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Virtual Unrealities: The Short Fiction of Alfred Bester

Alfred Bester

"Dazzlement and enchantment are Bester's methods. His stories never stand still a moment."
--Damon Knight, author of Why Do Birds

Alfred Bester took science fiction into hyperdrive, endowing it with a wit, speed, and narrative inventiveness that have inspired two generations of writers. And nowhere is Bester funnier, speedier, or more audacious than in these seventeen short stories--two of them previously unpublished--that have now been brought together in a single volume for the first time.

Read about the sweet-natured young man whose phenomenal good luck turns out to be disastrous for the rest of humanity. Find out why tourists are flocking to a hellish little town in a post-nuclear Kansas. Meet a warlock who practices on Park Avenue and whose potions comply with the Pure Food and Drug Act. Make a deal with the Devil--but not without calling your agent. Dazzling, effervescent, sexy, and sardonic, Virtual Unrealities is a historic collection from one of science fiction's true pathbreakers.

"Alfred Bester was one of the handful of writers who invented modern science fiction."
--Harry Harrison

Contents:

  • ix - Introduction (Virtual Unrealities) - (1996) - essay by Robert Silverberg
  • 3 - Disappearing Act - (1953) - short story
  • 22 - Oddy and Id - (1950) - short story
  • 38 - Star Light, Star Bright - (1953) - short story
  • 56 - 5,271,009 - (1954) - novelette
  • 91 - Fondly Fahrenheit - (1954) - novelette
  • 112 - Hobson's Choice - (1952) - short story
  • 127 - Of Time and Third Avenue - (1951) - short story
  • 136 - Time Is the Traitor - (1953) - novelette
  • 159 - The Men Who Murdered Mohammed - (1958) - short story
  • 173 - The Pi Man - (1959) - short story
  • 191 - They Don't Make Life Like They Used To - (1963) - novelette
  • 225 - Will You Wait? - (1959) - short story
  • 233 - The Flowered Thundermug - (1964) - novelette
  • 273 - Adam and No Eve - (1941) - short story
  • 287 - And 3½ to Go - short story
  • 292 - Galatea Galante - (1979) - novelette (variant of Galatea Galante, The Perfect Popsy)
  • 334 - The Devil Without Glasses - novelette

The Illustrated Man

Ray Bradbury

He was a riot of rockets and fountains and people, in such intricate detail and color that you could hear the voiced murmuring, small and muted, from the crowds that inhabited his body.

Ray Bradbury brings wonders alive. A peerless American storyteller, his oeuvre has been celebrated for decades--from The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 to Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

The Illustrated Man is classic Bradbury --a collection of tales that breathe and move, animated by sharp, intaken breath and flexing muscle. Here are eighteen startling visions of humankind's destiny, unfolding across a canvas of decorated skin--visions as keen as the tattooist's needle and as colorful as the inks that indelibly stain the body.

The images, ideas, sounds and scents that abound in this phantasmagoric sideshow are provocative and powerful: the mournful cries of celestial travelers cast out cruelly into a vast, empty space of stars and blackness ... the sight of gray dust settling over a forgotten outpost on a road that leads nowhere ... the pungent odor of Jupiter on a returning father's clothing. Here living cities take their vengeance, technology awakens the most primal natural instincts, Martian invasions are foiled by the good life and the glad hand, and dreams are carried aloft in junkyard rockets.

Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man is a kaleidoscopic blending of magic, imagination, and truth, widely believed to be one of the Grandmaster's premier accomplishments: as exhilarating as interplanetary travel, as maddening as a walk in a million-year rain, and as comforting as simple, familiar rituals on the last night of the world.

The White Dragon

The Dragonriders of Pern Trilogy: Book 3

Anne McCaffrey

Never had there been as close a bonding as the one that existed betweenthe daring and adventurous young Lord Jaxom and his extraordinary whitedragon, Ruth. Pure white and incredibly agile, Ruth was a dragon of manytalents, though almost everyone on Pern thought he was a runt that wouldnever amount to anything.

But Jaxom knew better, knew he could teach his dragon to fly and todestroy the deadly silver Threads that fell from the sky. Disobeying allrules, Jaxom and Ruth trained in secret. Their illicit flights seemedbut a minor disobedience -- until they found themselves in the path ofdanger and in a position to prevent the biggest disaster of all!

Dreamsnake

Snake

Vonda N. McIntyre

This is the haunting story of an extraordinary woman and her dangerous quest to reclaim her healing powers. Revered healer Snake must undertake a journey in search of the dreamsnake, whose bite eases the fear and pain of death.

Dying Inside

Robert Silverberg

David Selig was born with an awesome power - the ability to look deep into the human heart, to probe the darkest truths hidden in the secret recesses of the soul. With reckless abandon, he used his talent in the pursuit of pleasure. Then, one day, his power began to die...

Dying Inside is a vivid, harrowing portrait of a man who squandered a remarkable gift, of a superman who had to learn what it was to be human.

Stormqueen!

