; this mixture helped give credence that science fiction had (at least, in part) grown up.  Contents were:
  • Margery Allingham, He was Asking After You (1946)
  • Isaac Asimov, Strange Playfellow (1940)
  • Stephen Vincent Benet, Nightmare Number Three (poem, 1935)
  • Anthony Boucher, Mr. Lupescu (1945)
  • Leigh Brackett, The Halfling (1943)
  • Ray Bradbury, Mars Is Heaven! (1948)
  • Fredric Brown, Knock (1948)
  • R. Austin Freeman, The Bronze Parrot (1924)
  • Robert Heinlein, Genlemen, Be Seated (1948)
  • Gerald Kersh, Voices in the Dust (1947)
  • Murray Leinster, The Day of the Deepies (1947)
  • Jack London, The Shadow and the Flash (1903)
  • "James MacCreigh" (Frederik Pohl), A Hitch in Time (1947)
  • Edison Tesla Marshall, Who Is Charles Avison? (1916)
  • "Lewis Padgett" (Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore), The Dark Angel (1946)
  • Edgar Allan Poe, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar (1845)
  • "Hugh Raymond" (John B. Michel), Spokesman for Terra (1941)
  • Alexander Samalman, Life on the Moon (1946)
  • Theodore Sturgeon, The Sky Was Full of Ships (1947)
  • William Tenn, Brooklyn Project (1948)
  • James Thurber, Interview with a Lemming (1941)
  • H. G. Wells, The Star (1897)
  • Philip Wylie, Blunder (1946)
     The mixture of authors is interesting.  Allingham and Freeman were both mystery authors.  London and Marshall are best-known for theoir adventure stories.  Only nine of the authors were well-known in the SF field when the book was published (and even then, Boucher, Brown, and Brackett had each published more mystery novels than SF).  John Michel was a member of the fan group The Futurians (as were Merril and Pohl) and had a short career before his untimely death.  Samalman was to become an editor of three SF magazines within a few years.

     Merril's sophomore anthology, Beyond Human Ken, featured stories about "other life" (a broad catagory that includes extraterrestials, mutants, earthly monsters, robots, and the supernatural) and was published in hardcover by Random House.  Fifteen [marked *] of the twenty-one stories were reprinted in the 1953 Grayson & Grayson British hardcover, while twelve [marked #] of the twenty-one were reprinted in the 1954 Pennant Books paperback, Selections from Beyond Human Ken.  As with her first anthology, Merril included only stories that had not been previously reprinted in another SF anthology; unlike the first, Merril concentrates on stories from the previous fifteen years by (with one exception) popular SF writers.  The contents:
  • Stephen Vincent Benet, The Angel Was a Yankee (1940) *
  • James Blish, Solar Plexus (1941) * #
  • Anthony Boucher, The Compleat Werewolf (1942) #
  • John Christopher, Socrates (1951) * #
  • Mark Clifton, What Have I Done? (1952) * #
  • Roger Dee, Unwelcome Tenant (1950) *
  • Lester del Rey, Helen O'Loy (1938) *
  • H. B. Fyfe, Afterthought (1951)
  • Robert A. Heinlein, Our Fair City (1949) * #
  • Malcolm Jameson, Pride (1942) * #
  • Fritz Leiber, The Foxholes of Mars (1952)
  • Murray Leinster, The Wabbler (1942) * #
  • Katherine MacLean, The Fittest (1951)
  • Laurance Manning, Good-Bye, Ilha! (1952) * #
  • Kris Neville, Underground Movement (1952)
  • "Lewis Padgett" (Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore), A Gnome There Was (1941)
  • Arthur Porges, The Fly (1952) *
  • Eric Frank Russell, The Glass Eye (1949) * #
  • "Idris Seabright" (Margaret St. Clair), The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles (1951) * #
  • Theodore Sturgeon, The Perfect Host (1948) * #
  • William Tenn, The House Dutiful (1948) * #
     In her third anthology, Tomorrow, the Stars, contained fourteen stories was credited solely to Robert A. Heinlein's editorship, although it has been an open secret it was edited by Merril and her then-husband Frederik Pohl.  According to reaserch done by Bill Patterson, it was a bit more complicated than that. Patterson feels that the bulk of the editing was done by Merril (who did the bulk of the work) and Heinlein (who oversaw the selections), with Doubleday house editors Walter Bradbury and Truman Talley making minor corrections to the manuscripts; Frederik Pohl (to Patterson's memory) did little, if any, work on the book.  Pohl, no slouch in editing, almost certainly worked closely with Merril.  As I said, it seems common knowledge that this book was a Merril/Pohl ghost collaboration, with Heinlein having minimal imput.  This was certainly her most popular anthology; it has gone through fifteen editions in paperback.  Anyway, the contents:
  • Isaac Asimov, Green Patches (1950)
  • Lester del Rey, The Monster (1951)
  • Jack Finney, I'm Scared (1951)
  • C. M. Kornbluth, The Silly Season (1950)
  • Henry Kuttner (with C. L. Moore, uncredited), Absalom (1946)
  • Fritz Leiber, Appointment in Tomorrow (1951)
  • Murray Leinster, Keyhole (1951)
  • Judith Merril, Survival Ship (1951)
  • William Morrison, The Sack (1950)
  • John Reese, Rainmaker (1949)
  • Eric Frank Russell, Jay Score (1941)
  • William Tenn, Betelgeuse Bridge (1951)
  • Bob (Wilson) Tucker, The Tourist Trade (1951)
  • Kurt Vonnegut, The Report on the Barnhouse Effect (1950)
     The one unfamiliar name in the table of contents of Tomorrow, the Stars is John Reese.  ISFDB lists only four stories by Reese, from 1935 to 1965 --one each in Doctor Death, Saturday Evening Post, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and Playboy.  All the other authors were very familiar to science fiction and fantasy readers.

