Orbit

Tagged: Publication

1. Seminal US Original-Anthology series edited by Damon Knight. Although Orbit was not the first such series, having been preceded by Star Science Fiction Stories in the USA and New Writings in SF in the UK, it was its extraordinary early success that precipitated the boom in such series in the early 1970s. It had a more literary orientation than the sf magazines, and perhaps for this reason was especially popular with the active members of the newly formed Science Fiction Writers of America. For whatever cause, stories from Orbit dominated the Nebula awards in their early years, although none has ever won a Hugo. Orbit 1 (anth 1966) contained "The Secret Place" by Richard McKenna, which won the short-story Nebula. Orbit 3 (anth 1968) featured two Nebula-winning stories: "Mother to the World" by Richard Wilson and "The Planners" by Kate Wilhelm. Orbit 4 (anth 1968) contained another winner in "Passengers" by Robert Silverberg. That was the last Orbit story to win an award, although the year of pervasive dominance was 1970, when between them Orbit 6 (anth 1970) and Orbit 7 (anth 1970) provided one of the five novellas on the final Nebula ballot, three of the six novelettes, and six of the seven short stories.

Three writers in particular became associated with Orbit, and remained its most regular contributors: R A Lafferty, Kate Wilhelm and Gene Wolfe; in the run of 21 volumes, Lafferty and Wilhelm had 19 stories each, and Wolfe 18. Orbit lost its dominance once the flood of competitors appeared, and with #14 had to change publishers (becoming confined to a hardcover edition in the process) in order to survive. Notable stories in later volumes include Wolfe's "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" in Orbit 10 (anth 1972), Ursula K Le Guin's "The Stars Below" in Orbit 14 (anth 1974) – which also contained Joan D Vinge's debut story "Tin Soldier" – and Wilhelm's "Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang" in Orbit 15 (anth 1974). Orbit was especially notable for stories that seemed at the time odd and sui generis, quite unlike the usual run of Genre SF and fantasy, but with hindsight were early signs of a general sophistication of genre sf in the 1970s, in which this series at first played a vital role; later numbers became rather insipid and Knight recognized that towards the end his selections had become extreme. Other volumes in the series are Orbit 2 (anth 1967), Orbit 5 (anth 1969), Orbit 8 (anth 1970), Orbit 9 (anth 1971), Orbit 11 (anth 1972), Orbit 12 (anth 1973), Orbit 13 (anth 1974), Orbit 16 (anth 1975), Orbit 17 (anth 1975), Orbit 18 (anth 1976), Orbit 19 (anth 1977), Orbit 20 (anth 1978) and Orbit 21 (anth 1980). The Best From Orbit (anth 1977) is culled from the first ten volumes. [MJE/PN]

2. US graphic/comic-strip magazine published by Eclipse Books, Forestville, California under license to Davis Publications; editor, Lititia Glozer; three standard-size issues, undated, 1990. The contents comprised existing sf stories adapted into comic-strip form, mostly from Asimov's magazine, though two earlier stories by Isaac Asimov himself were also chosen: "Marooned Off Vesta" (March 1939 Amazing Stories; #2 1990) and "The Last Question" (November 1956 Science Fiction Quarterly; #3 1990). Other stories adapted include "Fermi and Frost" (January 1985 Asimov's; 1990 #1), adapted by Brent Anderson, "Silent Night" (December 1987 Asimov's; 1990 #2) by Ben Bova, illustrated by Rafael Kayanan; and "The End of Life As We Know It" (January 1985 Asimov's; 1990 #3) by Lucius Shepard, illustrated by Tom Yeates. Some of the concepts in the stories were not easy to visualize and required substantial text, which may have contributed to why the series was cancelled. [MA]

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