Monday, January 20, 2014

A Few Words About the Most Wonderful Writer in the World

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R. A. Lafferty is back in print!  This is extremely good news because Lafferty was the single most original writer in science fiction.  He wasn't the smartest -- that crown would go to either Gene Wolfe or Samuel R. Delany.  Nor necessarily the "best" -- to Wolfe and Delany, here add Le Guin and Russ and maybe five or six others as contenders for that honor.  But he wrote stuff unlike anything anybody else ever wrote or will ever write again.  And he had ideas so brilliantly off the wall as to make the rest of us go, "Where the [bleep] did that come from?"

His best work was genuinely wonderful, in the old, unspoiled sense of that word.

Now Centipede Press is bringing out the complete short fiction of R. A. Lafferty, edited by John Pelan.  Volume 1, which arrived in the mail today, is The Man Who Made Models.  It contains seventeen stories, some of them among his best (mention "Narrow Valley" to someone who knows it and watch him or her smile), an afterword by Pelan and an introduction by, well, not to be coy about it, me.

The intro, "Eight Words from the Most Wonderful Writer in the World" sets down in print everything that I know about Lafferty.  It was a pain to write.  And I was thrilled to have the opportunity to offer up my suffering to God.

That's the good news.  The regrettable news is that the book is being issued in a limited edition of 300 and costs sixty dollars.  It's worth it, mind you!  And there should easily be three hundred people willing to shell out the money for it.  But you're not likely to be in a position to buy six or seven extra to give friends.  And I suspect that it's going to sell through fast.

I also suspect that this series is going to cost me a bundle by the time it's complete.

But, really, that's good news too.

You can find the table of contents (and buy a copy, if you wish) here.


And if you're unfamiliar with Lafferty . . .

The single best place to start is with a paperback short fiction collection called Nine Hundred Grandmothers.  Strange Doings and Does Anyone Else Have Something Further To Add? are almost as good.  And then you're on your own!  A word of caution, however:  While some of his novels are among my favorites, others are a strange sort of religious allegory that are definitely not to everybody's taste.  Luckily, most of those are small press publications and difficult to find.  Though I believe I have pretty damn near all of 'em.
 
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10 comments:

Zvi said...

Michael! Do you know of any plans to e-publish this series? I think there are a lot more than 300 people who would pay good dollars for an ebook of the complete Lafferty short stories.

Alan Bard Newcomer said...

did a search on abebooks for r a lafferty soft covers...
823 books lots at $3 --- lots are in digests...
digests should be easy to find... I've thrown them away because of space problems...
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I wonder if there's a Lafferty estate getting money out of these?

Michael Swanwick said...

Lafferty left his literary estate to some two dozen real actives. This was a factor in the unavailability of his work. The Locus Foundation paid some serious money to buy it, essentially so that it could be made available again. And God bless them for that.

Michael Swanwick said...

That should be relatives. I suspect that in a previous life I shot Spellcheck's dog.

David Stone said...

I wish it could have been a larger run. Also, I'm sure I would pay good money for a more affordable digital version of this, sad as it is to have to make price a consideration.

I think I appreciate better now the problems attendant to people not giving the old masters the recognition they deserve.

Richard Mason said...

To anyone who, like me, might have wondered: when the Centipede Press website says that the Lafferty book will not ship until November or December, that is old information--they do not mean December 2014. The book will ship in the near future.

Tom Lawrence said...

Michael -- thank you so much for alerting us that this collection existed. Got mine on order!

Tom

HANNAH'S DAD said...

Very excited about the book and not fussed about the price - but I notice their order form lists an astonishing $55 to ship to Australia, whereas the same book purchased via Amazon ships for $10 (and admittedly, an extra $5 on the book price). I like to support small publishers by buying direct, but there's a limit...

Hope this might be useful to other non-American purchasers.

Bruce said...

Good news: Lafferty collection! Bad news: More expensive than I can justify paying.

One of the stories I managed to write last year was an attempt to write in Lafferty's style. Let me tell you, this is DAMN FREAKIN' HARD.

(Pretty good story, I think, though I doubt anyone would ever mistake it for genuine Lafferty.)

I've been giving some thought to the idea of "American Fantasy", as different from Euro-fantasy like Tolkien and innumerable successors. I'd put Lafferty's OKLA HANNALI at the top of such a list. (Bujold's "Sharing Knife" series is another example.)

Kevin said...

I just posted a blog entry reviewing and thanking you for your excellent introduction to The Man Who Made Models. I quote your first paragraph in its entirety. Please let me know if you think I included too long a passage, and I'll edit to shorten it. I would rather quote you with your blessing. The blog entry is here: http://www.yetanotherlaffertyblog.com/2014/04/the-man-who-made-models-introduction.html
Thank you very much.
-Kevin