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The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929-1964
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message 1: by Greg, Muad'Dib (last edited May 11, 2018 03:00AM) (new)

Greg | 812 comments Mod
This is the discussion thread for the third book of the month, or group read, for May. Please remember to use the spoiler tags where necessary.

The other group read topics for this month (The Puppet Masters and High-Rise) can be found here and here, respectively.


message 2: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 64 comments I don't have the book, but I'm finding some of the stories online.


message 3: by Greg, Muad'Dib (new)

Greg | 812 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "I don't have the book, but I'm finding some of the stories online."

That works!


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments I'm about to start on this book now. I wonder how best to discuss it. Story by story or the collection as a whole. If story for story, would it be better to break the discussions up into smaller threads?

Here is a list of the stories in the book for those who want to hunt for them online:

A Martian Odyssey prepared by Stanley G. Weinbaum (1934)
Twilight by John W. Campbell, Jr. [as Don A. Stuart] (1934)
Helen O’Loy by Lester del Rey (1938)
The Roads Must Roll by Robert A. Heinlein (1940)
Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon (1941)
Nightfall by Isaac Asimov (1941)
The Weapon Shop by A.E.van Vogt (1942)
Mimsy Were the Borogoves by Lewis Padgett (1943)
Huddling Place by Clifford D. Simak (1944)
Arena by Fredric Brown (1944)
First Contact by Murray Leinster (1945)
That Only a Mother by Judith Merril (1948)
Scanners Live in Vain by Cordwainer Smith (1950)
Mars Is Heaven! by Ray Bradbury (1948)
The Little Black Bag by C.M. Kornbluth (1950)
Born of Man and Woman by Richard Matheson (1950)
Coming Attraction by Fritz Leiber (1950)
The Quest for Saint Aquin by Anthony Boucher (1951)
Surface Tension by James Blish (1952)
The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke (1953)
It’s a Good Life by Jerome Bixby (1953)
The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin (1954)
Fondly Fahrenheit by Alfred Bester (1954)
The Country of the Kind by Damon Knight (1956)
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (1959)
A Rose for Ecclesiastes by Roger Zelazny (1963)


message 5: by Thorkell (last edited May 25, 2018 08:51AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments A Martian Odyssey by Stanley G. Weinbaum (1934) was a lot of fun. It deals with life on other planets, this time (as so often back then) on Mars. What I liked about the story was that it was open for different form of life (not just carbon based lifeforms) and it dealt with interesting aspect of language. It also shows the limitless faith people had in science and what we could find in space.

The story is out dated but it is still very charming and entertaining.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Twilight by John W. Campbell, Jr. (1934) is the classical end of the race story where human kind loses its everything that makes it human. It also deals with how badly we treat the earth and are slowly killing all lifeforms. It is therefore quite prophetic in that aspect. Again we see the faith people back then had in technology. Here it outlives humans and does not break down.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Helen O’Loy by Lester del Rey (1938) is a robot love story which supposedly inspired Isaac Asimov's robot series. It has a very outdated view of women but it is beautifully written and the end is heart breaking. What I liked the best here is the investigation of the line that separates machines and conscious life. The robot here reminds one in many ways of Rachael in Blade Runner.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments The Roads Must Roll by Robert A. Heinlein (1940) is the best of the short stories so far. Here we get a very pessimistic view of the future - a story for all ages, since it deals with exploitation of the workforce in the name of the comfort for those in power. Instead of oil and cars we have roads that move and a workforce that runs those roads and have to keep them rolling. Brilliantly written and wonderfully dirty and pessimistic.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon (1941) falls under the mad scientist genre except here he is never presented as mad (or evil), though he clearly is.

SPOILERS!!! The protagonist creates life and then kills it so only the fittest survive, in hope that his creatures will discover something clever to keep the danger away. He then steals their discovery and presents it has his. Yes he is not interested in power or money but that does not excuse his cruelty. Still Theodore Sturgeon manages to present him as a nice guy. END OF SPOILERS!

The story is almost ruined by a need and easy ending but it manages to avoid the crash with the last lines. Excellent story!


