The best collection to date of religious-themed science fiction is sadly out of print — as you can tell from the condition of my copy, pictured above. It includes an often-collected Clarke story, along with rarer jewels from the Golden Age (C.L. Moore’s husband, along with the author of the “Meg the Priestess” stories), author/editors Damon Knight and Lester del Rey, and others. The average story quality is very high — plus, they represent a good cross-section of pretty interesting views of religion. (The two don’t necessarily go hand in hand — even some awful stories have introduced some pretty good ideas.) Here’s the ToC:
- Nelson Bond – The Cunning of the Beast
- Henry Kuttner – A Cross of Centuries
- Lee Sutton – Soul Mate
- “Winston P. Sanders” – The Word to Space
- Philip Jose Farmer – Prometheus
- Arthur C. Clarke – The Nine Billion Names of God
- John Brunner – The Vitanuls, and Judas
- Anthony Boucher – The Quest for Saint Aquin, and Balaam
- Lester del Rey – Evensong
- Damon Knight – Shall the Dust Praise Thee?
- Ray Bradbury – Christus Apollo
It also led to the most embarrassing mistake (so far) in my own book. I made an off-hand mention of “The Word to Space.” I wanted to focus on influential authors, and hadn’t heard of Winston P. Sanders, but it was such a good story. What I didn’t realize (and thus neglected to mention) is that “Winston P. Sanders” was a pseudonym used occasionally by Poul (William!) Anderson. I’m not a huge fan of Anderson … but based on “Sanders,” I think I better give him another try.
It could have been worse. I could have cited “Anson MacDonald.”