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"The best stories are timeless. Long years from now the stories here may still touch someone, cause that person to blink, and put the book down for a second, and stare off through the hallow air, and shirver in wonder." Contents 1 • Preface (The Legend Book of Science Fiction) • (1991) • essay by Gardner Dozois 7 • The Country of the Kind • (1956) • shortstory by Damon Knig "The best stories are timeless. Long years from now the stories here may still touch someone, cause that person to blink, and put the book down for a second, and stare off through the hallow air, and shirver in wonder." Contents 1 • Preface (The Legend Book of Science Fiction) • (1991) • essay by Gardner Dozois 7 • The Country of the Kind • (1956) • shortstory by Damon Knight 22 • Aristotle and the Gun • (1958) • novelette by L. Sprague de Camp 59 • The Other Celia • (1957) • shortstory by Theodore Sturgeon 78 • Casey Agonistes • (1958) • shortstory by Richard McKenna [as by Richard M. McKenna ] 90 • Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons • [The Instrumentality of Mankind] • (1961) • novelette by Cordwainer Smith 116 • The Moon Moth • (1961) • novelette by Jack Vance 157 • The Golden Horn • [Tales of a Darkening World] • (1962) • novelette by Edgar Pangborn 196 • The Lady Margaret • [Pavane] • (1966) • novelette by Keith Roberts (aka The Lady Anne) 238 • This Moment of the Storm • (1966) • novelette by Roger Zelazny 273 • Narrow Valley • (1966) • shortstory by R. A. Lafferty 287 • Driftglass • (1967) • shortstory by Samuel R. Delany 309 • The Worm That Flies • (1968) • shortstory by Brian W. Aldiss 331 • The Fifth Head of Cerberus • (1972) • novella by Gene Wolfe 397 • Nobody's Home • (1972) • shortstory by Joanna Russ 416 • Her Smoke Rose Up Forever • (1974) • novelette by James Tiptree, Jr. 437 • The Barrow • (1976) • shortstory by Ursula K. Le Guin 447 • Particle Theory • (1977) • shortstory by Edward Bryant 472 • The Ugly Chickens • (1980) • novelette by Howard Waldrop 499 • Going Under • (1981) • novelette by Jack Dann [as by Jack M. Dann ] 521 • Salvador • (1984) • shortstory by Lucius Shepard 543 • Pretty Boy Crossover • (1986) • shortstory by Pat Cadigan 557 • The Pure Product • (1986) • novelette by John Kessel 580 • The Winter Market • (1985) • novelette by William Gibson 603 • Chance • (1986) • novelette by Connie Willis 637 • The Edge of the World • (1989) • shortstory by Michael Swanwick 654 • Dori Bangs • (1989) • shortstory by Bruce Sterling 671 • Afterword (The Legend Book of Science Fiction) • (1991) • essay by Gardner Dozois


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"The best stories are timeless. Long years from now the stories here may still touch someone, cause that person to blink, and put the book down for a second, and stare off through the hallow air, and shirver in wonder." Contents 1 • Preface (The Legend Book of Science Fiction) • (1991) • essay by Gardner Dozois 7 • The Country of the Kind • (1956) • shortstory by Damon Knig "The best stories are timeless. Long years from now the stories here may still touch someone, cause that person to blink, and put the book down for a second, and stare off through the hallow air, and shirver in wonder." Contents 1 • Preface (The Legend Book of Science Fiction) • (1991) • essay by Gardner Dozois 7 • The Country of the Kind • (1956) • shortstory by Damon Knight 22 • Aristotle and the Gun • (1958) • novelette by L. Sprague de Camp 59 • The Other Celia • (1957) • shortstory by Theodore Sturgeon 78 • Casey Agonistes • (1958) • shortstory by Richard McKenna [as by Richard M. McKenna ] 90 • Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons • [The Instrumentality of Mankind] • (1961) • novelette by Cordwainer Smith 116 • The Moon Moth • (1961) • novelette by Jack Vance 157 • The Golden Horn • [Tales of a Darkening World] • (1962) • novelette by Edgar Pangborn 196 • The Lady Margaret • [Pavane] • (1966) • novelette by Keith Roberts (aka The Lady Anne) 238 • This Moment of the Storm • (1966) • novelette by Roger Zelazny 273 • Narrow Valley • (1966) • shortstory by R. A. Lafferty 287 • Driftglass • (1967) • shortstory by Samuel R. Delany 309 • The Worm That Flies • (1968) • shortstory by Brian W. Aldiss 331 • The Fifth Head of Cerberus • (1972) • novella by Gene Wolfe 397 • Nobody's Home • (1972) • shortstory by Joanna Russ 416 • Her Smoke Rose Up Forever • (1974) • novelette by James Tiptree, Jr. 437 • The Barrow • (1976) • shortstory by Ursula K. Le Guin 447 • Particle Theory • (1977) • shortstory by Edward Bryant 472 • The Ugly Chickens • (1980) • novelette by Howard Waldrop 499 • Going Under • (1981) • novelette by Jack Dann [as by Jack M. Dann ] 521 • Salvador • (1984) • shortstory by Lucius Shepard 543 • Pretty Boy Crossover • (1986) • shortstory by Pat Cadigan 557 • The Pure Product • (1986) • novelette by John Kessel 580 • The Winter Market • (1985) • novelette by William Gibson 603 • Chance • (1986) • novelette by Connie Willis 637 • The Edge of the World • (1989) • shortstory by Michael Swanwick 654 • Dori Bangs • (1989) • shortstory by Bruce Sterling 671 • Afterword (The Legend Book of Science Fiction) • (1991) • essay by Gardner Dozois

