Need Asimov expert!

Trying to remember an Asimov short story. It centered on a dying man, I think in california, who wanted to see snow one last time before he died. A spaceship went to the sun, it had a special heat shield, and could dive into the interior of the sun changing the way the sun’s contents circulated or operated. After diving into the interior of the sun and almost becoming destroyed, space ship crew accomplished its task, and was able to change the output of the sun’s radiation which changed the weather on the earth. And the old dying man in california, I think, got his wish and saw snow before he died. Does any of that sound familiar to anyone?

Probably not Asimov, but most likely in one of the anthologies he collected. The weather bureau had to be hacked to allow snow…

Let me look.

Got it.
Theodore L Thomas’ “The Weather Man”

Found in

[del]collected[/del] lent his name to.

Marty Greenberg and his crew did all the work. Asimov wrote an introduction and put his name on it for bigger sales. A happy arrangement all around.

Amazingly rapid response! Now I have to go to the library! Many thanks, Dr F!

I think Asimov had some input into which stories were selected - Marty did all the hard work of arranging for rights, etc., though. The “big-name” factor was certainly important, though - Pohl tells the story of when a publisher brought out “The Early Pohl” and “The Early Asimov” collections - Pohl got full royalties from “The Early Pohl” because they were all his stories, after all, but he also got a small percentage of “The Early Asimov” royalties, because Pohl co-wrote two of Asimov’s early stories. Poor Pohl consistently got more money from the small percentage of the “Early Asimov” royalties than he did from all of the “Early Pohl” royalties

According to Charles Waugh, a frequent co-editor, the process was:

  1. Greenberg would pitch an idea to an editor.
  2. If accepted, he would bring in Waugh, who had a database (on 3 x 5 cards) of stories categorized by theme. Waugh would put together a list of possible stories.
  3. The list was sent to Asimov, who chose which stories would go into the anthology.
  4. Greenberg would contact the authors about the rights. If he had problems, he’d ask Asimov for additional choices from Waugh’s list (or Waugh would dig deeper into his index cards).

So Asimov was clearly more than just a figurehead, thoug Greenberg did most of the work.

My understanding is that Asimov did occasionally push for oddball, non-famous stories that he liked/remembered–and those non-famous, forgotten gems really improve the books tremendously.

He also fairly informative “the history of the year in science fiction” introductions for each book and wrote spoiler-filled introductions to each story, and as his health declined in the later ones, he slipped into increasingly weird and sometimes strident rants to both sets of introductions.
It’s still the best year-by-year anthology series ever done, IMO. Far better than Wollheim’s and/or Dozios’s. Blier & Ditkey’s (I’m misspelling everyone’s names!) did a kind of short series (maybe 8 years) in the late 40s/early 50s that was fantastic.

Fenris, it appears that you’re only talking about one series among the many anthologies that Asimov put his name on. You say that he wrote “history of the year in science fiction” introductions. This could only apply to The Great SF Stories anthologies, which were the only ones where each volume was confined to a single year. But of course Asimov’s name appeared on a hundred or so anthologies, and The Great SF Stories were only twenty-five of them. On this webpage are a list of all the anthologies his name appeared on.

Incidentally, here are all the places that the story “The Weather Man” appears:

It’s likely that the easiest place to find the story if someone wants to read it is in the anthology The Ascent of Wonder. In my experience, The Great SF Stories anthologies are not easy to find. I’ve been trying for some time to find them all, but I still haven’t found volumes 20 and 24 at a reasonable price. Note that volume 24 is the one that contains the story “The Weather Man”.

I’ve read differing versions of Asimov’s role over the years and it’s possible, even likely, that he did more or less work depending on the nature of the anthology and his personal interest in it. The Great SF Stories series was among the first anthologies he worked on with Greenberg and I can see him arguing the subject. Probably a lot less so by the time he got to things like Senior Sleuths: A Large Print Anthology of Mysteries and Puzzlers.

I feel he legitimately produced an astounding number of very high quality books all by himself. That he felt he had to pad his numbers with 100 books that other people did all the heavy lifting for is unfortunate. That he left the impression that these were his work rather than the work of Greenberg and his team is madly misleading. It’s a small correction in light of his overall incredible career but it bugs me.

I have a totally unusual, maybe unique, introduction to the genre. My library had very little in the way of sf novels in the early 60s. I did read some of the YA stuff, but I never thought of them as a big deal. YA writers in other genres were much more appealing to me and I thought were of much higher quality.

