the Little Red Reviewer

The Broken Bullhorn talks Poul Anderson

Posted on: January 3, 2014

Our first guest post of the month is from Richard Robinson, blogger extraordinaire over at The Broken Bullhorn, where he’s been blogging since 2009.  Richard is one of the very few people who is allowed to call me “kiddo”.

Poul Anderson collected short works from NESFA, by Richard Robinson

Okay folks, buckle your strato-belts. We’re going to talk about a giant in field of science fiction of writing. Poul Anderson won 7 Hugos and 3 Nebulas over his career. He was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 1998.

Readers who started with the SF-F genres in the Eighties and after may not be familiar with Anderson. That’s a shame because they should be. The science fiction of the 1950s and 1960s was some of the finest written. Many make the mistake – if they decide to read “the old guys” at all – of sticking with the “big three”: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein, assuming their works to be the best of the times. That’s certainly arguable, but there were many other outstanding authors writing science fiction at the time, just as there are now, including Hal Clement (Mission of Gravity is a classic), Eric Frank Russell and, best of all, Poul Anderson.

Anderson wrote a lot of novels and short stories (listing here) and many of the novels are my favorite works of SF, but since short stories are often more accessible and provide a nice sampling of the work of an author, I’m going for that. And since we’re going to go with Poul Anderson’s short works, I’m going for the best collections available.

The Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson, Volumes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. edited by Rick Katze & Lis Carey, NESFA Press hardcover – science fiction short story collections:
Volume 1: Call Me Joe, Volume 2: The Queen of Darkness, Volume 3: The Saturn Gate,
Volume 4: Admiralty, Volume 5: Door to Anywhere



That’s a lot of ground to cover, so I’ll focus here on the first volume.

Call Me Joe by Poul Anderson, edited by Rick Katze & Lis Carey, NESFA Press 2009 – 509 pages, 29 short stories and 17 short poems, plus an introduction by Greg Bear (for complete contents, see the NESFA website). Color wrap-around dust jacket, no interior illustrations. The book is handsome and very well made, typical of the publications of The New England Science Fiction Association.

The stories in this volume range in original publication date from “Logic” first published in 1947 to “Ochlan” published in 1993. That’s a long time, and the author’s style and viewpoint changed over the years, but the quality of his writing is always there, his storytelling ability and skill with plot and character a constant. There are some political lectures here and there, as there were in just about all SF of a certain time, and there are some scientific explainations which, in light of present science, may not make a lot of sense, but it’s all good within the framework of the story and is often necessary to it. As is true of anything written in the past, in any genre, the setting, science and technology makes sense for the time the story was written, and that’s all that matters. 

April 1957

The cover painting is by Bob Eggleton, it seems to be a tribute to the original Kelly Freas cover for “Call Me Joe” which appeared in the April 1957Astounding Science Fiction (shown). I honestly like Freas’ cover better and wish they had used it, but I assume there were rights problems. Or maybe they just wanted something fresh.

This is very, very good SF. My recommendation is buy it, read it. I admit books from NESFA are expensive, but you get what you pay for. If you prefer another way to access Anderson, there are trade paperbacks available from Baen, there are used books available through the usual sources. My local library has over twenty Anderson titles listed, including this book. That may be a place to start, though (no surprise here) I recommend buying this book, and if you like it, continue on with the rest of the fine volumes. NESFA Press is to be congratulated on a fine series of collections. They’re one of my favorite publishers and their website is well worth a browse.

The New England  Science Fiction Association (NESFA) was founded in 1967 and is one of the oldest science fiction clubs in New England. Their largest activities are Boskone, the annual convention, and NESFA Press. which publishes high-quality collections of novels and stories by science fiction authors both old and new.

– this information was communicated to the blogger running this site via Trans-Galactic Thrankquark Comunication. Remember: The Thranks are your Friends.


19 Responses to "The Broken Bullhorn talks Poul Anderson"

I’ll second what Richard has to say, NESFA books are of a very high quality and if you keep an eye on the site they have some really nice sales. You can also get their books through Amazon which cuts the price some. I recently bought Bujold’s Falling Free from them because I loved the cover art.

I only started reading Poul Anderson a couple of years ago. His story “Call Me Joe” is great. It will seem somewhat familiar to those who’ve seen Avatar, at least elements of it will.

I read the first Dominic Flandry book a year or so ago and liked it. He is a cocksure character like my favorite Slippery Jim DiGriz and so he had instant appeal. I’m currently reading a book in the series, We Claim These Stars, for Vintage Science Fiction Month.

I’m always excited to try new to me classic authors, and then I find someone like Anderson whose work strikes a cord and I end up wanting to read more of their work rather than branching out.

It is a good problem to have.


Carl, I think there is a lot to like in Anderson’s short fiction, though I enjoy many of his novels as well. When asked by someone what “old SF authors” should I try, I usually tell them Heinlein, Clarke, Anderson and Clement. There are nice NESFA sets of the latter two.


Just the other day I finished up a Hal Clement collection. Some of the best hard scifi I’ve ever read.


Read a lot of Poul Anderson in the 60’s and 70’s. Haven’t revisted anything since except for The High Crusade which I found a lot bit disappointing. Remember enjoying his short fiction better than his novels.
Have fond memories of The Man Who Came Early, Call Me Joe and Journey’s End. Should go back and reread more of him. I’ve fond some older authors hold up very well(Clarke, Sturgeon, Bester, Budrys) and some don’t(I find Asimov unreadable now-flat prose, terrible dialogue).


Steve, you’re right about some classic SF authors standing up and others not, but I think Anderson does. High Crusade isn’t one of his strongest, but re-read The Man Who Counts and I’ll bet you like just as much as “back then”.


[…] a guest post on him over at The Little Red Reviewer site. It’s up today, and you can find it HERE. I don’t know if the books are considered forgotten, but they have been out for a long time […]


i read Anderson’s Brainwave novella 2-3 years ago. Excellent stuff. I should really delve into his other works.


I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Baen Books has published several collections of his work that are available new or used.


I started reading Poul Anderson back in the 1950s with those classic ACE Doubles. Later, I found more Poul Anderson stories in SF magazines. He’s one of my favorite SF writers.


He certainly deserves to be more widely read by current SF-F fans.


Add me to the never heard of them group. But something to check out during my used book store trips.


Nathan, don’t forget to try your public library as well. If you’re going to be used book hunting, try to find The Earthbook of Stormgate which has several short stories and short novels in it. Kind of hard to find, but take the challenge.


Well, it seems that this challenge has uncovered yet another yawning chasm in my reading experience. Obviously I’ve never read any Poul Anderson and so I’ll have to try and rectify that – I quite like the look and sound of Call Me Joe.
Lynn 😀


“Call Me Joe” is both the short story and the title of the first short fiction collection. Some people thought it was a major influence on the AVATAR screenplay.


This comment section makes me feel like an old man. I read tons of Poul Anderson back in “the day,” which in my case was the late 1980s. I remember enjoying the Guardians of Time a great deal. I’ve read some recently, but his novels can be a mixed bag. (Avatar, for example, drove me nuts.)
Oddly enough, I was just perusing the SFE to see if something caught my fancy for later this month. I probably owe it to myself to power through the Van Rijn and Flandry series, though I have to willfully ignore the politics every so often.


YOU feel old? I remember when that issue of Astounding came in the mail.


Red, thanks for the opportunity to do a guest post. You’re the top, kiddo.


Thanks for writing such a great post!


[…] paperback or digital editions (so far). There’s a fine overview of the first few volumes at The Little Red Reviewer. Get more details at the NESFA […]


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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