Dream job…

Back in the late ’70s Del Rey published a series of author “Best of” collections. There was The Best of Lester Del Rey, The Best of Leigh Brackett, The Best of L. Sprague de Camp, The Best of Fritz Leiber, The Best of Cordwainer Smith, and The Best of Jack Williamson. These books were about 350 pages long and came with an intelligent introduction written by someone close to the field, who was able to say something meaningful to put the writer in context. These were good books, single, concise arguments for why these writers were important.

I love these books, and this kind of book. If I could get a dream job, it would be to edit a series of similar books for the writers of the ’60s, ’70s. and even 80s.  I mean, we have a few awful collections for Larry Niven, but how about The Best of Larry Niven? Or The Best of Harlan Ellison, or The Best of Connie Willis or The Best of Stephen Baxter?  And there are others. The Best of Gene Wolfe! It would be very cool. Publish them as a set, matching design, numbered as a set – it’s definitely a dream job. sigh.

8 thoughts on “Dream job…”

  1. Funny, I was thinking this myself the other day – in the context of huge disagreement with the selection of the Vintage “Selected Stories” of Sturgeon, and the non-existence – unless anyone can correct me – of a single-volume in-print best-of Heinlein’s short fiction.

    I think there *is* a problem with more recent authors compared to Golden Age ones: a lot of the people you might be looking at (Wolfe, Shepard, etc) have done a lot of their most distinctive work at novella length, and you can only get so many novellas into 350 pages.

  2. The closest to a ‘Best of Heinlein’ is THE PAST THROUGH TOMORROW. I don’t know this, but I assume the estate feels that does the job.

    In terms of more recent writers, two comments. The first is that you could run the book a little longer – maybe 400 – 450 pages. The second is that it would be good to be forced to make tough choices about what to leave and so on. It would be easy to do a 600 page best of Gene Wolfe. But a 400 page volume would be hard, if you did it well. You’d need to choose between “Seven American Nights”, “The Island of Doctor Death” and so on. The resulting book could be superb. Oh, and something for pundits to disagree with indefinitely.

  3. Yeah, _The Past Through Tomorrow_ is fine but a bit tied to the Future History schema as I remember. I have this theory with Heinlein that his fantasy stuff reflects interestingly on his sf, and it would be nice to have the two within one vol.

    On Wolfe specifically, my own feeling is that there’s such a high proportion of his good stuff in _The Island Of Doctor Death And Other Stories_, and that more recent collections don’t have that same intensity, that any best-of I selected wouldn’t look that different.

    More generally, when doing this work with a living writer, there’s always a political aspect: any writer tends to feel most positive about most recent work, and that may not be what the editor feels is best…

  4. My take on the Best Of Gene Wolfe:

    The Fifth Head of Cerberus
    The Tree is My Hat
    The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories
    The Marvelous Brass Chessplaying Automaton
    The Hero as Werwolf
    The War Beneath the Tree
    The Ziggurat
    In Looking-Glass Castle
    The Death of Doctor Island
    Houston, 1943
    And When They Appear
    No Planets Strike
    Golden City Far
    Talk of Mandrakes
    The Boy Who Hooked the Sun
    How I Lost the Second World War and Helped Turn Back the German Invasion
    The Eyeflash Miracles
    The Walking Sticks
    Parkroads: A Review
    Checking Out
    Feather Tigers
    Counting Cats in Zanzibar
    La Befana
    Queen of the Night
    Seven American Nights

  5. I would love to see such a series. I have fond memories of the Del Rey ones; The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum, for example, was my first (and mostly only) exposure to Weinbaum.

    But then, I was also fond of various Niven collections — what about Tales of Known Space, also from Del Rey in the ’70s?

    …Your proposed new series might also be a good way to showcase some of the early classic short fiction by writers who either aren’t widely known to today’s newer sf readers, or are known primarily as novelists. Sure, you’d also want to include their later work if it’s among their best, but I suspect a lot of important and influential short fiction from the ’60s and ’70s is almost impossible to find these days.

  6. Here is my Table of Contents for THE BEST OF NANCY KRESS:

    With the Original Cast, (nv) Omni May 1982
    Trinity, (na) Asimov’s Oct. 1984
    Out of All Them Bright Stars, (ss) F & SF Mar. 1985
    Spillage, (ss) F & SF April 1988
    The Price of Oranges, (nv) Asimov’s April 1989
    Beggars in Spain, (na) Asimov’s April 1991/ Pulphouse Axolotl 1991
    The Mountain to Mohammed, (ss) Asimov’s April 1992
    Eoghan, (nv) Alternate Kennedys, ed. Mike Resnick, Tor 1992
    Dancing on Air, (na) Asimov’s July 1993
    Words Like Pale Stones, (nv) Black Thorn, White Rose, ed. Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, Morrow Avonova 1994
    Margin of Error, (ss) Omni Oct. 1994
    The Flowers of Aulit Prison, (nv) Asimov’s Oct/Nov 1996
    Steamship Soldier on the Information Front, (nv) future histories, ed. Stephen McClelland, Horizon House UK 1997 /Asimov’s April 1998
    To Cuddle Amy, (ss) Asimov’s Aug. 2000
    Computer Virus, (nv) Asimov’s April 2001
    Shiva in Shadow, (na) Between Worlds, ed. Robert Silverberg, SFBC 2004

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