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The Original Anthology Series in Science Fiction
by Rich Horton

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The Original Anthology Series in SF
| Introduction | The Prolific 1970s | New Writers Only |

The Prolific 1970s

Orbit was certainly a succes d'estime, and to have lasted for 19 editions, it must have been at least a moderate financial success as well. At any rate, it seemed to open the floodgates for a raft of original anthology series which came out in the 1970s. The two most prominent of these were New Dimensions, edited by Robert Silverberg, and Universe, edited by Terry Carr.

These two both came out pretty much yearly. New Dimensions ran for 12 numbers, from 1971 through 1981. The last two were co-edited with Marta Randall, and a thirteenth was apparently assembled, to be edited by Randall alone, but never published. (One of the stories in it was to have been Connie Willis' brilliant, savage, "All My Darling Daughters".) Universe ran for 17 numbers, from 1971 through 1987, and only ceased publishing upon Carr's untimely death. These two anthology series, with Orbit, were the clear leaders of the field for the extent of their existence. Like Orbit, each published a great many award winners and award nominees, and all three anthology series would probably be classified as at the "literary" end of the SF spectrum, though a subjective rating (by me) of the three on a "literariness" spectrum, assuming such a dubious thing could be quantified, would rank them Orbit, New Dimensions, Universe from most to least overtly "literary". New Dimensions and Universe were regarded as rivals for the same material, in one famous case apparently both deciding to buy the same story, Howard Waldrop and Steven Utley's "Custer's Last Jump" (Carr won, and that excellent piece appeared in Universe 6). (An odd aspect of the rivalry was that each editor regularly published the other's stories.)

Among the significant stories published in New Dimensions were Ursula Le Guin's "Vaster Than Empires and More Slow" and her Hugo winner "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas", Joanna Russ' "Nobody's Home", James Tiptree, Jr.'s Hugo winner "The Girl Who Was Plugged In", Gardner Dozois' Nebula winning novella "Strangers", and Suzy McKee Charnas' Nebula winner "Unicorn Tapestry". Silverberg didn't seem to have "regulars" in the sense that Knight did for Orbit , though Barry Malzberg published quite a few stories in New Dimensions. Other prominent authors featured included Isaac Asimov (indeed his novel The Gods Themselves apparently owes its genesis to a novelette originally intended for New Dimensions), Harlan Ellison, Gregory Benford, Orson Scott Card, and Vonda McIntyre. Silverberg also published early work by Marta Randall, Richard Grant, Pat Cadigan, Michael Swanwick, and Phyllis Eisenstein, among others. Those lists reveal a notable affinity for writing by women, certainly in part a product of the times, as women entered the SF field in much greater numbers in the 1970s, but, I think, quite striking regardless.

Universe led off with a bang, featuring Robert Silverberg's Nebula-winning short story "Good News from the Vatican" in its first issue. Other award-winners from Universe included "If the Stars are Gods", by Gordon Eklund and Gregory Benford, "The Ugly Chickens", by Howard Waldrop, "The Quickening" by Michael Bishop, and "Paladin of the Lost Hour" by Harlan Ellison. Among the additional memorable stories Carr published are "The Lucky Strike", by Kim Stanley Robinson, "The Slovo Stove", by Avram Davidson, "A Rite of Spring", by Fritz Leiber, and several wonderful Gene Wolfe pieces, such as "The Death of Doctor Island", "The Rubber Bend" and "The Marvelous Brass Chessplaying Automaton". Carr also regularly published Edgar Pangborn's beautiful, moving, post-Apocalypse stories, before Pangborn's death in 1976. Universe also featured early stories by Molly Gloss (her first story), Michael Cassutt (his second), Geo. Alec Effinger (who also was featured a lot in both New Dimensions and Orbit), Lucius Shepard, and Robert Reed (his first story).

These lists of stories bring back old memories indeed. This review reminds me how much I liked Universe, which was for whatever reason (maybe the Pangborn stories, maybe the Wolfe stories) my favorite anthology series.

