Classic SF of the 1950s: beautiful books introduced by Gibson, Gaiman, Reed, Willis, Straub and others

The Library of America is publishing a two volume treasure of science fiction next September 27, in which great contemporary science fiction writers introduce classics of the field from the 1950s. The handsome, slipcased edition includes:

Volume 1: 1953–1956
* Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth, The Space Merchants
* Theodore Sturgeon, More Than Human
* Leigh Brackett, The Long Tomorrow
* Richard Matheson, The Shrinking Man

Volume 2: 1956–1958
* Robert Heinlein, Double Star
* Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination
* James Blish, A Case of Conscience
* Algis Budrys, Who?
* Fritz Leiber, The Big Time

The LOA site for the books has the essays and other supplementary material, including work by William Gibson (writing about "The Stars My Destination"), Neil Gaiman (on "The Big Time"), Kit Reed (on "More Than Human") and Connie Willis (on "Double Star") as well as pieces by Tim Powers, James Morrow, and Peter Straub.

American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950's


  1. Wow.

    Science Fiction.

    And I bet there isn’t a zombie, a vampire, a magic sword, or a dragon on any of the (one thousand?) pages.

    Ah for the halcyon days of my youth, when the SF sections of my bookstore and library were……just that.

    1. Yes… that is because zombies and vampires are horror, magic swords and dragons are fantasy. As the title clearly spells out this is science-fiction. (It’s like commenting on an edition of Lord of the Rings “I bet there isn’t a starship, black hole or cybernetic implant in the thousand pages”.)

      1. The problem is not that those other genres exist, but that they don’t have their own shelves and sections.  I want to browse through SF that’s new (and new to me) without having to filter out all the Tolkien wannabees and Twilight clones.  Go take a look at the online offerings of the now laughably misnamed “Science Fiction Book Club” to get an idea of what I’m talking about.

  2. has cleared a number of Sci-Fi stories from the 1950 era pulps that didn’t have their copyrights renewed. Most of what we call Sci-Fi is really fantasy. Ray Bradbury said to qualify as Sci-Fi it had to be something that could happen. He called Martian Chronicles fantasy. Of the some 50 pulp stories I’ve narrated only one qualified as Sci-Fi and that was Poul Anderson’s “The Burning Bridge”. In it he deals realistically with inertia in space travel. We don’t like to think about the bug on the windshield aspects of acceleration and deceleration.  We’re already in major trouble without ever getting to warp speed.

    1. Hmm… well… if we go by a truly hard sf definition then we would be left with very little. Any interstellar space travel… scrap that, with the knowledge we have now. Time travel is right out of the question.

      I’m happy with any “what if…” parts. SF contains the word “fiction”, so as long as the suspension of disbelief works, I rather go with that than start nit picking what is actually possible and what isn’t.

      1. It is, I think, possible to distinguish between replicators, holodecks and transporters possible and ancient Martian civilization possible, the latter being actually impossible while the former are merely improbable.

  3.  The Stars My Destination is one of my favorite books, ever since reading it 12 years ago. I wish it would be made into a mini-series with Bruce Willis staring in it.

  4. Nice collection! Although I bet they had a hard time choosing which ones to include, there are just so many.

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