Collected here are the stories, poems, and religious writings that preceded and helped form the science fiction and fantasy genres. The collection explores the key imaginative roots and their later literary permutations. The author list alone reads like a literary who's who and includes many writers not primarily known for their forays into the fantastic. Organized by topic rather than simple chronology, this volume allows the listener to trace the history of robots, aliens, and apocalypses up to some of their most recent manifestations.
Topic chapters and represented authors include "Transformers" (Card, Asimov, Rossetti), "Shocking Futures" (Swift, More), and "Traveling Fools" (Carol, Burroughs, McCaffrey). This definitive collection of science fiction and fantasy sources illustrates how earlier generations imagined the future.
©2004 2009 by Stefan Rudnicki (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
It's hard to describe this collection. I'll start by saying it's a good listen and worth a credit for the epic introduction by Harlan Ellison alone!
This is not at all a global or real historical survey of fantasy themes, as I was hoping from the description. It's mainly American, a little European, and mostly 20th century, with a sprinkling of earlier stuff. On the theme of 'Pan', for instance, there's four or five modernish short stories and just one tiny snippet from The Bacchae.
It leans heavily towards not-exactly-timeless stories that sound as though they're drawn from pulp magazines-- not a bad thing! as I'd come across hardly any of these before and they're generally good fun and read with spirit. Still, they're not towering masterpieces by any means and there's about twenty too many of the nymph-like, nagging and/or drippy women typical of the genre which gets a bit grating.
Though I would love to hear a real anthology of the historic roots of modern genre fiction, I can't mark down this audiobook for not being what I want it to be. Four stars, mostly pretty good stories excellently read.
This badly needs a table of contents available somewhere, there's dozens of stories and good luck remembering who wrote what as the introductions fly past.
"Table of Contents"
Courtesy of sffaudio:
Lofty Ambitions by Harlan Ellison, read by Harlan Ellison
PART 1: THE MYTHS WE LIVE BY
A Youth In Apparel That Glittered by Stephen Crane, read by Stefan Rudnicki (poem)
After the Myths Went Home by Robert Silverberg, read by Stefan Rudnicki
Novelty by John Crowley, read by Harlan Ellison
Pan And The Firebird by Sam M. Steward, read by Stefan Rudnicki
Murderer, The Hope Of All Women by Oskar Kokoschka, performed by cast
The Touch Of Pan by Algernon Blackwood, read by Stefan Rudnicki
The Lost Thyrsis by Oliver Onions, read by Roz Landor
The Bacchae (excerpt) by Eurpides, performed by cast
PART 2: MYTHS THAT BITE
A Noiseless Patient Spider by Walt Whitman, read by Stefan Rudnicki
Mystery Train by Lewis Shiner, read by John Rubenstein
Continued On The Next Rock by R.A. Lafferty, read by Stefan Rudnicki
Diary Of A God by Barry Pain, read by Enn Reitel
The Repairer of Reputations (excerpt) by Robert W. Chambers, read by Stefan Rudnicki
The Yellow Sign by Robert W. Chambers, read by Stefan Rudnicki
An Inhabitant Of Carcosa by Ambrose Bierce, read by Danny Campbell
The Horla by Guy de Maupassant, read by Arte Johnson
PART 3: SHOCKING FUTURES
Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, read by Stefan Rudnicki (poem)
City Come A’Walkin (excerpt) by John Shirley, read by Don Leslie
A Pail Of Air by Fritz Leiber, read by Stefan Rudnicki
The Machine Stops (excerpt) by E.M. Forster, read by Roz Landor
Looking Backward and Equality (excerpts) by Edward Bellamy, read by David Birney
Gulliver’s Travels (excerpt) by Jonathan Swift read by Scott Brick
Utopia (excerpt) by Sir Thomas More, read byChristopher Cazanove
Monument To Amun by Queen Hatshepsut, read by Judy Young
PART 4: TRAVELING FOOLS
La Bateau Ivre by Arthur Rimbaud, read by Stefan Rudnicki
Inspiration by Ben Bova, read by Stefan Rudnicki
The Bones Do Lie by Anne McCaffrey, read by Stefan Rudnicki
A Princess Of Mars (excerpt) by Edgar Rice Burroughs, read by John Rubinstein
The Great Stone Of Sardis (excerpt) by Frank R. Stockton, read by David Birney
Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland (excerpt) by Lewis Carroll, read by Michael York
Diary Of A Madman (excerpt) by Nicolai Gogol, read by Stefan Rudnicki
The Inferno (excerpt) by Dante, read by Stefan Rudnicki
The Odyssey of Homer (excerpt), read by David Birney
PART 5: TRANSFORMERS
The Stolen Child by William B. Yeats, read by Stefan Rudnicki
The Porcelain Salamander by Orson Scott Card, read by Gabrielle de Cuir
Let’s Get Together by Isaac Asimov, read by Arte Johnson
Dracula (excerpt) by Bram Stoker, read by Simon Vance
Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (excerpt) by Robert Louis Stevenson, read by John Lee
Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, read by Gabrielle de Cuir
Frankenstein (excerpt) by Mary Shelley, read by Stefan Rudnicki0\ *
The Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heugh (Traditional English Fairy Tale), read by Judy Young
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (excerpt) by William Shakespeare, performed by cast
The Ballad of Tam Lin (Celtic ballad), read by Stefan Rudnicki
Metamorphosis (excerpt) by Ovid, read by Cassandra Campbell
PART 6: REST IN PIECES
The Conqueror Worm by Edgar Allan Poe, read by Stefan Rudnicki
The New Testament: Revelations (excerpt), read by Stefan Rudnicki
The Colloquy of Monos & Una by Edgar Allan Poe, read by Stefan Rudnicki and Gabrielle de Cuir
From the Crypts of Memory by Clark Ashton Smith, read by Danny Campbell
The Comet by W.E.B. DuBois, read by Mirron Willis
Sand (excerpt) by Stefan Rudnicki, performed by cast
Transience by Arthur C. Clarke, read by Bahni Turpin
The Illusionist by Gareth Owen, read by Stefan Rudnicki
Unchosen Love by Ursula K. LeGuin, read by Stefan Rudnicki
In Lonely Lands by Harlan Ellison, read by Harlan Ellison
News from Nowhere (excerpt) by William Morris, read by Stefan Rudnicki
PART 7: COMMENTARIES
The Special And General Joys of Science Fiction by Ben Bova, read by Stefan Rudnicki
Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849 by Elliott Engel, read by Gabrielle de Cuir
Adolescence And Adulthood In Science Fiction by Orson Scott Card, read by Stefan Rudnicki
"SO GOOD! You've Got to listen to it"
I'm recommending to everyone here, on Goodreads, on my FB page
There have been some good anthologies over the years, but none like this. Each short story is read by a different reader, each better than all the others
Stefan Rudnicki does OSR's books. Scott Brick reads the first 3 in the Shannara Series
It humbled me. How can I possibly write that well? Then that turned to motivation: by re-listening to them & learning from them
Of course, I didn't love EVERY ONE of the short stories. Of course, I knew some of the short stories. But so well read! I even enjoyed the Forward by 75 y-o Harlan Ellison (editor), himself!
