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12 Great Classics of Science Fiction

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Groff Conklin here presents 12 masterful tales of science fiction that have--incredibly--been lost or overlooked since their original publication. Perceptive, witty, exciting and skillfully written, every story is a fascinating voyage of the creative imagination.


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Groff Conklin here presents 12 masterful tales of science fiction that have--incredibly--been lost or overlooked since their original publication. Perceptive, witty, exciting and skillfully written, every story is a fascinating voyage of the creative imagination.

30 review for 12 Great Classics of Science Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Craig

    This is a reprint anthology of good short science fiction from 1963. Conklin once again demonstrated his penchant for putting numbers in his titles. There's no unifying theme to the stories, other than he gathered stories he felt had been overlooked in the field since their original publication, much like Robert Silverberg accomplished with his Alpha series in later years. The stories all originally appeared in one of the top three digest magazines of the late 1950's to the early 1960's, Astound This is a reprint anthology of good short science fiction from 1963. Conklin once again demonstrated his penchant for putting numbers in his titles. There's no unifying theme to the stories, other than he gathered stories he felt had been overlooked in the field since their original publication, much like Robert Silverberg accomplished with his Alpha series in later years. The stories all originally appeared in one of the top three digest magazines of the late 1950's to the early 1960's, Astounding, Galaxy, and The Magazine of F & SF. Rather than picking stories by the top names in the field, he found good stories by writers who were excellent but not as well known like A. Bertram Chandler, Zenna Henderson, Robert F. Young, and J. T. McIntosh, along with Algis Budrys, Poul Anderson, Robert Sheckley, and Fredric Brown. My favorite is the classic Cordwainer Smith story, The Ballad of Lost C'Mell.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Devon M.

