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The twelve science fiction and fantasy stories and the final essay that make up this book are printed here in the order in which they were originally written. They were first published between 1966 and 1975, a turbulent time in this country, and a time of great changes in my own life. These stories are both a product and a reflection of their time.
These stories have been a means for me of wrestling with the enigma of being alive. Over and over again, each in its own way, they ask the same childish question: What does it mean to be an adult human being?
So many questions that we ask when we are children are never answered. They are indefinitely postponed. This question--a child's question--was mine. And it was never answered for me to my satisfaction.
What is it to be an adult human being?
It still seems to me to be as urgent a question as it ever was. In view of the desperation of the present human condition, a desperate question. If we human beings are to survive, we must know who we are and what we may become.
The question is deliberately posed in the form of science fiction. Science fiction is a means of stepping outside ourselves and our present condition in search of new perception. If we already knew how to be truly adult, if we already knew how to be truly human beings, we would not be in our present difficulties.
Is our personal future and the future of mankind limited and cloudy? The answer indicated by science fiction and by these stories is: only if we are unable to change ourselves.
If we could change ourselves, what might we not become?
So here these stories are, from "What's Your Excuse?" to"Lady Sunshine and the Magoon of Beatus." A record of change.
This book is the last by Alexei Panshin. Whatever books follow this will be collaborations between Alexei and Cory Panshin--as were several of the later pieces in this book, such as the story "Sky Blue" and "Lady Sunshine" and the article that concludes this book and lends it its title.