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Stellar 1

Stellar, volume 1

Edited by Judy-Lynn del Rey 

16 Mar, 2009



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Stellar 1

edited by Judy-Lynn del Rey

Ballantine (1974)

216 pages ($1.25)

The cover art is uncredited as far as I can tell and consists of a generic SFnal background with large metal 1s everywhere. The look of the book is utterly unlike the rest of the series.

[Added in 2020] A later edition got a cover in line with the rest of the series covers.

Introduction: Why Anthologize? (Judy-Lynn del Rey)

The mission statement for the series, there will be only one more introduction as the series continues, the rather lengthy one in Stellar Short Novels.

The Birch Clump Cylinder” (Clifford D. Simak) 

The return of a man to the rural college he had hoped he had escaped and the story of the examination of a piece of alien equipment which has come to rest in the local woods. The ending is very much telegraphed by the near juxtaposition of the revelation that the original benefactor of the collage was mysterious and the use of the term time engine’ to describe the effects of the engine. In an attempt to turn it off, two people tangle with it. One gets to play Connecticut Yankee in President Garfield’s Court (Although off-stage) and the other is thrown into a future where the college has become the sole owner of the means of FTL transportation.

This is a fairly typical, although minor, Clifford Simak. Even when dealing with Big Issues, the characters are prone to be just regular people and the setting rural or small town. I recommend flipping quickly past the science” expositions.

Fusion” (Milton Rothman)

The tale of an experimental fusion reactor and all the problems which can occur while trying to hit the break even point. Very much based on the late Doctor Rothman’s actual experiences and not, sad to say, much of a story. This would have made a better nonfiction article. It’s a shame, because Rothman could write ripping yarns, as shown in Heavy Planet”.

[When I posted this to RASFW, Richard Horton mentioned that Joanna Russ made some nasty comment about this story to the effect that it was a bunch of coffee cups talking”, which I’d have to say is a fair cop]

A Miracle of Small Fishes” (Alan Dean Foster)

Here we have a dying old man who can no longer catch fish because advances in fish farming and netting mean none of the fish get as far south as his town (Which must have caused some interesting dislocations in the food chain). We have his adorable little grand daughter, who dearly wants to see poor old doomed granddad get one last big haul before he goes. We have an amiable priest with connections. We have a researcher who wants to stock a new fishery over the objections of politicians whose constituents would take a minor loss as the breeding stock went uncaught. Will the little girl’s plea sway the hearts of the short-sighted politicians?

We pause for injection of insulin.

Really not my thing but a decent enough example of the tear-jerker problem story. Reminds me a little of the tale about the old man who petitions the weather bureau for one last snowfall.

[Which was of course Theodore Thomas’ The Weatherman”]

The Whirligig of Time” (Vernor Vinge)

Long after the US loses WWIII, the top several layers of the corrupt aristocracy ruling Earth encounter the last active artifact of the USA. Note for readers: do not poke nuclear weapons with a stick.

Not Hugo material but it’s short. Falls into the reform through massive detonation’ school of political thought.

Schwartz Between the Galaxies” (Robert Silverberg)

Schwartz is an anthropologist in the mid-2100s who makes his living making speeches about the loss of cultural diversity on Earth. Although surrounded by technological miracles, he is bored to tears and fills his time with fantasies about a future with intergalactic travel where he can hob nob with aliens.

Didn’t really work for me. Don’t know why, because I generally liked middle period Silverberg and I really like Yarbro’s Ariosto , which also contrasts internal fantasy with external reality.

Mr. Hamadryad” (R.A. Lafferty)

A man who travels in coconuts witnesses the end of the age of monkeys and the beginning of the age of cats. Not your pampered, neutered cats either. Bad time to be small and crunchy.

R.A. Lafferty was unique. For some reason, he didn’t seem to get anthologized much with other authors before Alzheimer’s took him and not at all these days.

[When I claim he didn’t seem to get anthologized much”, I am hopelessly

incorrect but that’s what I wrote and I am limiting changes to minor 

spelling corrections]

[Added in 2020] In the original version of the note-above, I misspelled spelling”.

Singularities Make Me Nervous” (Larry Niven)

A starship pilot uses a black hole located handily near Sol to travel in time. Although worried that he is merely participating in a causal loop which denies free will, he discovers that history does not repeat itself.

Eh. Typical Niven short fiction from the 1970s. Competent enough and quick moving.

The Logical Life” (Hal Clement) 

Laird Cunningham, explorer of worlds, set out with yet another native guide to discover the source of the chemicals which form the basis for the ecology of a sunless Earth-sized world deep in interstellar space.

I really like the Cunningham tales. Laird always figures out the scientific trick to each new setting, although he often has to knocked over by the solution to notice it. The aliens tend to be incredibly reasonable chaps once one discovers what to trade them. One of the things I like about the stories is that a lot of the worlds visited are not mere clones of Earth, something of a rarity in SF.

Twig” (Gordon R. Dickson)

A young girl who was raised by the plant-based intelligence running the forest ecology of a human colony world must grow into a new role as the replacement for the intelligence as she loses the adult figures around her.

If this were a Laumer, she’d have become the centerpiece for the world mind with Awesome Mind Powers but this is a Dickson and things are not so easy. Like many of the other stories, competent without being astounding.

Over all, a decent enough anthology. Nothing really earth-shattering but all readable, with the possible exception of Fusion”.