The Best Science Fiction Stories 1951 ed Everett F. Bleiler and T.E. Dikty. Frederic Fell Inc, 1951

I did have the UK edition (restricted number of stories and size), but I have just spent a little bit of cash on the US edition (signed by Dikty!)…

In the previous year’s edition the editors pondered the links between detective fiction and SF, and this year they ponder the links between anthropological/ethnological fiction and SF, going as far back as the ancient Greeks and getting very erudite on this reader’s sorry ass.

Frank M. Robinson. The Santa Claus Planet.

A story which appears in print for the first time in this volume, which is rather strange for a volume aiming to provide the best of the previous year’s SF. The story does very much relate to the topics discussed in the first part of the editorial introduction, and in the second part of the editorial introduction which looks at each story in the volume, the editors praise the extent to which the author has drawn on ethno/anthro research. I liked the initial cut of the story’s jib, but as it progressed, less so. The setup is that a solo space traveller has to make an emergency landing on a planet. Lucky for him, the terran-descended and terran-speaking denizens appear to welcome him with open arms. But it turns out that their gifts provide an existential threat, as he is required to destroy their gifts and furnish even better ones in return, which they then destroy, which is repeated until one party has no more gifts and is killed. Fortunately, one of the local women (who is topless!!!!) befriends him and using his cunning and guile, plays the game until he is able to win without fatality on either side. And even better than that, with his willing and fecund wife, he very much comes out on top as the daddy. Fifteen times over. Nice to see an early example of an ethnographic/anthropological SF story, but it is rather dated, and it is more from a historical perspective than an enjoying the story perspctive! [6th Nov 2021]

Reginald Bretnor. The Gnurrs Come from the Voodvork Out.
Originally in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

According to Wikipedia, this story was a finalist for the 1951 Retro-Hugo Award for Best Short Story, and in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, no less than John Clute called it “hilarious”. I found it rather too dated and broad in it’s approach to do much to my funny-bone, although the cavalry-obsessed Colonel Powhattat Fairfax Pollard took my fancy, as he could have come from Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Somewhat like watching the 1940s film “Hellzapoppin'” nowadays, and realising humour has moved on in half a centure (fortunately). Anyhoo, the story features a Swiss emigree to the USA (mit der funny vay of speaking) who iss a mad scientist and who invents a secret veapon which sends out furry little timetravelling rodent-like aliens vot can chew zer trousers off an enemy soldier in seconds. [28th Nov 2021]

Cyril Kornbluth. The Mindworm.

Bill Brown. The Star Ducks.

Roger Flint Young. Not to be Opened.

A.E. van Vogt. Process.

William F. Temple. Forget-Me-Not.

Katherine MacLean. Contagion.

Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson. Trespass!

Alfred Bester. Oddy and Id.

Damon Knight. To Serve Man.

L. Sprague de Camp. Summer Wear.

Richard Matheson. Born of Man and Woman.

Ray Bradbury. The Fox in the Forest.

Fredric Brown. The Last Martian.

Charles L. Harness. The New Reality.

Frank Belknap Long. Two Face.

Fritz Leiber. Coming Attraction.


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