The Darkover Series: Book 12

Marion Zimmer Bradley

The great epic of Darkover did not begin with the Terrans' arrival. For in those years, the power of the matrix was first learned--and misused in a power struggle that could have made Darkover a duplicate of Terra.

The Dreaming Jewels

Theodore Sturgeon

Retro Hugo-nominated Novella

Theodore Sturgeon's stunning debut novel, about a young boy who is drawn into a dangerous conspiracy when he leaves home to join a circus of shadows

Though only eight years old, little Horton "Horty" Bluett has known a lifetime of sadness. Tormented and abused by his adoptive family, he's had enough—and with a beloved broken toy he calls "Junky" as his sole companion, the desperate little boy runs away to join a carnival. There, among the fortune tellers, fire-eaters, sideshow freaks, and assorted "strange people," Horty hopes to find acceptance and, at long last, a real home.

But disgraced doctor Pierre "Maneater" Monetre's traveling show is no ordinary entertainment, and its performers are not what they appear to be. The Maneater has sinister plans for the world that go far beyond fleecing unsuspecting rubes and other easy marks—a dark and terrible scheme that requires unleashing the extraterrestrial power of the dreaming jewels, and the unwitting assistance of a young boy who may be far more remarkable than he's ever imagined.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Theodore Sturgeon including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the University of Kansas's Kenneth Spencer Research Library and the author's estate, among other sources.

Also published as The Synthetic Man (Pyramid Books, 1957)

The Bloody Sun

The Darkover Series: Book 3

Marion Zimmer Bradley

As a member of the Terran Spaceforce, Jeff Kerwin returns to Darkover, where he had spent his early years in an orphanage, and searches for clues about his true identity.

The Goblin Reservation

Masters of Science Fiction: Book 32

Clifford D. Simak

En route to an interplanetary research mission, a scientist is abducted by a strange, shadowy race of aliens and taken to a previously uncharted planet, a storehouse of information that would be invaluable--even to an Earth so advanced that time travel allows goblins, dinosaurs, even Shakespeare to coexist.

Sirius: A Fantasy Of Love And Discord

Olaf Stapledon

Sirius is the titular character and a 1944 science fiction novel by the British philosopher and author Olaf Stapledon.

Scientist Thomas Trelone creates a super-intelligent dog, named Sirius. He is the only dog to have attained a humanlike intelligence. Other dogs of the same breed Trelone created, have an intermediate intelligence (they are above the dog's average intelligence, but they cannot master human language and complex analytic thinking as Sirius does. A sense of existential questioning suffuses the book, as the author delves into every aspect of Sirius's psyche. The novel deals with a lot of human issues through Sirius and his experiences, his unusual nature, his ideas and his relationships with humans, showing a very gloomy, intelligent, obscure, sad, and complex tale, whose significance and depth cannot be fully understood, and is often misinterpreted.

City of Illusions

Hainish Cycle: Book 3

Ursula K. Le Guin

Falk was a fully grown man, alone in the dense forest, with no trail to show where he had come from and no memory to tell who - or what - he was.

The forest people took him in and raised him almost as a child, teaching him to speak, training him in forest lore, giving him all the knowledge they had.

But they could not solve the riddle of his past, and finally he had to set out on a perilous quest to Es Toch, the City of the Shing, the Liars of Earth, the Enemy of Mankind.

There he would find his true self - and a universe of danger....

The Dream Master

Gregg Press Science Fiction Series: Book 48

Roger Zelazny

Charles Render is a shaper, one of a small number of psychotherapists qualified, by his granite will and ultra-stability, to use the extraordinary device that enables him to to participate in, and control, his patients' dreams. But this is a dangerous therapy for the therapist and only his armour-plated integrity protects Render from too deep an involvement in the mental worlds of the damaged people he seeks to help. But then, Eileen Shallot, another therapist who is blind, asks him to help her 'see' by transferring from his mind to hers a world of colour and light. Render agrees but suddenly finds himself obsessed with Eileen and drawn into fantasies which, she controls.

Hawkmistress!

The Darkover Series: Book 15

Marion Zimmer Bradley

She had rejected her noble birthright and embraced the freedom only a man could claim. She was Romilly who lived among the beasts of hill and forest and communicated with them, who tried humanity and turned it down for its evils and jealousies. She had the MacAran Gift, the rare Iaran that conferred mastery over hawk and horse.

Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern

Pern: Book 1

Anne McCaffrey

An air of pleasant anticipation hung so thickly over the Halls, Holds, and Weyrs of Pern that it had affected even the businesslike ways of Moreta, the Weyrwoman of Fort Weyr. Her dragon, Queen Orlith, would soon clutch; spring had made a glorious debut; the Gather at Ruatha Hold was extremely merry; and Moreta was enjoying the attentions of Alessan, the new Lord Holder of Ruatha Hold.

With only eight Turns remaining before the deadly Thread would cease to Fall, all seemed well on Pern.

Then, without warning, a runnerbeast fell ill. Soon myriads of holders, craftsmen, and dragonriders were dying; and the mysterious ailment had spread to all but the most inaccessible holds. Pern was in mortal danger. For, if dragonriders did not rise to char Thread, the parasite would devour any and all organic life it encountered.