30 review for Modern Classics of Science Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Norman Cook

    This 1992 anthology spans stories published from 1956 to 1989, probably a bit too early at the time to classify all of them as classics. A number of them have lost some luster over the subsequent 30 years, but there are still enough quality stories to enjoy. Here are some of the highlights. "The Country of the Kind" by Damon Knight (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 1956 - short story) 4 Stars A disturbing look at a near future where humans no longer have destructive, antisocial This 1992 anthology spans stories published from 1956 to 1989, probably a bit too early at the time to classify all of them as classics. A number of them have lost some luster over the subsequent 30 years, but there are still enough quality stories to enjoy. Here are some of the highlights. "The Country of the Kind" by Damon Knight (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 1956 - short story) 4 Stars A disturbing look at a near future where humans no longer have destructive, antisocial, or aggressive behavior, but where a degenerate who retains those traits believes that without them, great art and creativity also cannot exist. "The Moon Moth" by Jack Vance (Galaxy Magazine, August 1961 - novelette) 5 Stars In a society where everyone wears masks to indicate social status, mood, and relationships, and where communication is primarily done by singing and the playing of small musical instruments, the various types of which also convey social status, etc., a diplomat from another planet arrives faced with not only learning how to navigate the subtleties of the masks and music, but to also capture an escaped fugitive who may be hiding in plain sight under someone else's mask. How the diplomat, who wears the Moon Moth mask, solves his problems is world building at its finest. "This Moment of the Storm" by Roger Zelazny (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1966 - novelette) 1967 Hugo Award finalist and 1967 Nebula Award finalist 4 Stars On an alien world, the human settlers must contend with a massive rain storm that devastates their community. The protagonist is a man who has spent hundreds of years in suspended animation, traveling the voids between planets, and his reactions to the storm and how it affects those around him are poignant and bittersweet. "Driftglass" by Samuel R. Delany (If, June 1967 - short story) 1968 Nebula Award finalist 4 Stars I imagine that if Hemingway wrote sf, it would look something like this. The sf element of this story, that people are surgically modified to swim in the ocean, could probably be removed and you would still have a compelling tale of fishermen and the dangerous lives they lead and how it impacts their friends and families. "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" by Gene Wolfe (Orbit 10, February 1972 - novella) 1973 Hugo Award finalist and 1973 Nebula Award finalist 5 Stars "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" is the first section of the novel of the same name, published later in 1972; the novel consisting of three thematically linked novellas. The story is an autobiographical memoir of an unnamed narrator in which he looks back on his boyhood and youth on the Earth-like planet of Sainte Croix, and the events which led to his long, harsh incarceration, and eventual freedom. The narrator lived in seclusion in his "father's" mansion along with his brother, a robotic tutor named Mr Million, and assorted odd others. The father turned out to be conducting mysterious biological experiments while earning money from using the mansion as a brothel. It's a story full of complex character dynamics and fascinating world building. "Particle Theory" by Edward Bryant (Analog, February 1977 - novelette) 