The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories Summary

Tom Shippey

The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Anthologists are critics—perhaps the most influential of their tribe. The trick is to get one’s selection noticed, in circulation. That can be a daunting task, especially today, when anthologies proliferate as never before. You’re putting together a collection of stories by left-handed Lithuanians? Better hurry—someone might beat you to the punch.

Science fiction in particular has long been a favorite hunting-ground for anthologists. To this crowded field Tom Shippey has made a distinguished addition with THE OXFORD BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION STORIES. Taken simply as a collection of stories, this anthology amply justifies its existence. Every fan will have quibbles and questions (why, for example, no Philip K. Dick, on whom Shippey has written perceptively elsewhere?), but with stories as rich and varied as A.E. van Vogt’s “The Monster” (1948), Frederik Pohl’s “The Tunnel Under the World” (1955), and Ursula K. LeGuin’s “Semley’s Necklace” (1964) to choose from, there can be little serious carping.

At the same time, this anthology is more than a collection of good stories: It’s a history of the science fiction story, an act of critical intelligence in the tradition of Ezra Pound’s ABC OF READING. For readers who are interested in science fiction as a genre, and its relation to other forms of literature, Shippey has provided a provocative introductory essay outlining the view of science fiction that is implicit in his selection. The result is a book—handsomely produced as well—that should appeal equally to the already converted and to those who are just discovering science fiction.