Several years after I had graduated from Sewanee Military Academy (by the skin of my teeth), I was invited to return to teach a one month seminar on science fiction. I enjoyed this tremendously; and at the end of the seminar, the class presented me with a copy of this anthology, autographed by all the members of the seminar. I would not sell my copy for all the tea in China. Now at that time, I tended to have a pretty low opinion of magazine science fiction prior to the 1940s. And I still believe that to a large extent, I was right. Much of it was formulaic, badly written, cliched, and racist. But a reading of Isaac Asimov's _Before the Golden Age_ (1974) convinced me that there was some fiction of value during the thirties. It was not just the stories themselves. It was Asimov's basic approach. He made the anthology autobiographical-- an assembling of stories that he read in his youth. There are some limitations to this approach. Stanley Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" could not be included because Asimov didn't read the story until much later in life. But on the whole, it works. In his forwards, Asimov captures the magic of what it was like to read those stories for the first time, and then tempers his enthusiasm with a more critical look in his afterwards. You sense that this anthology was truly a labor of love for Asimov, and so it becomes a pleasure book for the reader as well.
There are five stories in this anthology that evoke a sense of wonder in me through their descriptive passages. They are: "Tumithak of the Corridors" by Charles R. Tanner, "The Moon Era" by Jack Williamson, "Born of the Sun" by Jack Williamson, "Old Faithful" by Raymund Z. Gallun, and "He who Shrank" by Henry Hasse. In contrast, action oriented stories like Stanley Weinbaum's "Parasite Planet" and John W. Campbell's "The Brain Stealers of Mars" don't evoke that sense of wonder in me, because the description is pared down to only what is essential to the story.
There are several authors included who became almost unknown after the thirties. They are: Neil R. Jones (represented with "The Jameson Satellite"), Capt. S.P. Meek (represented with "Submicroscopic" and "Awlo of Ulm"), Lawrence Manning (represented with "The Man who Awoke"), Leslie Stone (represented with "Human Pets of Mars"), and Charles R. Tanner (represented with "Tumithak of the Corridors" and "Tumithak in Shawm"). Tanner was a particularly fortunate find. He was a good writer who probably failed to be reprinted because of the length of his stories.
Other writers represented who did become well known in the field after the thirties include Edmund Hamilton, Clifford D. Simak, Jack Williamson, Murray Leinster, John W. Campbell, Jr., Stanley Weinbaum, Raymond Z. Gallun, and Ross Rocklynne. There are two authors whose science fiction reputation was modest but who went on to fame in other fields. The first is the physicist John D. Clark; and the second is Nat Shachner, who went on to become a successful biographer of famous figures in early American history.