The Pleasures of Anthology, Part Seven

It occurs to me that in delving into the history of recorded music, I have somewhat strayed from my stated purpose of looking at influential or personally important anthologies.  In this final installment of “The Pleasure of Anthology,” I’ll look at a work that is both: Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music.  Smith is a fascinating figure by himself, and the AAFM, which he put together for Folkways Records in 1952, is only a small part of his artistic output, which included experimental films, paintings, and poetry, as well as ethnographic research on American Indian rituals, string games, and dance (Smith studied anthropology in college, but had begun his studies even younger, visiting an Indian reservation near his boyhood home in Washington state and recording and interviewing members of the tribes there).  It is the AAFM, however, that has had the most enduring influence.

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Peripatetic, Bohemian, obsessive Harry Smith has more in common with the anthologists like Bill Blackbeard than might first appear.  One of the primary accomplishments of his Anthology was to put an unacknowledged, even disdained, part of history front and center in the popular consciousness: the commercial recordings made by rural Southerners before the Great Depression.  Such records were produced by big Northern labels like Columbia and Okeh after they realized that people (both black and white) in isolated small towns would buy records made by people like them.  The countless 78s that Smith tracked down, collected, and sorted through held ballads, fiddle tunes, jug band stomps, and quasi-musical sermons, among other genres, either recorded on the spot by traveling recording outfits or in studios in Chicago or New York.  Almost all of these were relegated by their original labels to “race” or “hillbilly” lines, for black and white customers, respectively, and as such were promoted only in limited areas and then forgotten.  Not for these records would there be red labels or pink-paged catalogs.

Smith was one of many collectors scouring the countryside for old records—there had been a lively community of jazz and blues collectors, united by newsletters and fan-assembled discographies since the 1920s—but Smith was one of very few looking for “folk” music, and he was by far the most knowledgeable, generous with his learning if not with the records themselves.  (According to fellow collector Luis Kemnitzer, “He would lend out books that he thought you might want, gave away paintings and collages, but once a record came into his room it never left.”  Don’t we all know someone like that?)

Smith’s work was preservative, too: according to Smith’s longtime friend, poet (and founding member of The Fugs) Ed Sanders, “There was a big drive by the government to collect laminated records in order to secure the shellac for the war effort, so the records he was particularly seeking, from the 1920s and ‘30s, were in great danger of being wiped from history, a factor which may have given his collector-obsession an extra energy.  On the other hand, the government drive brought millions of records out of the attics of America, making them easy to find.”* As with the science fiction anthologists, passionate collectors like Smith not only chose the best examples of their medium to showcase, they effectively created new fields, new spaces for preserving and discussing cultural artifacts that might otherwise be forgotten.

The songs themselves sound much older than the mere two or three decades that separated them from 1952; listeners who had only been familiar with the music of polished groups like The Weavers were struck by the stark, ghostly quality of many of the voices and the sometimes eccentric quality of the music.  Even though many of the recording artists were professional musicians (on a regional level, at least), there is nothing slick or cookie-cutter about them; they have more in common with the rough-hewn, self-taught geniuses of the early jazz era, and in the best of these recordings there is something of the same energy.

The 84 recordings Smith chose are divided into three volumes: Ballads, Social Music, and Songs, each volume originally on two LPs.  Smith’s ordering and his brief, even telegraphic, notes are carefully considered to guide the listener through the not-so-distant but disappearing land that Greil Marcus called “The Old, Weird America.”  Smith saw the project as half scholarly and half an agent of cultural transformation, but he mostly lets the music speak for itself.  If there is an agenda beyond simply making the music more available, it might be found in Smith’s refusal to list or even acknowledge the race of the performers, instead emphasizing the connections that transcend segregation.  In Marcus’ words, “Linking one performance to another, he ultimately linked each to all”—an excellent description of what a great anthology can accomplish.

Everyone has their favorite disc in the Anthology; the Ballads and Songs of Volumes One and Three appear to have had the most influence on the contemporary folk movement, but the “Social Music” of Volume Two is mine.  Most of the tracks are instrumental, rhythmic fiddle or banjo music for square dancing (on “Georgia Stomp,” the fiddler calls the dance steps out as he plays), as well as what can only be called good-time party music (“Moonshiners Dance,” one of my favorites, sounds like a rural Spike Jones by way of an A&M college bash).  All of these dance numbers fit into the two- to three-minute span of a record side, but within that short time they create their own worlds.  There is a droning quality (in the literal sense of a repeated pitch or chord) that one easily associates with “primitive” music, to the diddly-bow or the monochord that fascinated Smith, and some of the music is genuinely archaic—pan pipes are represented, made of reeds cut by hand—but mingled with urban trends or Tin Pan Alley standards that show the creeping influence of radio and commercial sheet music.

