During his time on this island earth, Terry Carr edited an astonishing number of tip-top science fiction anthologies. Not for nothing, he also co-edited one of the first books I ever read. World’s Best Science Fiction 1968 included a batch of great stories including Harlan Ellison’s career tentpole “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream.”
Despite the efforts of award-winning authors such as Brian Aldiss (“Full Sun”), Robert Silverberg (“The Silent Colony”), Clifford Simak (“The Street That Wasn’t There”), Theodore Sturgeon (“It”) and Eric Frank Russell (“Dear Devil”), there’s nothing that rises to the level of Ellison’s genre-uplifting story in this collection from 1975.
But that criticism isn’t totally fair. In no way does Creatures from Beyond purport to be the “best” of anything. If I had to guess, I’d say it was aimed at a juvenile readership, and was reflective of what the science fiction community thought kids would enjoy at the time—in other words, the content wasn’t as good as Robert Heinlein but it was waaaay better than Perry Rhodan and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.
More importantly (to me), Carr’s anthology is 100 percent committed to strange, wiggly and slimy creatures. Truly, it’s like the prose equivalent of TOPPS Ugly Monster Stickers (look it up). You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy these tales of giant worms, swamp things, werewolves, blue Martians, plague creatures from Venus and otherworldly cats.
Although the two best efforts are unconvincingly facile, they are thoroughly entertaining nonetheless. Theodore Sturgeon’s giant monster smells like carrion and “moves with the slow inevitability that is the crux of horror.” For 27 pages the thing-made-of-mold drags its hateful putrescence across our earth before being reclaimed by nature.
Significantly more upbeat, Eric Frank Russell’s “ropy alien with enormous beelike eyes” helps facilitate a friendly relationship between Mars and Earth. “By cosmic standards we are a weak and foolish people,” explains the shipwrecked Martian to his new human comrades. “We are desperately in need of support from the clever and strong.”
Weirdly, the only bad story in the book is by the editor himself. “Some Are Born Cats” is simply too annoying and precious for anyone over the age of 13. But don’t let that distract you too much. In every other way, Terry Carr did a fine job of curating a wonderful collection of science fiction monsters from Infinity and beyond.
[Creatures from Beyond / Edited by Terry Carr / First Printing: January 1975 / ISBN: 9780840764591]