I have listened to 22+ ours of this, so you don't have to. If you are a huge Science Fiction Fan like myself, then you think you must buy this. If you are willing to listen so long to get about four or five good hours of listening and learn a little bit, then go ahead, but if I knew then what I know now, I would have passed. I did find a couple of gems, but not enough to warrant treading through all the rest. Before I start let me say thank you to the bug eyed reviewer who listed the table of contents and in order, something Audible should have done.
I will take this section at a time.
Harlan Ellison's Introduction: Lofty Ambitions.
With the exception of the dig to modern editors such as Dozois, this seems like a good intro. It certainly gets you excited to listen to all 22 hours of the book. After listening you will be upset at being sold such a bill of goods. Ellison, also in his old age, should have learned by now how to praise a person without putting down another. He claims there has not been a good editor of science fiction since Groff Conklin. Groff Conklin was a great editor, especially for his time, the fifties. Gardner Dozois puts out an annual anthology of the best of Science Fiction and has now for over 30 years. In each book he summaries the year in Science Fiction. His summary covers the health of the previous sf year, book publishers, magazines (including actual numbers of magazines published, prices, addresses, web sites, etc...), semiprozines, online only magazines, original anthologies, fantasy anthologies, horror anthologies, novels, first novels, novella chapbooks, Novel omnibuses, out of print books that came back, short story collections, art, movies, television, list of all the award winners, obituary, and more. It goes on for pages and pages. If you are a science fiction nerd like myself, you read and absorb, if you just want good stories, you skip it and go on to an excellent collection of stories. The copyright of this book is 2004, so it may have been to early to recognize John Joseph Adams, who has been coming out with some really good original collections.
We are also told by Harlan that Rudnicki is the worlds greatest editor because he has read thousands of books and speaks various languages. I read and listen to hundreds of books a year, does that make me a candidate for a editor of an anthology? I know I could have come up with a more entertaining collection of material. This collection did not even include Gilgamesh, the worlds oldest book, and a very good book at that. I do not blame Rudnicki, although he did allow this to be published about him. Ellison has a history of mouthing off and he is always hot or cold, never between.
MYTHS WE LIVE BY
About nine entries, of which only one is good (Robert Silverberg's After the Myth). Two more are okay and the rest are painful to listen to.
MYTHS THAT BITE
About six entries, of which one is great (Barry Pain's, Dairy Of a God.), two okay, three painful.
About six entries, of which one is most excellent (Fritz Leiber's, A Pail of Air), one excerpt is good, four painful.
The best section, including works from Card, Asimov, Stoker, and Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti. Although I don't see how Card's entry is a progenitor to anything. It is an excellent story, but does not keep with the theme of the collection.
REST IN PIECES
Starts with the Hearse song, which is hilarious, has an except from Revelations, which is extremely scary, a great old story by W.E.B Dubois, and a great story by Clarke. Mixed in are about six painful listens.
This starts with a pretty good piece by Bova. He basically defines what science fiction is. He does not like the term Sci-Fi and he hates Hollywood, probably cause they have never turned any of his hundreds of books into a movie, mostly cause they are not that good. I like some of his books and I know he is a scientist, but that does not mean he is a good writer. His characters are usually card board cut outs and he usually has a lot of dull spots. He says in his essay that science is often boring and he often proves that in his writings. Not sure why Rudnicki included this commentary as it goes totally against what he gives us, as most of his Science Fiction does not include any science. SR even comments that Dante's Inferno is as much science fiction as Verne or Clarke's work. I have read Inferno and I never noticed any science. It was good fantasy and it is an insult to Verne and Clarke to have their thoroughly researched writings be compared to Fantasy.
Do not miss Elliot Engel's biography on Edgar Allen Poe. It is a fascinating story and almost made listening for 22 hours worth it, almost.
I agreed with Card's commentary and I think I have heard him harp on it before. He is a great writer and he gets tired of academia looking down their noses at Science Fiction. He has mentioned before that if kids in school could read some good science fiction instead of the boring English Literature, they are forced to read now, they would be better readers as adults. This commentary did get a little technical.
Rudnicki does the majority of reading and the rest are professionals. There is one gravely voiced narrator I did not love, but that is a personal thing.
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