There are songs on Volume Two, as well—not “Songs” as Smith defined them, but vocal music nonetheless.  I sometimes presented Jim Jackson’s heartbreaking “Old Dog Blue” as an example of a “floating couplet” proto-blues song when I taught Music Appreciation, an act of bravery (or foolishness) considering it’s hard for to listen to without getting choked up.  Like other songs on the Anthology that have been the focus of intense study, “Old Dog Blue” is at once crystal-clear on the surface—a reminiscence of a faithful hound, now passed away—and deeply mysterious, with seemingly biographical references (like “a little bitty girl with a red dress on”) thrown in, suggesting an entire life in the same way a white tip on the ocean suggests the iceberg beneath the surface.  Whether the lyrics are drawn from  Jackson’s memory, the common property of rural song, or consciously constructed by Jackson, the result is a song that seems to imply more than it says. The Romantics like Robert Schumann knew how evocative fragments could be, leaving gaps for the listener’s imagination to fill in: Jackson, and many of the other artists present, do the same, whether on purpose, or because of the limitations of recording, or simply because of the cultural gulf that separates us from them.

In the original booklet that came with the AAFM (reproduced for the lavish 1997 CD rerelease), Volumes Four, Five, and Six were promised, but they never arrived.  According to knowledgeable sources there were disagreements over the playlist between Smith and Folkways publisher Moses Asch, and Smith, ever temperamental, dropped the project.**  Later, Smith seems to have simply lost interest in this kind of anthologizing, moving on to studying quilt patterns and other, more physical, examples of folk life.  Within a few years of the original AAFM there was a flood of rereleases of similar material, fueled by the interest Smith had awakened.  It didn’t seem as important for him to continue since others had picked up the thread.  How short a creative period may turn out to be, especially for one with such diverse interests as Harry Smith: what may appear to be a mercurial temperament may simply be a restless intellect, always searching for new territory to explore.

*A comparable situation prevailed in the mid-1990s, when I was doing my most serious collecting: vinyl was considered dead, doomed to be replaced by CDs, and almost every garage sale or junk store had a crate (or several) of records at bargain prices.

** Following the CD reissue of the AAFM, a fourth volume was released on the Revenant label in cooperation with the Harry Smith Archives, based on a playlist Smith had compiled but with notes written by others.  Although it is little more than a footnote to the original AAFM, it’s still a worthwhile sequel, concentrating on music from the 1930s, and it includes songs that would become classics when reissued by others: Robert Johnson’s “Last Fair Deal Gone Down” and The Carter Family’s “No Depression in Heaven,” for example.  It is from the liner notes to Volume Four that I have drawn Ed Sanders’ comments.

The Pleasures of Anthology, Part Five

A few years back I was browsing a new-and-used record store in Kansas City.  It will surprise no one that my affection for old book sales also extends to the crates of old records at music stores, and I used to spend many happy hours browsing their shelves.  I drifted down into the basement, where there were quite a few CDs and records, including 78s, of early jazz, one of my passions.  I was looking over a CD of guitarist Eddie Lang’s collaborations with violinist Joe Venuti, chatting with the clerk, a guy with a handlebar moustache, horn-rimmed glasses and a Hawaiian shirt (this was about fifteen years ago, before such a combination would be so commonplace as to be a hipster cliché).  He was justifiably proud of the store’s selections of 78s, but when I mentioned I didn’t have a 78 player and mostly relied on compilations, he sniffed, “I don’t like to let anyone else tell me what I can and can’t listen to.”  The conversation was effectively over.

I didn’t take it too personally.  A run-in with a snooty record store clerk is practically as much a rite of passage as throwing away one’s old comic books only to regret it later, and in the broader sense I agree with him.  As much as I respect the anthologist’s art, I’m all too aware of how much is out there that won’t be repackaged in modern formats.  I have a 78 rpm record player now, but hardly any discs to play on it.  I’m grateful for such online institutions as the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project, which makes very old and/or rare recordings available, the only filter being the rate at which its curators can acquire and digitize its holdings, but at the time of this conversation that would be a few years in the future.