The one thing the library had was a freestanding, four-sided rack of short stories and anthologies. And one side (or maybe half a side) was devoted to sf best-of-the-year anthologies. I read them all. And that hooked me on the field. I didn’t get there by reading Doc Smith. I read Tom Swift but the hardy Boys were better. I didn’t watch any of the 50s sf movies. I got into the field by reading the cream of the crop of short stories, from a time when short stories *were *the field. That scars a kid’s brain for life.

Anyway, to give credit and proper spelling where it’s due, they included:

Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. (Ted) Ditky’s The Best Science Fiction Stories 1949-1954. (They also did half a dozen other anthologies).

Judith Merill’s SF: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy (and other variant titles) 1956-1968. These were probably my favorites. She included both contemporary sf from the magazines and sf and sf-like stories from mainstream publications. Her anthologies were by far the most literary.

John W. Campbell did an irregular series of anthologies from *Astounding *in the 50s and then started one from *Analog *in 1963.

The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction 1952 on, first by Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas, then by Boucher alone, then Robert P. Mills, then Avram Davidson, then Edward L. Ferman.

H. L. Gold did six Galaxy Readers from 1952 to 1962.

Donald A. Wollheim with Terry Carr, both working for Ace at the time, started their World’s Best Science Fiction series in 1965, but those were paperback and paperbacks were not considered library fare.

The Nebula Awards series started in 1965, each edited by a different Big Name.

There were other one-shots and attempts at series but those were probably the major ones I would have seen during high school. By the end of that time I was regularly buying paperbacks and magazines that the library wouldn’t carry.

Gardner Dozois started his The Year’s Best Science Fiction Series in 1984. By that time SF was a major publishing category and there have been bajillions of year’s best anthologies since.

I recently read one of those, and discovered that it was apparently one of the books that I used to read at my local library on the way home from 7th grade - the library was between the school, and home, and thus a convenient place to stop and read for a while (at least once, “for a while” meant, “until my father found me there, still reading, completely oblivious to the time”). Great stories…

FWIW I found a couple of references in Asimov’s autobiography In Joy Still Felt describing his role in early anthologies he worked on:

Heh…which is why they’re probably my least favorite. I don’t hate them or anything, but I tend to not like “literary” sf all that much. I like some of her oddball choices though.

But only Dozois and Hartwell* have been in it for the long haul. Dozois is up to either #29 or #30 and Hartwell is up to like #17. And while there’s some overlap between the two, Hartwell likes space-opera-ish SF more than Dozois and Dozois likes the literary stuff a bit more than Hartwell, so there’s not as much overlap as you’d think.

Also, Groff Conklin is pretty much forgotten nowdays by modern readers, but I really like his anthologies. I know he ground out a ton of them later on, but his earlier huge-sized ones seemed to be themed on “Stuff I, Groff Conklin, personally like. Deal with it.” and he and I have similar tastes apparently. :slight_smile:

*I knew there was one other! :slight_smile:

Anthologies just don’t sell well. And you don’t need too many bests of the year, because either they repeat too much or get too idiosyncratic.

Of course there’s more to the field than “science fiction.”

Rich Horton - who literally reads everything - has been in the game since 2006. He did separate bests for science fiction and fantasy (and space opera in 2007) then couldn’t sell them for 2009 and so combined them into a f&sf anthology. And Paula Guran has done a Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror for three years.

There were many long term series. Ellen Datlow did 21 of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror with various co-editors before it died. The Year’s Best Horror Stories went for 22 years. The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories lasted 14 years. Hartwell and Cramer - they’re married so they need co-crediting - have also done a *Year’s Best Fantasy *for 9 years.

With only a tiny few major magazines left, the good editors are the ones who somehow get their hands on all the dozens or hundreds of small press, internet only, mainstream, little magazine, one-shot, chapbook, original collection, or carved onto bark and scattered across Pinterest venues that stories appear in. It’s a thankless task, considering the wheat to chaff ratio.

Absolutely true.

Hell, the most recent new discovery for me that really, really blew me away was Tim Pratt (with Impossible Dreams) and that was about 2007 or so.

Used to be that I’d “discover” a new author who’s stuff I loved once or twice a year. Now, I’m lucky if it’s once every four or five years.

I’d read (and I don’t know how true this is) that Roger Elwood had a role in the declining sales of anthologies. Allegedly (the story goes), anthologies used to sell very well, but for about a decade, from the early '70s to the early '80s, Elwood ground out a zillion schlock anthologies where he’d just cram stuff from the slushpile that vaguely fit his theme. He lasted long enough and produced so much that an entire generation of SF fans learned not to buy anthologies. I doubt it’s that simple, but from the Elwood anthologies I’ve seen, there could easily be a grain of truth in it.