The future of the planet rested in the hands of Moreta and the other dedicated, selfless Pern leaders. But of all their problems, the most difficult to overcome was time...

Crystal Line

Crystal Singer: Book 3

Anne McCaffrey

When Killashandra Ree joined the mysterious Heptite Guild, she knew that she would be forever changed. Crystal singing brought ecstasy and pain, near-eternal life...and gradual loss of memory. What she hadn't counted on was the loneliness she felt when her heart still remembered what her mind had forgotten. Fortunately, someone still cared enough to try to salvage what was left of Killashandra's mind. But she would have to learn to open herself--to another person, and to all her unpleasant memories.

The Winds of Darkover

The Darkover Series: Book 5

Marion Zimmer Bradley

Originally appeared in Ace Double #89250 (1970).

Dan Barron was a rational and efficient member of the Terran space-force - until nightmare visions drove him from the safety of the trade city into the unmapped heart of the Darkovan mountain ranges. Into an ancient battle that would shape the destiny of more than one world.

The Forbidden Tower

The Darkover Series: Book 11

Marion Zimmer Bradley

On the planet Darkover, a Keeper--the center of a working psychic circle, the manipulator of colossal psychic forces--has traditionally been a virgin female. Callista, powerful Keeper of Arilinn Tower, has resigned her office to marry the Terran, Andrew Carr, who rescued her from her abductors in the previous book, THE SPELL SWORD.

As she struggles to throw off the years of conditioning that kept her mind and body under frighteningly rigid control, her new husband has his own battle with crippling culture shock. Meanwhile, Callista's brother-in-law Damon is conducting his own researches in an attempt to help her; his work, which suggests that a Keeper need not be virgin--nor female--could shake the very foundations of Darkovan society.

The Heritage of Hastur

The Darkover Series: Book 9

Marion Zimmer Bradley

Kennard Alton made the choice to marry a half-Terran, half-Aldaran woman. His two sons, Lewis and Marius, as a result are unable to fit into the Six Domains of the Comyn, the renegade "Seventh Domain" of Aldaran, or the world of the Terrans. This, in turn, leads Lew to his participation in the infamous Sharra Rebellion.

Meanwhile, the orphaned Regis Hastur is caught between following his heart and going on one of the Terran starships, and doing his duty to his grandfather and his family by taking his place in the Comyn Council and marrying. In the end, Lew's desire to break away from family and tradition leaves him closer than ever to his father, even as he wishes he could blame his father for leading him into the tragedy of the Sharra Rebellion.

Darkover Landfall

The Darkover Series: Book 7

Marion Zimmer Bradley

A lost ship from Terran mistakenly lands on a planet with a distant red star. That planet will come to be called Darkover, in this novel that details the crucial early days of the the land readers have grown to love. Although published in 1972, "Darkover Landfall" is viewed as the first novel in the history of Darkover.

Star of Danger

The Darkover Series: Book 4

Marion Zimmer Bradley

Star of Danger is a work that stands as a foundation for the bestselling Darkover series, introducing many loyal fans to this wonderful, mysterious world. Two natives of Darkover are forced to combine Darkover matrix magic with Terran technology to stand against a shared enemy.

The Planet Savers

The Darkover Series: Book 1

Marion Zimmer Bradley

Appeared in Amazing Science Fiction Stories, November 1958, and later in slightly edited form in Ace Double F-153 (1962).

Planet Savers is the first novel set in the world of Darkover in which the Terrans of Gottman IV desperately seek a cure to a disease of epidemic proportions.

The Spell Sword

The Darkover Series: Book 8

Marion Zimmer Bradley

Earthmen on Darkover stayed within the shelter of their specially constructed space port. Beyond lay uncharted territory - wild, inhospitable and sinister.

But for space traveller Andrew Carr the desolate planet held an attraction he could not resist. Darkover drew him. Darkover haunted him. And it was the planet's irresistible force that lured his craft to destruction among the unexplored mountains, leaving him alone among the magical people of the ancient planet....

The Jewels of Aptor

Gregg Press Science Fiction Series: Book 38

Samuel R. Delany

Originally appeared in Ace Double F-173 (1962).

When Argo, the White Goddess, orders it Geo, the itinerant poet, and his three disparate companions journey to the island of Aptor to seize a jewel from the dark god, Hama, and return it to Argo so that she may defeat the malign forces ranged against her and the land of Leptar

But, as the four push deep into the enigmatic heart of Aptor and the easy distinctions between good and evil start to blur, their mission no longer seems straightforward. For Argo already controls two of the precious stones and possession of the third would make her power absolute. And the four friends have learned that power tends to corrupt...

The Sword of Aldones

The Darkover Series: Book 2

Marion Zimmer Bradley

Originally appeared in Ace Double F-153 (1962).

After Lew Alton unwittingly roused the fire demon Sharra, the Sword of Aldones was the only weapon that could lay her to rest again. But only one man could wield the sword, and getting it was an even bigger problem.