Carol Pohl and Frederik Pohl’s 1976 Science Fiction Discoveries is the fourth and final anthology the Pohls edited together1; their editorial collaboration did not survive their 1977 separation and 1983 divorce. It is an anthology of original science fiction. Rather like Orbit, you say? In a way, except there was just the one Science Fiction Discovery anthology.
That uncredited cover just screams 1970s Pocket Books. Science Fiction Discoveries was published as part of the Frederik Pohl Selection series2.
I own this book because I own Jupiter. Once I discovered authors or editors (alone or in combination) whose works I liked, I was very methodical about collecting more works by them3. The only reason I don’t own The Great Years Volume 2 is because I never saw a copy.
Science Fiction Discovery was not the award magnet Orbits could be; it garnered a single Locus nomination. However, all but one of the stories included were reprinted at least once. My reaction? I was rather unenthusiastic about this anthology. To be fair, I should note that I remembered most of the titles in the table of contents despite having not looked at the work in two generations. If one had to sum it up, “Disco era dreary” would not miss the mark.
The collection did not live up to the expectations set by Jupiter, in large part because the Pohls began their anthology with the Martin novelette. Too many rapes. The story was off-putting enough that almost half a century later, I remembered it as “ugh.”
Balancing that is the introduction, which details the process by which the Pohls created this anthology. There is something fascinating about watching sausage get made. In this case, Carol Pohl did the first sift, after which she and her husband debated which of the works Carol liked would be included in the final draft. Their tastes were not entirely congruent, but there was enough overlap that they could fill out this volume.
Science Fiction Discoveries is out of print but 1970s print runs being what they were, copies are no doubt easy enough to find.
Introduction (A Dialogue) • essay by Carol Pohl and Frederik Pohl
The Pohls discuss their process.
Starlady • [Thousand Worlds] • novelette by George R. R. Martin
A naïve star-farer trusts the wrong people on backwater Thisrock. She and her astonishingly good-looking companion are robbed, raped, and abandoned. The off-worlder is immediately pimped out as “Starlady,” a fate to which she submits because she has no choice. When it becomes clear that her pimp cannot protect her and her companion from a local predator, Starlady takes matters into her own hands.
“The Never-Ending Western Movie” • short story by Robert Sheckley
Why settle for mere movie magic when one can send actors to the actual Wild West? One actor discovers he no longer enjoys life-and-death struggles staged for entertainment. However, merely refusing to take part may not allow him to escape.
This would have been better without the twist ending.
“The Age of Libra” • short story by Scott Edelstein
Convinced that life offers nothing of worth, a twenty-year-old accepts overpopulated America’s offer of a luxurious euthanasia.
This is the only story in the anthology that was never collected elsewhere.
“To Mark the Year on Azlaroc” • [Azlaroc] • short story by Fred Saberhagen
The peculiar nature of time on Azlaroc precludes escape from past errors … but at least one can hope for absolution.
Saberhagen expanded this short work into the 1978 novel, The Veils of Azlaroc. I don’t think I read the novel, although the cover looks familiar.
An Occurrence at the Owl Creek Rest Home • novelette by Arthur Jean Cox
An elderly man’s reward for hard-work and familial loyalty has been to have his coffers drained, his company stolen, and his declining body consigned to an old age home by his ungrateful, grasping relatives. Chance in the form of a covert, no doubt highly illegal medical experiment hands him a second chance. He does not squander it.
The protagonist’s kinfolk are relentlessly terrible but pitifully petty villains.
“The Force That Through the Circuit Drives the Current” • short story by Roger Zelazny
Scientists use a cunning method to use benthic lifeforms as deep sea avatars, a technique the scientists would do well to realize could be used by entities curious about Earth.
“Deathrights Deferred” • short story by Doris Piserchia
Cunning prostheses prove too cunning. Death itself will not prevent the enhanced from relentless animation.
Error Hurled • novel by Babette Rosmond
A rich, handsome idiot is a Rorschach blot on which those around him project the wisdom they are sure he possesses. The whole sad affair is watched over by the world’s creator, himself not the sharpest pencil in the divine box.
Yes, that says “novel,” not “novella” or “novelette.” Error Hurled just goes on and on and on. The biographical note falls well short of a full recounting of Rosmond’s lengthy career.
1: The other anthologies edited by the Pohls: Jupiter (reviewed here), Science Fiction: The Great Years (1973) and Science Fiction: The Great Years, Volume II(1976). I have not reviewed the last two, although I both own and know the location of a copy of Science Fiction: The Great Years.
2: The Frederik Pohl Selection series:
Commune 2000 A.D. by Mack
Star Rider by Doris Piserchia
Hiero’s Journey by Sterling E. Lanier
Web of Everywhere by John Brunner
Dhalgren by Samuel R.
The Female Man by Joanna Russ
The Towers of Utopia by Mack Reynolds
Tetrasomy Two by Oscar Rossiter
Triton by Samuel R. Delany
Science Fiction Discoveries edited by Carol Pohl and Frederik Pohl
A Billion Days of Earth by Doris Piserchia
It would not be hard to track them all down to reread and review them. I do own most of them and I’ve already reread and reviewed Star Rider, Hiero’s Journey, Triton, A Billion Days of Earth and now Science Fiction Discoveries. I won’t commit to a full slate, because I absolutely do not want to reread Mack Reynolds’ two contributions to the series, Commune 2000 A.D. (1974), and The Towers of Utopia (1975). At least, not on my own dime. I cannot imagine anyone else wanting to revisit these volumes; earlier readers must have long since repented.
3: My urge to collect books I might like is why I also have copies of Star Science Fiction Stories, volumes 1 through 6.