Though Universe and New Dimensions were surely the most prominent of the original anthology successors to Orbit, they weren't the first. Two fairly short-lived series debuted in 1970. Quark was edited by Samuel Delany and his wife, the fine poet Marilyn Hacker. Four issues appeared in 1970 and 1971. This anthology definitely tended to publish experimental, "New Wave", stories. Regular authors included Thomas M. Disch, R. A. Lafferty, and Joanna Russ. They also published early work by Vonda N. McIntyre and Christopher Priest, and fairly late work by A. E. van Vogt. My favorite Quark story is one of Larry Niven's best stories: "The Fourth Profession". The other 1970 debut was Infinity, edited by Robert Hoskins. Five numbers came about between 1970 and 1973. Infinity featured stories by the likes of Poul Anderson, Barry N. Malzberg, Robert Silverberg, and Arthur C. Clarke (including a reprint of Clarke's earlier classic, "The Star", first published in the Hoskins-edited magazine also called Infinity, November 1955). Early stories by Edward Bryant and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, among others, were published here.

Throughout the 1970s, original anthology series kept cropping up. One reputation shared by all three of the major series mentioned above was for preferring more literary, more "New Wave", more experimental, stories. (I would argue that all three editors were hospitable to such stories, yes, but all were quite happy to publish excellent stories in the traditional SF vein.) At any rate, Judy-Lynn del Rey, the Science Fiction editor at Ballantine Books (which Science Fiction imprint was renamed Del Rey Books after her), vowed to publish an anthology series devoted to "stories". Ballantine was the publisher of Pohl's pioneering series Star, so del Rey named the new series Stellar as an hommage. Ironically, one of the best stories in Stellar 1 was the decidedly literary "Schwartz Between the Galaxies", by Robert Silverberg. But by and large del Rey was quite successful in achieving an "old-fashioned" feel. Partly she did this simply by publishing stories by SF veterans: Clifford Simak, Hal Clement, Gordon Dickson, and Jack Williamson all appeared in Stellar, as did Isaac Asimov with the most famous story Stellar printed, his Hugo- and Nebula-winning novella "The Bicentennial Man". Del Rey also tended to publish writers from the "hard SF" end of the spectrum: besides Clement and Asimov, she featured several stories by Larry Niven and by Charles Sheffield, and the most regular contributor to the anthology series was James P. Hogan. Stellar also published work by James Tiptree, Jr., Philip K. Dick, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Anne McCaffrey. Besides the Asimov and Silverberg stories already mentioned, memorable stories from Stellar include Tiptree's "We Who Stole the Dream" and Vernor Vinge's "The Whirligig of Time". Stellar ran for seven numbers (from 1974 through 1981), as well as (again in imitation of Star) one collection of novellas, Stellar Short Novels.

Two other general interest SF original anthology series to appear during the '70s were Nova, edited by Harry Harrison (four volumes, published between 1970 and 1974) and Chrysalis, edited by Roy Torgeson (10 volumes, published between 1976 and 1983). Nova featured Brian W. Aldiss regularly, and also published interesting stories by James Tiptree, Jr., Robert Sheckley, Barry Malzberg (and his alter-ego K. M. O'Donnell) and Philip Jose Farmer. The obscure Chrysalis published what is, in retrospect, a refreshingly different sampling of SF writers. The overall quality was clearly not up to that of the Carr and Silverberg anthologies, but the feel was strikingly different, and the anthologies served a purpose by showcasing some less familiar writers. Thomas Monteleone and Australian writer Leanne Frahm were Chrysalis regulars. Torgeson also published interesting work by Jayge Carr, Al Sarrantonio, Tanith Lee, Steve Rasnic Tem, Orson Scott Card and Octavia Butler. He published some of the last stories of Theodore Sturgeon and Margaret St. Clair, and some early stories by Somtow Sucharitkul and Elizabeth Lynn.


The multiplication of original anthology series suggested to some that anthologies devoted to more restricted areas of the field might be of interest. There were at least two series devoted to Sword and Sorcery only, for example. One of these was Flashing Swords, edited by Lin Carter (five volumes between 1973 and 1981), featuring stories (almost always novelette-length) by Poul Anderson, Jack Vance, Andre Norton, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock and others. Carter published almost exclusively stories by established writers, often working in their well-known worlds. Another S&S anthology series was Swords Against Darkness, edited by Andrew J. Offutt (five volumes between 1977 and 1979). Offutt published a wider range of authors, and his selections often had a tinge of horror. Regular contributors included Ramsey Campbell, Tanith Lee, and Manly Wade Wellman. At this time (1979 and 1980) Chrysalis editor Roy Torgeson published two numbers of an explicitly "fantasy" original anthology, Other Worlds, which had a feel much like that of Chrysalis.

