Not All Great Stories Are Remembered

A Logic Named Joe by Murray Leinster March 1946 Astounding.PNG

Our goal here at the Classics of Science Fiction is to discover analytical ways to remember science fiction. We describe our methods in “Remembering Science Fiction.” The trouble is, our methods don’t always work. For short stories, we collect annual anthologies, retrospective anthologies, textbook anthologies about science fiction, fan polls, awards, and a few recommendation lists from authors. We call each source of recognition a “citation” and we have over a 100 citation sources for short science fiction. To get on our final list of Classics of Science Fiction Short Stories a story had to have a minimum of 5 citations.

“A Logic Named Joe” by Murray Leinster from the March 1946 issue of Astounding Science Fiction is a definite classic in my mind, yet it only got 1 citation. It was collected in The Great SF Stories 8 (1946) edited by Isaac Asimov and Martina H. Greenberg. But if you look at the entry for “A Logic Named Joe” at ISFDB.org, you’ll see it’s never been collected in a major retrospective anthology of the science fiction genre. Yet, if you go read “A Logic Named Joe” online at Baen Book you’ll discover this 1946 story is very prescience about today’s computers, networking, and social media problems. For example, the illustration above shows kids looking at a film unsuitable for kids. In the story itself, kids are watching a film cannibals and their fertility dances. Leinster even imagined Nanny apps to keep kids from seeing what they shouldn’t, but in this case, Joe overrode that code.

The reason why people should read “A Logic Named Joe” today is for the same reason they should read “The Machine Stops” by E. M. Forster from 1909. Both are stories where the author has predicted our world and time to a fascinating degree. Science fiction was never meant to be a crystal ball, but sometimes it’s speculations about the future are eerily right. Both of these stories would just seem like nice stories if read before the internet era, but after that, we go, “Wait a minute! How could E. M. Forster in 1909 or Murray Leinster in 1946 imagine what’s happening now?”

“A Logic Named Joe” was written when the term “computer” meant a human that worked all day at a desk doing mathematics. Leinster used the word “logic” to mean what we call computers. I bet future retrospective anthologies will reprint “A Logic Named Joe.”

They will if the editors read it. How do keep short stories alive so readers will remember them? I’d say a majority of modern science fiction readers will never read even one of the anthologies we used to create our system for identifying the best short science fiction from the past. Sure, a few folks might take a science fiction course as an elective and have to read one of the textbook anthologies for their class. Or a small percentage might consume a current anthology like The Big Book Of Science Fiction (2016) edited by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer, but these readers are few and far between.

We’re hoping people will read our lists and track down the stories. We’ve even put all our research into a database that you can generate your own custom lists. But using our system you probably won’t notice “A Logic Named Joe.” Our system fails to recognize it. There have been no 1947 Retro Hugo Award for 1946 publications so far. This could happen in 2022. In 2018 the Retro Hugo Award voted for the 1943 Hugo awards that covered 1942 stories. In 2019 they’ll vote the 1944 awards. But even if “A Logic Named Joe” gets a Retro Hugo Award, will that be enough to make it into a classic story young readers will remember?

Murray Leinster is not very well remembered today, but he was once called the Dean of Science Fiction. Readers mostly remember him today for “First Contact” which was anthologized in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

If you use our database and set the min and max year to 1946, check the Story radio button, and put citations to 1, you’ll get all the stories our system found for 1946:

1946 Science Fiction Short Stories

The ones checked with a red mark are those collected by Asimov and Greenberg for The Great SF Stories 8 (1946). All the others came from other anthologies. 13 of the 22 stories are only remembered by one anthology. Using our cutoff of 5 citation minimum, these are the stories our system deems are the classics of 1946:

The Classics of Science Fiction Short Stories 1946

Few modern science fiction readers will even read these three stories, but because they’ve been anthologized so many times, their chances are better for being remembered as classics of the genre.

I believe “A Logic Named Joe” should be on that list, but how do we come up with a system that recognizes its worth? We could add Modern Masterpieces of Science Fiction (1965) edited by Sam Moskowitz. It’s a major retrospective anthology we missed. That would give “A Logic Named Joe” 2 citations. It would also reinforce the standing of the other stories in the anthology give giving them an additional citation.