    1954 saw the publication of two Merril anthologies.  Beyond the Barriers of Space and Time contained nineteen stories, all dealing with some type of extrasensory power.  Both American and British hardcovers were also republished as book club selections; there were no paperback editions.  Here are the stories:
  • Isaac Asimov, Belief (1953)
  • Anthony Boucher, The Ghost of Me (1942)
  • Ray Bradbury, The Veldt (1950)
  • Rhoda Broughton, Behold It Was a Dream (1872)
  • Bill Brown, Medicine Dancer (1953)
  • Agatha Christie, The Last Seance (1926)
  • Mark Clifton and Alex Apostolides, Crazy Joey (1953)
  • Theodore Cogswell, The Wall Around the World (1953)
  • John Collier, Interpretation of a Dream (1951)
  • "J. J. Coupling" (John R. Pierce), Mr. Kinkaid's Pasts (1953)
  • Philip K. Dick, The Golden Man (1954)
  • J. C. Furnas, The Laocoon Complex (1937)
  • "David Grinnell" (Donald A. Wollheim), Malice Aforethought (1952)
  • Katherine MacLean, Defense Mechanism (1949)
  • Walter M. Miller, Jr., Wolf Pack (1953)
  • Peter Phillips, The Warning (1953)
  • Robert Sheckley, Operating Instructions (1953)
  • Will Thompson, No One Believed Me (1948)
  • John Wyndham, Perforce to Dream (1954)
     Rhoda Broughton was a popular 19th century author and the neice of J. Sheridan le Fanu.  J. C. Furnas, who wrote for the slicks, has only two stories listed in ISFDB; The Laocoon Complex  has since been published in four other SF anthologies.  Will Thompson's story, originally from SEP, is his only story listed in ISFDB.  All the other writers were well-known SF authors.

     Human? was a theme anthology that saw only one printing -- as a paperback from Lion Books.  Fourteen stories and one poem, as follows:
  • Isaac Asimov, Liar! (1941)
  • Algis Budys, Riya's Foundling (1953)
  • John Collier, Rope Enough (1939)
  • August Derleth, "Who Shall I Say Is Calling?" (1952)
  • L. Sprague de Camp, The Gnarly Man (1939)
  • Graham Doar, Who Knows His Brother (1952)
  • Fritz Leiber, Smoke Ghost (1942)
  • John D. MacDonald, The Big Contest (1950)
  • don marquis, ghosts (poem, 1927)
  • Walter M. Miller, Jr., Crucifixus Etiam (1953)
  • Chad Oliver, The Boy Next Door (1951)
  • Eric Frank Russell, Take a Seat (1952)
  • "Idris Seabright" (Margaret St. Clair), An Egg a Month from All Over (1952)
  • Theodore Sturgeon, The Ultimate Egoist (1941)
  • H. G. Wells, The Temptation of Harringay (1895)
     To my knowledge, Graham Doar published only five SF stories over a span of five years.  Archy the poetic cockroach could not type upper case letters, thus the lower case "don marquis" and "ghosts."

