Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: Ackermanthology!, compiled by Forrest J. Ackerman

 This week I read seven short shorts from Ackermanthology!:  65 Astonishing, Re-Discovered Sci-Fi Shorts. This was another book that my husband passed along to me, and I am glad he did. 

Ackermanthology! consists of 65 very short stories compiled by Forrest J. Ackerman. It was published in 1997 and has introductory comments by Ackerman and John Landis.


After reading a few of the stories, I started doing some research online and eventually discovered that Jerry House at Jerry's House of Everything had covered this anthology just two weeks ago. How did I miss that post? And he has actually read all the stories in the book.

So I will refer you to Jerry's post that includes a list of all the stories and some more information about each of them.

Based on the seven stories I read, which were in the first section, titled "Aliens", I agree with Jerry's assessment of the stories. None of the stories are extra special or exciting, but I found most of them entertaining and fun, and I will read the rest of the stories over time. 

At first I wasn't sure I would enjoy such short stories. Most of the stories in the section I read were 2 to 3 pages. But I did not mind the short length at all.

A couple of the stories in the "Aliens" section were about first contact situations, and two were about cats. The longest story, "Traders in Treasures", by C. P. Mason, was 6 pages long and totally over my head. I wasn't even tempted to reread it to try to understand it.

Another story, "Pressure Cruise", was written by a Russian, Andrei Gorbovskii, and was translated by Norbert F. Novotny in collaboration with Forrest J. Ackerman. That story was about visitors from another planet look for signs of intelligent life on Earth, undersea.





33 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I contributed to two short story collections where the stories were all a page or two and some came out more as anecdotes than stories. It's a difficult task. The first was horror stories and the collection was called BRIEF GRISLEY (ed John Mabry). These were horror stories. The second was KWIK KRIMES (edited by Otto Penzler). As I pull the books off my shelves, I realize4 have never opened either collection. I will remedy that for next week.

George said...

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction loved to publish short-short stories. Fredric Brown was a master of the form.

Jerry House said...

With Ackerman's anthologies, it is wisest to dip into them, reading in small doses at a time. You are a wise woman.

TracyK said...

Patti, I am glad to hear that. I am interested to hear your thoughts on those two collections.

It does seems like writing very short fiction would be hard to do.

TracyK said...

George, I have only read a few short stories by Fredric Brown, but I have a big fat collection of his stories to dig into some day (MISS DARKNESS).

TracyK said...

Jerry, I am sure I will enjoy coming back to this volume of short shorts. Ackerman's introduction to the book talking about earlier anthologies he had planned is very entertaining.

Margot Kinberg said...

Sometimes those extra-short stories are just the right length, Tracy. One can dip in and out of them when time allows, and get a good sense of an author's style. I'm glad you enjoyed the ones you have read, and I'll be interested in what you think of the others as you get to them.

TracyK said...

Most of the authors in this collection are unknown to me, Margot, although the next one up is a bit longer and is an early story by Asimov. But I agree with the point you are making and it is certainly an easy volume to dip into.

Rick Robinson said...

Forrey was a real character, but I've always thought his writing was in the good, not great category.

TracyK said...

Rick, It looks like there is only one story by Ackerman in this anthology, towards the end of the book, and it was co-written with Catherine L. Moore, under "Spicy Sci-Fi".

TracyK said...

Rick, forgot to say... it looks like temperatures are coming down in Portland, although still too high for comfort. Hope that improves the situation.

John Kerry said...

I note that a number of the stories were included in one of the Perry Rhodan books Ackermann edited for Ace (I think). If I recall correctly one of the stories he included was one sentence long, and it made sense. He usually included one or two of theses shorter stories in the books, thought it seems to me there were some longer ones as well.

col2910 said...

Just finished my quarterly - a story a day thing this month. I had hope to do it in May, but forgot and deferred until June. I love the format. I'm probably not drawn to this collection, though a recent Pronzini-Malzberg compilation had a few sci-fic-ish stories which I liked.

TracyK said...

John, I did read that some of the stories were also in the Perry Rhodan books but haven't seen any of those. I am pretty new to science fiction short stories.

TracyK said...

Col, I did see that your latest post was for 30 stories in June. That is amazing to me. I would like to read a short story a day, but I would have to cut back on reading novels if I did that.

I would like to get that Pronzini / Malzberg compilation someday.

Todd Mason said...

Ackerman leaned throughout his career to the more juvenile end of sf-related publishing...he was "Mr. Sci-Fi" because he coined the abbreviation, in imitation of "hi-fi" as a then-new term for high fidelity record players and the like...and, much to the annoyance of a lot of the more serious sf writers and fans, the "sigh-fie" term was picked up with alacrity by snobs who enjoyed belittling the literature and its extensions...pretty much those who dismissed "that BUCK ROGERS stuff" previously. However, Ackerman carried on, continuing to be a sort of professional film and horror/sf fan, and gaining his most influential foothold in the popular culture through FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, his jocular magazine whose title wasn't too off-point...which occasional less hardy side projects as his similar magazine SPACEMEN, and, for Ace Books, a long series of anthologies which were headlined by translations of the endless series of German YA sf adventure stories about Perry Rhodan and his crew (translated by Ackerman's wife, Wendayne Ackerman) and with the volumes/issues fleshed out with a few usually new short stories from Anglophone writers...some even actually good. Ackerman's anthologies aside from the RHODAN series could be a bit more serious, but he wasn't the most discriminating of editors, and easy joke stories could satisfy him at the best of times.

