January is Vintage Science Fiction Month!
It’s a month dedicated to reading, watching, blogging, or talking about anything vintage science fiction. There isn’t a hard and fast rule for what makes it “vintage” but a general guideline is if it was created in 1979 or earlier then you’re good. Some people will just choose something created before their birth year. The rules aren’t hard and fast. The point is to have fun.
Today I’m excited to invite Andrea Johnson to the blog for a guest post to discuss an often overlooked Vintage Sci-Fi Month reading option…anthologies.
Andrea has been blogging at Little Red Reviewer (littleredreviewer.wordpress.com) since 2010, and started Vintage Science Fiction month in 2012. She loves character driven science fiction and fantasy, and wants to talk to you about books! Andrea has been known to spontaneously appear at bookstores and science fiction conventions in Michigan and Ohio.
On the one hand, you want to read a huge variety of stories and styles and themes from different time periods during Vintage month! On the other hand, you have limited time.
How to reconcile the two?
Easy! Try some short stories! Short stories and anthologies are wonderful because you can jump around in time, you can get exposure to a long list of authors, styles, and themes. And if you don’t like what you’re reading? You’ve only got 6 more pages to read until the end, or you can guilt-free ditch the story and try the next one.
My apologies to the anthology editors who pull all-nighters determining the perfect order for their Tables of Contents – I am one those jerks who hardly ever reads an anthology in the order presented. I’ll jump around, reading what looks interesting, or what looks the length to fit the time I have at that moment. I highly suggest everyone do that!
If you think short stories might be for you for Vintage Month, here are some anthologies I recommend. I especially liked these books because they offered stories by plenty new-to-me authors, plenty of fiction I’d never read before from authors I was familiar with, and a few familiar gems I thought I’d lost forever. None of this fiction is new, but much of it was new to me.
Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963), edited by Gideon Marcus – This anthology comes from the Hugo nominated team at the historical blog Galactic Journey. If you’re looking for short fiction from unsung women writers, this is the anthology for you! I admit, I have only sampled this anthology, and enjoyed the stories I have read. Each story has a lengthy introduction, offering biographical information about the author, and well researched context for when and sometimes why the story was written. I recommend this anthology for readers who are looking for Vintage science fiction from a tighter window of time and additional historical context. Editors other than Gideon Marcus may have been involved with this anthology, the way the title page was designed it was difficult to tell who specifically the editor(s) is/are.
The Future is Female edited by Lisa Yaszek – this anthology features women authors who published between 1928 and 1969. I recognized a lot of names in the table of contents – Judith Merril, Leigh Brackett, Kate Wilhelm, Ursula K. LeGuin, so this volume will fall right in many reader’s comfort zones. “The Black God’s Kiss” by C.L. Moore put me on a year long Moore kick, and Merril’s “That Only A Mother” absolutely floored me with, well, how it did what it did. “Mr. Sakrison’s Halt” by Mildred Clingerman was another well remembered favorite.
The Big Book of Science Fiction edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer – called “The Ultimate Collection” for a reason, this compendium clocks in at over 1100 pages, and covers everything from early 20th century scifi to short stories published just a few years ago. And there’s more! International science fiction from over 20 countries! This volume is worth it’s weight in gold. Flipping through the copyright details pages at the end, I find Vintage Scifi from Joanna Russ, David Bunch, Samuel Delany, R.A. Lafferty, Damon Knight, Silvina Ocampo, Clifford Simak, and way too many more to list. I’ve not sampled much, but I’ve read a number of these stories in other collections and I can tell you the must-read Vintage titles include the tragically unforgettable “Standing Woman” by Yasutaka Tsutsui, the scifi-horror story “Sandkings” by George R R Martin, and “The Game of Rat and Dragon” by Cordwainer Smith.
Aliens Among Us edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois – like The Big Book of Science Fiction, this anthology is not 100% vintage fiction. It is however, much more pocket-sized! This collection of first contact, alien communications, and alien neighbors includes vintage fiction from Philip K Dick, C.M Kornbluth, James Tiptree Jr, Gene Wolfe, Robert Silverberg, and more. The stories are fairy short, so if you are looking for an anthology that you can leisurely read and easily get through in less than a month, this is the one for you.
If none of these caught your eye, there are surely hundreds of other anthologies available that feature vintage science fiction. As retail bookstores traditionally showcase what is new and shiny, I recommend heading to your local library for the best selection of vintage scifi anthologies and short story collections.
Slowly walk through your library’s science fiction section, and don’t even pay attention to what’s written on the spine of the books. Let your fingers be your guide – run your fingers across the spines, your brain will know immediately the smooth texture of a less-than-ten-years-old binded spine, and then the rougher almost fabric like texture of a spine that’s seen a few decades. Keep your eyes out for the famous “Year’s Best” collections, and anything else that sparks your interest. Take a few of these home with you, and sample as you please.
Happy Vintage Reading!