1978 Nebula Award finalist 3 Stars A middle-age journalist is going through his mid-life crisis when he's diagnosed with prostate cancer. He volunteers for an experimental treatment using subatomic particles instead of radiation or chemotherapy. At the same time, the heavens are lit up by several supernovae. What all of these threads have to do with each other is not entirely clear. The story serves mostly as a character study of the journalist. "The Ugly Chickens" by Howard Waldrop (Universe 10, September 1980 - novelette) 1981 Nebula Award winner and 1981 Hugo Award finalist 2 Stars Part tall tale, part encyclopedia entry, this lighthearted story recounts a modern biology student's hunt for living dodo birds in the wilds of the U.S. South. Not much meat on these bones. "Going Under" by Jack Dann (Omni, September 1981 - short story) 1982 Nebula Award finalist 4 Stars A time-traveling tourist visiting the Titanic falls in love with another time traveler, complicating their plans to live and die, respectively, on the ship. And then there's her father's head she keeps in a box to add weirdness to the proceedings. "Salvador" by Lucius Shepard (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, April 1984 - short story) 1985 Hugo Award finalist and 1985 Nebula Award finalist 3 Stars This is mostly a character study of a soldier in a Central American war. He is like a lot of soldiers, tired and disillusioned. The sf element is in the form of drugs that the soldiers take to enhance their fighting abilities. Well written, but not my cup of tea. "Pretty Boy Crossover" by Pat Cadigan (Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, January 1986 - short story) 1987 Nebula Award finalist 3 Stars This story examines the ethical considerations of transferring one's memories and personality into a virtual simulation. Is it a utopia or is it a curse? "The Winter Market" by William Gibson (Vancouver Magazine, November 1985 - novelette) 1987 Hugo Award finalist and 1987 Nebula Award finalist 4 Stars In a world where actors' lucid dreams can be downloaded to computers and edited into movies, a senior editor becomes infatuated with a rising star, a woman who wears a bionic exoskeleton because of a congenital physical handicap that prevents her from moving normally. It's a strange and poignant cyberpunk love story. "Chance" by Connie Willis (Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, May 1986 - novelette) 4 Stars This story has all the hallmarks of Willis's romantic comedies, although this one is a bit more serious. The premise is that not only do large life decisions, such as picking an occupation or marrying someone, cause significant changes in one's life, but small, almost trivial things do, too. Our lives are ruled by chance encounters and seeming coincidences. There's really not much science fictional about this story other than the protagonist's dreamlike reminiscences and what-ifs that might or might not be real. "The Edge of the World" by Michael Swanwick (Full Spectrum 2, April 1989 - short story) 1990 Hugo Award finalist 4 Stars A trio of teenagers descend a "bottomless" cliff near a U.S. military base in the Middle East. Eventually, they find some ancient caves which supposedly have mystical powers, and one of them makes a surprising wish. An intriguing tale, and the ending raises many questions. "Dori Bangs" by Bruce Sterling (Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, September 1989 - short story) 1990 Hugo Award finalist and 1990 Nebula Award finalist 4 Stars A music critic and an underground comix artist find love in an alternate reality that extends into the then future of the 21st Century. It's a well written character study that is all the more poignant because the two never "really" meet.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Zachary Stewart

