THE BEST OF JAMES H. SCHMITZ
James H. Schmitz
Edited by Mark L. Olson
Cover by Frank Kelly Freas
THE REDISCOVERY OF MAN
Edited by James A. Mann
Cover by Jack Gaughan
Edited by Mark & Priscilla Olson
Cover by Elizabeth Rhys Finney
HIS SHARE OF GLORY
Edited by Timothy P. Szczesuil
Cover by Richard Powers
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
As I write this, there are 99 reviews on my website. I suppose if I wanted to stay within a long held sf fannish tradition, no 100th review would ever appear. Although I like tradition, I'm not quite done writing these reviews, so I decided to post a 100th review. Except, this is also reviews 101-103, for I've elected to review the four books which have so far appeared in the NESFA Choice line of books: Schmitz's The Best of James H. Schmitz, Smith's The Rediscovery of Man, Henderson's Ingathering, and Kornbluth's His Share of Glory.
This series of books is a successful attempt to keep some of science fiction's older authors in print and, perhaps more importantly, introduce their writings to a younger audience. To this end, members of NESFA, the New England Science Fiction Association, have elected to edit books of their favorite author's short stories. The NESFA Choice line is the result.
The first NESFA Choice book, The Best of James H. Schmitz, first appeared in 1991. This collection differed from the later books in the series by presenting a limited number of Schmitz's stories. To make up for the missing stories, editor Mark L. Olson included a complete bibliography of Schmitz's writing as an appendix. The incompleteness of this work doesn't fully become apparent until it is compared with the other books published in the series.
By the time James Mann edited Cordwainer Smith's The Rediscovery of Man two years later, NESFA was to the point where they realized that although "Best of" collections are nice, the complete short works of an author are even nicer. The Rediscovery of Man, therefore, contains not only all of Smith's short fiction, but even some of his unpublished work. Many of the stories in this collection are linked as part of Smith's "Instrumentality of Mankind" future history. Smith's only other work of science fiction, the novel Norstrila was published later by NESFA in a matching edition.
Although Zenna Henderson's Ingathering only contains her stories which deal with the People (a fact clearly displayed on the cover), the inclusion of the entire story cycle gives the book a sense of completeness which would otherwise be lacking in a simple "Best of " collection. The People stories deal with the idea of fear of the outsider, a phenomenon Henderson witnessed first-hand during World War II while she was working in Japanese internment camps on the West Coast. Moreso than any of the other collections in this series, the stories which form Ingathering show thematic links.
The most recent work published in the series is C.M. Kornbluth's His Share of Glory. As with the Henderson, it is not entirely complete, lacking those works Kornbluth wrote with other science fiction authors. Still, the largest book published by NESFA so far, His Share of Glory gives a complete sense of Kornbluth's abilities. The fact that Kornbluth wrote several stories in collaboration with authors as varied as Frederik Pohl, Judith Merril, and Robert A.W. Lowndes makes his output in a relatively short period even more impressive. With luck, NESFA will issue a companion volume of Kornbluth's collaborations, as they did with Smith's Norstrila.
Of course, whenever this complete a selection of an author's work is given it means there will be lousy stories along side the fantastic ones. Perhaps for this reason, The Best of James H. Schmitz maintains the highest level of quality throughout the book. Olson was able to pick and choose, discarding stories which were not well written with interesting ideas. Later books in the series are constrained by their very completeness.
On the other hand, the fact that the Henderson, Smith and Kornbluth are relatively complete means that the reader is not dependant on the editor's personal taste in selecting which stories to read. Some readers may feel that "The Advent of Channel Twelve," in which a children's show produces an epiphany, is every bit as good as "Two Dooms," Kornbluth's classic alternate history story. With a standard "Best of" collection, the reader may never have had a chance to read "The Advent of Channel Twelve."
The NESFA Choice books provide hours of reading, which should probably be spread out over several months, if not years. Many of these stories are classics in the field, from Smith's "The Ballad of Lost C'mell" to Henderson's "Ararat." Many of the stories could equally well have been lost, of interest only to completists. However, their inclusion in these books allow the modern reader to judge them on their own merits.
What is astounding is how many of the stories do manage to remain fresh after all these years. Kornbluth died in 1958, Smith in 1966, Schmitz in 1981 and Henderson in 1983. Although all wrote stories which are dated and quaint by today's standards, enough of these tales would fit in nicely with those stories being published in today's science fiction and fantasy magazines.
Almost as amazing is the fact that NESFA is able to publish these books for the same price (if not cheaper) than a major publishing house could publish the books. Given their prices, buying the books makes sense, even if you find you only enjoy the most famous and popular of the stories. With luck, the NESFA Choice line will continue for several years and several volumes into the future.
|Lion Loose. . .||The Custodians|
|Just Curious||Sour Note on Palayata|
|The Second Night of Summer||Goblin Night|
|No, No, Not Rogov||Drunkboat|
|War No. 81-Q||Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons|
|Mark Elf||Alpha Ralpha Boulevard|
|The Queen of the Afternoon||The Ballad of Lost C'mell|
|Scanners Live in Vain||A Planet Named Shayol|
|The Lady Who Sailed The Soul||On the Gem Planet|
|When the People Fell||On the Storm Planet|
|Think Blue, Count Two||On the Sand Planet|
|The Colonel Came Back from Nothing-at-All||Three to a Given Star|
|The Game of Rat and Dragon||Down to a Sunless Sea|
|The Burning of the Brain||War No. 81-Q (original version)|
|From Gustible's Planet||Western Science Is So Wonderful|
|Himself in Anacreon||Nancy|
|The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal||The Fife of Bodidharma|
|Gold the Ship War--Oh! Oh! Oh!||Angerhelm|
|The Dead Lady of Clown Town||The Good Friends|
|Under Old Earth|
|Ararat||Troubling of the Water|
|Pottage||Shadow on the Moon|
|Wilderness||Tell Us a Story|
|No Different Flesh||The Indelible Kind|
|Mark & Meris||Katie-Mary's Trip|
|That Share of Glory||Kazam Collects|
|The Adventurer||The Marching Morons|
|Dominoes||The Altar of Midnight|
|The Golden Road||Crisis!|
|The Rocket of 1955||Theory of Rocketry|
|The Mindworm||The Cosmic Charge Account|
|The Education of Tigress McCardle||Friend to Man|
|Shark Ship||I Never Ast No Favors|
|The Meddlers||The Little Black Bag|
|The Luckiest Man in Denv||What Sorghum Says|
|The Reversible Revolutions||MS. Found in a Chinese Fortune Cookie|
|The City in the Sofa||The Only Thing We Learn|
|Gomez||The Last Man Left in the Bar|
|The Slave||The Advent on Channel Twelve|
|The Words of Guru||Make Mine Mars|
|Thirteen O'Clock||Everybody Knows Joe|
|Mr. Packer Goes to Hell||The Remorseful|
|With These Hands||Sir Mallory's Magnitude|
|Iteration||The Events Leading Down to the Tragedy|
|The Goodly Creatures||King Cole of Pluto|
|Time Bum||No Place to Go|
|Two Dooms||Dimension of Darkness|
|Passion Pills||Dead Center|
|The Silly Season||Interference|
|The Perfect Invasion||Return from M-15|
|The Adventurers||The Core|
|Purchase The Best of James H. Schmitz from|
|Purchase The Rediscovery of Man from||Purchase The Rediscovery of Man|
|Purchase Ingathering from||Purchase Ingathering|
|Purchase His Share of Glory from||Purchase His Share of Glory|