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.