“Variety is the soul of pleasure,” And variety is what this comprehensive new collection of Connie Willis is all about. The stories cover the entire spectrum, from sad to sparkling to terrifying, from classics to hard-to-find treasures with everything in between – orangutans, Egypt, earthworms, roast goose, college professors, mothers-in-law, aliens, secret codes, Secret Santas, tube stations, choir practice, the post office, the green light on Daisy’s dock, weddings, divorces, death, and assorted plagues, from scarlet fever to “It’s a Wonderful Life.” And a dog.
Famous for her “sure-hand plotting, unforgettable characters, and top-notch writing,” Willis has been called, “the most relentlessly delightful science fiction writer alive,” and there are numerous examples here. Among them, Willis’s most famous stories – the Hugo- and Nebula-Award-winning “Fire Watch” and “Even the Queen” and “The Last of the Winnebagos” – along with undiscovered gems like Willis’s heartfelt homage to Jack Williamson, “Nonstop to Portales.” Her magical Christmas stories are here, too, from “Newsletter” to “Just Like the Ones We Used to Know…” which last year was made into the TV movie, Snow Wonder, starring Mary Tyler Moore.
We’ve collected stories from throughout Willis’s career, from early ones like “Cash Crop” and “Daisy, in the Sun,” right up to her newest stories, including the wonderful “The Winds of Marble Arch.” There’s literally something for everyone here. If you’re a diehard Willis fan, you’ll be delighted with hard-to-find treasures like the until-now uncollected, “The Soul Selects Her Own Society…” If you’ve never read Connie Willis, this is your chance to discover “A Letter from the Clearys” and, well, “Chance.” To say nothing of, “At the Rialto,” the funniest story ever written about quantum physicists. And Willis’s chilling, “All My Darling Daughters.”
And…oh, there are too many great stories here to list and pleasures galore. So enjoy!
Set sixteen years after the events of The Exiled Earthborn, this explosive conclusion of the Earthborn trilogy tells the story of two brothers, the sons of Lucas and Asha, tasked with surviving the Xalan war to ensure the continued existence of the human race.
Noah, an orphan from Earth’s last days who, as a child, was smuggled to safety across the stars, is now nearly a man and a leader to the young enclave of Earthborn who reside on Sora. When the tranquility of their settlement is shattered by a shocking assassination attempt, Noah turns to his combative younger brother Erik, Lucas and Asha’s only child by blood, for aid. Their journey takes them to the remnants of a dead planet, an outlaw-infested space station, and back to Sora, whose inhabitants are bracing for a final showdown with the bloodthirsty Xalans.
They find themselves facing a new evil: the omnipotent Archon, who is somehow controlling the whole of the Xalan horde, and his bloodthirsty lieutenant, the Black Corsair, who has an unmatched taste for brutality. The Archon, so-called God of the Shadows, has unearthed knowledge that could wipe both Sorans and humans alike from the face of existence. The descendants of the Earthborn must uncover the true nature of the Archon and the Xalans before he burns everything they know and love to ashes.
He had forgotten his real name, so they called him “Spingarn” after the last role he had played. He was the man the directors of the Frames regarded as their major headache – for he was guilty of two unforgivable arrogances. He had programmed himself into every one of the vast world-staged dramas he had directed – and he had reactivated the forbidden Frames of the pre-human planet of Talisker.
In those days of an overcrowded colonized cosmos, a thousand years from now, the Frames were the major means of diversion. Historical re-creations and fictional dramas played out with planets as stages and while populations as actors – the Frame directors and their robot assistants had become the masters of all life.
They could not destroy Spingarn, THE PROBABILITY MAN, but they could sentence him to undo the damage he had done. So he was sent to the mad Frames of Talisker to unravel the secret of their origin a billion years before the universe
In the waning years of the Middle Ages, before Christendom had completely scoured the world of magic, both Faery and Man lived on Europe’s shores. This is the story of those last days: of the halfling children of the Liri king, who were of both realms but chose the one we call the other; of how they schemed and fought for survival, hounded from the Baltic to the ice caves of Greenland to the Mediterranean coast; of how they loved and how they died. It is the epic master piece, the adventure at once erotic, violent and magnificently sad, that Poul Anderson has always wanted to write.
A collection of John Sladek’s hilarious SF satires, including:
The Last of the Whaleburgers
Great Mysteries Explained!Red Noise
The Brass Monkey
The Island of Dr Circe
Breakfast with the Murgatroyds
The Next Dwarf
An Explanation for the Disappearance of the Moon
How to Make Major Scientific Discoveries at Home in Your Spare Time
The Kindly Ones
Calling All Gumdrops!