What strikes me in hindsight is how different the attitude toward compilations is among music fans and readers of short stories.  I’ve never heard a sci-fi reader turn up his nose at a Groff Conklin anthology and say, “No thanks, I’ll stick to my issues of Astounding and Unknown Worlds.”  Very few will bother to track down a Kurt Vonnegut story in Playboy when it can easily be found between hard covers.  True, hardcore record collectors are also a minority, but the concepts of authenticity and authorial voice are different in the two areas.

To a large degree, this is due to the ephemeral nature of print magazines and the vital role anthologies have played in both keeping stories alive and developing a canon of widely-known and –respected work.  As anthology expert Bud Webster compellingly argues in his Anthopology 101,

There were paper drives here in the US well into the 1960s, and had been since the war years; thousands of old magazines were recycled in these drives, not counting the ones that were simply tossed out after reading, or the collections “cleared away” by well-meaning mothers when their sons and daughters went off to college.  Were it not for the anthologies and their editors and publishers, much of the science fiction we grew up reading and wondering over might never have been reprinted.

It should be obvious that this goes double for comic books and triple for newspapers.

By comparison, there was nothing ephemeral in the way recorded music was packaged and sold.  Quite the opposite: before the advent of recording, a performance could be heard only once and was then gone forever.  Recording, in the words of David Suisman in Selling Sounds, stopped the flow of time “as a dam holds back the flow of a river,” storing sounds indefinitely in the grooves of a cylinder or disc.  The permanence of records didn’t always live up to the hype (records could warp, scratch or crack from mistreatment, or wear out through overplaying; even compact discs weren’t quite as invulnerable as they were originally made out to be), but it represented a huge change, and one that took nearly a decade for both consumers and producers to get their head around.

From about 1890 to 1900, Edison cylinder phonographs and competing disc-based gramophones were known as “talking machines;” Edison predicted that his device would find its greatest utility in business as a dictation aid, and a great deal of the recordings commercially sold were famous speeches, passages from the Bible, and the like.  Up until the turn of the century, such machines were little more than a novelty.

Criticisms of “disposable” pop music and novelties are as old as the music industry itself, and that label adhered to both Tin Pan Alley pop songs (which pioneered the kind of built-in obsolescence associated with “one-hit wonders” and prefab stars), most commercial records, and the machines themselves. It was the Victor Talking Machine Company, a competitor of Edison and Columbia, that realized they could sell more machines by creating a musical product with cultural cachet—in modern terms, hardware sales could be driven by providing desirable software—and in 1902 the Victor Red Seal series was born.

The Red Seal records featured respected musical artists (most famously the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso; the Red Seal artists were predominantly European, an important signifier of quality in American culture) performing operatic excerpts and other high-status repertoire, recorded with the best quality possible.  Just as important, the Red Seal records were set apart from the regular “Black Seal” series by their packaging (the “Red Seal” refers to the red paper labels on the records) and by a higher price; they were even listed in a separate section of the Victor catalog, printed on pink pages.  Their desirability was part of a marketing strategy; even Victor’s executives admitted that the Red Seal records didn’t sell as well as the Black Seals, but they were an effective advertisement for the line as a whole. More to our point, as Suisman says, “the Red Seal records were quintessentially middlebrow; they presented an ad hoc assortment of digestible classics [the length of a record side was only two to four minutes] as a timeless and definitive canon.”  They made it psychologically okay to value records as something other than a passing fad, and transformed the fledgling industry.

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So we’ve established that records, once they found a foothold and adjusted listeners’ expectations, aspired to a permanence that fiction might only attain when safely preserved in book form.  There is also the difference between recorded sound and print media: the words of a story are the same (barring drastic editorial change) whether in a magazine or a book; they can even be translated into another language. In some cases, the book versions of stories are more definitive, removing editorial changes (or misprints) and allowing the author’s original voice to come through more clearly.  By contrast, the promise of audio recording is its faithfulness, the idea that you are hearing a piece of music just as it was performed by the artist; what could be more authentic than that?  The transfer of music from one format to another has been fraught with controversy among listeners; indeed, Victor and the other record companies had to work very hard to make their limited recording facilities sound as good as they did before the introduction of electrical recording in 1925 (they weren’t necessarily trying to convince listeners that a recording was “just as good” as a live concert; they counted on the fact that for most people, a record would be as close to hearing Caruso as they ever got).  In converting monophonic recordings from 78s to LP, producers sometimes introduced “fake stereo,” the aural equivalent of colorizing a black and white movie. The debates over the merits of analog vs. digital sound are well known, and the primary appeal of mp3s has been convenience, not sound quality.

