As anyone who has ever had to extract pieces of broken Pyrex from walls can attest, experiments don’t have to be successful to be interesting or worthy of attention. Publishing, for example, has seen a number of innovative ideas that for one reason or another have failed to thrive. Failure doesn’t necessarily reflect badly on the creator – sometimes it’s just not steam engine time. Take, for example, these five bold ventures …
The idea behind the Twayne Triplets was simple: one scientist would write a non-fiction article describing an SF setting, then three SF writers would write stories based on that framework. The first volume, The petrified planet (1952), contained an essay by John D. Clark, as well as that by Fletcher Pratt The long viewH. Beam Piper’s Uller’s uprisingand that of Judith Merril Earth daughters. The second volume, witches three (1952), offered non-fiction by John Ciardi (yes, this Jean Ciardi), and three short reprints not based on the essay: the Fritz ‘Leiber classic Conjure the woman“There Shall Be No Darkness” by James Blish and Blue star by Fletcher Pratt.
Details on what would have been the third volume are hard to come by, but I know one of the stories would have been Poul Anderson. Planet of no returnand another Asimov Sucker baitboth located on an inhabitable world. The author of the third play does not seem to have finished it. In any case, the third volume has never seen an impression. That was it for the Twayne Triplets.
Which is not to say that the essential seed did not survive. Poul Anderson in particular seems to have been won over. Anderson and co-editor Roger Elwood presented their own version in the 1977s A world named Cleopatra. Cleopatra seems to have made some waves, but in 1979 Anderson was one of the writers recruited for Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey Thieves World Shared World Anthology. Thieves World has not only been successful; A host of anthologies from the world shared by a variety of authors followed.
Speaking of Roger elwood and not entirely successful experiences – no, not Laser Books! Continuum 1 (1974), Continuum 2 (1974), Continuum 3 (1974), and Continuum 4 (1975). The theme of Continuum was continuity. Each of the four volumes contained a story by Philip José Farmer, Poul Anderson, Chad Oliver, Thomas N. Scortia, Anne McCaffrey, Gene Wolfe, Edgar Pangborn, and Dean R. Koontz. Each author’s four stories shared the same framework.
There are a number of reasons why Continuum is obscure. The anthologies are old. Vanity was interesting, but most of the stories were unforgettable. Elwood’s unsuccessful anthology series could have poisoned the well for any ideas associated with it. On the other hand, Continuum at least delivered what he promised.
Fight SF edited by Gordon R. Dickson (1975)
Readers these days are familiar with the basic concept of military science fiction. Works that would now be classified as MilSF date back to the early days of the genre. However, it is widely accepted among the author of this essay that the idea of military sci-fi as a specific subgenre with its own well-defined conventions did not really take shape until the 1980s. frequency of terms “Military science fiction” and “military sci-fi” to suggest
Fight SF the unifying theme was the fight… the title is kind of a gift. Dickson fairly consciously justifies his theme in the introductory essay, then offers a selection of proto-MilSF stories published over the previous decade by authors such as Laumer, Drake and. Against the backdrop of the anthologically happy 1970s, this was just another thematic anthology, long out of print. In a larger context, it hints at the upcoming changes in the times of sci-fi.
Fates 1-11, edited by James Patrick Baen
Jim Baen edited Yes in 1974 and Galaxy from 1974 to 1977. After having left the financial difficulties – well, clearly condemned, if we are honest –Galaxy to Ace Books in 1977, he seems to have missed the magazine edition, though Fates is any guide. Fates is a mainstream pocket-sized magazine, providing a dose of short sci-fi and ostensibly non-fiction essays once every two months (later, quarterly).
Between the first issue in 1978 and the last issue in 1981, Fates generated eleven issues, as well as the 1980s The best of destinies and an auxiliary anthology, 1981’s Proteuswhich relied on material acquired for Fates and later deemed unsuitable. Baen switched to Tor Books before founding his own publishing house. I have very good memories of Fatesmemories that I intend to jeopardize by gradually rereading the lot.
Fates did not survive long after the release of its Ace editor. Baen seems to have thought that the essential idea had potential, launching the Distant borders bookazine in 1985, and New destinies in 1987. Neither lasted long: seven issues for Distant bordersand ten for New destinies. There is obviously nothing wrong with the format, so I’m a little puzzled why the last series have been so fleeting.
Tor’s Jupiter novels consisted of Higher Education (1995) by Charles Sheffield and Jerry Pournelle, The billion dollar boy (1997) by Charles Sheffield, Put roots (1997) by Charles Sheffield, The Earth Cyborg (1998) by Charles Sheffield, Cloud of stars (1999) by Jerry Pournelle, and Outwards (1999) by James P. Hogan. The intention was to deliver the same genre of young adult books to the children of the 1990s that Robert Heinlein had delivered forty years earlier, ensuring that there would be another generation of passionate SF readers.
I feel complete fear and trepidation whenever an author announces his intention to emulate Heinlein. This series helped develop this conditioned reflex. The books are not so terrible as they are remarkably mundane, surrounded by the model they are trying to emulate. The fact that they had a role model may have worked against them. As I reread Heinlein’s Juveniles, it became clear to me that Heinlein was experimenting with the juvenile form as he went. Jupiter novels, on the other hand, feel as constrained by editorial conventions as any old-school Laser or Harlequin Romance novel.
Yet like the explosion of young adult fiction shows, the core idea behind the books was solid. Young people want to read fantasy fiction. They just aren’t particularly keen on reading the same kind of fantasy fiction their grandparents read, any more than the kids of the 1950s wanted to read. Tom swift Where Robust gift novels.
Perhaps you have your own favorite, obscure but remarkable experiences like the ones above. Please feel free to mention them in the comments below.
In the words of Wikipedia editor TexasAndroidprolific and enduring literary criticism Nominated for the Darwin Award James Davis Nicoll is of “dubious notability”. His work has appeared in Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times as well as on his own websites, James Nicoll Reviews and the Aurora finalist Young people read old SFF (where he is assisted by the editor Karen lofstrom and web person Adrienne L. Travis). He’s a four-time finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer, is eligible to be nominated again this year, and is surprisingly flammable.