At the age of 63, Philip Drury was 25 years away from his days as a ‘boatrider’ – a conman afloat. At that time his criminal partner had been a man called Mark Russell. In the years in between Drury had built up a hugely successful stud, and become involved in property speculation – and in doing so had lost virtually everything.
Drury was not a man to accept defeat. He needed to locate Mark Russell and give ‘boatriding’ one last go. A cruise liner is selected, but in the Caribbean where the ship will cruise, two young American conmen have exactly the same idea . . .
Originally, Sparta was an all-male planet – an all-male population with everything that implies: babies – male babies only – produced by the so-called Birth Machine from an almost unending supply of fertilized ova brought by Sparta’s founding father, a dyed-in-the-wool misogynist. But unnatural situations rarely stand the test of time, and it wasn’t too long before Sparta bowed to Mother Nature.
But there was still something rather strange about Sparta when John Grimes landed there to await the arrival of his beloved ship Sister Sue. It seemed to him that among the recently transplanted women of Sparta, there was a strange movement afoot. And when the Archon was kidnapped by a group of militant women the press claimed were men, he knew he couldn’t just stand by and watch!
An introductory note seems called for to explain to the reader the origin of the following strange document, which I have received from a friend with a view to publication. The author has given it the form of a letter to myself, and he signs himself with his nickname, “Cass,” which is an abbreviation of Cassandra. I have seldom met Cass since we were undergraduates together at Oxford before the war of 1914. Even in those days he was addicted to lurid forebodings, hence his nickname.
My last meeting with him was in one of the great London blitzes of 1941, when he reminded me that he had long ago prophesied the end of civilization in world-wide fire. The Battle of London, he affirmed, was the beginning of the long-drawn-out disaster.
Cass will not, I am sure, mind my saying that he always seemed to us a bit crazy: but he certainly had a queer knack of prophesy, and though we thought him sometimes curiously unable to understand the springs of his own behaviour, he had a remarkable gift of insight into the minds of others. This enabled him to help some of us to straighten out our tangles, and I for one owe him a debt of deep gratitude. He saw me heading for a most disastrous love affair, and by magic (no other word seems adequate) he opened my eyes to the folly of it. It is for this reason that I feel bound to carry out his request to publish the following statement. I cannot myself vouch for its truth. Cass knows very well that I am an inveterate sceptic about all his fantastic ideas. It was on this account that he invented my nickname. “Thos,” which most of my Oxford friends adopted. “Thos,” of course, is an abbreviation for Thomas, and refers to the “doubting Thomas” of the New Testament.
Cass, I feel confident, is sufficiently detached and sane to realize that what is veridical for him may be sheer extravagance for others, who have no direct experience by which to judge his claims. But if I refrain from believing, I also refrain from disbelieving. Too often in the past I have known his wild prophesies come true.
The head of the following bulky letter bears the address of a well-known mental home.
For millennia, the alien union called the Weave had been at war with the Amplitur. But only in the handful of centuries since Earth had joined the Weave had the tide of the battle been slowly turning in the Weave’s favour. Then an elite unit, raised from childhood in dedication to the Amplitur Purpose and designed to match perfectly the Humans they were to fight, came of age – and it looked as if at last the Amplitur might prevail against the Weave.
But when one of the elite unit, a warrior called Ranji, was captured by the Weave, a horrible truth was revealed: Ranji was in fact Human, a subject of the Amplitur’s vile genetic manipulations.
The Weave promised to reverse the effects and help Ranji rescue other altered Humans from the clutches of the Amplitur. But neither Ranji nor his new allies could have know that the proposed cure would result in an abomination that could tear the Weave alliance apart – and brand Ranji and his kind as the most despicable creatures in the galaxy…
Ed Carter, a New York reporter on his way to his home town in Omaha for a short vacation, saw the missile in the last moments in its journey back to earth. A sweller on the brink, like all of us, he had no doubt about what it was; Oh God, he thought, this is it. The blast of the impact flung him some distance, and when he regained consciousness, his first reaction was one of surprised to find himself still alive, and not, it seemed, even badly hurt. Presumably the missile had been directed at the big Air Force base nearby, and should have destroyed everything and everyone within a radius of miles. Could it have failed to explode?
