Recently, there have been discussions about whether reprint anthologies should have the same status as fiction anthologies consisting of entirely original stories. The argument seems to rest on the notion that only original acquisition requires editorial insight. However, consider this: Reprint anthologies can and have served to document the rise of hitherto unnoticed genres. They can provide historical perspective that present-day editors may not recognize or appreciate. Seeing the value of specific works is a valuable skill, but so is recognizing their value in a larger historical context.
A few examples may be in order.
before the golden age edited by Isaac Asimov (1974)
before the golden age is perhaps the least literary of my five examples, focusing as it does on stories dear to a teenage Isaac Asimov, stories from a time when exuberance was valued more by writers and readers than, oh , prose, sensitive plot and scientific verisimilitude. Indeed, a number of stories are what experts would call “appalling”.
However, this anthology has a number of positive qualities that recommend it. First of all, the anthology has 986 pages: it will keep you busy for a while. Second, Asimov isn’t shy about commenting on the flaws of his old favorites (flaws seen from a 1970s perspective). Third, the auxiliary material contains entertaining observations regarding the history of early science fiction. Fourth and finally, the auxiliary material provides a significant amount of autobiographical information about Asimov himself, which may have inspired him to go on to write his massive two-volume autobiography later in the decade.
England Swings SF edited by Judith Merril (1968)
Ah, the New Wave (unrelated, to my knowledge, with the musical genre of the same name). The new wave of science fiction was ambitious, rejecting pulp conventions while embracing experimental styles and interiority, while importing – sometimes to the dismay of grumblers in the field – concepts and approaches more common in literature. General public. ; I myself have the only correct opinion on this question, which I would expound at length if it weren’t for pesky word count restrictions.
If one were British, those interested in the British New Wave could peruse the pages of the periodical new worlds. If you were American…well, British magazines weren’t always easy to find. Enter the famous anthologist Judith Merril. England Swings SF is a dense 406-page exploration of the British New Wave, drawn from a variety of sources (as one would expect from Merril’s Best SF of the Year anthologies). For anyone interested in the New Wave, England Swings SF was the authority to turn to.
Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology edited by Bruce Sterling (1986)
A generation after the ebb tide of the New Wave, cyberpunk has taken its own run at genre conventions. While cyberpunk was as fascinated by technology as older science fiction was, beneath its slick surfaces it offered a decidedly less optimistic outlook. The protagonists were often criminals or losers; the societies around them were dystopias reluctant to welcome the unconventional. Conspiracies often explored illicit purposes for which ingenious scallywags or vast impersonal corporations could use new technologies.
One can, of course, explore nascent genres by simply picking up any new novels that seem to fit the bill in style and subject matter. Unfortunately, this not only requires a large budget for books (easily achieved by cutting out luxuries like food or clothing), but also an awareness that the new genre exists. Walk in Lampshadewho was at cyberpunk what England Swings SF had been to the New Wave. Readers browsing its pages would come away with a very clear and well-defined idea of what cyberpunk was…as, no doubt, its publisher intended.
Rediscovery: Science Fiction in Women’s Style (1958 – 1963), edited by Gideon Marcus, AJ Howells, Janice Marcus and Erica Frank (2019)
It’s curious that even when women have been active in a field (like SFF) from the very beginning, whether as founders, creators, or fans, they’re so often erased from the narrative when it’s time to compile the anthologies. Best Of, Grand Master lists and stories (whether fan or academic). Hugo’s award-winning women’s novels seem to break down easily (try buying a recent edition of Cyteen these days). One can only speculate why this might be…
A few anthologists have resisted deletion. This is why we have Rediscovery: Science Fiction in Women’s Style (1958 – 1963) and its sequel Rediscovery, volume 2: Feminine science fiction (1953 – 1957). Anthologists haven’t taken the easy route of reprinting the handful of well-known sf stories by women that had already been praised, awarded, and anthologized. to select and produce two remarkable SF volumes that had never received their due.
Best African Speculative Fiction of the Year (2021): Volume 1 edited by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki (2021)
It’s not particularly surprising that as far back as Everett F. Bleiler & TE Dikty, “Best of SF” anthologies of the past have tended to be rather… demographically focused, shall we say. Fictions created by people outside this default demographic are poorly documented, especially if said people were not North American or British.
Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki’s Best African Speculative Fiction of the Year (2021)): Volume 1 is the start of what is hoped to be a long series featuring current voices in African speculative fiction. Nommo Award-winning Ekpeki features twenty-nine stories by African and Diaspora authors, some of whom may be familiar to Tor.com readers and others who will be new. He relied on a pool of authors who have been published on several continents. In a genre that was previously content to rely on colonial perspectives (in regards to Africa…among others), this anthology is a long overdue development.
With reprint anthologies being as established and popular as they come, readers undoubtedly have their own favorites not mentioned above. Do not hesitate to enlighten us on the works not cited in the comments below.
In the words of fanfiction author Musty181prolific and lively literary critic Darwin Award Nominee James Davis Nicoll “looks like a default mii with glasses”. Her work has been published in Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times as well as on her own websites, Reviews of James Nicoll (where he is assisted by editor Karen Lofstrom and web person Adrienne L. Travis) and the Aurora Awards 2021 and 2022 finalist Young people read the old SFF (where he is assisted by web person Adrienne L. Travis). He’s a four-time Hugo Award finalist for Best Fan Writer and is surprisingly flammable.