Best SF Stories of The Year #1 – Lester Del Rey (Ed) (1972)
A round-up of some of the best writing from the movers and shakers in the genre as of 1971.
James Tiptree Jr is featured, before she came out to the world (or at least the SF world) as Alice Sheldon. Interestingly, there are two stories which deal with environmental issues. There three tales of pilots being forced to man ships, two dealing with the Catholic Church and two dealing with lovers being separated by time, space or other factors.
The Sliced-Crosswise Only-On-Tuesday World – Philip Jose Farmer (New Dimensions 1, 1971)
Interesting idea of a world where the huge population share the planet by a seventh of them having one day each, while the rest remain in stasis in transparent tanks, but what happens when one is living on Tuesdays and falls in love with someone from the Wednesday world?
Good News From The Vatican – Robert Silverberg (Universe 1, 1971)
This story, of the first robot Pope, has subsequently won awards and been reprinted countless times.
I’ll Be Waiting For You When The Swimming Pool is Empty – James Tiptree Jr (Protostars, 1971)
A light-hearted tale by Tiptree.
A young man visits a primitive planet and brings them the gift of western-style democracy. One wonders whether there isn’t a tinge of savage irony at the heart of this story. One also wonders what the relevance of the title is.
The Power of The Sentence – David M Locke (F&SF, April 1971)
A cleverly structured tale in which a lecture on grammar becomes a battle fought in words between extra-dimensional entities.
The Wicked Flee – Harry Harrison (New Dimensions 1, 1971)
Harrison seldom disappoints and here provides a beautifully atmospheric piece in which a renegade from a Catholic dictatorship of the future escapes into the past, pursued by an agent of the Church.
An interesting take on alternate pasts and presents.
When You Hear The Tone – Thomas N Scortia (Galaxy, 1971)
A poetic love story about a man who gets to know a woman through some form of time communication. Although he remains in his time frame he manages to call a woman through various periods of her life until he is brought up to date, and they can meet.
Not as schmaltzy as one would imagine.
Occam’s Scalpel – Theodore Sturgeon (If, Aug 1971)
A kind of double bluff from Sturgeon in which an employee of a multinational is worried by the new boss, now that the old dictator has died. He arranges for the new boss to examine the dead man’s body, and to see that it is not human, but what is really going on, and who is fooling whom?
Hot Potato – Burt K Filer (The Many Worlds of Science Fiction, 1971)
One of those quasi-humourous wise-cracking fast-paced pieces in which the opposing sides in a nuclear conflict learn how to store their arsenal in hyperspace.
The Human Operators – Ellison/Van Vogt (F&SF, Jan 1971)
This tells of a group of rogue ships which have enslaved individual humans within them to take care of them and perform maintenance duties. It is quite a melancholy tale, and tinged with a certain claustrophobia, since there is no way of knowing (in common with the human slaves) what human society is like outside of this system.
Ultimately though, there is an odd yet beautifully poetic ending.
Autumntime – A Lentini (Galaxy, Nov 1971)
An environmental tone-piece about a trip to see a tree, which, in the future, is a rare sight.
A Little Knowledge – Poul Anderson (Analog, Aug 1971)
Aggressive humans underestimate a quiet and obsequious alien whom they kidnap as a pilot for a ship which they plan to use for unimportant nefarious purposes.
One of those ‘twist in the tail’ pieces. Best SF of the year? Probably not.
To Make a New Neanderthal – W Macfarlane (Analog, Sep 1971)
Turning environmentalism on his head, Macfarlane posits a situation where pollution has helped to increase Humanity’s intelligence.
The Man Underneath – RA Lafferty – (If, Jan 1971)
Lafferty here plays with words and text as easily as he plays with our imaginations. A tale, oddly reminiscent of ‘The Prestige’, in which a magician is haunted by an echo of himself.
Ornithanthropus – B Alan Burhoe (If, Nov 1971)
Nicely detailed view of a world where humans have been adapted to meet the conditions, rather than the other way around.
Rammer – Larry Niven (Galaxy, Nov 1971)
One of Niven’s corpsicle tales, in which a revived cryogenically frozen body is awakened, but only to be trained to pilot a seeder ship, travelling round the galaxy dropping biological packages on dead worlds in order to kick-start them into a biosphere.