Carter sees the remains of part of the missile in an adjacent field and hobbles over to it. A minute or two later several Air Force officers arrive. They examine the remains, and find the burned-up body of a pilot. In other worlds, the missile was not Russia’s first shot in the Third World War, but a failure to launch a man into space. But Carter knows that the Distant Early Warning line will have reported the missile; that the senior Air Force officers, in accordance with plan, will have taken to the air – in the country’s interest, their lives must, of course, be preserved if possible; that by now the retaliatory American bombers will have passed the point of no recall; and that the Third World War has begun. Not so, Colonel Ben Goldwater tells him: “I called the bombers back.”
Goldwater, the man who had been left in command, has saved the world – for at least a little longer. So he becomes a world hero? Not a bit of it. On the contrary: a nightmare looms ahead both for him and for Ed Carter, and the reader watches it all with growing fury…
Twenty years ago, the powerful mage Atrix Wolfe unleashed an uncontrollable force that killed his beloved king. Now, the Queen of the Wood has offered him one last chance for redemption. She asks him to find her daughter, who vanished into the human world during the massacre he caused. No one has seen the princess-but deep in the kitchens of the Castle of Pelucir, there is a scullery maid who appeared out of nowhere one night long ago. She cannot speak and her eyes are full of sadness. But there are those who call her beautiful.
These seventeen classic stories create their own unique galaxy of vain, protective, and murderous robots; devilish angels; and warm and angry aliens. In “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”-the inspiration for New Line Cinema’s major motion picture The Last Mimzy-a boy finds a discarded box containing a treasure trove of curious objects. When he and his sister begin to play with these trinkets-including a crystal cube that magnifies the unimaginable and a strange doll with removable organs that don’t quite correspond to those of the human body-their parents grow concerned. And they should be. For the items are changing the way the children think and perceive the world around them-for better or worse.
Ray Bradbury called Henry Kuttner “a man who shaped science fiction and fantasy in its most important years.” Marion Zimmer Bradley and Roger Zelazny said he was a major inspiration. Kuttner was a writer’s writer whose visionary works anticipated our own computer-controlled, machine-made world. At the time of his death at forty-two in 1958, he had created as many as 170 stories under more than a dozen pseudonyms-sometimes writing entire issues of science fiction magazines-in close collaboration with his wife, C. L. Moore.
This definitive collection will be a revelation to those who wish to discover or rediscover Henry Kuttner, a true master of the universe.
‘My name is Oonagh, granddaughter of the Countess Oona von Bek.’
While Elric, the last Sorcerer Emperor of Melniboné, hangs crucified above the deck of an enemy ship, his mind quests across worlds for the return of his sorcerous black sword Stormbringer.
In another universe, his daughter, Oona, follows her granddaughter through the multiverse, seeking to keep her from their enemy, Gaynor the Damned, and his allies
‘Oonagh, meanwhile, will require the help of Elric, his counterpart Ulric von Bek, and as many manifestations of the Eternal Champion as she can call upon, for Gaynor’s plan goes far beyond a simple kidnapping. If Oonagh can be forced to lead them to Elric’s albino son, Gaynor will be able to use him to summon the Runestaff. And that mystical artefact, in the hands of Gaynor and the Dark Empire of Granbretan, could threaten the entire multiverse, and the existence of the Cosmic Balance, itself …
The final chapter of humanity’s future has begun and one man, Nigel Walmsley, has been alive through it all. An ancient scientist from the distant past, Walmsley had been marooned inside an anomaly of time and space. From here he recalls Earth’s desperate struggle against the mechs, a violent artificial intelligence dedicated to total annihilation.
In a strange space-time continuum called the Esty, the last few survivors from humanity’s ravaged planets have taken refuge, readying themselves for a final stand against their ruthless executioners.
Three generations of men stand between the mechs and total oblivion for the human race: Toby Bishop, a young warrior-in-training; Killeen Bishop, Toby’s father and leader of the last remnants of humanity; and Killeen’s own father, long believed dead, but now mysteriously returned to his family.
As the mechs continue to carve their swathe of destruction through the galaxy, these three men hold the sole hope for the survival of the human race.
Life on Earth was intolerable – and yet Man had stayed there, his dreams and potential suffocating under the dead weight of bureaucracy.
The stars were attainable – thanks to the Infall Drive – but only a few heard the call of deep space. Some had already gone to colonise a new world. The second ship was ready at last. Ready to escape the Earth’s prison; ready to seek refuge in deepest space. But it wasn’t only freedom that awaited it…