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Nightfall by Isaac Asimov (1941) is a horror sci fi. The idea is brilliant. A planet which has not experienced darkness for more than 2000 years is about to experience solar eclipse with terrifying consequences. Many are afraid of the darkness. Imagine if you had never experienced darkness. How much more frightening would that be?

This story could not be more Asimov. As always he is interesting in the big picture. He tells a story of a society rather than single individuals. This is probably why he struggled with writing interesting characters. Still that does not hurt this story since it is the big picture that matters here.

Isaac Asimov wrote a novel version of this idea in 1970. I have not read it but it does say something about the status of this short story. One of Asimov's best.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments I found this long discussion on The Weapon Shop by A.E.van Vogt (1942): https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments I had to read The Weapon Shop by A.E.van Vogt (1942) twice to be sure I got the point. I'm still not sure.

SPOILERS! Reading it again I noticed that the empress is presented right in the beginning as a symbol of everything good. So I did like the idea of a blue eyed man realizing that everything he believes in is a lie. Now the problem is that we are to believe that everything that happens after the goes into the shop just was an accident. It sounds like too much of a coincidence. Or is maybe the Weapon Shop playing him against the Empress? Are we not supposed to know whom to trust?

This is an interesting short story that needs to be longer to make any sense.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Mimsy Were the Borogoves by Lewis Padgett (1943) can be found here:
http://jabberwockland.blogspot.no/200...


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Mimsy Were the Borogoves by Lewis Padgett (1943) was amazing! Chilling and intellectual. A scientific psychological horror story, if you will. A scientist sends toys back in time to test his time machine. A boy finds the box sent back in time and plays with the toys. His younger sister does so to. Toys are designed to teach children something about their society and these toys are from the future so they teach the children things modern people don't know... One of the best stories so far. 5/5.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Is anyone else going to read this book? Greg, Susan? I'm not sure if I should continue writing anything there since it looks like I'm just talking to my self.


message 16: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 64 comments High-Rise has been monopolizing my reading time, so I haven't gotten to the short stories yet. But it's a short novel, so soon I should get to some stories. I already downloaded "The Quest for Saint Aquin."


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Susan wrote: "High-Rise has been monopolizing my reading time, so I haven't gotten to the short stories yet. But it's a short novel, so soon I should get to some stories. I already downloaded "The Quest for Sain..."

I look forward to talking to someone about these stories :)

High-Rise did not interest me. Am I missing out on something?


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Huddling Place by Clifford D. Simak (1944). I liked this much more than most people here on GR. I liked that this story investigated something small and human instead of going all grand and important.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Arena by Fredric Brown (1944) might be familiar to Star Trek fans since it was used in the Original Series. Well, kind of used. It does not end the same way. Let's say the idea is used.

Two races are going to battle but then one from each team is picked and they have to fight to death. Not only will it be the end of the one who loses the battle. Their whole race will die with them. A fine story.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments First Contact by Murray Leinster (1945) is a great story. Humans come across a space ship. The aliens on board have enough in common with humans to be a threat to earth. The same goes for the humans. They could find the alien planet useful. The crew of both ships have to decide if they try to come to an agreement and learn from each other or if they don't take any chances and just kill each other.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments That Only a Mother by Judith Merril (1948). This was a scary little story about mutation. My only problem with it is that it was too short. I wanted more. Much more!!!


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Scanners Live in Vain by Cordwainer Smith (1950). This is an interesting idea but I felt it needed a much bigger story to capture everything that was happening. A little more breathing room and more focus on characters would have help. The plot idea is really good but just too complicated for a short story.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Mars Is Heaven! by Ray Bradbury (1948). Another of those horror short stories. Humans go to Mars only to find earth like towns everywhere. How in hell can that be? A brilliant plot.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments The Little Black Bag by C.M. Kornbluth (1950). This is a Twilight Zone like story. A medical kit is sent from the future back to present time. It can cure anything, except greed. Excellent story.


message 25: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 64 comments Thorkell wrote: "High-Rise did not interest me. Am I missing out on something?"

I nominated it. I had been wanting to read it ever since I read Concrete Island.


message 26: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 64 comments Thorkell wrote: "Mimsy Were the Borogoves by Lewis Padgett (1943) was amazing! ..."

