The Omnibus of Science Fiction edited by Groff Conklin is a cornucopia of delights for science fiction fans. Read stories by Theodore Sturgeon, H.P. Lovecraft, Anthony Boucher, Richard Matheson, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Lester del Rey, Arthur C. Clarke, John D. MacDonald, and many others, and find yourself transported to strange and distant worlds in an enduring collection of timeless science fiction tales.
Stories in book:
John Thomas's Cube John Leimert Hyperpilosity L. Sprague de Camp The Thing in the Woods Fletcher Pratt & B. F. Ruby And be Merry... Katherine MacLean The Bees From Borneo Will H. Gray The Rag Thing David Grinnell The Conqueror Mark Clifton Never Underestimate... Theodore Sturgeon The Doorbell David H. Keller A Subway Named Mobius A. J. Deutsch Backfire Ross Rocklynne The Box James Blish Zeritsky's Law Ann Griffith The Fourth Dynasty R. R. Winterbotham The Color Out of Space H. P. Lovecraft The Head Hunters Ralph Williams The Star Dummy Anthony Boucher Catch That Martian Damon Knight Shipshape Home Richard Matheson Homo Sol Isaac Asimov Alexander the Bait William Tenn Kaleidoscope Ray Bradbury "Nothing Happens on the Moon" Paul Ernst Trigger Tide Wyman Guin Plague Murray Leinster Winner Lose All Jack Vance Test Piece Eric Frank Russell Environment Chester S. Geier High Threshold Alan E. Nourse Spectator Sport John D. MacDonald Recruiting Station A. E. von Vogt A Stone and a Spear Raymond F. Jones What you Need Lewis Padgett The Choice W. Hilton-Young The War Against the Moon Andre' Maurois Pleasant Dreams Ralph Robin Manners of the age H. B. Fyfe The Weapon Frederick Brown The Scarlet Plague Jack London Heritage Robert Abernathy History Lesson Arthur C. Clarke Instinct Lest del Rey Counter Charm Peter Phillips
Edward Groff Conklin (September 6, 1904, Glen Ridge, New Jersey - July 19, 1968, Pawling, New York) was a leading science fiction anthologist. Conklin edited 41 anthologies of science fiction, wrote books on home improvement and was a freelance writer on scientific subjects. From 1950 to 1955, he was the book critic for Galaxy Science Fiction.
A Subway Named Mobius (1950) by A.J. Deutsch 4/5 The Colour Out of Space (1927) by H.P. Lovecraft 4/5 The Star Dummy (1952) by Anthony Boucher 4/5 Homo Sol (1940) by Isaac Asimov 5/5 Kaleidoscope (1949) by Ray Bradbury 4/5 Plague (1944) by Murray Leinster 5/5 Test Piece (1951) by Eric Frank Russell 4/5 Spectator Sport (1950) by John D. MacDonald 4/5 The Weapon (1951) by Fredric Brown 4/5 History Lesson (1949) by Arthur C. Clarke 4/5 Instinct (1952) by Lester del Rey 4/5
Anthologist Groff Conklin pulled all of these tales out of pulp science fiction magazines of the 1930's through the 1950's. The edition I have, picked up at a paperback booksellers convention (!), i actually an early edition, maybe even a first edition- is unlike the one pictured in the little icon here on Goodreads.
The age of the book adds to its charm, a physical reminder that the 43 tales in this collection are from the early years of science fiction when the idea of science fiction was just beginning to be explored. As can be expected, the quality of the stories vary greatly, but this collection features some real gems. If you can find them in other collections, I'd recommend these four:
"Kaleidoscope" by Ray Bradbury. Pure genius.
"The Color Out of Space" by H. P Lovecraft. Really creepy.
"Instinct" by Lester Del Rey. This one really caught my imagination. What if mankind destroyed itself, leaving behind only sentient robots, who struggle to survive, build a thriving civilization, then millenia later, decide to try to resurrect the lost species of man to find out why robots were created.
"The Scarlet Plague" by Jack London. Yes, that Jack London. Who knew he wrote science fiction? I certainly didn't, but his grasp of man's animal nature is a perfect fit for this post-apocalyptic tale. A plague has wiped out all but a few hundred people on Earth, and an elderly man mourns mankind's loss of civilization and it's devolution to savagery for survival.
I chipped away at this book for almost a year and then finished it as my flight to Chicago was taking off. Luckily, there are a few really good stories in here that I enjoyed enough to read again during the flight. These are: "Kaleidoscope" (Ray Bradbury), "The Color Out of Space" (H. P. Lovecraft), "What You Need" (Lewis Padgett), and "Manners of the Age" (H. B. Fyfe).
This book was compiled in 1953. If you ask me, science fiction still had a long ways to go in 1953. While a few of the short stories were very fun reads, the majority of them were just plain not very good. Despite some weird premises and a shocking number of lackluster plot twist-punchline hybrids, it was still really cool to see how these 43 authors thought about the future in 1953 [and as early as 1913 in Jack London's "The Scarlet Plague" (which is about a plague that ended civilization in 2013! Cool!)] There were also a few instances of scientific thinking that fairly accurately predicted later discoveries, which was exciting to come across.
You can probably find the best stories from this book published elsewhere. That's how you should read them.
