Click on the questions below to view the answers.
Q: How come the works currently slotted in certain sections by date don’t match the chronological dates of publication? For instance, Jim Kelly’s “Think Like a Dinosaur” was published originally in 1995, but it appears in the 1975-1990 section of the book. What criteria was used for placing the works in the different sections? Perhaps it was by when the different authors entered the field? Or was it by theme?
The sections are based on when the author first came to prominence, not on the dates of the individual stories. There’s an appendix in which the stories are listed in order by date published, and publication information is listed at the front of each selection so students won’t be confused about when works were published. Most undergraduate SF classes (I know of about 450 in North America) are organized thematically rather than chronologically, but I didn’t want to organize the book thematically, since it leads to a book that’s great for one type of class and useless for others. So I went with a loosely chronological approach, with my focus on stories that were a) teachable and b) represented the way the authors or their estates wanted new SF readers to encounter them. In many cases my original story selection was changed to a story that the writer really wanted to see reprinted, such as Jack Vance’s “Sail 25,” a little-known story but a really good one. There are also cases like Jack Williamson, who has two stories in the book that were published sixty years apart. So placing authors in sections based on when they became best known seemed like a good compromise, and also allowed me to organize the book around shifts in how science fiction was published.
Q: What is Wildside Press’s policy on examination copies of the book for teachers?
If you teach a science fiction-related courses at an accredited institution, Wildside will provide you with a digital examination copy of the book (either an ebook or pdf file) after verifying your status. If you adopt the book for a class of more than twenty students, they will provide a physical copy of the book on request. Contact Wildside Press for more information or to submit a request.
Q: Why isn’t my favorite author in the book? How could you leave out [name withheld]?
While the book is by far the broadest anthology available, with as many significant writers as we could fit, there are a few major voices missing, either because reprint rights for the book and ebook were not available, because the author’s agent wasn’t interested in being included (which happened in two cases), or because we couldn’t get a final answer in time (several authors agreed to appear but never returned contracts). We never were able to track down the estate of Margaret St. Claire. Beyond the big names there were many very good writers, including some close personal friends, who we just couldn’t fit – even in a two million word anthology.
Q: I know $50 isn’t expensive for a college textbook, but it seems like a lot for a reprint anthology.
At around two million words, Sense of Wonder is literally the size of twenty “normal” books. (The average book is around 100,000 words today, and many SF classics are about half that long.) Is $50 really a lot to pay for twenty books? I know for my students, book costs will be cut by more than a third, and I’ll be able to teach much more comprehensively than with the ten books I used to use in my classes.