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 12 Great Classics of Science Fiction, as told by Mr. Conklin himself, is a collection of hidden gems of science fiction, interspread through numerous science fiction magazines from the late 1950s through 1965. Each story is varied in how the storytelling is portrayed and what the focus is - from robots, to philosophy, to simple fun, to mind-bending plot twists and the questioning of your own existance. Let's get started! The first story, Due Process, (written by Algis Budrys and first published i 12 Great Classics of Science Fiction, as told by Mr. Conklin himself, is a collection of hidden gems of science fiction, interspread through numerous science fiction magazines from the late 1950s through 1965. Each story is varied in how the storytelling is portrayed and what the focus is - from robots, to philosophy, to simple fun, to mind-bending plot twists and the questioning of your own existance. Let's get started! The first story, Due Process, (written by Algis Budrys and first published in Astounding Science Fiction, December 1960), is a confusingly written little tale about a Mr. Hertzog, who owns a tour business focused on cruise ships for tourists. Also the story takes place in Atlantis. On the surface. Maybe? This was certainly not the story to open up a short story collection, but at least the worst is over with. At least the dialogue is somewhat interesting. 2/5. Second is Earthmen Bearing Gifts by Fredric Brown, first published in Galaxy, June 1960. Being the shortest story in here at about 3 pages, it also brings with it confused emotions that make you wonder if you should feel bad or amused. The basic gist is that psychic beings live on Mars, a peace-loving race that hasn't had war in almost 10,000 years. Apparently Martians have had psychic contact for years, but can't communicate with us. This comes at a bad time, because we're about to nuke Mars, (they explain that we're doing it to have more information about the atmosphere and the surface, but surely there's a better way of doing it?). The Martians are at peace with this though, because they are a dying race, and have made peace with it. A little paradox is also thrown in, with our technology possibly letting Mars thrive again, and their peacefulness and evolved psychic abilities possibly bettering the human race as a whole. But it was never meant to be. 3/5. Third is Things, by Zenna Henderson, first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1960. The story is about a group of aliens on a unknown planet and their interactions with what is hinted to be Earthmen, (but only called The Strangers throughout the story). These interactions, however, invite greed to this peaceful race, and sometimes death also, making it difficult to establish contact with each other. In the end, their hidden colony is exposed, and they must move before The Strangers find them. A good story, with probably the most strangest and foreign style of writing in the book. This works for Mrs. Henderson however, because it really exposes how "alien" this alien species is compared to us, and how the writing becomes clearer when focusing on those who come in contact with The Strangers, having more modern language, but also the eating force of greed. 4/5. Fourth is The Top by George Sumner Albee, first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August 1962. The story involves a man named Jonathan Gerber, a advertising agent for a company named Allied. The company building is in the shape of a pyramid, with almost no windows throughout the building except for the top piller, the 14th floor, where almost nobody is allowed up to. Jonathan has been working at the company for years under his boss, L. Lester Leath, but it recently turns out that Leath may be dying. Jonathan is told with Leath's dying breath that Jonathan will succeed him as the new advertising executive, and he must meet with the CEO on the 14th floor, told to be the CEOs suite, with the CEO himself, a man named Hanscomb Ludlow Satherwaite the 2nd, (what a mouthful!), a man never seen by any employees except for his photograph, which doesn't seem to age from year to year. Jonathan makes his way to the 14th floor, where the twist hits here - the 14th floor is empty. Unpainted, unfurnished, almost abandoned. There is no Hanscomb up here at the top, only a empty room. Jonathan sees the town below, smiles, and walks back down the stairs. No, I don't get the significance of the ending either. 3/5 for that confusing ending, but otherwise good. Fifth goes to My Object All Sublime, (my personal favorite of the book), published by Poul Anderson in Galaxy, June 1961. The story consists of a unnamed narrator and a man named Michael. Michael is a nice man, unremarkable, but nothing harmful. Our narrator and Michael strike up a fast friendship, eventually bringing us to Thanksgiving dinner over a year later. Night comes fast, and while Michael's wife and kid are sleeping, the narrator and Michael strike up conversation while overlooking the city. Michael then begins to ask and describe about a hypothetical scenario about time travel and the future, of which he seems to know suspiciously much about. The topic turns to time travel as a punishment, which, by all means is talked about here as a interesting topic. We also learn a bit about Michael - he survived the Holocaust, and was able to create a business despite the hardships on himself. Then here comes the twist - our narrator was a enforcer, or cop, not really described much, from the future. Michael is also from the future, his punishment being sent back in time to suffer in the Holocaust. But Michael survives and is happy, which does not suit well with the future council. Michael is taken and dropped off in even more ancient times to suffer further. A good story, with a decent but unhinted at twist. The best part is both the narrator and Michael discussing time travel, as it makes for a interesting topic. 4/5. Sixth is Human Man's Burden, (another favorite), published by Robert Sheckley in Galaxy, September 1956. This story is more humorous then the others, but still serves as a good tale to lighten the mood. Edward Flaswell is a pioneer who buys a planetoid to mine, along with some bots to help farm the land and make a nice home there. Attending is his faithful robot servent Gunga-Sam, a robot loyal to the end. Over the months Edward gets lonely. While flipping through a catalog, he spots a ad for mail order brides, (try to read this as more pulp then the last few stories, you'll enjoy it better). Edward orders a bride that's supposed to be able to work hard and act as more of a farmhand then a housewife. When the order comes, however, the wife is completely different from what was expected. For one, she's much more fancy. Two, she doesn't look like she's worked a day in her life, being too prim to do so. Edward is furious, and the bride, named Shelia, is also not satisfied. Edward calls for a replacement, but over the next week or so, we find that Shelia isn't so bad - she decorates, but also can work on robots to fix them, and is not so bad of a person in personality either. Edward also finds himself drawn to her, eventually falling in love. When he asks to propose to Shelia, however, even though she seems to show affection, she denies it and tells him to buzz off. When the replacement arrives though, the twist is revealed that she purposely came here and drew him on to fall in love, which she did, because she loves him too. She also reveals that there is no replacement since she staged that, so everything is happy. A charming story, somewhat sexist, but the writing is actually funny. 