Okay folks, buckle your strato-belts. We’re going to talk about a giant in field of science fiction of writing. Poul Anderson won 7 Hugos and 3 Nebulas over his career. He was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 1998.
Readers who started with the SF-F genres in the Eighties and after may not be familiar with Anderson. That’s a shame because they should be. The science fiction of the 1950s and 1960s was some of the finest written. Many make the mistake – if they decide to read “the old guys” at all – of sticking with the “big three”: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein, assuming their works to be the best of the times. That’s certainly arguable, but there were many other outstanding authors writing science fiction at the time, just as there are now, including Hal Clement (Mission of Gravity is a classic), Eric Frank Russell and, best of all, Poul Anderson.
Anderson wrote a lot of novels and short stories (listing here) and many of the novels are my favorite works of SF, but since short stories are often more accessible and provide a nice sampling of the work of an author, I’m going for that. And since we’re going to go with Poul Anderson’s short works, I’m going for the best collections available.
The Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson, Volumes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. edited by Rick Katze & Lis Carey, NESFA Press hardcover – science fiction short story collections:
Volume 1: Call Me Joe, Volume 2: The Queen of Darkness, Volume 3: The Saturn Gate,
Volume 4: Admiralty, Volume 5: Door to Anywhere
Call Me Joe by Poul Anderson, edited by Rick Katze & Lis Carey, NESFA Press 2009 – 509 pages, 29 short stories and 17 short poems, plus an introduction by Greg Bear (for complete contents, see the NESFA website). Color wrap-around dust jacket, no interior illustrations. The book is handsome and very well made, typical of the publications of The New England Science Fiction Association.
The stories in this volume range in original publication date from “Logic” first published in 1947 to “Ochlan” published in 1993. That’s a long time, and the author’s style and viewpoint changed over the years, but the quality of his writing is always there, his storytelling ability and skill with plot and character a constant. There are some political lectures here and there, as there were in just about all SF of a certain time, and there are some scientific explainations which, in light of present science, may not make a lot of sense, but it’s all good within the framework of the story and is often necessary to it. As is true of anything written in the past, in any genre, the setting, science and technology makes sense for the time the story was written, and that’s all that matters.
The cover painting is by Bob Eggleton, it seems to be a tribute to the original Kelly Freas cover for “Call Me Joe” which appeared in the April 1957Astounding Science Fiction (shown). I honestly like Freas’ cover better and wish they had used it, but I assume there were rights problems. Or maybe they just wanted something fresh.
This is very, very good SF. My recommendation is buy it, read it. I admit books from NESFA are expensive, but you get what you pay for. If you prefer another way to access Anderson, there are trade paperbacks available from Baen, there are used books available through the usual sources. My local library has over twenty Anderson titles listed, including this book. That may be a place to start, though (no surprise here) I recommend buying this book, and if you like it, continue on with the rest of the fine volumes. NESFA Press is to be congratulated on a fine series of collections. They’re one of my favorite publishers and their website is well worth a browse.
The New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA) was founded in 1967 and is one of the oldest science fiction clubs in New England. Their largest activities are Boskone, the annual convention, and NESFA Press. which publishes high-quality collections of novels and stories by science fiction authors both old and new.
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