    Some poor editing in story selection and story order. Many stories are marginally science fiction at best. Often, stories very similar in style or subject mater are next to each other or only separated by one other story. Despite the flaws, there are many gems in here. If you need something to pass the time, pick it up.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ebenmaessiger

    "Salvador," by Lucius Shepard (1984): 8 - Above all else, this reads like story from 1984, and not simply because of the Contra allusions, but more so for the half-reactionary anti-Reagan meandering at play here, the kind of knee-jerk ‘againstness’ here struggling to find a coherent ideological/narrative outlet, instead opting for ambiguity rather than directness. STORY: in an only slightly-altered timeline [depicting a much more concentrated (maybe?) American presence in El Salvador/”anti-commun "Salvador," by Lucius Shepard (1984): 8 - Above all else, this reads like story from 1984, and not simply because of the Contra allusions, but more so for the half-reactionary anti-Reagan meandering at play here, the kind of knee-jerk ‘againstness’ here struggling to find a coherent ideological/narrative outlet, instead opting for ambiguity rather than directness. STORY: in an only slightly-altered timeline [depicting a much more concentrated (maybe?) American presence in El Salvador/”anti-communist” insurgencies throughout the Third World], a soldier, concurrently taking way too many hyper-combat-readiness drugs, maybe hallucinates / maybe actually finds his way into an in-between world, where a girl tells him to, effectively, bring the war home to Americans. In turn, he slaughters his regiment and returns home, and we leave the story on the cusp of him, likely, slaughtering some American civilians for these murky reasons. It works half-effectively as a hazy, what’s-happening play on the messiness of both America’s Cold War commitments, as well as on the toll that the nature of this cruel war has on the ones perpetrating it (although, in that line, in falls square in line with takes on SFF/genre lit, in which Vietnam and our country’s sundry sins are played out as, first and foremost, tragedies for us, rather than for those against whom these actions are committed). At the very least, it works much better at this angle than it does at all in the ‘depiction of battle or soldiers’ angle, case in point being DT, the menacing, jive talkin’ black commander of the group. "This Moment of the Storm," by Roger Zelazny (1966): 9.5 - Reading Zelazny short fiction, you understand how revolutionary he must have appeared in the mid-60s. Not so much for his spry prose, although that is there—others had been playing at that move for a decade. Not so much for his coyness or misdirection—although that doesn’t make the wonderful one-two punch of “Why stopover, if you sleep most of the time between the stars? Think about it awhile, and I’ll tell you later if you’re right.” any less bemusing. No, it’s more for the extended AIMLESSNESS of his narrative. Much like “He Who Shapes,” we know there’s a story coming, although Zelazny (and us, eventually) is in no hurry to reach it, content to luxuriate in the world he’s crafted and deepen, rather than complicate our understanding of the same. As such, his fiction exudes a lived-in-ness near unequalled in mid-century sf. What is more, when that “story” then does appear, it might as well not even announce itself as such, being principally only a heightening or emotional reflection on the general sfnal dynamics already established. In the case of this story, no “story” as such, even appears. Instead, Zelazny just takes his characters, his world, and shakes it. "The Fifth Head of Cerberus," by Gene Wolfe (1972): 7 - (NOTE: just about the original, 'Fifth Head' novella from Orbit 10): Strange that I’ve now several times heard that newcomers to Wolfe DEFINITELY should start with Cerberus rather than the more complex New Sun, as the former simply seems a slimmer volume of the self-same Wolfe-isms: ellipses, Easter eggs (both deep and banal), mid-tier Proust rip-off deep memory mining mixed with mid-tier Jamesian convoluted syntax thick description, small hints at much bigger events (the world-building he hides in the middle of paragraphs), hypnotic narrativization (how did we get from here to there? [this isn’t a good thing]), and meandering alluisivity. And it never works for me. In fact, it’s all a little embarrassing—as if his advocates, in their advocacy, are just un-self-consciously crying out “I didn’t get this at first and so it’s this is better than van Vogt.” Wolfe storyboards his shit, then, in its composition, consciously carves out a chasm in its emplotment— i.e. taking a to b to c to d to e, etc. plot and cutting out b through d—and hopes that the winks in their direction throughout will suffice, OR he just flat tells us at the end (and WHY exactly is Marsch an aborigine?!). I mean, take this snippet from a review of the novella (and this is one of the SMART reviewers!): “Setting this aside for the moment, here is my take away, as Joan Gordon suggests. In Gene Wolfe — I think in general in his works, and not just in this one story — it’s not about absolute understanding. It’s about living with uncertainty, and ambiguity.” Said reviewer goes on to basically acknowledge that he has no idea what’s happening, but that, surely, that MUST be the point and that, surely, that MUST mean this is the work that most elevates sf into “literature.” Drivel. “Country of the Kind,” by Damon Knight (1956): 7.5 A mildly clumsy (allegory-wise; the prose is largely smooth and propulsive and withholding in an effective way [indeed, the best part: the sinister opening]) Harrison Bergeron template, in which the ambiguities complicating BOTH that story’s utopia and deficiencies are not so much flattened as they are repackaged cynically (although some of the nuance is still there [see the connection posited between art and destruction]) and with that darker conclusion. For me, a tad warmer over, but I don’t begrudge those feeling otherwise.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michael Horvath

    This collection got me into reading SF heavily (as well as other anthologies by Dozois) after a long time of being away. Still my favorite SF collection.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Princessjay