This is one of my favorite genre anthologies, incorporating many golden-age writers with some of their forerunners. Conklin had a knack for selecting stories that were interesting and well-written, yet not too overly familiar, and he tended to offer a wide variety, often putting sub-category sections in his books. This one is a terrific slicee of history.
The edition I have is the hardcover from the 1950s. As an amateur scholar of the history of SF, I thought it was interesting to see how the field has evolved. Everything here is pre-Golden Age, mostly from the 1930s and 40s. What I found was that some of the stories hold up, but many of them don't. They come across now as terribly dated, and the writing in some of the stories is mediocre at best, which made the book more of a slog than a joy. Turns out the literary derision focused SF stories was often justified. A notable stand-out for me was "The Scarlet Plague" by Jack London. Yes, that Jack London. It's the earliest post-apocalyptic story that I've encountered, a story where the human race meets its end from a lethal disease, a la The Stand, and it's one that certainly stands up. I'd recommend this for someone waxing nostalgic for the Good Old Days of SF, but otherwise give it pass and look for better anthologies.
One of Groff Conklin's classic anthologies of the best short stories from the Golden Age of SF. Retro Hugo Award Nominee for Best Short Story for "A Subway Named Mobius" (2001). A Science Fiction Book Club selection.
This collection of 11 reprinted tales edited by Groff Conklin features some of the most skilled storytellers in vintage SF including Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, H.P. Lovecraft, Lester Del Rey, Ray Bradbury, Frederic Brown, and more.
In A.J. Deutsch’s “A Subway Named Mobius,” an entire passenger train is lost for months in a closed rail system. When transportation officials and a local mathematician with a theory attempt to locate the train, they discover that they can hear it—in multiple locations—but cannot see it since it has passed into another dimension. Will the train ever reemerge and if so, how can this be prevented from happening again?
In one of H.P. Lovecraft’s most popular stories, a meteorite crashes into a field of crops where it begins to poison both soil and water, driving the farmer and his family insane. It’s soon discovered that the vile, luminous substance that infected the area might be intelligent. How will the locals rid themselves of “The Colour Out of Space”?
When alien psychologists learn that Earth has finally achieved interstellar travel, the decision is made to invite them into the Federation of Planets, an honor which no race has ever turned down... until now. Discover why in Isaac Asimov's "Homo Sol."
Anthony Boucher brings us hapless ventriloquist Paul Peters who encounters a benevolent extraterrestrial creature at a local zoo. The alien, relieved to finally find someone with whom he can communicate, enlists Paul’s help in finding his long lost love. At first, the pair is undecided on a strategy until Paul comes up with a new routine known as “The Star Dummy.”
A spaceship explodes ejecting its helpless crew into space. Fortunately, they’d had just enough time to don their spacesuits—but not their personal propulsion systems. As a result, each man is hurled on an uncontrollable trajectory with just enough time to settle their differences and make peace with their collective fate in Ray Bradbury’s “Kaleidoscope.”
When an Earth naval vessel lands on the alien world Shaksembender, the crew of three is greeted by a party of wary copper-skinned humanoids who had been expecting their arrival based on the prophesy of Fraser, the first human space explorer to visit their planet 300 years ago. Using a hidden mind-reading device against the alien emissary, the pilot of the Earth ship discovers that Fraser warned the aliens to be circumspect if the next human explorers utter two specific words… but will we ever learn those words in Eric Frank Russell’s “Test Piece”?
The incompetence of bureaucracy at a Galactic level is showcased in Murray Leinster's "Plague." When all the women of the planet Pharona are consumed and killed by a bizarre luminescent organism, the planet is placed in quarantine and Space Navy reservist Ben Sholto is dispatched in his private vessel to ensure no one escapes. When a ship, piloted by Ben's lost love Sally, emerges from Pharona, he takes her aboard in an attempt to cure her, making them both fugitives.
In John D. MacDonald's "Spectator Sport," a scientist travels into the future only to find society under control of a government that does not take kindly to independent thinking and prefers its citizens to be docile zombies.
In Arthur C. Clarke's much reprinted "History Lesson," five thousand years after an ice age has claimed all human life on Earth, Venusians arrive and uncover relics left in a vault—one of which is a roll of 35mm film that they believe depicts typical human behavior... or not.
A concerned citizen confronts physicist John Graham about the doomsday weapon Graham is developing and leaves him with a frightening metaphor that strikes close to the heart in Fredric Brown's "The Weapon."
Long after mankind has gone extinct, a race of heuristic automatons have taken over the Earth. A group of robotic biologists undertake experiments to reboot the human race in order to learn more about the concept of "Instinct," which is also the name of this classic tale by Lester Del Rey.
While I love these big collections of Golden Age stories (though my copy was printed in the 80s, the collection was actually assembled in 1952 or 1953), and there are a lot of fun ideas and stories, it can lead to an occasional amused wince when you stumble across stories that incorporate the often non-malicious but still very present societal racism or gender biases of the time. Made me laugh more than once. Still a great collection of stories.
This is an anthology of forty-two science fiction short stories from the pioneers of the genre surrounding WWII. They are mostly out of print now. There is an entry from Jack London! Authors include Asimov, Clarke. The stories were originally printed monthly in magazines such as Astounding Science Fiction, Galaxy Science Fiction, Amazing Stories, and others. There was a boom in these types of publications in the 1950's. Before sleep, I was able to dream of one story every night.