Finally, there is the context of the individual song itself, and I think this is where anthologies become suspect for many purists.  In my next installment, I’ll look at the concept of the album, and its rise and fall in importance to recorded music.

The Pleasures of Anthology, Part Two

Read Part One here.

As you can probably tell from the previous examples, my own preferences lean toward science fiction and fantasy.  Of my favorite authors, New England horror writer H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) has had by the far the greatest influence on me, and his connections to other writers (by letters and acquaintance, or by the coincidences of publication) have been a constant thread in searching for stories.

Referring to Lovecraft as a “horror” writer can be a bit misleading: although he considered the cultivation of a frightening atmosphere his primary goal, he mostly eschewed “the literature of mere physical fear and the mundanely gruesome.”  Rather, he was a practitioner of “weird fiction,” a catch-all label for nascent science fiction, fantasy, and horror before those genres had clearly defined markets.  Most of Lovecraft’s work cultivated a sense of ancient, alien forces intruding into the present day, and although he borrowed a great many elements from the gothic horror of the previous century—books full of suppressed secrets, crumbling old houses, ominous supernatural signs—he married them to a scientific outlook, in which the most frightening truths were not to be found in the evil actions of men but in the indifference of a hostile, uncaring universe.  As he wrote in his seminal essay Supernatural Horror in Literature, “The true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule.”

I didn’t know much about Lovecraft’s outlook when I started looking for his stories.  All I knew was that his reputed blend of science fiction concepts, ooky tentacled monsters and dreamlike air of mystery appealed strongly to me as a budding reader of fantastic fiction.  As hard as it may be to believe now, Lovecraft’s work wasn’t easy for me to track down when I was young, even though his name (and that of his creation, “Cthulhu”) was known to me.  He was almost mythical, and I think he would have enjoyed the aura surrounding his work, had he still been alive; I knew that his “Cthulhu Mythos” had been included in the first printing of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons book Deities & Demigods, but was removed from later printings due to a copyright dispute—or is that what they wanted me to think?* Every detail fueled my interest, until I was finally able to read his work for myself; fortunately, he more than lived up to the hype, at least in my experience.  My being at the “golden age” of twelve or thirteen surely didn’t hurt.

My first tastes of his elaborate mythology came from anthologies, a single story by him (or one of his imitators**) included here or there.  For a long time, even after I had read all of Lovecraft’s fiction (down to the dire posthumous “collaborations” by his executor August Derleth), I would search tables of contents for his name, not in hopes of finding something new but as a sign that the editor recognized the good stuff and that the rest of the book might be in the same vein.  Similarly, anything connected to the legendary pulp magazine Weird Tales, in which Lovecraft published most of his work, was a must-have.

That’s how I acquired Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors, edited by Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Robert Weinberg and Martin H. Greenberg.  This collection includes one story from each year the magazine was published (in its original incarnation; it has since been revived), from 1923 to 1954.  There are some terrific opportunities for juxtaposition: you can leap from the brooding, necrophilia-themed “The Loved Dead” of C. M. Eddy (1924’s entry) to the sophisticated modern ghost story “Legal Rites” by Isaac Asimov and a pseudonymous Frederik Pohl (1950, the pair’s only publication in Weird Tales), or from space opera (Nictzin Dyalhis’ “When the Green Star Waned,” 1925) to sword and sorcery (Robert E. Howard’s “The Shadow Kingdom,” 1929) to occult detective (Seabury Quinn’s long-running character Jules de Grandin in “Satan’s Stepson,” 1931).  There’s also plenty of the “mundanely gruesome,” to be sure: the pulps were known for their often lurid content, and Weird Tales, Lovecraft’s opinions aside, was no exception.

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In any case, Lovecraft is included, represented by his novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, originally published posthumously over two issues in 1941.  Covering, as it does, such a wide range of time and variety of authors (including, in addition to those mentioned above, future luminaries such as Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson and Robert Bloch) gives it the character of history, sampler and tribute all in one, a sort of “This is Your Life” for a long-gone but fondly remembered magazine.