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. THE COUNTRY OF THE KIND. Damon Knight. 3 STARS. Much anthologized classic. A man condemned to pure living hell in a world where violence has been completely eradicated, via self-triggering seizures & horrific odor that warns others away. Yet violence begets art.. ARISTOTLE & THE GUN. L. Sprague de Camp. 2 STARS. A man with a plan to change history. Of course, the result was exactly the opposite. Instead of more advanced technology, the world whence he came never experienced scientific renaissance THE COUNTRY OF THE KIND. Damon Knight. 3 STARS. Much anthologized classic. A man condemned to pure living hell in a world where violence has been completely eradicated, via self-triggering seizures & horrific odor that warns others away. Yet violence begets art.. ARISTOTLE & THE GUN. L. Sprague de Camp. 2 STARS. A man with a plan to change history. Of course, the result was exactly the opposite. Instead of more advanced technology, the world whence he came never experienced scientific renaissance and remained under American Indian rule. Dry and uninteresting. THE OTHER CELIA. Theodore Sturgeon. 5 STARS. Utterly compelling. Slim has a habit of sneaking into his fellow housemates' room to peek into their lives. Then he met Celia, whose room contained no distinctive details. He then began an intensive campaign to find out more, leading to discovery of ...what? CASEY AGONISTES. Richard McKenna. 3 STARS. In a sick ward, the dying patients began to see a comic ape that clowned around to cheer them up, helped them to fight against heartless medical doctors and the dying of the light itself.. MOTHER HITTON's LITTUL KITTONS. Cordwainer Smith. 3.5 STARS. Classic SF story, set in his Instrumentality of Mankind world where animals are modded to become super-ultra versions of what they can be. Here, a specially modded species is secret weapon to defend a monstrous & rich planet. THE MOON MOTH. Jack Vance. 4 STARS. Outsider to an insular, intricate culture story. Newcomer diplomat trying to catch an off-world assassin in a place where everyone wears masks and speak with instrument accompaniment for proper etiquette & emotional expression. Fascinating world. Story showing age in that no females were mentioned, and then only as slaves. THE GOLDEN HORN. Edgar Pangborn. 3.5 STARS. Vivid story of a boy's journey to manhood in post-apocalyptic Dark-Ages future, an war between innate greed & innate goodness. The innocent mue & his ultimate fate made me cry. THE LADY MARGARET. Keith Roberts. THIS MOMENT OF THE STORM. Roger Zelazny. NARROW VALLEY. R. A. Lafferty. 3 STARS. Another much anthologized classic, exploring rifts in space & time. DRIFTGLASS. Samuel R. Delaney. THE WORM THAT FLIES. Brian W. Aldiss. THE FIFTH HEAD OF CERBERUS. Gene Wolfe. NOBODY'S HOME. Joanna Russ. HER SMOKE ROSE UP FOREVER. James Tiptree, Jr. THE BARROW. Ursula K. LeGuin. PARTICLE THEORY. Edward Bryant. THE UGLY CHICKENS. Howard Waldrop. GOING UNDER. Jack Dann. SALVADOR. Lucius Shepard. PRETTY BOY CROSSOVER. Pat Cadigan. THE PURE PRODUCT. John Kessel. THE WINTER MARKET. William Gibson. CHANCE. Connie Willis. THE EDGE OF THE WORLD. Michael Swanwick. DORI BANGS. Bruce Sterling.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steve Carroll

    An interesting and somewhat idiosyncratic anthology. I was expecting this to be a collection of the consensus choices for best short fiction in the genre for the past 30 years (well, '60-'90, it's 20 years old at this point). But Dozois intentionally omits stories that have been frequently anthologized so you end up with a collection of the stories that were most affecting to Gardner. He has good taste so this isn't a big problem, but not all the stories were my cup of tea. Only skipped through An interesting and somewhat idiosyncratic anthology. I was expecting this to be a collection of the consensus choices for best short fiction in the genre for the past 30 years (well, '60-'90, it's 20 years old at this point). But Dozois intentionally omits stories that have been frequently anthologized so you end up with a collection of the stories that were most affecting to Gardner. He has good taste so this isn't a big problem, but not all the stories were my cup of tea. Only skipped through two which is pretty good for a 650 page anthology. Favorites included The Ugly Chickens by Howard Waldrop, Connie Willis entry, Gene Wolfe's The Fifth Head of Cerberus, and Jack Vance's "The Moon Moth".

  7. 4 out of 5

    Wizzard

    An engaging collection of stories. Not every story commandingly grabbed my attention, but many did. Many of the stories gave me pause, a few even compelled me to re-read them right then and there. It is a collection of science fiction stories from the 1950's through the 90's. It is interesting to see how the themes and styles change over the years. A good, varied read of SF short stories. An engaging collection of stories. Not every story commandingly grabbed my attention, but many did. Many of the stories gave me pause, a few even compelled me to re-read them right then and there. It is a collection of science fiction stories from the 1950's through the 90's. It is interesting to see how the themes and styles change over the years. A good, varied read of SF short stories.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tori

    2008- Read for sci-fi class. Hit and miss.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Letande D'Argon

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ca53buckeye

  11. 5 out of 5

    Callie

  12. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Neylan

  13. 5 out of 5

    Raechel

  14. 4 out of 5

    René Beaulieu

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nuke

  16. 5 out of 5

    Laura H-B

  17. 4 out of 5

    James

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jace

  19. 5 out of 5

    Martyn

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lija Hogan

  22. 5 out of 5

    Vince Bowdren

  23. 5 out of 5

    Deb

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ευγένιος Τουμάσης

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dave Cheeney

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bob Cat

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mark Gibson

  28. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jon Smith

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dave Newton

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