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30th Anniversary DAW Science Fiction
edited by Elizabeth R. Wollheim and Sheila E. Gilbert
DAW Books, 462 pages

30th Anniversary DAW Science Fiction
Elizabeth R. Wollheim and Sheila E. Gilbert
DAW Books is owned exclusively by its publishers, Elizabeth R. Wollheim and Sheila E. Gilbert. They are strongly committed to discovering and nurturing new talent, and to keeping a personal "family" spirit at DAW Books. Elizabeth R. Wollheim is the daughter of the founder Donald A. Wollheim.

ISFDB Bibliography: Elizabeth R. Wollheim
ISFDB Bibliography: Sheila E. Gilbert

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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The legendary SF publisher DAW is celebrating its 30th Anniversary with a pair of original anthologies, one composed of Fantasy stories by DAW authors, the other of Science Fiction stories by DAW authors. The latter is the book at hand. DAW was named for founder Donald A. Wollheim, SF writer, member of the famous early SF club the Futurians, and long-time editor at Ace. Wollheim left Ace in 1971, founding his own imprint which launched in 1972. Those of us, like me, who came to SF in the mid-70s, have fond memories of the early DAW paperbacks, with their yellow spines, and their curious mix of quirky and adventurous stuff such as Barrington Bayley's novels, or Tanith Lee's, and some frankly rather cheesy stuff (John Norman's Gor novels being the most notorious example). DAW's most spectacular success, to my mind, was introducing C.J. Cherryh to the SF world in 1975. Donald Wollheim became too ill to lead the company in 1985, but his daughter Elizabeth, along with Sheila E. Gilbert, continue the imprint to this day.

DAW 30th Anniversary Science Fiction features 19 stories by writers who have published books with DAW over the years. They seem to be organized in roughly the order in which the authors first appeared from DAW. Thus the early part of the book features such venerable authors, all of whom have established reputations outside DAW, as Brian Stableford, Brian W. Aldiss, and Frederik Pohl. Later on we see authors known mostly for their recent DAW SF (and often Fantasy) only: Lisanne Norman and Julie E. Czerneda, for example. Indeed this order allows us to see how DAW has changed over the years: Donald Wollheim originally published quite a variety of SF, sometimes rather unusual (as with Tanith Lee's Don't Bite the Sun), and including in particular a number of story collections, such as The Book of Brian W. Aldiss, that often served to introduce a writer to a wider American audience. It is particularly nice to remember that much of Brian Stableford's underrated early SF came to us via DAW. By contrast Wollheim's successors have focussed the company rather more narrowly, essentially on Space Opera and Epic Fantasy: certainly sub-genres I'm happy enough to see published, and quite possibly reflective of very canny commercial judgment.

As with the companion Fantasy volume, several of the stories are outtakes from ongoing novel series. I will say that the stories in this volume seem more successful in standing on their own, however. An example is Kate Elliott's "Sunseeker", touted as a Jaran story, but which read to me (unfamiliar with the novels) as an effective near future look at technology advances and corporate piracy, quite independent of any knowledge of the series background. Brian Stableford's "The Home Front", is set in the future history of his ongoing series from Tor, featuring devastating biotechnological plagues followed by a biotechnological revolution. This moving story tells of one family's fate during the worst period of the plagues. Frederik Pohl's "A Home for the Old Ones" is advertised as an excerpt from a forthcoming Gateway novel, and indeed it is a bit thin for a standalone story.

Many other stories are wholly stand-alone, including most of the best stories in the book. Brian W. Aldiss' "Aboard the Beatitude" is a chilling story of a human starship bent on attacking an alien race, without concern for the effect of their mission on the rest of the universe. Neal Barrett, Jr., in "Grubber", offers a story of a very unusual alien race. Ian Watson's "The Black Wall of Jerusalem" is reminiscent of Tim Powers' novel Declare, as it tells of a mysterious wall in Jerusalem, accessible only to a few, behind which lurk creatures who may be demons. And I was very taken with C. S. Friedman's "Downtime", which has a central idea similar to that in Watson's story of a couple years ago, "A Day Without Dad": children of aging parents can be required to allow their parents to take over the child's body for a time, to give them the freedom of movement of a younger body. The story makes a bit too much of an unconvincing law mandating this, but succeeds in the end by treating the relationship of the protagonist with her mother.

This is a pretty solid collection, all told. Perhaps none of the stories are exactly outstanding, but by and large they are worthwhile work, with only a couple duds, and none of the overly self-indulgent stories that marred the companion Fantasy volume. And it gives quite an interesting look at the history of DAW's contributors.

Copyright © 2002 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area. He writes a monthly short fiction review column for Locus. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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