Groff Conklin

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Edward Groff Conklin (September 6, 1904 – July 19, 1968) was a leading science fiction anthologist. He edited 40 anthologies of science fiction, one of mystery stories (co-edited with physician Noah Fabricant), wrote books on home improvement and was a freelance writer on scientific subjects as well as a published poet. From 1950 to 1955, he was the book critic for Galaxy Science Fiction.

Born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, Conklin was educated at Dartmouth College and Harvard University, and graduated from Columbia University in 1927.[1] He drifted restlessly through a series of jobs in the 1930s and 1940s, working for several government agencies during WWII. He was a book editor for Robert M. McBride & Co. and did public relations work for the Federal Home Loan Bank, the Office of Strategic Services, the Department of Commerce, the National Cancer Institute and the American Diabetes Association. He was also a former scientific researcher for the N.W. Ayer & Son advertising agency.

Short fiction[edit]

It was as an editor of fiction that Conklin found his niche, beginning as early as 1930. At the age of 26, while employed as an assistant manager at New York's Doubleday Bookstore, he arranged for the hardcover publication of a story from The Smart Set Magazine (November 1913), reprinting "A Flood" by the Irish writer George Moore in a limited edition of 185 signed copies. Four years later, Conklin and Burton Rascoe published The Smart Set Anthology (1934, reissued as The Bachelor's Companion in 1944), the first collection of stories from that important literary magazine.

Conklin's interest in short fiction continued with the 1936 publication of The New Republic Anthology: 1915-1935, edited with Bruce Bliven. The following year, he married the former Lucy Tempkin on October 1. During the next decade, he wrote books about subways, rental libraries and home construction, in addition to poetry and numerous magazine articles.

Science fiction[edit]

Conklin didn't grow up a reader of science fiction, but came to it later in life. In his Galaxy Five-Star Shelf column of December, 1954, he states, "...I actually did not become an earnest devotee of the form until 1944, about a year before the Atomic Age actually opened....The first item I remember reading that could be classified as science fiction was H. G. Wells' Men Like Gods, back in 1924 when I was a college sophomore. It had a tremendous effect on me...." A roommate from 1930 provided him with "bound volumes of tear-sheets of early weirds, fantastics and 'scientifictions' from the old Argosy, All-Story and others...." He sent a proposal for his first science fiction anthology to Crown Publishers in 1944, and the book was issued in 1946, several months ahead of the other great sf anthology of that year, Adventures in Time and Space edited by Raymond J. Healy and J. Francis McComas.

After his first science fiction anthology, The Best of Science Fiction (1946), weighing in at 785 pages, he followed with A Treasury of Science Fiction (1946). Readers soon began to seek out books with his strikingly unusual and exotic name on the cover—The Science Fiction Galaxy (1950), The Big Book of Science Fiction (1950) and Possible Worlds of Science Fiction (1951). The prominent display of Conklin's huge hardcover anthologies in the "New Titles" section of libraries led many readers to discover science fiction during the genre's early 1950s boom. In the Grip of Terror (Permabooks, 1951) was an offbeat collection of horror tales, and he collaborated with Lucy Conklin on The Supernatural Reader in 1953, a year before her death. Four years later, he married Florence Alexander Wohlken.

His book review column, "Galaxy's Five-Star Shelf", was a key feature in Galaxy Science Fiction from its premiere issue (October 1950) until October 1955. During that period, he also edited Grosset & Dunlap's Science Fiction Classics series, which he conceived as an inexpensive alternative to hard-to-find small-press editions of such titles as Robert A. Heinlein's Beyond This Horizon and Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, although the first title in the series (Henry Kuttner's Fury) was that story's first book publication.

The Weather-Conditioned House (1958) is not science fiction but a practical discussion of methods involved in weather-conditioning a house. The book was authoritative enough that it was reissued with an update in 1982.

In the last three years of his life, Conklin was the staff science editor for The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. He lived in New York at 150 West 96th Street. At the age of 63, he died of emphysema in his summer home at Pawling, New York.[1]

A major survey of Conklin's contribution to science fiction is Bud Webster's 41 Above the Rest: An Index and Checklist for the Anthologies of Groff Conklin. Webster's study prompted this comment from Barry Malzberg:

Groff Conklin was the most important science fiction anthologist through the years of the genre's true second generation, that point at which its previously magazine-bound masterpieces were being systematically located, aligned and placed into permanent format. His contribution over the period of two decades was irreplaceable and all of our postwar history exists in the penumbra of his work. Bud Webster has in this index granted an act of scholarship and homage of equal irreplaceability.

Conklin anthologies[edit]

  • The Smart Set Anthology (with Burton Rascoe, 1934)
  • The New Republic Anthology, 1915-1935 (with Bruce Bliven, 1936)
  • The Best of Science Fiction (1946)
  • A Treasury of Science Fiction (1948)
  • Big Book of Science Fiction (1950) Variant Title: The Classic Book of Science Fiction (1978)
  • The Science Fiction Galaxy (1950)
  • Possible Worlds of Science Fiction (1951)
  • In the Grip of Terror (1951)
  • Invaders of Earth (1952) Variant Title: Invaders of Earth (abridged) (1955)
  • Omnibus of Science Fiction (1952)
  • Crossroads in Time (1953)
  • Science-Fiction Adventures in Dimension (1953) Variant Title: Adventures in Dimension (1955)
  • Strange Travels in Science Fiction (1953)
  • The Supernatural Reader (1953) with Lucy Conklin
  • Science Fiction Thinking Machines (1954) Variant Title: Selections from Science Fiction Thinking Machines (1955)
  • Strange Adventures in Science Fiction (1954)
  • 6 Great Short Novels of Science Fiction (1954)
  • Science Fiction Adventures in Mutation (1955)
  • Science Fiction Terror Tales (1955)
  • Operation Future (1955)
  • Science Fiction Omnibus (1956)
  • The Graveyard Reader (1958)
  • Br-r-r-! (1959)
  • Four for the Future (1959)
  • Six Great Short Science Fiction Novels (1960)
  • 13 Great Stories of Science Fiction (1960)
  • Ten Great Mysteries by Edgar Allan Poe (1960)
  • Great Science Fiction by Scientists (1962)
  • Enemies in Space (1962)
  • Twisted (1962)
  • Worlds of When (1962)
  • Great Stories of Space Travel (1963)
  • Great Science Fiction About Doctors (1963) with Noah D. Fabricant
  • 12 Great Classics of Science Fiction (1963)
  • 17 X Infinity (1963)
  • Fifty Short Science Fiction Tales (1963) with Isaac Asimov
  • Dimension 4 (1964)
  • Five-Odd (1964) Variant Title: Possible Tomorrows (1973)
  • Giants Unleashed (1965) Variant Title: Minds Unleashed (1965)
  • 13 Above the Night (1965)
  • 5 Unearthly Visions (1965)
  • Now & Beyond (1965)
  • Another Part of the Galaxy (1966)
  • Science Fiction Oddities (1966)
  • Seven Come Infinity (1966)
  • Elsewhere and Elsewhen (1968)
  • Seven Trips Through Time and Space (1968)[1]

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • R. Reginald. Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature: A Checklist; Volume 2: Contemporary Science Fiction Authors II (p. 860). Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Company, 1979. ISBN 0-8103-1051-1

External links[edit]