     Judith Merril's final anthology before she embarked on her Year's Best collections was Galaxy of Ghouls, another paperback from Lion Library.  It was reprinted in 1959 and in 1961 under the title Off the Beaten Orbit.  This time the content is all science fantasy.  The fifteen stories were:
  • Jerome Bixby and Joe E. Dean, Share Alike (1953)
  • Anthony Boucher, The Ambassadors (1952)
  • Ray Bradbury, Homecoming (1946)
  • Fredric Brown, Blood (1955)
  • Leslie Charteris, Fish Story (1953)
  • Bruce Elliott, Wolves Don't Cry (1954)
  • Fritz Leiber, The Night He Cries (1953)
  • Walter M. Miller, Jr., The Triflin' Man (1955)
  • Richard Parker, The Wheelbarrow Boy (1950)
  • Arthur Porges, Mop-Up (1953)
  • J. B. Priestley, The Demon King (1931)
  • Robert Sheckley, Proof of the Pudding (1952)
  • Clifford D. Simak, Desertion (1944)
  • William Tenn, Child's Play (1947)
  • Manl;y Wade Wellman, O Ugly Bird! (1951)
     J. B. Priestley was a well-known novelist and playwright who often used time as a motif.  Richard Parker was tha author of a numberof juvenile SF novels. The Charteris story is one of his rare non-Simon "The Saint" Templar stories.

     These six anthologies provide solid reading and highlight Merril's discrimination and willingness to expand the field's boundaries.  One hundred five stories and two poems, many now far more familiar than when Merril first published them.  Although over a dozen of these stories were published earlier, the bulk of them were from the "Golden Age" SF and later.  (The "Golden Age," in this case, began in 1938 with the editorship of John W. Campbell at Astounding Science Fiction.)  Many of the stories from the 1950s came from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which emphasized literary quality.

     Following her annual Best SF series, Merril edited only three adiditional anthologies -- a best of the Best SF series, an anthology of new-wave SF, and the first volume of Tesseracts, a long-running anthology of Canadian SF.

     A quick check of Abebooks shows that many of Merril's early anthologies are available, beginning at $5 or less.

    For more of today's Forgotten Books, see pattinase, where Patti Abbott will have the links and more reviews.


  1. Jerry, thanks for writing about Judith Merril's sf/fantasy anthologies. Good choice for FFB, especially since I know next to nothing about her. I'll check out Abebooks as well as look for a copy of SHADOW ON THE HEARTH. I recently downloaded her novella EXILE FROM SPACE though I am yet to read it.

  2. Charteris' Fish Story wasn't a Saint adventure. Witness his introduction to it from the December 1964 Saint Mystery Magazine: "Since I decided to concentrate on building up the Saint, I don’t think I have written half a dozen stories without him. And of these, since one of my objectives was to get away from the theme of crime and give myself a change, this is the only one which could by any stretch of imagination be reprinted in this Magazine. The required stretch is still considerable; but it does, nevertheless, contain a Mystery..."

    1. My bad. It's been several years since I read the book and I confused the story with Charteris'
      "The Darker Drink." I corrected the post, Thanks for the heads-up.

  3. Just read THAT ONLY A MOTHER online. Brilliant.

    1. And Merril was, not too long after, the author of "Dead Center"...the first story, ahead of Sturgeon's "The Man Who Lost the Sea", reprinted from F&SF in Foley's BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES annual...

  4. And my major niggle with you here would be that Stephen Vincent Benet was indeed a major SF writer of the era...though not solely an SF writer. But so few were solely anything writers (John Michel's only books during his lifetime, iirc and being too lazy to Go Look, were apparently pretty well-written erotica novels and for-young-readers how-to on making little mechanical engine toys).

    Reportedly, Bantam issued the first as SHOT IN THE DARK because that's how they felt about it...