Science Fiction Though the Decades

Sunday, April 8, 2012

1980: Galaxy- The Best of My Years (Baen, James)

Optimistic essays and opalescent stories (5/5)
From October 18, 2010

Of the twelve headings inside The Best of My Years, there are only seven short stories along with an intro, andoutro, and three essays. Baen himself had said that science fiction at the time of 1980 was at the start of a New Wave of SF. Niven and Varley were spearheading that new wave but still dragged with them the entrails of the sixties and early seventies science fiction aura. The likes of Greg Bear, David Brin, William Gibson, and Niven truly heralded the New Wave era of SF, whether documented across the broader scheme of SF literature or not; it's merely an opinion based on my observations of decadal transitions (60s to 70s to 80s and thereon).

The Best of My Years definitely fits the 70s era of science fiction to a T. With subject matter of cryogenics and Bussard ramjets taking up much of the short story plots and article length, the topics ring true of a large number of the same decade. It's not to the point of saturation but just enough the glaze over the soft fluffy doughnut of the SF during ninth decade of the twentieth century.

Baen: Myth of the Light Barrier (introduction) - 4/5 - A lean, mean stab at what the anthology encompasses and what the editor is driving hard at. 2 pages

Asimov: Is There Hope for the Future (essay) - 4/5 - Has the same resonance of the Foundation series, socialism and utopianism. Like science fiction as a whole, if the future is being written about, the author is optimistic that humankind DOES have a future. Asimov agrees very much so. 21 pages

LeGuin: The Day Before the Revolution (story) - 4/5 - A nearly invalid revolutionary leader relives the days of her love for her mentor while still orchestrating his master plan of worldwide provincial revolt. While not a big fan of LeGuin, I did like the intricate emotion of elderly Laila and the staccato prose of a mind slipping away. 21 pages

Anderson: Out Many Roads to the Stars (essay) - 4/5 - Focusing on effects of near-light speed, Anderson pulls out some equations and tables to emphasize the wow-factor of the attainable interstellar spacecraft. Seeing these relativistic phenomena reaffirms my belief that we currently aren't as tech savvy as we may believe. 21 pages

Pohl & Kornbluth: The Gift of Garigolli (story) - 5/5 - Sentient micro-aliens in a mans body attempt to observe human society through his eyes and even try to repay him for his help, but the exponential size difference is hampering the effort. Always a fan of Pohl cheekier novels, this does not disappoint with an evident passion for silliness and coherent randomness (huh?). 34 pages

Saberhagen: Birthdays (story) - 5/5 - A 13-year old boy wakes one day upon a starship to be told he must be a parent to twenty-four new born children only to be put asleep the same day and to be awoken exactly one year later to parent the babies again. Why this is happening is a mystery to him and the soon to be adults. I've never read anything by Saberhagen before, but this out-of-the-blue story really impressed me takes the cake for best story. 59 pages

Varley: Overdrawn at the Memory Bank (story) - 3/5 - A jumble of school lessons, advertising, book chapters, commands and correspondence finds Fingal confronting his own "What is reality?" which is done better than most of the stories which tackle the same question. I found the story a little fun but I really haven't liked much of the Varley I've read with the exception of his short story Air Raid. 44 pages

Sheffield: The Long Chance (story) - 4/5 - A composer loses his wife to a disease and chooses to cryogenically keep her until the day they can both be reunited and while he can't live with the agony, decides to also freeze himself for the future. Now that he has been awakened millennia in the future, will he be as happy as he thought? A very good stab at the cryogenic story line and probably one of the best corpsicle plots out there. 29 pages

Niven: Down and Out (story) - 4/5 - An earlier version of Rammer (found in World Out of Time), where Corbell escapes earthly The State on his Bussard ramjet towards the galactic center only to find himself eventually hounded the consoled by his once enemy Pierce. A good, typical Niven strewn with comical situations, good science background and a mind treat of a story. 32 pages

Pournelle: That Buck Rogers Stuff (essay) - 3/5 - Pournelle lets the ball roll with what the future may hold for humankind's expansion in the solar system, very optimistic and very well represented in his novel Exiles to Glory. 15 pages

Zelazny: The Game of Dust and Blood (story) - 4/5 - A supernatural game of playing with humankind's history by alternatively changing three events in human record. A fun look a different kind of alternative history story but as I'm not a history buff I couldn't really grasp the full meaning behind Zelazny's choices. 6 pages

Baen: Galaxy and the Galaxy (outro) - 3/5 - A simple reiteration of articles with a sprinkling of other mentions which Baen considered noteworthy and finishing the conclusion off with what Baen's expectations of what future submissions ought to look like. 6 pages

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