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Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 03: 1941 Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 03: 1941 by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cynic once said something like "The Golden Age of science fiction is about sixteen."

But they're wrong. 1941 was the heart of the Golden Age of science fiction. And this book is the proof.

If you've read a fair selection of classic SF, some of these stories will doubtless be familiar to you. Others probably won't be. In any case, these are some of the all-time classics of the genre.

Each story is introduced by Isaac Asimov, and he provides some interesting (and tantalizing) commentary. I can't help but wonder, for example, why he included Fredric Brown (one of my favorite writers) as an author whose personality was different from his stories (as opposed to authors who resembled their stories, some of whom he also lists). I was surprised and pleased to see that Asimov was, like me, a fan of Robert Arthur as well - although I have to admit that Arthur's story may be the weakest one in the book (though still worth reading!).

There are no stories by Robert Heinlein in this collection, apparently because he (or his wife) wouldn't allow it. Since this book was published in 1980 and Heinlein lived until 1988, Heinlein must have been aware of this. Nonetheless Asimov listed the titles of the Heinlein stories that he would have included in the book, and commented on them. I've often wondered about the relationship between Asimov and Heinlein, and this book only adds to the mystery.

There's a tendency to think of old science fiction as being corny and simplistic. In fact, the best authors of the Golden Age had a sophistication and brilliance which is rarely seen in modern genre authors. If you're not familiar with Golden Age SF, I recommend The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, volume I, which is the definitive collection. But if you get a chance to buy any of The Great SF Stories, grab them! I know I will.

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Date: 2009-08-26 07:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hmm, the one story I recall involving Asimov and Heinlein involved Heinlein slipping Dr. A some alcohol in some coke (I don't recall the name of the exact drink); Asimov didn't drink usually and that one drink pretty much put him out. He observed that he apparently had no tolerance for alcohol.

Which of course is utterly unenlightening as to why no RAH in that book. Oh well.

Date: 2009-08-26 12:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As I recall, Heinlein once pressured Asimov into taking more than one drink at a party (one drink was his limit; in this case, I believe he was drinking grasshoppers, which are made with creme de menthe, which was also a favorite of my grandmother's).

Asimov couldn't handle that much liquor, so he went into a corner and got very quiet, unlike his usual ebullient self. Seeing this, Heinlein laughed and said "So that's why Isaac doesn't drink. It makes him sober."

Date: 2009-08-27 04:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh yeahl I'd forgotten that punch line.

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