Groff Conklin

Edward Groff Conklin was an American science fiction anthologist. He edited 40 anthologies of science fiction, one of mystery stories, wrote books on home improvement and was a freelance writer on scientific subjects as well as a published poet. From 1950 to 1955, he was the book critic for Galaxy Science Fiction.
Born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, Conklin was educated at Dartmouth College and Harvard University, and graduated from Columbia University in 1927. He drifted through a series of jobs in the 1930s and 1940s, working for several government agencies during WWII. He was a book editor for Robert M. McBride & Co. and did public relations work for the Federal Home Loan Bank, the Office of Strategic Services, the Department of Commerce, the National Cancer Institute and the American Diabetes Association. He was also a former scientific researcher for the N.W. Ayer & Son advertising agency.

Short fiction

It was as an editor of fiction that Conklin found his niche, beginning as early as 1930. At the age of 26, while employed as an assistant manager at New York's Doubleday Bookstore, he arranged for the hardcover publication of a story first published in The Smart Set, reprinting "A Flood" by the Irish writer George Moore in a limited edition of 185 signed copies. In 1934, Conklin and Burton Rascoe published The Smart Set Anthology, the first collection of stories from that literary magazine.
Conklin's interest in short fiction continued with the 1936 publication of The New Republic Anthology: 1915-1935, edited with Bruce Bliven. The following year, he married Lucy Tempkin on October 1. During the next decade, he wrote books about subways, rental libraries and home construction, in addition to poetry and numerous magazine articles.

Science fiction

Conklin did not grow up as a reader of science fiction, but came to it later in life. In his Galaxy Five-Star Shelf column of December, 1954, he states, "...I actually did not become an earnest devotee of the form until 1944, about a year before the Atomic Age actually opened....The first item I remember reading that could be classified as science fiction was H. G. Wells' Men Like Gods, back in 1924 when I was a college sophomore. It had a tremendous effect on me...." A roommate from 1930 provided him with "bound volumes of tear-sheets of early weirds, fantastics and 'scientifictions' from the old Argosy, All-Story and others...." He sent a proposal for his first science fiction anthology to Crown Publishers in 1944, and the book was issued in 1946, several months ahead of the other great sf anthology of that year, Adventures in Time and Space edited by Raymond J. Healy and J. Francis McComas.
After his first science fiction anthology, The Best of Science Fiction, weighing in at 785 pages, he followed with A Treasury of Science Fiction. Readers soon began to seek out books with his strikingly unusual and exotic name on the cover—The Science Fiction Galaxy, The Big Book of Science Fiction and Possible Worlds of Science Fiction. The prominent display of Conklin's huge hardcover anthologies in the "New Titles" section of libraries led numerous American readers to discover science fiction during the genre's early 1950s boom. In the Grip of Terror was an offbeat collection of horror tales, and he collaborated with Lucy Conklin on The Supernatural Reader in 1953, a year before her death. Four years later, he married Florence Alexander Wohlken.
His book review column, "Galaxy's Five-Star Shelf", was a key feature in Galaxy Science Fiction from its premiere issue until October 1955. During that period, he also edited Grosset & Dunlap's Science Fiction Classics series, which he conceived as an inexpensive alternative to hard-to-find small-press editions of such titles as Robert A. Heinlein's Beyond This Horizon and Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, although the first title in the series was that story's first book publication.
The Weather-Conditioned House is not science fiction but a practical discussion of methods involved in weather-conditioning a house. The book was authoritative enough that it was reissued with an update in 1982.
In the last three years of his life, Conklin was the staff science editor for The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. He lived in New York at 150 West 96th Street. At the age of 63, he died of emphysema in his summer home at Pawling, New York.
A major survey of Conklin's contribution to science fiction is contained in Bud Webster's 41 Above the Rest: An Index and Checklist for the Anthologies of Groff Conklin. Webster's study prompted this comment from Barry Malzberg: