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I came across a book in the 1990s — itself probably dating to the '70s or '80s — called something along the lines of 6 Greatest/Best/Top Science Fiction stories. It was an unusual number — not the top 10 or top 5, but something along the lines of 6 or 7.

The collection contained a number of really original stories. In one, a secret agent featured pretty prominently, and although it was only a couple of pages long, there was a terrific twist.

In another, some form of bureaucrat had surreptitiously built himself a level-20 mansion in the Congo, above his pay grade, and was scared he'd be found out.

In third, a sleazy interactive porn video producer was trying for a new business venture, and was being financially blocked by a religious group that was calling itself Ball Inc.

Does anyone have any idea what the names/authors of these short stories are, or what the collection was called?

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I came across a book in the 1990s—itself probably dating to the '70s or '80s—

Science Fiction Origins, published in 1980, edited by William F. Nolan and Martin H. Greenberg. As far as the ISFDB knows, this is the only place your third story ("Malice in Wonderland") has been published outside of its original appearance in If, January 1954 (available at the Internet Archive), and the only place your other two stories ("The Fasterfaster Affair" and "Hopper") have ever appeared together.

—called something along the lines of 6 Greatest/Best/Top Science Fiction stories. It was an unusual number—not the top 10 or top 5, but something along the lines of 6 or 7.

The number 7 is not part of the title, but the fact that it contains seven stories is stated twice on the front cover: "THE ORIGINAL STORIES ON WHICH SEVEN CLASSIC NOVELS WERE BASED" and "SEVEN MIND-STUNNING TALES OF TOMORROW BY THE GREATEST SCIENCE FICTION MASTERS OF OUR TIME . . ."

The collection contained a number of really original stories. In one, a secret agent featured pretty prominently, and although it was only a couple of pages long, there was a terrific twist.

"The Fasterfaster Affair" by William F. Nolan, later expanded into a novel called Space for Hire. At 11 pages, it's by far the shortest story in this anthology; the rest are novelette or novella length. The secret agent is JamesTen:

When JamesTen teleported into the office wearing his twin-tone perforated Venusian breathingboots and a rakishly cut sports jacket in worsted plastic, Miss Manypiggies sobbed brokenly and threw herself into his arms. "Rip off my clothing, James," she pleaded. "Love me, rape me, torture me, I don't care! Take my subtly tanned supple woman's body and—"

JamesTen pushed her gently aside. "Not now, Manypiggies," he husked in a silken voice reserved for love-crazed secretaries. "Z wants me inside, where things count. God knows what's up in there, but it's my kind of trouble. Now, be a sweet and buzz me in, chop-chop."

"Chop-chop," sighed Miss Manypiggies as JamesTen stepped lightly into the Matter Disintegrator. She thumbed the proper button and the suave secret agent wavered and vanished.

He reappeared, all atoms neatly in place, beside Z's desk.

"Good to see you, Ten," rumbled Z. His outwardly pleasant tone meant another joust with death was in the offing. JamesTen smiled thinly.

From the "Author's Afterword":

Fleming's death, in 1964, failed to end the life of his creation—and Bond is still seen today, in fabulous new screen adventures. But what, I asked myself, would happen to a robot version of 007 in the far world of the future? Might be fun to write about one.

Early in 1965 I signed a contract to edit an all-android anthology, The Pseudo-People, set to include some original fiction. As editor Nolan I assigned writer Nolan (as Frank Anmar) to conjure up a new tale for the book, and this robot version of Bond (called JamesTen) was the rather insane result. I pitted my superagent against a cosmic fiend who was intent on the destruction of the entire universe, a superthreat worthy of a super-Bond. I had absolutely no plans for expanding any part of the story into a novel. In fact, when I drafted "The Fasterfaster Affair" in March, 1965, I was still six months away from the completion of my first novel, Logan's Run.

In another, some form of bureaucrat had surreptitiously built himself a level-20 mansion in the Congo, above his pay grade, and was scared he'd be found out.

"Hopper" by Robert Silverberg, a novelette originally published in Infinity Science Fiction, October 1956, later expanded into a novel called The Time Hoppers.

Quellen's offense was a unique one. No one else, to his knowledge, had been shrewd enough to find a way out of heavily-overpopulated Appalachia, the octopus of a city that spread all over the eastern half of North America. Of all the two hundred million inhabitants of Appalachia, only Joseph Quellen CrimeSec had been clever enough to find a bit of unknown and unsettled land in the heart of Africa and build himself a second home there. He had the standard Class Thirteen cubicle in Appalachia, plus a Class Twenty mansion beyond the dreams of most mortals, beside a murky stream in the Congo. It was nice, very nice, for a man whose soul rebelled at the insect-like existence in Appalachia.

The only trouble was that it took money to keep people bribed. There were a few who had to know that Quellen was living luxuriously in Africa instead of dwelling in a ten-by-ten cubicle in Northwest Appalachia, like a good Thirteen. Someone—Brogg, he was sure—had sold out to Koll. And Quellen was on thin ice indeed.

In third, a sleazy interactive porn video producer was trying for a new business venture, and was being financially blocked by a religious group that was calling itself Ball Inc.

"Malice in Wonderland" by Evan Hunter, later expanded into a novel called Tomorrow and Tomorrow or Tomorrow's World. The protagonist, Van Brant, is a multimedia pornographic literary agent:

"I have compiled a list of alleged literary agents who are today soliciting the majority of smut on the market. You, unfortunately, are one of the chief purveyors. I have been systematically eliminating these men, starting at the top and working my way to the bottom.

[. . .]

"Now, then. I've come to ask that you discontinue the submission of manuscripts to (a) the magazines, (b) the paperbacks, (c) the stereoscopic, the three-dimensional, and the sensory mediums."

The organization he's having trouble with is called Ball Associates. Here, he's having a problem with his drug supply:

"Probably a small shortage. Maybe a shipment got fouled. Anyway, I want to ask you about the marketing setup. We usually get checks from Vizco and Young & Co. on Thursdays. There were none in this morning's mail. Any idea what's wrong?"

"Yes. They've both been taken over by a new outfit."

"Oh. What's the name of the new owner?"

Lizbeth sucked in her breath.

"Ball Associates," she said.

  • Well spotted! Will have to 2x check re: Malice in Wonderland, but from what I've read of the Tomorrow's World description, that's exactly it (I think you're right — it's a drug provider, but the new venture he's excited about is virtual porn). Been trying to find this for years, thanks! – scrollex Apr 27 '15 at 17:01

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