I was at a library sale this morning, checking out the old books. I found some nice stuff, but I happened upon a volume that stopped me in my tracks. It was a book club edition of the Isaac Asimov anthology, Before the Golden Age. I felt a surge of emotion very similar to one I had about thirty five years ago.

At age fourteen, I already had the SF bug. I had read some Heinlein books, some Asimov, some Clarke. You know, The Big Three. I was hooked and hungry for more. My brother and I went in together and joined The Science Fiction Book Club. He made a couple of choices and I made a couple. I can't remember what Rick chose, but I picked Clifford D. Simak's Enchanted Pilgrimage, and...Before the Golden Age.

I also can't remember how long it took for the insanely anticipated package to arrive, but I distinctly remember coming home from school one day. My brother was home already and he cracked his closet door and had Before the Golden Age in sight before me.

I felt a surge of excitement not unlike an electrical current passing through my body. I ran into his room and collected my books. And I wasted no time in beginning Before the Golden Age.

I think age fourteen is the perfect time to read these short stories. I later became enamoured of science fiction from The Golden Age, which is generally considered to have been from approximately 1940 to 1950. Much of the writing of The Golden Age was far more sophisticated than that which came before it, but those old stories have so much charm. I'm talking Gosh!, Wow! sense of wonder. Rockets, time machines and universes existing in a mote of dust. The future was right around the corner and it certainly was bright.

The copy I bought today is in damned nice shape. The dust jacket is complete and without tears and the pages are all clean. What a steal for a dollar and who cares if it's a book club edition?

The names of the writers in Before the Golden Age bring vivid memories, too. Many are remembered today (or at least they should be): Edmond Hamilton. Murray Leinster. Jack Williamson. Stanley G. Weinbaum. John W. Campbell, Jr. Others are sadly forgotten by all by the most ardent science fiction enthusiasts.

And the story titles themselves! What wonderful emotions they evoke. The Parasite Planet. The Brain Stealers of Mars. Tetrahedra of Space. Sidewise in Time. Submicroscopic. The Accursed Galaxy. The World of the Red Sun.

Then there are Asimov's essays that chronicle his own life as well as the evolution of the genre. If anything, his autobiographical writing is even more entertaining than his fiction. Asimov's passionate love of science fiction was a big part of what made me a fan.

I wonder how well these stories will hold up thirty five years later? Possibly to one that hadn't read them in impressionable youth, not so well. For me, I think, they'll be miraculous. With any luck they'll help inspire me to have more optimism in my life. To maybe get rid of some of this cynicism and depression that have clouded my life in the wake of the loss of my family.

While I was there I picked up some other wonderful relics from my past. I got a huge pile of Tarzan books. Ballantine Books editions from the early 60's, all with $.50 cover prices. They all appear to be unread. I loved these things when I was a kid. I also got a nice, mint Pyramid paperback of Ellison's Spider Kiss, and a library edition hardcover of Charles Grant's Shadows 4. Paperbacks of Philip Jose Farmer's Stations of the Nightmare and Frank Belknap Long's Monster from out of Time.

There's a lot of great stuff coming out now, but I feel like hiding out in the past for a while.

No comments

The author does not allow comments to this entry