SCIENCE fiction, once a ghettoized subcategory of pop fiction,
now publishes so many titles monthly that no one can gain a
comprehensive sense of what is going on in the genre.
Consequently, readers tend to stick with favorite writers. And
one way new readers can find those favorites is to read anthologies
of short stories and novellas, then go on to look for work by
writers whose work they enjoy.
One such anthology is Universe 2, edited by Robert Silverberg
and Karen Haber (Bantam, 397 pp., $21.50 cloth, $10 paper).
Consisting of 22 selections, with a general introduction by
Silverberg and introductions to each story as well, this
reestablished annual anthology continues the Universe series edited
by the late Terry Carr from 1971 to 1987.
All but one of the stories are previously unpublished. Their
authors include the widely acclaimed and the lesser known.
Silverberg and Haber chose stories of considerable variety on the
basis of literary excellence.
Readers will find some stories fairly traditional in style, some
much more esoteric - such as Alex Jeffers's "The Fire The Fire."
For those who know Tom Godwin's famous short story "The Cold
Equations," Deborah Wessell's "The Cool Equations" will prove a
rollickingly inventive riposte.
Nebula Awards 26, edited by James Morrow (Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 322 pp., $24.95 cloth, $12.95 paper) includes stories
from the finalists in the annual Nebula competition. Chosen by the
Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), the material is written
by its members.
The Nebulas are highly valued awards. But the manner of their
choice will always be a source of argument among the members of
SFWA. Few members can read all the relevant material they vote on.
At times, they choose on the basis of reputation or familiarity in
general rather than the sterling quality of any particular story;
as a result, the range of quality in the collection varies greatly.
A couple of the stories are quite negligible, though on the whole
the standard is high and the writing satisfying.
If one can judge by these two collections, science-fiction
stories are moving away from narratives told in a traditional
manner toward the more fantastic, bizarre, and, if one can accuse a
science-fiction writer of such a thing, the literary and even arty.
Twenty years ago, when the genre was more economical,
straightforward, and head on, many of the stories in this anthology
would have had a struggle getting published.
Particularly delightful is Terry Bisson's "Bears Discover Fire."
Ted Chiang's "Tower of Babylon" turns back on itself marvellously.
Joe Haldeman's "The Hemingway Hoax" appears in its shorter version,
edited down from its novel length for Isaac Asimov's Science
Fiction Magazine by Gardner Dozois. The result is in part not
easily intelligible. The full novel version is a fine time-travel
and alternate-universe story based on Hadley Hemingway's disastrous
loss of a suitcase full of her husband Ernest's story manuscripts.
The Nebula anthology also contains a fine essay by Karen Cramer
on science fiction in 1990, another by Bill Warren on
science-fiction films of 1990, tributes to Donald A. Wollheim and
Lester Del Rey, reprints of Rhysling Poetry Award winners, and
other material. Not only are most of the stories highly worthwhile,
but this volume also gives the reader interesting insights into the
maturing science-fiction and fantasy community as of 1990.
Robert Silverberg has also edited a remarkable project, Murasaki
(Bantam, 290 pp., $20 cloth), a novel in six parts, each written by
a different Nebula-winning writer. This multiple work presents a
problem of a created dual world - two planets that revolve around
each other. …