Monday, 20 August 2012

The Outer Reaches

August Derleth (editor) The Outer Reaches (1951)
It feels like an age since I picked up one of these satisfaction-pretty-much-guaranteed vintage collections, possibly because whilst it seems like every other English charity shop has a box of these things stashed away somewhere, their like has proven more elusive here in the States. Therefore I'm re-reading The Outer Reaches, presented to me along with Derleth's Beachheads in Space some years ago by Glenn Wallis who told me here, you might be able to get some ideas from these; these collections represented the inaugural dip of my symbolic toe into the golden age bath tub, the first stories I read out of sheer curiosity without prior knowledge of their authors, my first voyage out beyond the orbit of Philip K. Dick to the older worlds of Astounding Science-Fiction, Amazing Stories, and so on. August Derleth had been chums with H.P. Lovecraft, I reasoned, so that seemed like a recommendation.

The stories collected in The Outer Reaches represent the personal favourite of each author from amongst his own body of work, at least as of 1951. Whilst, in this respect, there's a couple of slightly puzzling submissions - notably Leon Sprague de Camp's Git Along!, an oddly disappointing effort from a generally solid author; and David H. Keller's Service First which had me wondering whether his might be another of John Wyndham's myriad pseudonames, it being so close in tone to the dreaded Pawley's Peepholes; but, these aside, it's a predictably satisfying collection with cracking stuff from Poul Anderson, Nelson Bond, Ray Bradbury and others. With the past being something of a foreign country, the appeal of short stories of this form must surely increase as years go by, and so I'm inclined to dispute the general accusation of it being less than great literature. This was shamelessly populist science-fiction written without anything like the number of unspoken literary rules of today: stupid, wacky, and mostly wonderful.

Considering how much of this stuff I've read since Glenn first sent this book my way, it's probably fair to say that The Outer Reaches did indeed give me some ideas.

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