BTW: Thanks for the heads up for Rich Horton’s anthologies. I just bought a few from Amazon.

Yeah, that used to get said a lot, back when people recognized Elwood’s name. I have no idea how much credence to put into it. It’s true that Elwood overwhelmed the anthology market for a while - 42 anthologies in 3 years! (1973-1975) And it’s true that people who get turned off by crappy products will apply that dislike across the board. SF as a field is a prime example. OTOH, he flourished for just those three years, not for over a decade. (He did 20 others before and after, but those were spread over 12 years, the last in 1978. The first sf books I ever bought were his second anthology, Invasion of the Robots, 1965, and a book bought just for the title, Ellison Wonderland.) Would three years be enough to kill a market without his name in it? Maybe, but generations of readers are very short. True fans are in it for a lifetime, but nobody can depend on true fans for a majority of sales.

And the next question that needs to be asked is: how does anyone know this fact? Nobody in publishing does market surveys. Nobody ever asked me whether I did or didn’t buy anthologies and for what reasons, and I’m sure nobody ever asked you either. People “know” things in publishing a lot, but nobody’s ever told me how they know what they think they know.

Rich Horton has good taste, but he’s also fair about his likes and dislikes and can use his judgment to say that work is good even if it’s not his style. Much more than I can, to be sure. :stuck_out_tongue:

Roger Elwood probably wasn’t the cause of the gradual decline in the number of anthologies. He contracted for too many anthologies in 1972, 1973, 1974, and 1975. He also edited anthologies in 1964 through 1971 and in 1976 through 1978, but those years were at a sustainable pace:

There was simply no way to obtain enough good stories in the years 1972 through 1975 to fill all the anthologies he was editing in addition to all the other magazines and anthologies that existed then. Soon readers figured out the average quality of stories in his anthologies wasn’t very good, and writers figured out that it would be better to submit their work first to other outlets. Publishers then quit giving Elwood contracts for anthologies. By 1980 the science fiction market had recovered from the effects of Elwood.

I remember that story! The dying man was instrumental in inventing weather control in the first place, IIRC, so his Weather Congressman (no lobbying, please, or you’ll be escorted from the premises) was willing to indulge him. Not a bad story.

I’m going to mostly disagree with this.

First, several of those anthologies were short books aimed at the school markets, part of the Lerner SF Library. A few others were also aimed at specialty audiences, such as the Christian market. (Elwood was very devote and did a lot of work there.)

Second, the rest were fairly evenly divided between reprints of classic stories and new collections of stories written especially for the volume. There was no shortage of classic stories: a half dozen anthologies a year wouldn’t come close to exhausting the supply. The new stories wouldn’t have killed the market either, especially since they were aimed at several submarkets. Look at the titles about vampires and monsters and horror.

In the three years I mentioned (he only did four anthologies in 1972) F&SF published a dozen issues a year. So did Analog. Amazing and Fantastic alternated months. I think Galaxy and If were monthlies, but one might have been bi-monthly by that time. And there were others lurking around the edges.

It’s true that all the top writers were sending their stuff to Orbit, New Dimensions, and Universe - all original anthology series. There were others as well. And a few other stabs and one-shots. The Last Dangerous Visions vacuumed up huge amounts of stuff that nobody will ever see.

But this was the peak of the sf genre as a market. There may have been fewer literal titles than in the 50s when there were almost 50 at any given time, but those were often filled with pseudonyms of a few writers. Writing machines like Randall Garrett and Robert Silverberg are said to have filled entire issues by themselves. The number of writers entering the field in the 1970s was huge and it was thought possible for the time ever that more than a bare handful could make their living writing sf. It had room for a story of mine but I doubt that I scared off more than few dozen from ever reading sf again.

My bottom line is that it’s doubtful that Roger Elwood could have destroyed the market by adding on no more than 50 extra stories a year to the several hundreds that were already being published, even if they were all awful. And they weren’t. Look at the contents for Ten Tomorrows or Future City or Showcase, all of whom made the list in the 1974 Locus Poll for Best Original Anthology.

It’s possible that Elwood may have alienated publishers by oversaturation - they tend to not like someone doing essentially the same work for their competitors. I can’t find any good evidence that he bottomed out the market so readers wouldn’t read. He might at worst have added a bit of weight to a bucket that would have been overfilling without him, but I’d need to see something more than opinion to condemn him out of hand.