I’ve returned to many of the authors in this anthology over the years and read more of their work when I could find it.  Some of the stories I enjoyed, however, have effectively been dead ends until recently: for example, Arthur J. Burks’ 1936 story “The Room of Shadows,” a creepy story about a hotel room haunted by its previous occupant, a “Eurasian” vampire whose conquests are turned into vicious miniature “sleeve-dogs.”  It’s the kind of thing that sounds ridiculous when summarized, but that’s true of many fantasy and horror stories, and Burks excels at capturing the main character’s confusion and mounting fear, along with some PG sensuality in the form of a mysterious femme fatale.  The editors cite “The Room of Shadows” as “an example of how a talented author uses staple pulp characters and situations to rise above cliché,” and it left me wanting more.  Burks published a collection of stories, Black Medicine, in 1966, long out-of-print, expensive, and unavailable.  Now, however, a number of his stories are available in e-book editions.  I prefer hard copy, but when it comes to hard-to-find stuff like this, I’ll take it in any form I can find it.

A different animal altogether is H. P. Lovecraft’s Book of Horror; it’s edited by Stephen Jones and Dave Carson, but as the cover states, it’s really Lovecraft’s book, compiling Supernatural Horror in Literature along with a number of the stories Lovecraft cited as examples and influences on his own work.  Both the essay and the stories are in the public domain and are available in multiple formats, but it’s convenient to have them in one place, and the editors provide a smattering of commentary.  Still, it doesn’t hold the place in my heart that 32 Unearthed Terrors does.

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In both books, the diversity of styles and concepts is striking: there is room for all of the genres listed above and more; the very concept of the “weird tale” was nebulous enough to allow a variety of approaches, as long as there was something out of the ordinary.  Weird Tales was billed as “The Unique Magazine,” and as Robert Bloch writes in his introduction to 32 Unearthed Terrors, “There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ Weird Tales writer, nor is there a ‘typical’ Weird Tales story.”  Yet, the stories are often conservative on the individual level, in the sense that there are generally not more than one or two supernatural elements at play, especially in those set in the modern world.  Even those set in the far future, the mythic past, or a “lost world” often feature a single driving narrative to which all the world-building and window-dressing are subordinate.  The stories are short, and economy of means is key: pulp writers were paid by the word, not the idea.

The great thing about this tendency is that, whether reading an issue of the magazine or a latter-day anthology, while the reader may be dazzled with the sheer variety of ideas on display, each story is allowed to be itself, undiluted, and allows the reader to observe many of the building blocks of modern fantasy when they were still emerging.  Just as Lovecraft and his fellow Weird Tales authors influenced modern writers, so did they draw from previous authors, synthesizing their influences into personal styles, a process that still continues today.

In Part Three, I’ll look at anthologies in a different medium: comics!

* My experience with role-playing games and my search for the “Cthulhu Mythos” printing of Deities & Demigods are subjects for another post.

** I believe the first true Mythos stories I was able to find were by “Conan the Barbarian” creator Robert E. Howard.  Lovecraftians will know that the “Cthulhu Mythos” took hold in large part because Lovecraft encouraged his writer friends to make use of his creations in their stories, and he borrowed freely from theirs, creating a “shared world” (at best a collection of themes and premises rather than a tightly-knit continuity) before such things became au courant.

The Pleasures of Anthology, Part One

Maybe it starts with being a bookhound: from a young age I grew up in a house piled high with books, the collection of my college professor father and classical musician mother.  It’s no surprise that the collecting bug bit me early, and books are a natural item to accumulate: they’re mostly cheap; they can be status symbols, external signs of one’s intellectual achievement (unlike, say, comic books, which I have also collected, but which even now seem to demand a certain amount of explanation to the uninitiated); and they provide more entertainment or useful information for their price and weight than almost anything else.  I was accustomed to having old things around from a young age, so that didn’t bother me either.  As much as I enjoy brand new books and the big, luxurious bookstores that have (mostly) disappeared from the landscape, used bookstores and book sales are more interesting to me, because of that chance of being surprised by something rare, weird, or simply new to me.  I like to browse new books to see what’s out there, but I’m rarely moved to buy something I could get anywhere; but for an old, possibly out-of-print book, who knows if I’ll find it again?  I could go on about the smell of old books, or the thrill of the hunt, or the prospect of finding something really valuable, but to tell the truth those aren’t really motivating factors for me. (Seriously: for every old book you find that has that ideal scent of rich, old paper, there’s another one that smells of mildew or cigarette smoke. Gross.)

No, what fascinates me the most when scouring stacks of old books is the chance to fill in gaps in my knowledge, make connections between things I might not expect, and appreciate the many different kinds of publications (the styles of writing, the topics, and genres that were once popular, not to mention trends in printing, binding, and cover art) that can open windows to the past.

