Founded in 1979, The Library of America has a simple mission: “to help preserve the nation's cultural heritage by publishing America's best and most significant writing in durable and authoritative editions.” It was an idea that arose when scholars and critics noted that important works of literature were no longer in print. Their mission includes keeping these definitive works in print through the publication of compact but high-quality editions of authoritative work as chosen by a national network of advisers.
Read SF Signal's six-part series on How to Read Science Fiction at Kirkus.
And wouldn't you know that also includes an impressive selection of speculative fiction—more commonly known as science fiction, fantasy and horror. Let's take a look at some of the authors and works that have so far received this honorable distinction:
Philip K. Dick
Prominent science fiction writer Philip K. Dick's often examined psychological, sociological, political and metaphysical themes in his numerous, reality-bending novels—so many, in fact, that Dick's work encompasses three different LoA volumes:
Four Novels of the 1960s: collects The Man in the High Castle (1962), an alternate history novel is which Japan and Germany won World War II and America is an occupied territory; The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965), where an interplanetary drug tycoon uses hallucinogens to transform himself into a godlike figure; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968, also he basis for the film Blade Runner), about a bounty hunter's search for rogue androids with delusions of humanity; and Ubik (1969), a meditation on psychic espionage.
Five Novels of the 1960s and 70s: collects Martian Time-Slip (1964), a novel set on Mars that explores the theme of mental illness; Dr. Bloodmoney (1965), about life after the nuclear holocaust; Now Wait for Last Year (1966), about a reality-altering hallucinogen; Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (1974), about a television celebrity looking to reclaim his identity; and A Scanner Darkly (1977), in which a drug-addicted narcotics officer is assigned to stake out himself.
VALIS and Later Novels: includes A Maze of Death (1970), where a group of off-world colonists must survive their new, hostile planet; VALIS (1981), in which religious seekers learn from their two-year-old messiah that they are being influenced my an orbiting mechanical intelligence; The Divine Invasion (1981) asks: What if God were alive and living on another planet?; and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982) about a troubled bishop who seeks the identity of God. These last three form a trilogy.
LoA's Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories is an impressive representative collection by this fine writer, including not only numerous short stories, but also the novels The Haunting of Hill House (1959), considered one of the best ghost stories of 20th century, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962), Jackson's final novel, about a young girl protecting her family.
Edgar Allan Poe
Essential examples of Edgar Allan Poe's characteristically dark work are collected in Edgar Allan Poe: Poetry and Tales. The extensive table of contents includes such classic works as "The Raven," "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Murders in the Rue Morgue."
The LoA volume H.P. Lovecraft: Tales collects the seminal novellas and short stories of this master of early 20th-century horror, including The Call of Cthulhu, The Colour Out of Space, At the Mountains of Madness, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Shadow Out of Time and more.
…and a host of additional writers of the fantastic
The two-volume American Fantastic Tales series collects an outstanding array of essential tales of horror from the founders and masters of the genre, including Ambrose Bierce, August Derleth, Clark Ashton Smith, Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Fritz Leiber, Gene Wolfe, Harlan Ellison, Jack Finney, Jeff VanderMeer, Jerome Bixby, Joe Hill, John Cheever, John Crowley, Jonathan Carroll, Joyce Carol Oates, Kelly Link, M. Rickert, Michael Chabon, Peter Straub, Poppy Z. Brite, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, Robert E. Howard, Stephen King, Tennessee Williams, Thomas Ligotti, Tim Powers and Truman Capote.
But wait, there's more! Speculative fiction shows no signs of slowing down its contributions. In June, LoA will publish Kurt Vonnegut: Novels & Stories 1963–1973 featuring, among others, the classic Slaughterhouse-Five.