We could also add the best theme anthologies. We aimed to pick major anthologies, either recognized as such or because they were large and definitive. Machines That Think (1984) edited by Asimov, Greenberg, and Warrick would be one such anthology. It collected 621 pages of great stories about thinking machines. That would bring “A Logic Named Joe” up to 3 citations. Of course, it’s given Asimov and Greenberg two votes.

I could assemble a committee of well-read specialists in short science fiction and give them each a vote. I’d give it my vote. That brings it up to 4 citations, still under the cutoff.

Are there any other sources of citations that recognize short science fiction? Being made into a television show or movie is a great form of recognition that helps keep a work of fiction in our pop culture memory. Unfortunately, “A Logic Named Joe” will never be filmed.

The gold standard for remembering short stories is being published in a major anthology. But how often do major anthologies get published? And when a large retrospective anthology is assembled, editors tend to look over the field and find exceptional stories that haven’t been well-anthologized before to now compete with the recognized classics. Would they now see “A Logic Named Joe” as one? The large genre remembering anthologies come out every few years, but they have page limits, and always more new stories to remember, and thus older stories that were once classics get left out.

Even among short stories, there’s a survival of the fittest. The question I always ask people, “How many short stories do you remember from the 19th-century?” The competition to become a classic is brutal.

“A Logic Named Joe” is a standout story because of how it anticipated the internet. But is that enough to make it a classic story worth remembering? It lacks the emotional depth to make it a literary classic. And it doesn’t have the beauty of “Vintage Season.” Maybe our system is working. Maybe “A Logic Named Joe” is a story I especially like, but not necessarily loved by others?

“A Logic Named Joe” by Will F. Jenkins (Murray Leinster’s real name because he had another story in the same issue) came in first place in The Analytical Laboratory. Readers liked it best, but it only got a 2.80 average rating, meaning it wasn’t that popular. A rating of 1.00 meant every reader picked it as their #1 story. A few rare stories back in the day managed that feat. So in 1946, “A Logic Named Joe” was only a slightly better than average story.

If you look at the list above of the 22 stories for 1946, only “Vintage Season” is a real classic. It had 10 citations. If we used a cutoff of 10, there are only 38 classic science fiction short stories that make the list. And even many of these are being forgotten. It’s hard to come up with a system that remembers everything that the average reader will encounter, or should read.

Classics of Science Fiction Short Stories 10 Citations

James Wallace Harris, December 25, 2018

Audible Has A Fantastic Collection of Baby Boomer Science Fiction

The Fourth R by George O. Smith

For several years now (2017, 2016, 2015), I’ve created wish-lists of wanted audiobook editions of classic science fiction stories. My hope is publishers would see my lists and produce those titles on audio. I doubt they ever have, but every year a few more classic science fiction books show up at Audible.com. They have done a fantastic job. Almost any title I read as a kid is now available to read with my ears. Nearly every book on The Classics of Science Fiction and Worlds Without End Top-Listed Books of All-Time lists are available on audio. And I think that validates those stories.

Starting in 2002 when I joined Audible.com I’d scan the new releases daily always hoping to find my favorite science fiction stories from my Golden Age years, the books Baby Boomers now consider the classic of the genre.  Each year it gets harder to find titles that haven’t gotten the audiobook treatment. Here are some of the older science fiction titles that have shown up at Audible this past year:

