Tales from Planet Earth, by Arthur C. Clarke

Second paragraph of intro to third story (“Publicity Campaign”):

Although the references in the story are somewhat dated, the questions it raises are certainly not. And by a curious coincidence, I’ve re-read it the very week the media are ruefully celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Orson Welles’ famous War of the Worlds broadcast. (CBS’s Mercury Theatre of the Air, 31 October, 1938.)

Second paragraph of text of “Publicity Campiagn”:

R.B. heaved himself out of his seat while his acolytes waited to see which way the cat would jump. It was then that they noticed that R.B.’s cigar had gone out. Why, that hadn’t happened even at the preview of ‘G.W.T.W.’!

Of the three great mid-century sf writers, Clarke has aged much better for me than Asimov or Heinlein. This collection, originally published in 1989, brings together some familiar friends (“‘If I Forget Thee. O Earth…'”) and some unexpected discoveries (“Wall of Darkness”) in the Clarkeian œuvre. (I checked, and they are all in the Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke which I read in 2016, but not all of them had lingered with me.) What’s also nice is to read his introductions to each story, written in 1988 when he had just turned 70. It’s old-fashioned stuff but I found it really refreshing, reading it in the middle of my Clarke Award duties for this year. You can get it here.

I also want to shout out to Michael Whelan’s art. The cover is also rather glorious – though he notes on his website that the spaceship to the top right of the primitive human’s head was added at the publisher’s insistence, rather than the egg which the artist had originally painted. Greyscale snippets from the cover photo illustrate each of the sixteen stories.

This was the top unread book that I acquired in 2021. Next on that pile is Twelve Caesars, by Mary Beard.