Friday, November 16, 2007

Thank you, Dr. Asimov

I finally started looking into what it would take to collect the short stories, novellas, and novelettes that have won the Hugo award since I can't stand having a collection that feels so incomplete. And so I said to myself "In for a penny, in for a pound," and specifically checked for the Hugo winning short fiction in hardbound collections. I was aware that Isaac Asimov "edited" a few collections of winners since I have two paperbacks of these anthologies in my collection (in this case I suspect that there wasn't much editing to do and Asimov acted more as a red tape cutter through his reputation). What I wasn't aware of is how many collections he made and the fact there had been hardcover editions of most of them.

Starting from the beginning, his The Hugo Winners Volume 1 and 2 (yes, that's one title) were released as paperbacks for ten years before they were collected into an omnibus by the Science Fiction Book Club. Starting with volume three which contained winners up to 1975 this changed. The hardcover was available at the same time as two paperbacks which broke the anthology in half. Volumes 4 and 5 were only released in hardbound editions and took the series up to the winners in 1982. At this point the title of the series changes to The New Hugo Winners, Asimov picks up Martin Greenfield as co-editor, and Baen starts publishing the collections in paperback. The hardcovers continue through The New Hugo Winners Volume 2 which is the last one Asimov did; volumes 3 and 4 end the series with only paperback releases.

So thanks to the efforts of Isaac Asimov every single letter of Hugo winning fiction from its founding through 1988 has been available in a hardbound edition with the sole exception of "...And Call Me Conrad". The two paperback volumes make sure that the fiction up to 1994 is easily available. Until 1997 the short fiction winners can all be found in two anthologies not related the Hugo awards (The Year's Best Science Fiction series is another handy collection but not one I'm looking into getting... yet). In 1997 both George R. R. Martin and Connie Willis decided to be cruel and have their winner collected in anthologies that are much less available (I'm in trouble when the only copies that I can find on the Internet are autographed; this happened with one of Bujold's winning novels as well). Finally in 1998 you'll find the first short fiction winner to never be collected at all: Alan Steele's "...Where Angels Fear to Tread".

For the sake of collecting all of the winners I ordered the first six hardbound volumes. The total base cost on getting these six volumes was just under $14, though there was an additional $20 in shipping since I had trouble locating decent copies from a single source (so many used book dealers had one volume in good shape and another sounding like it had been hit by a truck). That's thirty solid years of history there for $35 dollars and you can't beat that with a stick. The Nebula anthologies and The Year's Best... anthologies will have to pick up much of the slack to finish off this collection but ten years worth of winners to collect is a much less daunting idea than fifty. It leaves me with most of the related non-fiction winners and about half of the dramatic presentation left in order to have a full set of winners. And I have Isaac Asimov to thank for making this so easy.