  • Armageddon 2419 A.D. by Philip Francis Nowlan
  • Sleeping Planet (1965) by William R. Burkett, Jr.
  • The Troublemakers by George O. Smith
  • The Snail on the Slope by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
  • Triplanetary (1934) by Edward E. Smith (magazine version)
  • This World is Taboo by Murray Leinster
  • The Sensitive Man by Poul Anderson
  • Masters of Space by Edward E. Smith & E. Everett Evans
  • The Silent Invaders by Robert Silverberg
  • Mercenary by Mack Reynolds
  • Catseye by Andre Norton
  • Storm by George R. Stewart
  • The Land of Always Night (Doc Savage) by Kenneth Robeson
  • The Golden Man (Doc Savage) by Kenneth Robeson
  • Planet Stories – March 1953 (magazine)
  • Planet Stories – Fall 1941 (magazine)
  • Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • The Scarlett Plague by Jack London
  • With the Night Mail by Rudyard Kipling
  • As Easy as ABC by Rudyard Kipling
  • 2 B R 0 2 B by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
  • Sci-Fi Shorts volumes 1-6 (public domain)
  • Future Eves: Classic Science Fiction About Women by Women edited by Jean Marie Stine
  • Pink Winds, Green Cats, Radiant Rocks & Other Classics by the Forgotten Woman of Science Fiction’s Golden Age by Frances Deegan

As any diehard mid-century Sci-Fi fan knows, Audible is scraping the bottom of the barrel. They did (accidentally I’m sure) grant a few of my wishes from last year:

  • The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
  • The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
  • Rogue Moon By Algis Budrys
  • The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R. Delany
  • Grass by Sherri Tepper

Not very many, but they were heavy hitters that were overlooked. I realize now that many of my wishes were unrealistic because reprinting old anthologies on audio probably involve significant copyright problems. And I’m starting to doubt there’s a market for short fiction SF on audio anyway, but even then, I got to listen to the three-volume The Science Fiction Hall of Fame. That made 2018 a great year for science fiction on audio. The first volume is probably the most popular science fiction anthology of all-time.

The Long Loud Silence by Wilson Tucker

I’ve decided to make this the last year for wishing for old science fiction on audio. I’m going to make one last roundup of what I’d love to hear and then go off to listen to all the great SF books already sitting in my Audible library. I’ve purchased more than I can listen to in my expected remaining lifetime. This year I’m going to mostly aim for books that publishers should have an easier time acquiring the rights, either novels or single author collections.

I love hearing science fiction read to me by great narrators. And because I study the history of science fiction, there are many rare titles on I want to hear. But I doubt many others do. Sure, there a bunch of us old SF fans rereading our favorite science fiction from our formative years by listening to their audiobook editions, but I don’t know how big that market is, and in any case, we’re a dying audience. I believe Audible and its allied publishers have found pretty much all the old science fiction that was once popular before the year 2000.

Still, there are books I want to hear, and there are science fiction authors from the past that never had anything reprinted in audio, such as Zenna Henderson or William Tenn, or other writers that have had little of their work represented. I still yearn to hear classic science fiction short stories, but I know copyright issues probably make them difficult to reprint. However, I still love to hear three SF anthologies that I believe would significantly cover the history of the science fiction short story if they were produced for audio: Adventures in Time and Space (1946) edited by Raymond J. Healy & J. Francis McComas, Dangerous Visions (1967) edited by Harlan Ellison, and The Big Book of Science Fiction (2016) edited by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer. Links are to ISFDB.org to show their table of contents. But I doubt they will ever get an audio production now.

