Sunday, July 8, 2007

Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories - 1939

1939 is seen as the beginning of the golden age of science fiction. Asimov, Heinlein, Del Ray, and Sturgeon are just a few of the 'big' SF authors who got their start at this time. I was curious to see how dated these stories might be, nearly 70 years later, and overall, I'd have to say they held up pretty well.

I was expecting a lot more "Buck Rogers" type action with all the melodrama of a space opera, but that was not what I found. Instead, I found a wide variety of pretty darn good stories. Several of them, such as The Cloak of Aesir by Don Stuart, The Black Destroyerby A.E. Van Vogt, and Heavy Planet by Milton Rothman, were very interesting stories of alien cultures, and other than some antiquated language, could have been written today.

There were several 'fantasy' type stories - not in the Tolkien vein, but definitely not very science-based. These seemed a little naive and simple, but I must say I did enjoy Jack Williamson's Star Bright.

The most obvious clue to the age of the stories was the antiquated writing. Without fail, a full-grown woman was always referred to as a girl. Men were definitely the "leading man" type - taking the lead (when there were women in the story at all!). There were also a couple of slightly racist references, such as describing the character of an Asian man as having the "ancient politeness of his race".

I am glad I got to read these stories, even though they weren't all great, because they were all significant. Personally, I am very grateful at the progress seen in modern writing, but it was most educational to read stories from the very birth of science fiction as a legitimate genre. (Thanks, Robin, for sending it to me!)

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