Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, March 24, 2017


The 7 Cardinal Virtues of Science Fiction edited by Isaac Asimov, Charles G. Waugh, & Martin Harry Greenberg (1981)

This book's title and that of its companion volume, The 7 Deadly Sins of Science Fiction (1982), would have been great titles for critical essays about the field.  As it stands, however, the virtues and sins of SF are a rather diffuse topic for anthologies and makes me think the editors were straining for a theme.  No matter how much they were straining, the stories in this book are pretty good -- even the one that (speaking of straining) I had a hard time finishing.

The stories, and the virtues they reflected:

  • Temperance: "Superiority" by Arthur C. Clarke (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May 1951)  Greenberg included this well-known short story in at least seven of his anthologies
  • Justice:  "Whosawhatsa?" by Jack Wodhams (from Analog Science Fiction -> Science Fact,December 1967; a novelette)
  • Faith:  "Riding the Torch" by Norman Spinrad (from Threads of Time, 1974, edited by Robert Silverberg, an anthology of three novellas)  This one was a Hugo finalist for Best Novella and placed third in the Locus Awards for Best Novella.  This is the one I hard a hard time getting into and I don't know why.  It's a fairly bleak story about a society with a strange aesthetic and about man's place in the universe.-- themes that do not normally deter me.
  • Prudence:  "The Nail and the Oracle" by Theodore Sturgeon (from Playboy, October 1965; a novelette)
  • Fortitude:  "Jean Dupres" by Gordon R. Dickson (from Nova 1, 1970, edited by Harry Harrison; a novelette)  This story was nominated for a Hugo for best short story, placing third.
  • Hope:  "Nuisance Value" by Eric Frank Russell (Astounding Science Fiction, January 1957; a novella)
  • Charity:  "The Sons of Prometheus" by Alexei Panshin (from Analog Science Fiction -> Science Fact, October 1966; a novelette)  This one made the first ballot for the Nebula Award for Best Novelette.
  • Love (and the meaning of Charity):  "The Ugly Little Boy" by Isaac Asimov (from Galaxy, September 1958, originally titled "Lastborn")  An expanded version of this novelette was published as Child of Time by Asimov and Robert Silverberg in 1991 in Britain; the U.S. edition was published as The Ugly Little Boy in 1992.
Solid stories all -- including the Spinrad.


An omnibus edition of the Cardinal Virtues and Deadly Sins anthologies appeared as a instant remainder from Bonanza Books:  The Seven Deadly Sins and Cardinal Virtues of Science Fiction, 1982.  Note that "sins" come before "virtues"... I wonder what that says about how marketing works?


  1. Most interesting, Jerry. Thanks for spotlighting this sf anthology.

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  4. Third time's the charm: As you probably guessed, if it wasn't mentioned in a headnote, Asimov'e title was "The Ugly Little Boy," but GALAXY editor H. L. Gold couldn't resist fiddling with the title, giving it the irrelevant title "Lastborn" remember how Frederik Pohl (a title fiddler himself, but usually less bad at it), having received one of Gold's own best stories, "The Man with English", as a submission to Pohl's STAR SCIENCE FICTION series of anthologies, sat down with his writing partner and fellow Gold re-write victim C.M. Kornbluth and rewrote "English" in such a way as to kill every point the story made and pointlessly screw up everything else, even down to changing the title to "The Man with Something on the Ball", and then "accidentally" slip the "revised" manuscript into a package that Pohl, as literary agent, was submitting to Gold for a look-see for GALAXY and BEYOND magazines...Pohl gets a sudden phone call from Gold shortly after, close paraphrase: "Fred...I'm a professional, I can take a little editing, but...JESUS, Fred!"

    1. Sounds like an editor I had back in the newspaper game.

  5. I have "Riding the Torch" somewhere still in a box with my copy of Leiber's DESTINY X THREE, from the Dell double from the latest '70s...shall get to it in the fullness of does have even better reputation than most of the stories in the book..."Boy" is one of Asimov's best. Haven't tried the novelization.

  6. I regret not buying these Asimov/Waugh/Greenberg SF anthologies when they were everywhere. I'll have to see if I can track down the SINS and VIRTUES.