This must be the basis of the film, The Last Mimzy. I caught the final third of it on TV once. It seemed like a good story and I wished I had seen it from the beginning.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Susan wrote: "Thorkell wrote: "Mimsy Were the Borogoves by Lewis Padgett (1943) was amazing! ..."

This must be the basis of the film, The Last Mimzy. I caught the final third of it on TV once. It seemed like a ..."


Correct! I have not seen the film. Would like to see it now! :)


message 28: by Thorkell (last edited May 28, 2018 12:54AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments I had to read Born of Man and Woman by Richard Matheson (1950) twice to be sure I got it. It is very short. At first I thought, why is this in a collection of sci fi stories. This is horror, not sci fi. And yes it is but maybe it is even more of a horror story if you take the (almost hidden) sci fi elements seriously.

SPOILERS! It is obvious that there are 2 monsters here, the parents. But are there maybe 3 monsters, the child being the third? A child that bleeds green and can run up and down walls? Is it being hidden because it is a mutant, a dangerous monster of a mutant? I would love to hear what others think.


message 29: by Greg, Muad'Dib (new)

Greg | 812 comments Mod
Thorkell wrote: "Is anyone else going to read this book? Greg, Susan? I'm not sure if I should continue writing anything there since it looks like I'm just talking to my self."

I've had a busy weekend socially so I've done little reading for the last few days since finishing High-Rise. I think your idea of reviewing each story in a post is a good one - and, of course, you call also collect all the posts together to form your review of the book when you've finished it.


message 30: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 64 comments I just read “The Quest for Saint Aquin” by Anthony Boucher. I like science fiction stories with theological themes and this is an excellent example.

I wasn’t expecting such a serious philosophical story. It was a welcome surprise. Boucher creates the perfect setting for his underground Catholic Church and he reproduces events from the Gospels, but the main feature of the story is the debate over the roles of faith and reason in belief.

Even with some little knowledge of the philosophy of St. Aquinas, I could not foresee the direction the story would take. The conclusion of the story was intelligent, satisfying, and meaningful. It also made me go straight back to the beginning, to the first mention of the protagonist’s name.

At the beginning of the story, Thomas is likened to one of his namesakes, the apostle Thomas ~ doubting Thomas, who needed to see to believe, but by the end of the story, he calls to mind that other namesake, St. Thomas Aquinas, who demonstrated that reason could prove the truths known by faith.

Throughout the tale, the tempter tries to convince Thomas that faith can be founded on deception. Here I can’t help but think of Plato’s “noble lie.” If believing in something is good for people, what does it matter if it is true or not? No wonder the early Christians distrusted reason ~ that product of the brilliant, yet pagan, Greek mind.

The roboass uses reason as a tool to undermine Thomas’s quest for truth. Yet St. Aquinas, above all other Christian philosophers, redeems reason by demonstrating that it cannot undermine truth. On the contrary, reason can only support truth. It took the mind of a genius to rise above the mere sophistry of Greek reason just as it took the superior logic of Saint Aquin to rise above the mere sophistry of the roboass.

The technarchy envisioned by Boucher is hostile to religion. If technology could really replace religion as the source of man’s salvation, there would be no need to outlaw religion. It would die a natural death. The only reason to outlaw it is that it is perceived as a threat. And so the very persecution that the Church faces supports its claim to truth. Moreover, Christianity thrives under conditions of persecution, so any attempt to undermine it must come from within. Thus the tool of the technarchy ~ the roboass ~ is ultimately the tool of Satan.

One of the functions of science fiction is to critique contemporary society and so I wonder if Boucher was alarmed at how technology, even in 1951, was rapidly replacing religion as the balm of Gilead.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Susan wrote: "I just read “The Quest for Saint Aquin” by Anthony Boucher. I like science fiction stories with theological themes and this is an excellent example.

I wasn’t expecting such a serious philosophical..."


Very interesting take on the story. Either I misunderstood the story or we just have a radical different view on it. I think it might be me since I was a little tired when I read it.

It is obvious that they live in an anti religious society and I felt they were trying to create a miracle to keep the religion alive. If that is the right understanding then I did not take it forward but backward. Did they do the same in the past? How many past miracles were lies that were told with good intentions? Like you point out, what does it matter if it is a lie as long as it brings about something good? In that sense the story becomes a post modern one.


message 32: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 64 comments Thorkell wrote: "Like you point out, what does it matter if it is a lie as long as it brings about something good?..."

