Publisher: British Library
Publication Date: 06/08/2020
Born of the Sun is one a number of anthologies published by british Library which gather together older stories gathered around a common theme. Their botanical horror one, Evil Roots, was the first to catch my attention, and I also enjoyed their collection of William Hope Hodgson shorts. This, however, is the first purely SF collection of theirs that I have read. I doubt it will be the last. The stories herin all date from around the forties and fifties, the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction. That’s a name I largely agree with, as for all the faults of the era (and there are many) it was during this period that SF really took off as a genre.
The theme binding together these stories is that each one takes place on a different planet within our solar system. There isn’t one for earth, but this is balanced by the hypothetical planet Vulcan having representation. There’s also time to visit the asteroid belt and the odd moon. As you can expect from short fiction of this period, the science is wrong in almost every regard. Annoyingly, little was known about our celestial neighbours at the time of writing. Even now, we don’t know everything, as recent news regarding Venus proves. But each of the stories is fairly rigorous in keeping to science as it was understood at the time. Though there are aliens and breathable atmoshpheres in abundance, the anthology still skews towards the harder end of the SF spectrum.
There’s a good mix of names to be found here. Robert Silverberg is the only one I had read beforehand, and that only in his collaboration with Asimov. Even so, I had heard of Larry Niven and Poul Anderson, the former of which I’ll definitely be looking further into on the strength of his story here. But it’s not all heavy hitters, and there were just as many names who were wholly new to me. Leslie F. Stone and John Ashcroft are two I had never come across before, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for both as I search out new stories to read. Or indeed old stories, as the case may be.
Not every story is a winner. Clifford D. Simak and Poul Anderson both have styles of writing that I bounced right off. Some of the stories have aged worse than others, and the prose is the biggest sign of that. But Leslie F. Stone’s Vulcan-based tale is proof that the Golden Age still has secret joys to share with those willing to wade through the murky waters. The small biographies of each author is a real help in knowing where to look next, and Ashley’s introduction to the scientific and fictional history of each of the worlds depicted in these stories are fascinating and full of ideas for other authors to follow up on.
Overall, I am very impressed with this offering from British Library. I may not have enjoyed every story, but I enjoyed enough that I’ll certainly be looking at the rest of their range.
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