Beginning in 1978 and continuing through most of the 80s Charles L. Grant edited a well-regarded series of original anthologies of horror, or perhaps more properly, "dark fantasy", stories, collectively called Shadows (10 numbers, from 1978 through 1988, with a follow-up, Final Shadows, in 1991).  Shadows 1 includes such striking stories as "Naples" by Avram Davidson and "When Spirits Gat Them Home" (later retitled "Her Bounty to the Dead", and don't I appreciate a writer who can come up with two beautiful titles from a Wallace Stevens poem for the same story!), by John Crowley. Later editions featured stories by horror legends such as Stephen King, Robert Bloch, and Richard C. Matheson, as well as regular contributions from Ramsey Campbell, Steve Rasnic Tem, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and even a very early story from Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski.

One of the stranger concepts for an original anthology series was that of Continuum, edited by Roger Elwood, the super-prolific 1970s editor of all sorts of SF anthologies. This anthology series consisted of four numbers, published in 1974 and 1975. The gimmick was that the stories were all parts of series, which were continued from issue to issue. These books featured the beginning of Anne McCaffrey's Crystal Singer series, eventually a trilogy of novels, as well as a group of Poul Anderson stories that became his novel New America, sequel to the much earlier Orbit Unlimited. Also of note were a very quirky set of stories by Gene Wolfe, and some of Edgar Pangborn's post-Apocalypse stories.

Another original anthology series with a somewhat different format was edited by James Baen. After Baen's energetic stint as editor of Galaxy (my favorite magazine at that time), he joined Ace Books. One of his projects for Ace was something he called a "paperback magazine", Destinies. This was published as a paperback, but numbered and dated like a magazine, and it incorporated features like those of a magazine (book reviews, science articles, editorials, serials). Destinies lasted for 11 issues, it was published roughly quarterly from 1978 through 1981. Regular authors included Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, Charles Sheffield and Richard Wilson. Baen later revived this general concept in the mid-80s, after he had his own imprint, Baen Books. He published 7 issues of Far Frontiers, co-edited with Jerry Pournelle, then 8 more issues (numbered confusingly 1 through 4, and 6 through 9) of New Destinies. Both these anthology series, not surprisingly, published stories of the type Baen Books publishes: a lot of Military SF, generally somewhat "hard" in feel. Notable stories included Greg Bear's "Through Road No Whither", and Vernor Vinge's outstanding "The Blabber", in which he first introduced his concept of the Zones. Other authors featured included Elizabeth Moon, Lois McMaster Bujold, Timothy Zahn, Dean Ing, and Poul Anderson.

In some ways the anthologies Far Frontiers and New Destinies could have been regarded as "Baen Books Showcases" in that they often featured novelists whose books were coming from Baen. From 1980 through 1982 Berkley Books published five anthologies called The Berkley Showcase. These also often (though not, I think, exclusively) featured Berkley authors. They were edited by Victoria Schochet and John Silbersack for the first four volumes, the fifth by Schochet and Melissa Singer. They were somewhat obscure at the time, I thought, but they published some interesting stories: including "Sergeant Pepper" by Karl Hansen, "Soldier of an Empire Unacquainted with Defeat" by Glen Cook, and "The Pathosfinder" by Pat Cadigan, as well as stories by Howard Waldrop, Orson Scott Card and R. A. Lafferty.

Another anthology concept which sprung up in the late 70s and became quite popular in the 80s was that of the "Shared World". This is probably worth an article of its own, suffice it to mention here such significant examples as Thieves' World, edited by Robert Lynn Asprin and Lynn Abbey, Wild Cards, edited by George R.R. Martin, Heroes in Hell, edited by Janet Morris, Merovingen Nights, edited by C. J. Cherryh and Liavek, edited by Will Shetterly and Emma Bull.

The Original Anthology Series in SF
| Introduction | The Prolific 1970s | New Writers Only |
Anthology Links
For further information on original science fiction anthologies and their contents, you can visit:

Internet Science Fiction Database
William Contento's Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections
Locus Magazine's Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror: 1984-1996

Copyright © 1999 by 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 and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.

New Dimensions 5
Orbit 1
Orbit 8
Orbit 9
Universe 4
Universe 5
Nova 1
Nova 2
Flashing Swords 5
Shadows 1
Continuum 1
Continuum 2
Continuum 3
Continuum 4
Destinies 1
Thieves' World 1
Thieves' World 2
Wild Cards 1
Liavek 1
New Voices 1
New Voices 2
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