67 Books I Want to Hear In My 67th Year

  1. A Voyage to Arcturus (1920) by David Lindsay
  2. The World of Null-A (1948) by A. E. Van Vogt
  3. The Voyage of the Space Beagle (1950) by A. E. Van Vogt
  4. The Legion of Time (1952) by Jack Williamson
  5. The Long Loud Silence (1952) by Wilson Tucker
  6. Marooned on Mars (1952) by Lester del Rey
  7. Bring the Jubilee (1953) by Ward Moore
  8. Children of the Atom (1953) Wilma H. Shiras
  9. A Mirror for Observers (1954) by Edgar Pangborn
  10. Mission of Gravity (1954) by Hal Clement
  11. Cities in Flight (1955) by James Blish
  12. Citizen in Space (1955) by Robert Sheckley
  13. Rocket to Limbo (1957) by Alan E. Nourse
  14. Wasp (1957) by Eric Frank Russell
  15. The Enemy Stars (1958) Poul Anderson
  16. The Lincoln Hunters (1958) by Wilson Tucker
  17. The Fourth “R” (1959) by George O. Smith
  18. The High Crusade (1960) by Poul Anderson
  19. Hothouse (1962) by Brian W. Aldiss
  20. Second Ending (1962) by James White
  21. Davy (1964) by Edgar Pangborn
  22. Simulacron-3 (1964) by Daniel Galouye
  23. Earthblood (1966) by Keith Laumer and Rosel George Brown
  24. Empire Star (1966)
  25. The Witches of Karres (1966) by James H. Schmitz
  26. Lords of the Starship (1967) by Mark S. Geston
  27. Camp Concentration (1968) by Thomas Disch
  28. Of Men and Monsters (1968) William Tenn
  29. Omnivore (1968) Piers Anthony
  30. Past Master (1968) by R. A. Lafferty
  31. Space Chanty (1968) by R. A. Lafferty
  32. The Last Starship from Earth (1968) by John Boyd
  33. The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets (1968) by Lloyd Biggle, Jr.
  34. Behold the Man (1969) by Michael Moorcock
  35. Bug Jack Barron (1969) by Norman Spinrad
  36. Macroscope (1969) by Piers Anthony
  37. And Chaos Died (1970) by Joanna Russ
  38. The Year of the Quiet Sun (1970) by Wilson Tucker
  39. The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth (1971) by Roger Zelazny
  40. The Fifth Head of Cerberus (1972) by Gene Wolfe
  41. The Listeners (1972) by James Gunn
  42. The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (The Unsleeping Eye) (1973) by D. G. Compton
  43. The Centauri Device (1974) by M. John Harrison
  44. Orbitsville (1975) by Bob Shaw
  45. The Female Man (1975) by Joanna Russ
  46. The Shockwave Rider (1975) by John Brunner
  47. Trouble on Triton (1976) by Samuel R. Delany
  48. On Wings of a Song (1979) by Thomas M. Disch
  49. Ridley Walker (1980) by Russell Hoban
  50. No Enemy But Time (1982) by Michael Bishop
  51. Native Tongue (1984) by Suzette Haden Elgin
  52. Ancient of Days (1985) by Michael Bishop
  53. The Falling Woman (1986) by Pat Murphy
  54. Mindplayers (1988) by Pat Cadigan
  55. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever (1990) by James Tiptree, Jr.
  56. A Woman of the Iron People (1991) by Eleanor Arnason
  57. Sarah Canary (1991) – Karen Joy Fowler
  58. Synners (1991) by Pat Cadigan
  59. China Mountain Zhang (1992) by Maureen F. McHugh
  60. Ammonite (1993) by Nicola Griffith
  61. Galatea 2.2 (1995) by Richard Powers
  62. Ingathering: The Complete People Stories of Zenna Henderson (1995)
  63. Holy Fire (1996) by Bruce Sterling
  64. The Book of the Long Sun (1993-96) by Gene Wolfe
  65. Aye, and Gomorrah (2003) by Samuel R. Delany
  66. Store of the Worlds (2012) by Robert Sheckley
  67. The Future is Female (2018) edited by Lisa Yaszek

The Last Starship From Earth by John Boyd
— James Wallace Harris 11/15/18

19th Century Science Fiction Short Stories

 

19th century science fiction

Over the years several anthologies have reprinted science fiction short stories from the 1800’s. These tales are fascinating to read on many levels. Way before the establishment of the science fiction genre, writers were telling science fictional stories. Even without modern technology, they explored the same SF possibilities we do today. Ideas I thought original with Golden Age science fiction writers turn out to be much older. Reading these stories reveals universals about human nature that you don’t get from history books.

The Anthologies

The Stories

Here are all the stories from the above anthologies. You can see the editors have done a good job of finding stories the other editors haven’t, although there are stories loved by more than one editor. Where I can, I’ve linked to an online version of the story. If one isn’t available, I’ll link to an essay about the story. For some stories, you’ll need to get the anthology. Actually, reading the anthologies are much more convenient.

