I am reviewing “The 11th Annual Edition: The Year’s Best S-F”” edited by Judith Merril, specifically the 1966 Delacorte hardback.
This is Merril’s selection of the best stories from 1965. The contents list has thirty six stories, not counting editorial summaries. However, I’m afraid that in her later anthologies Merril seems to be so keen to show the ever-increasing appearance of science fiction outside its traditional specialist base, that she tends to move away from my preference, which is for a number of good solid stories all around twenty to thirty pages long that I can take time to get my teeth into and savour. That’s all I’m looking for: good solid twenty to thirty page stories. Unfortunately, many of those included here are so short, that for me, however well crafted they may be, they do not count as good reading. Of these thirty six stories listed, only three reach twenty pages (those by Walter F. Moudy, Gordon R. Dickson, and Harvey Jacobs), and only another eleven are longer than ten pages. That’s twenty two stories that come in under ten pages. Given this, I can see why Carr and Wollheim realised that there was an opportunity in the market and began their own “The World’s Best Science Fiction:1965” anthology in this same year.
Despite the above comments, almost all of these stories are very readable, just too short.
However, I do not really know enough about science fiction to give detailed comments on the anthology, and I'm also concerned that in the detail I might give away too much of the storylines. My main motivation for reviewing is to give an easily accessible list of contents to those browsing through anthologies on Amazon.
Here is a list of the contents together with a brief scene setting comment or quote (definitely not plot spoiling): Annoyingly I have had to greatly reduce this as my initial attempts have been rejected by Amazon as too lengthy.
(1) “Something Else” by Robert J. Tilley Dr Sidney Williams is the sole survivor of the emergency landing on an unexplored planet. Fortunately his clarinet and jazz tapes have survived the crash.
(2) “The Volcano Dances” by J.G. Ballard “They lived in a house on the mountain Tlaxihuatl half a mile below the summit.”
(3) “Slow Tuesday Night” by R.A.Lafferty “A panhandler intercepted the young couple as they strolled down the night street.”
(4) “Better Than Ever” by Alex Kirs First lines: Joe and Monica went to the Movie. Like everyone else, they were gone for a month.”
(5) “Coming of Age Day” by A.K. Jorgensson "I was ten and I still had not seen them!”
(6) “The Wall” by Josephine Saxton There is a hole in the wall and the man and woman on either side can just about manage to hold hands through it.
(7) “The Survivor” by Walter F. Moudy It’s the 2050 Olympic War Games, and Private Richard Starbuck is ready for action.
(8) “Moon Duel” by Fritz Leiber The narrator is in the moon’s Gioja crater, when his companion is shot dead by a “crusoe”.
(9) “Project Inhumane” by Alexander B. Malec Pierre Biev has successfully climbed the technological hierarchy.
(10) “Those Who Can Do” by Bob Kurosaka The lecturer is challenged by a student. Barely two pages long.
(11) “Susan” by Alistair Bevan 15 year old Susan is an unusual child.
(12) “Yesterday’s Gardens” by Johnny Byrne Uncle Ernie is in the armchair while his niece plays on the carpet. She wants her box back.
(13) “The Roaches” by Thomas M. Disch “Miss Marcia Kenwell had a perfect horror of cockroaches.”
(14) “Game” by Donald Barthelme First lines: “Shotwell keeps the jacks and the rubber ball in his attaché case and will not allow me to play with them.”
(15) “J is for Jeanne” by E.C. Tubb Jeanne is having the same repetitive dream.
(16) “Terminal” by Ron Goulart Penrose is in Senior Citizens’ Terminal #130
(17) “The Plot” by Tom Herzog Mr Filmore’s razor warns him that his wife is trying to kill him.
(18) “Investigating the Bidwell Endeavours” by David R. Bunch The Bidwell twin sisters run a unique hospital
(19) “The Case” by Peter Redgrove Six page poem.
(20) “There’s a Starman in Ward 7” by David Rome Ward 7 is in a psychiatric hospital.
(21) “Eyes Do More Than See” by Isaac Asimov “After hundreds of billions of years, he suddenly thought of himself as Ames”. Four pages long.
(22) “Maelstrom II” by Arthur C. Clarke Uh-oh Cliff Leyland’s in big trouble piloting the moon to earth freight catapult.
(23) “Two Letters to Lord Kelvin” by Alfred Jarry Five page extract from the unusual Alfred Jarry.
(24) “Warrior” by Gordon R. Dickson Commandant Ian Graeme has journeyed to Earth to pass on the effects of the dead Brian Kenebuck to his older brother. A Dorsai story
(25) “Mars is Ours” by Art Buchwald Barely two pages.
(26) “Scarfe’s World” by Brian W. Aldiss Dyak and Utliff are going hunting. It’s a good life. The iguanodons are down by the water’s edge.
(27) “A Singular Case of Extreme Electrolyte Balance Associated With Folie a Deux” by Robert D. Tsirgi. Just over two pages.
(28) “A Magus” by John Ciardi. Two page poem.
(29) “The Circular Ruins” by Jorge Luis Borges Six page extract from “Fictions and Labyrinths”.
(30) “The Girl Who Drew the Gods” by Harvey Jacobs Oliver August is attending college and keen to take a module titled “Know the Navaho II”.
(31) “The Drowned Giant” by J.G. Ballard The giant body has washed up on the beach.
(32) “Circe Undersea” by George MacBeth. Six page poem.
(33) “ Somewhere Not Far From Here” by Gerald Kersh Guerilla raid involving 15 year old Martin and the Dumb Ox, among others.
(34) “In the Ruins” by Roald Dahl. One page.
(35) “Traveller’s Rest” by David I. Masson “It was an apocalyptic sector.”
(36) Ado About Nothing” by Bob Ottum, Jr. “Today we reached the end of the universe.” Three pages.