Maps is the definitive collection of John Sladek’s uncollected work put together by his friend, fellow writer and critic David Langford who also provides an introduction. It includes all the solo stories – science fiction, detective puzzles, mainstream, “non-fact” pieces – as well as poems, playlets, pseudonymous fiction, all the short collaborations with Thomas M. Disch (including three never previously published) and some witty autobiographical essays. Sladek, was as good a writer of satire as Vonnegut, and without the Vonnegut mannerisms. Unfortunately he never received the appropriate credit, except from a small following of devoted readers.
Expressway to an Uncharted Sphere “Theyre about!” the woman whispered, and Crane abruptly saw a strange light shining through the heavy black curtains that shrouded the house. He crossed to the window and before anyone could stop him he drew the curtain back. At first he did not understand what he saw: a round gleaming, colour-running orb stared unwinkingly back into his face. It was an eye. An immense sad eye staring at him through the chink of the curtains, an eye surrounded by a living whorl of flame that he had last seen engulfing poor Barney in the parking lot. At least three others had disappeared into the strange world from which those aliens had come, and a girl had been driven insane by them. And before Crane’s quest to unravel the secret of the Map Country was complete, the fate of two worlds would hang in the balance.
Scattered throughout the globe of human-occupied space is evidence of a civilisation that bestrode the galaxy before humanity was born. Now, a strange device has been discovered that shows the details of that great civilisation. The details include a star map and hints that the High Ones are not extinct after all. The map beckons, and humans, being what they are, will follow. To the next great step in human destiny – or ultimate disaster. (First published 1969)
Silent, upon a peak in Nevèrÿon. The enchanted land of Nevèrÿon is the most fascinating fantasy empire ever mapped by a modern word-enchanter – a realm of nameless terror and sensuous delights beyond the feeble imaginings of mortal men and women. Now Nevèrÿon’s wildest desires and darkest dreams collide with the drear realities of our own blighted world as the gossamer boundaries between the real and the fantastic, truth and falsehood being to break down. And the world we know (or think we know) is revealed to us as if for the first time.
In uncharted Caprona, a continent lost from the map of Earth, where Time had stopped and all the primeval creatures of long-gone ages still prowled, Bowen Tyler was lost. Strange mysteries awaited the expedition that went in search of Tyler. A barbaric, warring civilization hid there, trapped between the impassable jungle on one side and an unknown menace on the other.
The Eight Stabilities are islands of order surrounded by corrupting, lethal chaos-and the chaos is encroaching. All Keris Kaylen ever wanted was to be a mapmaker like her father. Instead, she finds herself on the run into the realm of Carasma, the Unmaker Lord of Chaos. When her path crosses that of the traitorous aristocrat, Davron Storre, she’s way out of her depth, with no idea that the magic map she’s inherited might make a difference to the world…
A hundred thousand years ago, there had been a planet called Earth. It had been a proud world ruling a thousand vassal stars, but its stellar empire had turned upon and annihilated their conquerors, and wiped the name of Earth from the maps of space. But Earthmen still survived . . . a strange race of worldless men and women, by tradition advisers to rulers, but never themselves ruling. Wanderers through myriad planets, their origin was a half-forgotten legend. That was the situation when a strange quirk of fate sent Earthman Hallam Navarre on an interstellar wild goose chase. He had to bring back a strictly mythical treasure to his alien ruler, or die.
The chronicle of adventures of the survey ship Sarafand as it journeys through space exploring and mapping newly-discovered planets. The mission brings them into contact with man startling life-forms and menacing aliens. On one world the Sarafand sends out six survey modules and seven return: one of them is a shape-changing malevolent alien – but which? On another planet they discover a humanoid civilisation which can move around in time. Suddenly the Sarafand investigators are marooned millions of years in the past. Finally the Sarafand and its crew are stranded in a distant galaxy where everything – including them – is shrinking inexorably to zero size…
Wompler’s Walking Babies once put Millford, Utah, on the map. But they aren’t selling like they used to. In fact, they aren’t selling at all and the only alternative to winding the company up is to tap the government for a research grant. And so Wompler Research Laboratories and Project 32 come into being. The plan is to produce self-replicating mechanisms; identical cells equipped to repair intracellular breakdowns, convert power from their environment and create new cells. But suddenly the nondescript grey metal boxes start crawling about the laboratory, feeding voraciously on any metal… and multiplying at an alarming rate.
A hundred thousand years from now, it was discovered that a star was approaching the world on a collision course. Its discoverer, Creohan, figured there might be time to save the world if he could arouse everyone to the danger. But the Earth had become a strange and kaleidoscopic place in that distant era. Too many empires had risen and fallen, too many cultures had spread their shattered fragments across a planet whose very maps had long since been forgotten. People were too busy with their own private dreams to pay attention to one more new alarm. The story Creohan’s effort to Catch a Falling Star is one of John Brunner’s most colourful science-fiction concepts.