Year Title Author Editor
1809 The Conquest of the Earth by the Moon Washington Irving Franklin
1833 The Mortal Immortal Mary Shelley Asimov, Moskowitz
1835 The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Phall Edgar Allan Poe Moskowitz
1835 The Great Moon Hoax Richard A. Locke Lester, Sims
1839 The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion Edgar Allan Poe Kuebler
1840 A Heavenward Voyage Samuel-Henry Berthoud Stableford
1844 A Tale of the Ragged Mountains Edgar Allan Poe Franklin
1844 Rappaccini’s Daughter Nathaniel Hawthorne Franklin, Asimov, Gunn
1844 The Artist of the Beautiful Nathaniel Hawthorne Franklin, Stableford
1844 The Sandman E. T. A. Hoffman Asimov
1845 The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar Edgar Allan Poe Sims
1849 Mellonta Tauta Edgar Allan Poe Franklin, Gunn
1852 A Descent Into the Maelstrom Edgar Allan Poe Asimov
1854 The Birthmark Nathaniel Hawthorne Franklin
1855 The Bell-Tower Herman Melville Franklin
1858 The Diamond Lens Fitz-James O’Brien Franklin, Gunn, Lester
1859 The Wondersmith Fitz-James O’Brien Moskowitz
1859 What Was It? Fitz-James O’Brien Stableford
1860 The Atoms of Chladni J. D. Whelpley Franklin
1863 Darwin Among the Machines Samuel Butler Lester
1870 Annie Denton Cridge Franklin
1872 The Brick Moon Edward Everett Hale Moskowitz
1872 The End of the World Eugène Mouton Stableford
1873 The Automaton Ear Florence McLandburgh Sims
1874 The Tachypomp Edward Page Mitchell Davies
1875 The Soul Spectroscope Edward Page Mitchell Davies
1875 The Story of the Deluge Edward Page Mitchell Davies
1876 The Inside of the Earth Edward Page Mitchell Davies
1876 The Telescope Eye William Henry Rhodes Sims
1877 The Age of Science Frances Power Cobbe Lester
1877 The Man Without a Body Edward Page Mitchell Davies
1879 A Paradoxical Ode (After Shelley) James Clerk Maxwell Stableford
1879 A Psychological Shipwreck Ambrose Bierce Franklin
1879 The Ablest Man in the World Edward Page Mitchell Davies, Stableford
1879 The Facts in the Ratcliff Case Edward Page Mitchell Davies
1879 The Senator’s Daughter Edward Page Mitchell Davies, Sims
1880 From Mizora: A Prophecy Mary E. Bradley Lane Franklin
1880 The Professor’s Experiment Edward Page Mitchell Davies
1881 The Clock That Went Backwards Edward Page Mitchell Asimov, Davies, Sims
1881 The Crystal Man Edward Page Mitchell Davies
1882 Into the Sun Robert Duncan Milne Asimov, Davies
1882 Josuah Electricmann Ernest d’Hervilly Stableford
1884 A Tale of Negative Gravity Frank R. Stockton Asimov, Davies
1884 The Child of the Phalanstery Grant Allen Stableford
1885 Old Squids and Little Speller Edward Page Mitchell Davies
1885 The Great Keinplatz Experiment Arthur Conan Doyle Asimov, Davies
1886 The Blindman’s World Edward Bellamy Franklin
1886 The Monarch of Dreams Thomas Wentworth Higginson Franklin, Sims
1887 Christmas 200,000 B.C. Stanley Waterloo Franklin
1887 The Horla, or Modern Ghosts Guy de Maupassant Asimov
1887 The Shapes (Les Xipéhuz)  J. H. Rosny aîné Asimov
1888 An Express of the Future Jules Verne Moskowitz
1888 Tornadres J. H. Rosny aîné Stableford
1889 Our Second Voyage to Mars W. S. Lach-Szyrma Evans
1889 To Whom This May Come Edward Bellamy Asimov, Davies
1890 Dr. Materialismus Frederic Jesup Stimson Franklin
1890 In the Year Ten Thousand Edgar Fawcett Stableford
1890 Professor’s Bakermann’s Microbe Charles Epheyre Stableford
1891 Old Doctor Rutherford D. F. Hannigan Moskowitz
1891 The Revolt of the Machines Emile Goudeau Stableford
1891 The Salvation of Nature John Davidson Stableford
1892 In the Year Ten Thousand Will N. Harben Franklin
1892 The Doom of London Robert Barr Moskowitz
1892 The Los Amigos Fiasco Arthur Conan Doyle Moskowitz
1892 The Philosophy of Relative Existence Frank R. Stockton Stableford
1893 June, 1993 Julian Hawthorne Stableford
1893 Mysterious Disappearances Ambrose Bierce Sims
1893 The Damned Thing Ambrose Bierce Gunn, Kuebler
1895 A Wife Manufactured to Order Alice W. Fuller Sims
1895 Lost in a Comet’s Tale Frank Reade, Jr. Moskowitz
1895 The Purple Death W. L. Alden Davies, Russell
1896 Citizen 504 Charles H. Palmer Moskowitz
1896 In the Abyss H. G. Wells Asimov
1896 In the Deep of Time
George Parsons Lathrop, Thomas A. Edison
Locke
1896 London’s Danger
C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne
Evans, Russell
1897 The Aeriel Brickfield John Mills Evans
1897 The Crystal Egg H. G. Wells Knight
1897 The Microbe of Death Rudolph De Cordova Russell
1897 The Star H. G. Wells Kuebler, Stableford
1897 The Thames Valley Catastrophe Grant Allen
Asimov, Davies, Evans, Moskowitz, Russell, Sims
1898 A Corner in Lightning George Griffith Evans, Moskowitz, Stableford
1898 From the “London Times” of 1904 Mark Twain Franklin, Knight
1898 The Lizard C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne Asimov, Evans, Russell
1898 Where the Air Quivered L. T. Meade, Robert Eustace Moskowitz
1899 A Thousand Deaths Jack London Asimov, Davies, Franklin
1899 Moxon’s Master Ambrose Bierce Knight
1899 The Master of the Octopus Edward Olin Weeks Russell
1899 The Monster of Lake LaMetrie Wardon Allan Curtis Moskowitz, Russell, Sims
1899 The Purple Terror Fred M. White Davies, Evans, Moskowitz, Russell
1899 The Wheels of Dr. Ginochio Gyves Ellsworth Douglass, Edwin Pallander Locke, Russell