4/5. Seventh is On The Fourth Planet by J. F. Bone, first published in Galaxy, April 1963. The story covers living blobs that live to eat, and one blob discovering that a rocket has landed in his yard, blocking him off from his food source. The rocket opens however to reveal food inside, and he greedily eats it all. A fellow blob tries to get in too, but burns to death because the rocket is super hot. Eventually the blob inside reproduces aesexually due to the pleasure, and uses his offspring to throw himself out of the ship. Just in time too, because the rocket seemingly blows up, and all returns to normal. Confused? I am too, but at least the writing is alright. 3/5. Eighth comes The Ballad of Lost C'mell, (probably one of the few stories in here with some fame in singular sci-fi circles), published by Cordwainer Smith in Galaxy, October 1962. The story involves a place somewhat similiar to Earth, except for ruled by a council of psychics, and also has genetically created Underpeople, the splices of humans and animals, as mere slaves to the population. A councilman named Jestocost, who seems stuck up and has almost a orgasmic fetish for justice, has it for a good cause - he wants to bring up the status of the Underpeople and let them be equal citizens. He works with a catwoman named C'mell, who works as a prostitute at a airport, and the leader of the Underpeople, a bird-man with incredible psychic powers that sometimes uses C'mell as a communication source by controlling her body. C'mell falls in love with the councilman for seemingly no reason, but Jestocoat cannot return his affections, for he loves justice too much and cannot enjoy personal relationships, (that is his excuse). Eventually through some odd plots, the Underpeople get more rights and Jestocoat is a folk hero to the Underpeople, but he doesn't think of it. Ok story, but really odd choices, and a unlikeable protagonist I think we're supposed to root for. 3/5. Ninth is Thirty Days Had September, (another favorite), published by Robert F. Young in The Magazine For Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1957. The story focuses on a future society where education is taught from the television and teachers are ruled obsolete, but with the added emphasis that the TV is sponsored by cereal companies, who spread their commercials through daily lessons. Our protagonist is Danby, a father of a little boy, who discovers a antique Schoolteacher bot, incredibly lifelike and able to do other things like dish washing and laundry, (it was the 1950s, it was expected), in the window of a antique shop. Schoolteacher bots used to teach in classrooms until the rise of education on the television, where the bots were abandoned. Danby has nostalgia about the Schoolteacher bots though, and decides to buy it. His wife and kid don't approve, the kid disliking it for criticizing his education shows that turn Romeo and Juliet into Westerns, (which is admittedly funny to think about), and the wife because of the "defect" that has Schoolteacher bots beat kids. Danby doesn't believe it and wants to keep it. Eventually things come to a head when the kid and wife accuse it of almost beating his kid. When Danby speaks to it personally though, we find out that the kid kicked her and was about to kick her again before she grabbed the kid's arm to stop him, which is the scene that the mother discovers first. The robot and Danby seem to share some chemistry when they recite poetry together, but the wife discovers them and demands the robot out. Danby sells it the next morning to the antique shop, where he discovers later that the bot is converted to work at a hot dog stand. Danby convinces the owner to let him work there on evenings, so he can spend more time with the reprogrammed Schoolteacher bot. Despite my personal review not doing it justice, the story is great. Characters are good, plot is interesting, and the prediction of education television replacing actual teachers is a prophecy scarily being answered back today. My personal recommendation to start with if you buy this book, 5/5. Tenth is The Cage, published by Bertram Chandler in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1957. The story follows a passenger cruise crashing on a uncontacted world that's always wet, but with no predators, and fungus to eat. The survivors become somewhat tribal, organizing a council and ruling that men must fight each other honorably in order to gain mating rights with the women. The story shifts though when a spaceship takes some of the survivors, including our narrator, and drop them in a alien zoo. Without the ability to communicate, and to prove that they're intelligent enough to not be sealed up in a zoo, they must endure being treated like cattle, including two of their own being taken to be dissected on. While in captivity, they come across a mouse-like creature, and decide to take care of it by trapping it in their own designed cage. Later, more survivors are taken, but instead of being dissected, they return with new clothes and a message - they're going home! When the other survivors ask how the aliens found out they're intelligent enough to go home, they reveal, embaressingly, that "only rational beings put other beings in cages". Good story with a neat twist with the side story about the alien zoo. 4/5. Eleventh is Star-Crossed Lovers, published by William W. Stuart in Galaxy, 1962. The story follows a unnamed narrator, who starts the tale by confessing that all the bodies buried near his house were not murdered. Glad we established that. But after that, we hear about how he got into all of this trouble: Our narrator decides to walk a old lady across the street. Before they completely get across, though, he slips and pushes the lady onto the other side before he falls over and gets hit by a car. The lady is stronger then expected, though, and is able to pick him up and drag him over to the other side. Impressed, the narrator, brings the old lady to his house, where the old lady reveals herself to be a "living atom", with the voice of a woman. The living atom also reveals that the old lady isn't just a persona - the old lady is a corpse the living atom took from the morgue and inhabited her body, it's purpose for coming to Earth being that it's race is dying, and they could use new genes to mix to make children. But our narrator doesn't mind. After burying the body near his aunt's rosebush, the living atom takes the form of a model that the narrator likes. Then they get married. Seemingly sweet. When the atom switches bodies, that body becomes a corpse. Then the narrator buries it. One day, the atom becomes pregnant, somehow. When it gives birth, however, it does not make a new child, however. It splits apart, eliminating the "wife" entirely and giving our narrator two kids instead. Our narrator is pissed, but his kids tell him they'll visit sometime, and leave back to their own planet. Drunk, the narrator buries the last corpse. This proves to be his downfall, for his neighbor hears him loudly singing, drunkly of course, and burying a corpse near his garage. The cops come, find the bodies, and arrest our narrator, which is where the story begins. Good story, fun perspective, and actually interesting idea for a short story. 5/5 Our final story is Immortality... For Some by J. T. McIntosh, first published in Astounding Science Fiction, March 1960. This is probably the best story in the entire collection, and also the only story I can't accurately portray here without making the story seem more complicated then it is. If you buy this collection, buy it for this and Thirty Days Had September. Overall, this collection is great, for the stories it offers. I completely recommend it if you can find it cheap, (which it usually is at $3-$5). Four stars out of five, only because of some of the medicore stories. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sindy Castellanos

