Trumpeted as “The Ultimate Collection,” this Big Book tops 1200 densely printed pages with more than a hundred stories representing over 110 years of science fiction. Whether you want such an anthology for study, for pleasure or for reference, this surpasses any previous compilation within one cover. Spanning 30 nations, with translations from diverse languages, the book encompasses the visionary, innovative narratives that enrich a persistently popular and expanding genre.

H.G. Wells’ poignant and terrifying fable “The Star” opens the volume with a deserving if familiar choice. Less familiar are stories like the “pre-Afrofuturism” of W.E.B. Du Bois’ “The Comet” or Alfred Jarry’s “Elements of Pataphysics.” Arthur C. Clarke complimenting Wells’ story with his own “The Star,” in which he concocts astronomical and theological exegesis to challenge pious interpretations of a fundamental bible story. Jorge Luis Borges’ “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” commences with “the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopedia” joined with a memorably odd comparison to copulation.

These elegant creations nestle with mid-century Sci-Fi standbys, notably Cordwainer Smith’s “The Game of Rat and Dragon” and Frederik Pohl’s “Day Million” and jostle against the Argentinian Silvana Ocampo’s daydream, or nightmare, of “The Waves” and Valentina Zhuravlyova’s “The Astronaut.” Ocampo’s story is among seven stories here never before translated into English, while Zhuravlyova’s is among seven new translations commissioned by the editors.

For new wave authors and compilers Michael Moorcock and Harlan Ellison, that creaky pulp tradition and the supposed Golden Age of the ‘20’s through the ‘40s get a welcome counter-cultural overhaul. J.G. Ballard (“The Voices of Time”), Kurt Vonnegut (“2BRO2B”), Samuel Delany “Aye, and Gomorrah” and feminists such as Joanna Russ (shown by the standby “When It Changed”) and James Tiptree, Jr. (featured by her alien encounter “And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side”) upended tired tropes. So did Octavia Butler (a twist on a space setting in “Bloodchild”) and Karen Joy Fowler (a post-My Lai relationship as Zeno’s Paradox turns into “The Lake Was Full of Artificial Things”). It’s fun to find an early example of George R.R. Martin’s craft in his 1979 story “Sandkings,” which won both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards, its horrors later parodied by The Simpsons,Futurama and South Park.

Such crossover appeal testifies to the contemporary impact of science fiction on popular culture. In their insightful, in-depth introduction, the VanderMeers explain the emergence four-odd decades ago of cyberpunk, reveling in the hardcore audience reading Wired. Humanist reactions around that time aimed at a respectable literary audience through storylines that crafted calmer encounters with arguably more nuanced characters.

Radical third-wave feminists and international dissenters in the ‘90s opened today’s shelves to as yet less-heralded talents. The editors introduce Liu Cixin’s novella “The Poetry Cloud,” Leena Krohn’s “Gorgonoids” from the Finnish, Kojo Laing’s “Vacancy for the Post of Jesus Christ” from Ghana and an excerpt of a provocative, dystopian 2007 parable by Tatyana Tolstoya (a direct descendant of Leo), “The Slynx.”

Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s organizational principles avoid “the Great Certainty” by questioning the science fiction canon. Testing their contents against previous anthologies, they reject pastiche, toss aside typecasting, ignore “the pointless rift” of genre versus literary cachet and repatriate the fringe with cult authors and experimental texts. Finally, the couple adds nods to surrealism and other permutations that go well beyond the Anglophone boundaries to further the scope of invention.

The only drawback to this compendium is that a handful of deserving works could not be included due to the intransigence of the author’s estates. Similarly, the ever-relevant 1909 prediction by E.M. Forster, “The Machine Stops,” exceeded the length allowed for this undertaking. The VanderMeers acknowledge the inherent imperfection of the results.

We can only offer a dim reflection of what pulses within this massive tome; those who would like to hoist a lighter payload may consider an e-book. The thrill remains in this conversation, whether in paper or electronic format, as many voices are include that may be unheard even by science fiction aficionados. Judiciously blending old favorites and new arrivals, The Big Book of Science Fiction launches a mother-ship of a collection to drift with for light years of heady pleasure.

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