The Second ‘If’ Reader, ed. Frederik Pohl

Second paragraph of third story (“The Time-Tombs”, by J.G. Ballard):

Most of the time-tombs on the southern edge of the sand-sea had been stripped centuries earlier. But Shepley liked to saunter through the straggle of half-submerged pavilions, the warm ancient sand playing over his bare feet like wavelets on some endless beach. Alone among the flickering tombs, with the empty husks of the past ten thousand years, he could temporarily forget his nagging sense of failure.

An anthology of ten stories from the sf magazine Worlds of If, all published between 1963 and 1967, all by white men (though two at least were British). Several of these were familiar to me from their appearances in other collections, mostly chosen by their authors; the one exception, published only here and in its original magazine appearance, is a spooky-little-girl story, “Toys for Debbie”, by Dave Kyle, who is better remembered for his activities in fandom but published three authorised Lensman novels in the 1980s, ten short stories between 1941 and 1994, and contributed art including the cover of the first edition of Asimov’s Foundation. Most of these are effective enough, but there are noticeably few women (Brian Aldiss scores here, with his tough warrior girl in “In the Arena”).

My copy, the 1951 Sphere edition, has no table of contents or index, and clearly the publishers struggled to squish the material into 256 pages. You can get it here.

This was the sf book that had lingered longest on my unread shelves. Next up is an Ace double, Collision Course, by Robert Silverberg / Nemesis from Terra, by Leigh Brackett, half of which I have already read.