Store of the Worlds

Store of the Worlds
By Robert Sheckley

The introduction to this collection of pieces by Robert Sheckley calls them “perfect stories of their type.” The type in this case being SF, mainly published in Galaxy Magazine in the 1950s. In other words, pure pulp. But they are indeed perfect examples of that type. They’re great pulp fiction.

What this means is that they showcase clever ideas, often playing with odd points of view or tricks of narrative perspective, along with tidy dramatic plots resolved by way of artful, not-quite-surprising twists. A satiric note is sounded throughout, which only gets darker and more prophetic in the later efforts (with Galaxy left behind for Playboy, a pessimistic turn that says a lot about where faith in American culture was heading).

The 1950s can be seen as a transition period in SF, moving from the Golden Age to the New Wave, and Sheckley has a foot in both worlds. He turns seamlessly from stories about first contact to imagining the perversities of the entertainment-industrial complex and the trippiness of Philip K. Dick. And as with the best speculative fiction of any age, the results still speak directly to us today.

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