James Wallace Harris (9/20/18)

Remembering Forgotten Writers

This site is all about keeping books and writers alive in readers memory, so I was pleased to read, “Who Are the Forgotten Greats of Science Fiction?” by James Davis Nicoll at Tor.com yesterday. His piece opens with:

Time is nobody’s friend. Authors in particular can fall afoul of time—all it takes is a few years out of the limelight. Publishers will let their books fall out of print; readers will forget about them. Replace “years” with “decades” and authors can become very obscure indeed.

When I was young I was all about discovering new writers and books. Now that I’m living in the last third of my life, I’m all about remembering the best of what I discovered in the first third.

Who are the forgotten greats of science fiction by James Davis Nicoll

I remember reading most of the books that Nicoll remembers, and owned many the rest. His essay inspires me to read the ones waiting on my shelf, like A Mirror for Observers. If you’re old enough, I’m sure his thoughts will trigger reading desires in you too.

Be sure and read the comments below the essay. Many more forgotten writers are remembered. I’m especially glad someone mentioned Robert F. Young. I left a note about Wilson Tucker and John Boyd, two authors I wrote about when I was doing a forgotten science fiction series.

The hope is these writers will be rediscovered by younger readers, but I’m not so sure that will happen. The real psychological dynamic unfolding here is all the older readers finding they weren’t the only ones loving these obscure science fiction stories decades ago. When I was growing up I didn’t discover another science fiction fan until the 10th grade, and even after that, they were few and far between until I began attending SF conventions in the early 1970s. It’s great to discover on the internet that there were other readers excited by these odd paperbacks I once discovered on my own.

And I believe there is another element to what’s happening here that hasn’t been explored. Why were we drawn to these forgotten writers and their strange stories all those years ago?

James Wallace Harris (9/6/18)