Ez egy hosszú szöveg, de megéri elolvasni, mert példaértékű. Egy szerző, aki mások műveit is el akarja olvastatni a kedves olvasóval és ezt nem restelli a saját Best of könyvébe beleírni. Egyre jobban szeretem Connie Willist.
Writing an author's introduction to a „Best of” collection is kind of problematic. If you talk too much about the stories, you give away the plot, and if you focus on the „best of” part, it looks uncomfortably like bragging-and usually is.
Telling where you got the idea for each story is usually a terrible letdown and doesn't really explain anything. I mean, I got the idea for „The Last of the Winnebagos” from being stuck behind an RV going fifteen miles an hour up the pass to Woodland Park, and the idea for „All Seated on the Ground” from sitting in the church choir singing some Christmas carol with truly awful lyrics, but that doesn't explain how I got from there to the story, and if I explain all the steps in between (giving away half the surprises in the story in the process), you'll feel as duped and annoyed as you do after a magician explains how he sawed the woman in half.
Besides, I don't know all the steps. Writers don't really understand where their ideas come from, or how they morph into the story on the page. And often what I thought I was doing turned out not to be what was really going on at all. While you're writing one story, your subconscious is busily writing another. Which means that to really explain the stories, I'd have to go all autobiographical and get into my childhood and the traumas thereof, which I have no intention of doing here.
It's too bad this isn't a theme anthology. It's easy to write an introduction for a theme anthology. If it's about time travel or H. G. Wells-like invasions from outer space or dragons, then you natter on about dragons-or invasions, or time travel-for a few pages, and you're good. But only one of the stories in this collection is about a Wells-like invasion. (There's another invasion from outer space, but the aliens don't try to kill anybody. They don't do anything. In fact, that's the problem. They just stand there and look disapproving.)
There are also a couple of time-travel stories here (though only one's about time travel in the traditional sense), there aren't any dragon stories, and the other stories are about psychics, RVs, the Pyramids, the post office, Annette Funicello, mystery novels, Kool-Aid, tomato plants, and the footprints out in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
It's kind of hard to detect a common theme in all that, and the settings don't provide one, either. The stories take place in Phoenix; Egypt; the London Tube; Amherst, Massachusetts; and a mall at Christmastime-and in the past, future, afterlife, and end of the world.
About the only thing the stories have in common is that I wrote them, and even that's apparently a bit uncertain. There was a conspiracy theory making the rounds of the Internet a while back that there were actually two Connie Willises, one who wrote the „funny stuff” and one who wrote the „sad stuff,” which I don't understand at all.
I mean, Shakespeare wrote both comedies and tragedies (to say nothing of historical fiction, fantasy, and some pretty darn good poems) and nobody ever said his stuff was written by two different people. Although, come to think of it, they did accuse him of being someone else altogether, including Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere, and Queen Elizabeth. (And a committee, which I guess counts as two different people.) No one has claimed a committee wrote my stories yet, so that's good.
And it is true that there's more than one kind of story in this collection. But in writing them, I wasn't so much following in Shakespeare's footsteps (though the world would definitely be a better place if everybody tried to write like Shakespeare-or at least read him) as in the footsteps of some of my favorite science-fiction writers.
They didn't stick to just one kind of story, either. Shirley Jackson wrote both chilling studies in human behavior ("The Lottery") and hilarious ones ("One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts"). So did William Tenn, penning the savage „The Liberation of Earth,” the bleak „Down Among the Dead Men,” and the uproarious „Bernie the Faust.”
And Kit Reed wrote-and is still writing-all across the spectrum, from the terrifying ("The Wait") to the creepy ("The Fat Farm") to the sweet and funny ("Songs of War").
I was first exposed to all these writers and to many more-Fredric Brown, Mildred Clingerman, Theodore Sturgeon, Zenna Henderson, James Blish, Ray Bradbury-in the Year's Best collections edited by Judith Merril, Robert P. Mills, and Anthony Boucher, and they had an even more profound effect on me than Robert A. Heinlein, whose work I found at the same time.
To quote Mr. Heinlein, „How it happened was this way.” In one of those serendipitous moments that make you ponder how much of the course of your life depends on the vagaries of chance, I happened to see a copy of Heinlein's Have Space Suit, Will Travel, thought it had a funny title (for you young'uns, there was a TV show in those days called Have Gun, Will Travel-and yes, we had TV back then!), and checked it out. And fell in love with the very first line: „You see, I had this space suit.”
I also fell in love with its seventeen-year-old hero (I was thirteen), his ten-year-old-girl sidekick Peewee, and the Mother Thing. And in love with the humor and the adventure and the science and the literary references. Kip's dad is reading Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat in the first chapter, and Shakespeare's The Tempest figures heavily in saving the planet. (I told you the world would be a better place if everybody read Shakespeare.)
I immediately devoured the rest of the Heinleins my library had-Time for the Stars, Tunnel in the Sky, The Star Beast, The Door into Summer, Double Star, Space Cadet-and then set out to find other stuff like them.
There was no science-fiction section in the library back in those days (they were days of dark oppression), so this was harder than it might seem. But I'd noticed that the Heinleins all had this symbol of a spaceship and an atom on the back, so I scoured the library for other books with the symbol. I found, I remember, Pebble in the Sky and The Space Merchants and Revolt on Alpha C. And the Year's Best collections-a whole row of them.
They were a revelation to me. Here, cheek by jowl, were stories by John Collier and C. M. Kornbluth and Ray Bradbury and C. L. Moore, a kaleidoscope of stories and styles and themes, from the funny (Fredric Brown's "Puppet Show") to the frighteningly dystopic (E. M. Forster's "The Machine Stops") to the achingly sad ("Flowers for Algernon").