But that is not my belief or the protagonist's. It's Plato's idea and it is promoted by the roboass.

Thomas is not willing to lie about the miracle, not even in the service of a noble idea. In Catholic morality, you cannot commit an evil action (such as telling a lie) to bring about a good consequence (like converting more souls).

This is the ultimate temptation the priest faces ~ to do evil in the service of good ~ and he does not yield.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Susan wrote: "Thorkell wrote: "Like you point out, what does it matter if it is a lie as long as it brings about something good?..."

But that is not my belief or the protagonist's. It's Plato's idea and it is p..."


I did not mean that it was your view (or the protagonists. I just wondered if it was the message of the story. You assume that it is not.

I will read it again and come back to you. :)


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Susan wrote: "Thorkell wrote: "Like you point out, what does it matter if it is a lie as long as it brings about something good?..."

But that is not my belief or the protagonist's. It's Plato's idea and it is p..."


So I have read the story again. I'm still not sure what the message of the story is. It is obvious that the protagonist does not want to go along with the plot but are we sure he will not give in, in the end? Also who programmed the robass? Is it not the church. So the Church knows that the saint he is looking for was just a robot. The head of Church knows that it is using a lie to save itself.

So is the story saying that once again a lie is being used to spread the religion or is this an isolated happening, put there to test our protagonist?

The story also touches on other aspects. Like is all of this a twisted logic of God, like the story of Balaam who talked to his ass. There God talks to Balaam through his ass and works through a none believer. Is God using the robots (that which is killing his Church) to save his Church, much like he used Balaam in the past?

I feel this story needed to be much longer to deal with all the questions it touches upon. It never even tries to answer if robots have souls. The question is only asked.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments I have now read the whole book (some stories twice). I'm not going to write about all of the stories. Only the ones that interested me the most. So I will be not be writing about the following stories:

Coming Attraction by Fritz Leiber (1950)
Surface Tension by James Blish (1952)
Fondly Fahrenheit by Alfred Bester (1954)
The Country of the Kind by Damon Knight (1956)
A Rose for Ecclesiastes by Roger Zelazny (1963)


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke (1953)
A very short story and in its essence a very simple one too. SUSAN you will love this one if you have not read it. Monks believe that once they have found the names of God, the world will come to an end. They get a computer to help them make a list of all possible names. Now two things will happen. Either they are right or this test will proof that there is no God. One of the best short stories I have read.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments It’s a Good Life by Jerome Bixby (1953). This is a chilling story. It was supposedly made into a Twilight Zone episode but I don't recall seeing it. This is one of the many sci fi horror stories. A boy can read thoughts make anything happen with his mind, with devastating consequences. This chilling story is totally brilliant!


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin (1954)
This story broke my heart. What a drama. It's best to read this without knowing anything so everything from here on is SPOILERS!!! There was one solution which was never considered in the story. What if he killed himself and let her live? Maybe she did not have the know how to take the ship to its destination but still she could have maybe learned on the way and gotten some long distance help. Still a beautiful and heartbreaking story!


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (1959)
Another masterpiece from this wonderful collection. This one also broke my heart. It was so well written. A man with a very low IQ gets a treatment to increase his IQ. The style of the text reflects the IQ of the protagonist and changes constantly.


message 40: by Thorkell (last edited May 29, 2018 04:50PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments I loved this collection. It has stories that want straight to my list of favorite short stories. I was surprised by how many of the stories are in fact horror stories with sci fi aspects.

The following are totally brilliant:
The Roads Must Roll by Robert A. Heinlein (1940)
Mimsy Were the Borogoves by Lewis Padgett (1943)
Arena by Fredric Brown (1944)
Mars Is Heaven! by Ray Bradbury (1948)
The Little Black Bag by C.M. Kornbluth (1950)
The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke (1953)
It’s a Good Life by Jerome Bixby (1953)
The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin (1954)
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (1959)

And I thought these were really good:
A Martian Odyssey prepared by Stanley G. Weinbaum (1934)
Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon (1941)
Nightfall by Isaac Asimov (1941)
Huddling Place by Clifford D. Simak (1944)
First Contact by Murray Leinster (1945)
That Only a Mother by Judith Merril (1948)
Scanners Live in Vain by Cordwainer Smith (1950)
Born of Man and Woman by Richard Matheson (1950)
Surface Tension by James Blish (1952)
Fondly Fahrenheit by Alfred Bester (1954)
A Rose for Ecclesiastes by Roger Zelazny (1963)

Edit: I forgot The Weapon Shop!

