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Edited by Martin H. Greenberg



372pp/$6.99/March 1999

My Favorite Science Fiction Story
Cover by Angus McKie

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

The brilliant idea behind Martin Greenberg's latest anthology (an appellation which will be obsolete by the time I finish typing this sentence), is simply to get seventeen science fiction authors to select their favorite science fiction story of all time, have them write a short introduction explaining way, and present them to their reading public.

The authors' selections contain some surprises, partly because of the specific story selected by a given author, and partly because of who was not represented in this anthology.  For instance, none of the seventeen authors selected anything written by Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Murray Leinster, Arthur C. Clarke, or Ray Bradbury.  On the other hand, it is pleasant to see such forgotten authors as Eric Frank Russell and Norman Kagan represented in these pages.  Only one author, Frederik Pohl, is represented as both a selector (his favorite story is C.M. Kornbluth's "The Little Black Bag") and a selectee (Joe Haldeman's favorite story is Pohl's "Day Million").

By including the selecters' introductions, Greenberg is able to show why these pieces were selected.  Harry Turtledove admits to jealousy that Howard Waldrop wrote "The Ugly Chickens," claiming that he could have written the story and had fun with it while admitting it would not have turned out as well.  Lois McMaster Bujold points to "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell as a story she has loved since she first read it more than thirty years ago.  L. Sprague de Camp points to Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" as an early work of science fiction which introduced many themes which would recur through the genre, but which has held up quite well since it was first published in 1934.

In most cases, the stories selected represent acknowledged classics by the author in question.  Among these are Cordwainer Smith's "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell" and Stanley G. Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey."   There are a few cases where lesser known works crop up.  Gregory Benford prefers Roger Zelazny's "The Engine at Heartspring's Center" to any of Zelazny's award-winning fiction while Arthur C. Clarke points to Sturgeon's "The Man Who Lost the Sea" as a particularly inspirational story.

In his introduction to Norman Kagan's "The Mathenauts," Greg Bear points out that Kagan only published two science fiction stories in his career.  However, one of those stories made such an impression of Bear when he first read it in the 1960s that he thought of it 35 years later when asked to select a story for this anthology.  The popular and famous stories, therefore, aren't necessarily the ones which stick in the reader's memory for years.  Instead they can be the quiet stories whose titles and authors are nearly forgotten, but who once published a story that speaks to something is an individual.

The title of this anthology, My Favorite Science Fiction Story, is one which the reader can't argue with.  How can somebody tell Andre Norton that there is a story she likes better than "Diabologic" by Eric Frank Russell.  While each individual story might not be to the taste of each individual reader, these are stories which at least one professional author deems to be their favorite (not necessarily the best) within the genre.

Author Story Selected by
Theodore Sturgeon The Man Who Lost the Sea Arthur C. Clarke
Keith Laumer The Last Command Anne McCaffrey
Frederik Pohl Day Million Joe Haldeman
C.M. Kornbluth The Little Black Bag Frederik Pohl
Barry N. Malzberg A Galaxy Called Rome Mike Resnick
Eric Frank Russell Diabologic Andre Norton
Robert Sheckley Untouched by Human Hands Alan Dean Foster
Gordon R. Dickson Black Charlie Poul Anderson
Howard Waldrop The Ugly Chickens Harry Turtledove
Norman Kagan The Mathenauts Greg Bear
Ward Moore Lot Connie Willis
Cordwainer Smith The Ballad of Lost C'Mell Lois McMaster Bujold
Stanley Weinbaum A Martian Odyssey L. Sprague de Camp
James Blish Common Time Robert Silverberg
Roger Zelazny The Engine at Heartspring's Center Gregory Benford
Lester del Rey Nerves Marion Zimmer Bradley
C.M. Kornbluth The Only Thing We Can Learn David Drake

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