When I was first reading SF in the ’60s and ’70s I used to like reading collections of short stories. It helped me discover new authors, and sometimes I’d find some one like Robert Sheckley, Robert Silverberg, or Philip K. Dick where I could read whole collections of their stories. I devoured collections by Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. Sometimes I’d pick up a collection of someone I never heard of and would be pleasantly surprised.
This came to mind because I’m currently reading Brave New Worlds, a collection of dystopian stories. I’m enjoying it (as much as one can “enjoy” such dark stories) but it’s not the same. It’s a trade paperback of over 500 pages with tiny margins. The goal seems to have been to cram in as much material as humanly possible.
Asimov’s Nine Tomorrows or Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles were normal size paperbacks. Even the hardcovers I got from the library didn’t make me feel like I had signed up for a weightlifting program.
I know, I know. I could download this to one electronic tablet or another with ease. I’m glad for those who enjoy reading that way. Call me old-fashioned, but I like the feel of a book in my hands, and I’m disappointed that today’s marketplace makes the anthologies and collections of my youth a thing of the past, particularly the latter. When you read a collection of short stories by the same author, it’s like walking through his or her brain and experiencing a series of waking dreams.
Much as I respect those who put together definitive collections of “all” or the “best” of a particular author in one or more heavy volumes — I even own a few — I miss those mass market paperbacks. I think we’ve lost something in the process.