Book Stats

  • Volume 10 in the series
  • Contains 16 stories
  • Published by DAW in 1983
  • Various Genres
  • 287 pages


The year is 1948. The world is in recovery from the horrors of the Second World War, but the fear of conflict still looms. And no shadow is greater than that of atomic conflict . . .


Contrary to what you might think, I didn’t buy this book because it has Asimov’s name on the cover. I certainly picked it off the shelf for that reason, and I suspect that was the intention in having Asimov’s name take up so much of the cover. But what actually prompted me to buy the book was one of the contributors. It might not be part of his Future History, but H. Beam Piper has a story in this collection. That’s a name guaranteed to catch my attention. As it happens, there are a fair few familiar names in this anthology. It turns out that 1948 was quite a good year for science fiction.

I’ll start by talking about the Piper, because it’s a very fun story. ‘He Walked Around the Horses’ takes the real-life disappearance of a British diplomat and uses it to spin a tale of alternate histories. Being a fan of unexplained mysteries, Benjamin Bathurst’s mysterious 1809 disappearance was familiar to me. This story, however, was all new. It posits that Bathurst stepped from our timeline into one where history had taken a very different path, as chronicled in a series of letters as Bathurst’s arrival in that timeline draws the attention of increasingly important persons. Honestly, the collection is worth reading for this story alone.

Other familiar names included A.E. van Vogt and Henry Kuttner, though neither are at their best in the stories selected here. Van Vogt even gets two stories in the collection, so is clearly regarded more highly by the editors than by me. I found Ray Bradbury’s ‘Mars is Heaven!’ much more reliable, if not outstanding, while Murray Leinster impressed me greatly with ‘The Strange Case of John Kingman’ which was far superior to anything I found in the Leinster collection Sidewise in Time.

Onto the new authors, there were two standouts for me. ‘Late Night Final’ by Eric Frank Russell made me glad I had picked up his novel Wasp on the same day as this anthology, and I was greatly amused to see a single line be ‘The Price of Empire’ given that this is a phrase I have always thought would be a good title for a book. The other story of note was Martin Gardner’s ‘Thang’ which balances cosmic horror and humour very deftly, and at a couple of pages in length did not outstay its welcome.

As always with anthologies, one of the joys of this book is seeing the editors’ introduction to each story. With two editors, we get two introduction. Greenberg provides a little biography of each author, and perhaps some historical context, while Asimov gives a more personal anecdote about meeting the author, or some random musing about the story in question. Put together, they give the reader just enough to whet the appetite before the main course that is the story itself.

One thing that did strike me was how much you could discern about the year 1948 simply by reading the stories. The introductions were written 25 years after the fiction, and I am reading the book a further 50 years on from there. A pleasingly round coincidence, I’m sure you’ll agree. Even without the introductions, one element stands out, and that is the prevalence of atomic worry. Multiple stories here share concerns about the use of nuclear weaponry, most notably the tragic ‘Only a Mother’ by Judith Merrill, which predicts the long-term side effects of atomic usage with some accuracy. The Golden Age of SF was marked by world-changing innovations, but some are looked at more pessimistically than others.

Overall, this anthology is more hit than miss. I don’t agree that all of these stories are classics, but there’s enough in here to leave me eager to read more of Asimov’ and Greenberg’s anthologies.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Deeper Dive: Where Does My Asimov Collection Stop?

I did not buy this book because of Asimov, but because it has his name on it, it goes in my Asimov collection. This is the only true SF collection in my library, as I’ll buy more than just Asimov’s novels. I reckon I now have all of the novels, and all of his SF anthologies (I really must make a list of his short fiction to see what I am missing). Beyond that, I have his crime fiction, and the science fiction of other authors who worked in his universes. I now have some of the work he only edited. The oddest part of this library is the Star Traders board game that bears his name. It’s actually a very fun game, but I paid a lot of money for it because of the Asimov connection. I fully intend to round of his fiction, and will likely grab any autobiographies or poetry collections that i see with his name on the cover.

Where I draw the line is in his nonfiction. Asimov produced a lot of science writing, but he did so more than thirty years ago. While I’ll happily read dated science fiction, I don’t see much reason to read acts that have now been disproven. I’m sure there are some wry observations and wit in there, but my shelves and my reading time only go so far.

4 responses to “BOOK REVIEW: The Great SF Stories: 1948, edited by Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg”

  1. Judge Crater Avatar
    Judge Crater

    There’s a whole collection of similarly themed Piper stories called “Paratime”. I am a big Piper fan, but this particular series of his is my least favorite, so although I own the book, I am not that familiar with it. I absolutely love the “Terro-Human Future History” series. Thanks for the interesting post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alex Hormann Avatar

      Terro-Human Future History is the white whale of my SF library. Wasn’t that keen on Uller Uprising, but Space Viking is one of my all-time favourite novels. I was recently able to find a copy of ‘Federation’ in the wild, so I’m looking forward to that one. It really is quite hard to go wrong with Piper.


  2. MONTHLY ROUNDUP: April 2023 – At Boundary's Edge Avatar

    […] Book: The Great SF Stories: Volume 10: 1948, edited by Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg […]


  3. Tom Crossley Avatar

    Asimov let’s go!


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