Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Best From Fantasy And Science Fiction, Fourteenth Series, Avram Davidson

Title: The Best From Fantasy And Science Fiction, Fourteenth Series
Editor: Avram Davidson
Rating: OK

I bought an old, used copy of The Best From Fantasy And Science Fiction, Fourteenth Series to get one specific short story - Automatic Tiger by Kit Reed - on Doug's recommendation.

Alas I once again get to disagree - at least somewhat - with Doug. I didn't find Automatic Tiger the stand out story here. For me that honor fell on A Rose For Ecclesiastes by Roger Zelazny. Automatic Tiger was OK, but not all that special in my mind.

For more on the topic of my favorite short story, you can look here, and you might contribute your own favorites here.

But about this book...

It's a collection of (mostly) fantasy short stories, originally published in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine in 1963, 1964, or 1965. (The copyright data in my copy is very limited, and not even the editor's introduction says what - if any - specific year these stories were published in.

As I read over the back cover, reviewing each of the stories I read just a few days ago, it's sad to note that I remember so few of the details. Some are already mostly forgotten and a few I actually don't recall at all. Perhaps my tastes really are changing in some way, but clearly most of these stories didn't stick with me. For the record, in this volume are:
  • Sacheverell by Avram Davidson
  • Trade In by Jack Sharkey
  • The Illuminated Man by J. G. Ballard
  • A Bulletin From the Trustees of the Institute of Advanced Research by Wilma Shore
  • Automatic Tiger by Kit Reed
  • The Court of Tartary by T. P. Caravan
  • Touchstone by Terry Carr
  • Thaw and Serve by Allen Kim Lang
  • Nada by Thomas M. Disch
  • Into The Shop by Ron Goulart
  • A Rose For Ecclesiastes by Roger Zelazny
  • Olsen and the Gull by Eric St. Clair
  • Dark Conception by Louis J. A. Adams
  • The Compleat Consumators by Alan E. Nourse
  • The House by the Crab Apple Tree by S. S. Johnson
  • The Girl With the Hundred Proof Eyes by Ron Webb
  • Fred One by James Ransom
So how many of those stories and authors have you heard of, now that we're 40+ years past the initial publication of these works?

As stated above, the highlight of this collection - for me - was Zelazny's A Rose For Ecclesiastes. I'd probably read it before, somewhere, but if so it was a long, long time ago. In that story, I finally found what I believe to be the origin of this line: "Tone of Voice: An Insufficient Vehicle for Irony", which I have heard many times in my life. It comes from this slightly larger quote:
Someday I am going to write an article for the Journal of Semantics, called "Tone of Voice: An Insufficient Vehicle for Irony."
As with nearly everything Zelazny wrote, he really can turn a phrase, and he keeps my attention. This is an early work, and the first he published in Fantasy And Science Fiction. He was 25, and (among other things) a former epee instructor. I knew I liked him for a reason. If only he was still among the living.

The rest of the book is what it is: uneven, with a couple of average or slightly better pieces, with the rest being basically forgettable, at least for me. But read A Rose For Ecclesiastes from some source, even if it isn't this one. That's a great story.