None of the stories were bad or boring. A solid collection!


message 41: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 64 comments Thorkell wrote: "who programmed the robass? ..."

I believe the roboass is the tool of Satan (or Satan himself). It tempts Thomas just like Satan tempted Christ. Thomas even uses Christ’s words “Get behind me Satan.”

Thorkell wrote: "Is it not the church. So the Church knows that the saint he is looking for was just a robot. The head of Church knows that it is using a lie to save itself. ..."

I do not believe the Church knows or the current Pope knows. The roboass knows, and it tries really hard to prevent Thomas from finding out. It only reveals the truth after Thomas perseveres on his quest and finds Aquin. But all along it wanted him to turn back.

When it does finally reveal the truth it tries to tempt Thomas to lie about the miracle in order to “gain many more worshipers to hymn His praise into His nonexistent ears.”

The roboass wants to undermine Thomas’s faith. The roboass wants a Pope who doesn’t believe in God because that would destroy the Church from the inside. (Destroying it from the outside has proved impossible.)

Thorkell wrote: "are we sure he will not give in, in the end?..."

I am sure he will not give in. The discovery about what Aquin really is might not be the miracle hoped for, but it is something even better: it is evidence that religious truth can be discovered through reason.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Susan wrote: "Thorkell wrote: "who programmed the robass? ..."

I believe the roboass is the tool of Satan (or Satan himself). It tempts Thomas just like Satan tempted Christ. Thomas even uses Christ’s words “Ge..."


The story makes a point of it that the roboass was a gift from a believer and the pope thinks it is a good idea to use it but it is interesting that it is not the pope that tells him that the roboass is programmed. And we learn that robots of this type usually don't talk so in that sense you might be right. The devil has taken over the robot. But would the devil not know latin?


message 43: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 64 comments Thorkell wrote: "But would the devil not know latin?"

Good point. The devil should know Latin. The Pope certainly would know Latin. But Nicodemus? Maybe not.

Nicodemus could have known the truth about Aquin, since he was converted by Aquin. Thus he could have programmed that information into the roboass. I suppose he could have been testing Thomas by tempting him, making sure Thomas could not be corrupted, before revealing the truth about Aquin.

But I don't think so.

Thorkell wrote: "It never even tries to answer if robots have souls. The question is only asked."

I'm beginning to think the roboass has its own agenda. Whether or not robots have souls, this robot is capable of wondering whether it has a soul. That's more than the robots in this world are supposed to be able to do.

Christ's words ~ "Get behind me Satan" ~ were actually spoken to Peter, not to Satan. But if the robot is acting like Peter, not Satan, I'm puzzled by some of its behavior, such as implying that God doesn't exist.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Susan wrote: "Thorkell wrote: "But would the devil not know latin?"

Good point. The devil should know Latin. The Pope certainly would know Latin. But Nicodemus? Maybe not.

Nicodemus could have known the truth..."


I am a theologian and even I struggle with getting a clear picture of what the story is trying to say. I find the whole idea fascinating but wish it was longer so it could give a clearer picture of what is really happening there.

Still it is a lot of fun to study this little story and talk to you about it Susan. :)


message 45: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 64 comments Do you especially enjoy science fiction with theological themes? I do.

I looked Boucher up, since I wasn't familiar with him, and I read that he was a friend of PKD. (One of my favorite things about PKD is his theological themes.) But it looks like the rest of Boucher's work is mainly detective stories.

I'm not a fan of anthologies, but I may end up buying this one. The PDF I read is such a bad scan that it was a struggle to read and I'd like to read this story again more carefully.

I feel like there's a solution to the puzzle of the roboass and I'm determined to find it.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Susan wrote: "I feel like there's a solution to the puzzle of the roboass and I'm determined to find it. "

You go girl!!! :)


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