I think this is part of what Jerry's warning is about.

Todd Mason said...

Vignettes, which seems a much easier word to use than the phrase "short short stories" (and "flash fiction" is annoyingly cute and sounds like a magician's trick--don't hold the pages too close to your eyes!) are certainly fun for me to write, and some people, ranging from Fredric Brown to Jorge Luis Borges to Margaret Atwood, have done a number of them through the decades. The better ones have resonances that outlast the length of the narrative on the page (Algis Budrys noted in his writing-instructor persona, "The manuscript is not the story"). Groff Conklin, Terry Carr, Isaac Asimov and others have put together a number of anthologies of fantassy and sf vignettes, and others have done so as well, and you have the Ackerman...others have done a lot of similar anthologies in other fields, as Patti notes.

Here's a review I did once of several for Friday Books:
https://socialistjazz.blogspot.com/2014/04/ffb-100-great-fantasy-short-short.html

TracyK said...

Todd, I always wondered why the term sci-fi was so disliked. I don't know that much about Ackerman, but I did get the impression from the short things I read in relation to this anthology that he was more fan than an author. I like his enthusiasm.

I checked out the link you gave for short short story anthologies. All five of them look very good. I may have to get a copy of the 100 GREAT FANTASY SHORT, SHORT STORIES just for that cover with the skull on it.

John Kerry said...

One of the reason you find so many of these stories in the pages of old SF and Horror magazines is that editors loved them. They were handy to have on hand when the stories you had already purchased for the issue ended up running a bit short and thus you had a couple of pages to fill.

Sam Sattler said...

Your husband is passing on some really great looking books to you. I like the cover art probably as much as the contents you've described.

I have a friend in England who writes "flash fiction," really short stories that are barely one page long at most. It's amazing that a whole story can be told that way, but he manages to do it so well that I'm always intrigued by his books. It can't be easy.

TracyK said...

Sam, I agree with you, I love the cover. I enjoyed the brief stories more than I thought I would. I will have to try some flash fiction.

NancyElin said...

Great review and thanks so much for the shout-out and link for Jerry’s blog!
I’ m discovering so much about SF.
Jerry mentioned that Mr. Ackerman was
addicted to SF since he was 9 years old!
How do you get a child so young…interested in reading.
I hope young people these days…read a book instead of their cell phone!

Rick Robinson said...

Have a happy, safe 4th, Tracy.

TracyK said...

Rick, We will be staying home and certainly away from fireworks. Just gardening or reading or blogging.

I hope that your July the 4th is good too.

TracyK said...

Nancy, I am discovering a lot about science fiction, too. Even though I read some short stories and novels in my 20's and 30's my knowledge of science fiction authors is limited.

I started reading Foundation earlier this week. About half way through.

I read a lot when I was young but I was very shy and introverted. My siblings were outgoing and read much less than I did.

NancyElin said...

Oh, Tracy….I’ll start Foundation tomorrow!!

Rick Robinson said...

I’ve read Foundation (the trilogy, Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation) twice, but if you asked for a list of my 10 or even 20 top SF books, it probably wouldn’t be there. It’s good, but it never really captured my imagination the way many other SF classics, such as Hal Clement’s Mission Of Gravity.

TracyK said...

Thanks for that note, Rick. I am finding Foundation very interesting, and it improves as I get further in the story, but I am still on the fence about it. Of course I don't have the depth of knowledge or reading experience that you have in science fiction, so not a lot to compare it against.

I did read The End of Eternity in 2013 and liked that one a lot. I read two of the Elijah Baley books. All of those were written within 10 years of Foundation, so I am hoping to like this one (or the complete trilogy) as well. I will definitely move on to the 2nd book in the trilogy, Foundation and Empire, when I can.

I will have to look into Hal Clement’s Mission Of Gravity.

Todd Mason said...

I will second the recommendation of MISSION OF GRAVITY. And there're a Lot more varieties of sf awaiting you. (The FOUNDATION series is not Asimov's best work, even if it is perhaps the work that most haunted his catalog, along with the short story "Nightfall", also not his best work.) My favorite writers of sf include Joanna Russ, Damon Knight, Kate Wilhelm (by herself and in collaboration with Theodore Thomas), Avram Davidson (though he wrote a Lot more fantasy and crime fiction), Fritz Leiber, Carol Emshwiller, Kurt Vonnegut, Kit Reed, Octavia Butler, Jack Vance, Alfred Bester and, of late, Alice Sola Kim.

Todd Mason said...

And Algis Budrys...and Thomas Disch...and (Ms.) Lee Hoffman, who is probably best remembered for her excellent westerns...and Margaret St. Clair...and (Ms.) Leigh Brackett...and Theodore Sturgeon...and Rudy Rucker...one can go on...

TracyK said...

Todd, thanks for all these recommendations. I have saved these names to a file to look into further.


I did finish Foundation (part 1 only) last night and was mostly happy with it. It got better and better with each new section / story.

Todd Mason said...

In no small part as each part of the story was from later and later in the young and artistically maturing Asimov's career...all the first three volumes were cobbled together/"fixed up" from short fiction in ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION magazine, published through the 1940s and (I believe) very earliest 1950s (I could Go Check) with a short serial in ASF.

TracyK said...

Todd, after I read Foundation, I read Asimov's introduction which explained that he had put each book in the trilogy together from previously written stories. That did explain a lot about the structure and some confusion I had. The introduction was very interesting and I was amazed that doing that worked out so well.