Year Four – The Best Science Fiction Stories: 1952 (ed. E. F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty)
I’m writing this months after I read the book, so you should probably take everything I say with a grain of salt.
The scope tends to shrink down a bit this year – 16 of the 18 stories here take place on Earth (leaving one on Mars and one out in the galaxy somewhere), and half of them fall into one of two categories: post-apocalyptic or time travel. Two stories by women this year, and none with a female protagonist. Still no authors of color, although one story this year (“Dark Interlude”) actually engages with race in a critical manner.
Bleiler and Dikty note that this year continues the “progress of story themes from one side of the equation, science-fantasy, to the other,” begun in “The Mindworm” last year, with “Tourist Trade” rationalizing ghost stories, and “At No Extra Cost” scientifically updating… stories about souls, I guess. This idea of the saturation of rationalism is a compelling one, I have to admit, and throughout this volume there is the sense that technology/science/scientists are no longer the cure-all hope for humanity they once were, just a fact of life now. As the editors also point out, two of the other stories (“Balance” and “The Marching Morons”) feature “a mature note that might not have appeared in the science-fiction of a few years ago: the concept that even a superman has an environment.” I would argue that it’s the environment itself that has changed, though.