In many ways, a good anthology can offer the same pleasures in microcosm.  Reading a collection of stories or articles by a good editor is like being guided through a used book market by an expert hand, someone who knows where the good stuff is hidden, and is ideally a sympathetic soul able to handpick just the sort of thing you’re looking for.  Such a guide can offer a balanced combination of the familiar but well-loved, a few new items that continue in a straight line from where the familiar leaves off, and maybe something really mind-bending or challenging, something you didn’t know you needed to read until you found it.

If you read enough, the name of the editor alone might be enough to pique your interest, and these come in several flavors: many of the editors whose names I learned were publishing-industry lifers like Peter Haining and Martin H. Greenberg (compiler of an astounding 1,298 anthologies!).  Sometimes the editor is a well-known writer in their own right, their choices reflecting their influences, early favorites that inspired their own writing or informed their stylistic choices.  The book might be a chance to promote their friends’ work or expose readers to like-minded authors who are part of the same scene as the editor but not as widely known.  Or it could be an opportunity for the established writer to shine a light on up and coming talent, putting their seal of approval on the young writers’ work.

Sometimes, however, one gets the impression the famous writer’s name is simply on the cover to sell books, as when they are hired to write a short introduction and the name of the actual (less well-known) editor is in smaller type. If the word “presents” is in the title, chances are the famous author is a figurehead (as in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, a series Hubbard never actually edited and that has carried on under his name long after his death).  I don’t mean to be cynical: it’s the quality of the stories inside that count, and I’ve been known to purchase and keep books with stories I already have copies of for the sake of the insights in the introduction (which are sometimes sizeable essays in their own right).

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A subgenre is the anthology of the “best of” the previous year, selections either made from published work (as is the case for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Best American series), contest winners (the aforementioned L. Ron Hubbard Presents), or editorial fiat.  The Best American series has been published continuously since 1915, first as a showcase for short stories, expanded in recent decades to include topics such as mystery stories, sports writing, and even comics (since 2006).  One of the most popular titles in the series has been The Best American Nonrequired Reading, edited since its introduction in 2002 by Dave Eggers.  Filled with lists, humor, and random nuggets culled from real life (“Best American Lawsuits,” for example), it injects the McSweeney’s founder’s “clever . . . too clever” aesthetic into the hoary old “bathroom reader” format, like Harper’s Index on steroids.

In retrospect, these annual volumes can provide perspective on both the individual authors included in them and the genre (whatever it may be) as a whole.  It is interesting, for example, to see the name Stephen Baxter (for the story “Gossamer”) in David G. Hartwell’s Year’s Best SF, a 1996 anthology (and beginning of an ongoing series) published with the goal of supporting actual science fiction (“Not fantasy.  Not science fantasy,” according to Hartwell’s introduction).  Baxter had garnered praise for his 1995 novel The Time Ships, an authorized sequel to H. G. Wells’ classic The Time Machine, but was as yet a new enough name that Hartwell felt the need to introduce him as a writer “in the hard science mode of Hal Clement and Robert L. Forward.”  Since then, he has won numerous awards and collaborated with Arthur C. Clarke; it’s unlikely a science fiction audience would be unfamiliar with him.

In contrast, one can examine volumes of the Best SF series edited by Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss from 1967 to 1975 to see the rising tide of confrontational, psychedelic “New Wave” science fiction championed by J. G. Ballard and Michael Moorcock.  Even allowing for the difference in time, no one would confuse this series with Hartwell’s!

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One finds connections everywhere: one can read Sam Moskowitz’s biographical sketch of editor Alden H. Norton in the latter’s Award Science Fiction Reader, and immediately turn to Norton’s introduction to his own Horror Times Ten, wherein he recounts,

At lunch with an old friend, Sam Moskowitz, I happened to mention my problem [a paucity of decent horror stories for his planned anthology] and said: “Too bad you’re not an authority on the horror and terror tale as you are on science fiction.  If you were, you might be of some help to me.”  He choked a moment, wiped some sauce from eggplant parmigiana from his lips with a napkin, swallowed a glass of water, and finally managed to come up: “Oh, but I am!”

Not only did the authors and editors know each other, they could make their readers feel like one of the club by letting them in on these backstage dramas in introductory notes, in the letters pages of magazines, and in the newsletters and fanzines put together by amateur press associations and fan clubs.  An anthology could be much more than just the stories!

In Part Two, I’ll look more closely at one of my favorite anthologies, and the legacy of the magazine Weird Tales.