    Interesante colección de historias que al abordar temas trascendentes de la vida humana a través de la ciencia ficción, logra confrontar al lector con sus determinaciones y su visión más profunda de la realidad. Algunos relatos son más difíciles de interpretar que otros. ___________ Interesting collection of stories that by addressing transcendent issues of human life through science fiction, manages to confront the reader with his determinations and his deepest vision of reality. Some stories are Interesante colección de historias que al abordar temas trascendentes de la vida humana a través de la ciencia ficción, logra confrontar al lector con sus determinaciones y su visión más profunda de la realidad. Algunos relatos son más difíciles de interpretar que otros. ___________ Interesting collection of stories that by addressing transcendent issues of human life through science fiction, manages to confront the reader with his determinations and his deepest vision of reality. Some stories are more difficult to interpret than others.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chris Aldridge

    This book contains as it's 4th story the Mindwebs audiobook 33 which is "The Top" by George Sumner Albee (also contains a Robert Sheckley!). Mindwebs version from "Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction" 1962. A strange possibly satirical story about an advertising executives rise towards both the top position and floor, of a claustrophobic pyramidal building within a profoundly dysfunctional corporation. Privately he resents the atmosphere of stifling loyality, and the obsequious toadying nece This book contains as it's 4th story the Mindwebs audiobook 33 which is "The Top" by George Sumner Albee (also contains a Robert Sheckley!). Mindwebs version from "Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction" 1962. A strange possibly satirical story about an advertising executives rise towards both the top position and floor, of a claustrophobic pyramidal building within a profoundly dysfunctional corporation. Privately he resents the atmosphere of stifling loyality, and the obsequious toadying necessary to advance through the ranks of this paranoid organisation, but he sucks it up and gets responsibility for the whole caboodle dept. When he goes to meet the Boss he discovers the very pinnacle is perfectly representative of the capitalist philosophical attitude. Just like working for the bank really.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Manuel Alfonseca

    I have read this book in two different Spanish translations (one published in Mexico, the other in Spain), and I have also read a few of the stories in the original English. Comparing the different translations with the originals has been an interesting experience. The best story (for me) is "Human man's burden," by Robert Sheckley, but the stories by Poul Anderson, William Stuart, J.T.McIntosh and J.F.Bone are also quite good. I have read this book in two different Spanish translations (one published in Mexico, the other in Spain), and I have also read a few of the stories in the original English. Comparing the different translations with the originals has been an interesting experience. The best story (for me) is "Human man's burden," by Robert Sheckley, but the stories by Poul Anderson, William Stuart, J.T.McIntosh and J.F.Bone are also quite good.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andie

    Good anthology of SF classics. Stand out stories include “Things” by Zenna Henderson and “The Cage” by Bertram Chandler.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tamara Housh

    fiction sf read

  8. 4 out of 5

    William Duncan

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bill

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ashok Banker

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tbfrank

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth

  14. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ron Record

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ken

  17. 5 out of 5

    Josh Strnad

  18. 5 out of 5

    Eddie Harrison

  19. 5 out of 5

    Frank Ashe

  20. 4 out of 5

    Skywatcher

  21. 4 out of 5

    Gerhard

  22. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

  23. 4 out of 5

    Clint Peden

  24. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jaq Greenspon

  26. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

  27. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ira

  29. 5 out of 5

    James Rafael

  30. 4 out of 5

    William Duncan

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