A realistic story about a man walking across the moon on foot stood between a lyrical remembrance of things past and a nightmarish take on the „good life,” and there were tales of tidal flats and amusement parks and department stores and spots in the Arizona desert where it was possible to see „a miracle of rare device.”
Stories about robots and time-travelers and aliens, and stories about the cold equations of the physical universe and the hidden costs of technological advance, about the endless difficulty of determining what a human is-and how to be one. Science fiction in all her infinite variety, spread out like a feast in front of me.
And the stories were good. These were, after all, short stories and novelettes and novellas being written by authors at the height of their powers. Nowadays, science-fiction writers tend to think of the short story only as a way to get their foot in the publishing door or as a practice run for the three-volume trilogy they really want to write, and after they sell that first novel, they tend not to write any more short stories.
But back then very few science-fiction novels were being published (they were really days of dark oppression), and everybody, from the talented beginner to old hands like Jack Williamson and Frederik Pohl, was writing for the magazines. Including Heinlein, who I was thrilled to find was also in the collections, with gems like „They” and „All You Zombies”-and my favorite, „The Menace from Earth.”
These were people who really knew how to write, and I reaped the benefit, reading classics like „Evening Primrose” and „Nightfall” and „Vintage Season” and „Ararat.”
Even in this exalted company, some stories stood out as exceptional. One of them was „Lot,” by Ward Moore, which starts out seeming to be a simple tale about a dad packing the family car for a trip and turns into a horrific (and all-too-possible) nuclear nightmare, a story that managed to embody not only the loss of civilization but the loss of our humanity, and one that has reverberated in my mind ever since I read it.
A second standout was Philip K. Dick's „I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon,” a story about a man in cold sleep traveling to a far distant planet who keeps dreaming his arrival. It deals with an entirely different kind of nightmare, one in which we can no longer tell what's reality and what's a dream.
But my favorite had to be Bob Shaw's „The Light of Other Days,” a simple little tale about a couple driving out to the country on a summer afternoon to buy a piece of window glass for their apartment. It somehow managed to dissect marriage, loss, grief, and the bitter knowledge that technology can be a two-edged sword, all in the space of a few thousand words.
I had had no idea stories could do stuff like this.
I've always considered myself incredibly lucky (the „chance” thing again) that I discovered those collections when I did. Heinlein was great, but novels devoted to blasting through space and discovering planets infested with multieyed monsters didn't have all that much to say to me, and that was what most of the science-fiction novels in my library were about. And the movies were even worse. (We were still years away from Star Wars.)
With only Daring Rangers of the Sky to read and Attack from Venus to watch, my infatuation with science fiction might have proved shortlived. But through the brilliance of Bob Shaw and Philip K. Dick and all those other writers, I'd glimpsed what science fiction could be. So I kept reading, discovering Samuel R. Delany and J. G. Ballard and James Tiptree, Jr., and Howard Waldrop and a host of other brilliant writers, and falling more and more in love with the field. And I started writing stories of my own.
Well, maybe not entirely my own. When I look back at „A Letter from the Clearys,” I can see how much it owes to Ward Moore's „Lot.” When I reread „Fire Watch,” I see the impact of Heinlein and his hapless heroes on me, and in „Even the Queen” and „At the Rialto” the influence of his breezy style and bantering characters.
But it's not just those two authors. They all influenced me. They taught me all sorts of techniques I could use in my stories-the onionlike layered revelations of Daniel Keyes, the understated ironies of Kit Reed, the multiple meanings Shirley Jackson could cram into a single line of dialogue. More important, they showed me that a story didn't have to be all flash and pyrotechnics (though they taught me how to do that, too). They showed me that stories could be told simply and straightforwardly-and have hidden depths.
But mostly they made me fall so madly in love with their stories that I wanted to be just like them, so madly in love that I've written science-fiction short stories for more than forty years-and am still writing them.
This year I was honored to be awarded the Grand Master Nebula for my work and my life in science fiction. It is fitting that the award is named after Damon Knight, who wrote several of my favorite short stories in those Year's Best collections, including „The Country of the Kind” and „The Big Pat Boom,” and I'd like to think I got the award as much for the stories you'll find in this volume as for my novels.
In my acceptance speech I thanked all of the writers and editors and agents who've helped me along the way, and I concluded with this:
But mostly I have to thank the people to whom I owe the most:
– Robert A. Heinlein, for introducing me to Kip and Peewee, and to Three Men in a Boat and to the whole wonderful world of science fiction.
– And Kit Reed and Charles Williams and Ward Moore, who showed me its amazing possibilities.
– Philip K. Dick and Shirley Jackson and Howard Waldrop and William Tenn, who taught me how science fiction should be written.
– And Bob Shaw and Daniel Keyes and Theodore Sturgeon, whose stories-"The Light of Other Days" and „Flowers for Algernon” and „The Man Who Lost the Sea”-taught me to love it.
I wouldn't be here without them.
I couldn't have done any of the things I've done without them, and in a sense, when you read this collection, you're reading their stories as well as mine. At least, I hope a little of them has rubbed off on me. Because they were truly the year's-and any year's-best. And when my stories are comic and tragic and about everything from Thomas More to Christmas carols, from murder to exasperated mothers, I'm following firmly in their footsteps. And they were following firmly in Shakespeare's.
So, enjoy! And then, when you've read all these stories, go read Philip K. Dick's „We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” and C. L. Moore and Henry Kuttner's „Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and Kit Reed's „Time Tours, Inc.” and Theodore Sturgeon's „A Saucer of Loneliness.” And all the other wonderful, wonderful stories of science fiction!