RICHARD MATHESON • DAMON KNIGHT • GORDON R. DICKSON • DONALD A. WOLHEIM • ALFRED BESTER • TOM GODWIN • MILDRED CLINGERMAN • CHAD OLIVER • EDGAR PANGBORN • ALGIS BURDYS • PHILIP K. DICK • ARTHUR C. CLARKE • ANTHONY BOUCHER • H.G. GOLD • FREDRIC BROWN
1954, the time when solar batteries and nuclear-powered submarines first became a reality, was also a year which saw the publication of the first two volumes of Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, Hal Clement’s MISSION OF GRAVITY, and Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND. And this era, when what had long been predicted in science fiction was finally becoming science fact, signaled a truly golden period for the science fiction short story.
So, with the expert guidance of Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg, let us journey back to that wondrous time of the imagination when passing a senior citizen’s exam could become a matter of life or death…when an experiment in environmental evolutuion yielded the most unpredictable results…when the price of immortality might be total forgetfulness…when a space crash could maroon a human both on an alien world and in an alien’s body!
For general comments on this series, see Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 1, 1939.
OK, now I’m annoyed.
I’m perfectly willing to grant that maybe 1954 wasn’t Asimov’s best fiction-writing year, but by gosh and golly, he did publish “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” in 1954 and if there’s any story of Asimov’s that deserves inclusion in a series like this its his celebration of the pedestrian. So is it included? No. Is anything by Asimov included? Again, no.
So what is there here? Well, frankly what there is, isn’t all that terribly impressive. Richard Matheson’s “The Test,” which opens the volume is probably the best thing in it. Tom Godwin’s “Cold Equations” is famous but more than a little maudlin for my taste. I do like “Letters from Laura” by Mildred Clingerman.” Philip K. Dick’s “The Father-Thing” is another very famous story I don’t care for much, as is Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Deep Range.” And the volume ends with Fredric Brown’s “Answer,” which is famous and at least reasonably good, but also perhaps a bit more famous than it really deserves.
All-in-all, this is a comparatively weak entry in the series.