In "Swarm," Bruce Stirling takes the reader inside the Nest, a vast honeycomb of caverns within an asteroid orbiting Betelgeuse, peopled by hundreds of thousands of large, insectlike aliens, including eight-legged, furred workers the size of Great Danes, and horse-sized warriors with heavy, fanged heads. In "The Screwfly Solution," Raccoona Sheldon creates a world much like modern America, except that somethingan insect virus, a mass religious delusion, or an alienis infecting men worldwide, converting their sexual drive into homicidal rage against women. And J.G. Ballard in "Billennium" portrays the end result of unchecked population growth, a claustrophobic city of 30 million people, where by law the unmarried must live in cubicles four meters square. These three tales, though strikingly different, have one thing in commoneach evokes a world that is uniquely the author's own. Indeed, to read any science fiction writer is to enter into another world. It may be a world far off in space or time, or it may be right here, right now, but with a twistan invention, or event, or visitorthat suddenly changes everything.
In The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories, Tom Shippey has brought together thirty classic science fiction tales, each of which offers a unique vision, an altered reality, a universe all its own. Here are some of the great names in science fictionH.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Frederik Pohl, Brian Aldiss, Ursula K. Le Guin, Thomas Disch, Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, and David Brin. To give readers a sense of how the genre's range, vitality, and literary quality evolved over time, Shippey has organized these stories chronologically. Readers can sample H.G. Well's 1903 story "The Land Ironclads" (which predicted the stalemate of trench warfare and the invention of the tank), Jack Williamson's "The Metal Man," a rarely anthologized gem written in 1928, Clifford D. Simak's 1940s classic, "Desertion," set on "the howling maelstrom that was Jupiter," Frederik Pohl's 1955 "The Tunnel Under the World" (with its gripping first line, "On the morning of June 15th, Guy Burckhardt woke up screaming out of a dream"), right up to the current crop of writers, such as cyberpunks Bruce Sterling and William Gibson, whose 1982 story "Burning Chrome" foreshadows the idea of virtual reality, and David Brin's "Piecework," written in 1990. In addition, Shippey provides an informative introduction, examining the history of the genre, it major themes, and its literary techniques.
Here then is a galaxy of classic science fiction tales, written by the stars of the genre. Anyone with a serious interest in science fictionand everyone who has entertained a curiosity about the genrewill find this volume enthralling.
These 30 SF tales, arranged chronologically from 1903 to 1990, cover a typically wide and uneven range in the genre. The omission of some authors might raise eyebrows--notably Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison, and Robert A. Heinlein, all known for their short fiction. Only three women are represented: C. L. Moore (whose The Piper's Son is written under the collaborative pseudonym Lewis Padgett), Ursula K. Le Guin and Racoona Sheldon (Alice Sheldon, better known under the James Tiptree Jr. pseudonym). Only Sheldon's The Screwfly Solution, a devastatingly scary story about misogyny gone mad, dates from the past 20 years, during which women have made serious progress in the genre; thus, the final third of the book is less representative than it might be. Standouts include Le Guin's 0. Henry-esque The Dowry of the Angyar, Gene Wolfe's frightening How the Whip Came Back, H. G. Wells's anticipation of modern weapons in The Land Ironclads, Thomas M. Disch's insightful Problems of Creativeness, George R.R. Martin's fascinating religious study The Way of Cross and Dragon and Frederik Pohl's The Tunnel Under the World, which opens with the now-classic line, On the morning of June 15th, Guy Burckhardt woke up screaming out of a dream. (Oct.)