Playboy Book of Science Fiction

Playboy Book of Science Fiction

by Alice K. Turner


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Playboy Book of Science Fiction by Alice K. Turner


Since its beginning almost a half a century ago, Playboy has given authors the freedom to address adult themes and controversial issues. This has proven irresistible to writers who have something new or different to say—which includes most of the top names in the field of science fiction.

In this extraordinary diverse collection, covering SF's most provocative half century, you will find the works of such acknowledged masters as Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, and Ursula K. Le Guin, along with daring forays by innovators like Harlan Ellison, Lucius Shepard, and Howard Waldrop, leavened with surprise appearances by Donald E. Westlake, Doris Lessing, and even Billy Crystal.

The stories assembled here provide a glittering array of science fiction at its uncensored best, form the Golden Age to the New Wave, from Cyberpunk to Virtual Sex.

Author Biography: Alice K. Turner, one of America's most renowned editors, has been at the fictional helm of Playboy for over a decade, nurturing today's literary lights and discovering tomorrow's stars. In her own right, she is the author of The History of Hell and the editor of Playboy Stories. She lives in New York City.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061073427
Publisher: Eos
Publication date: 02/01/1999
Pages: 469
Product dimensions: 6.15(w) x 9.21(h) x 1.28(d)

Read an Excerpt

Ray Bradbury
The Lost City of Mars
January 1967

The frontier cities on Mars looked very fine from above. Coming down for a landing, Wilder saw the neons among the blue hills and thought, we'll light some worlds a billion miles off, and the children of the people living under these lights this instant, we'll make them immortal. Very simply, if we succeed, they will live forever.
Live forever. The rocket landed. Live forever.
The wind that blew from the frontier town smelled of grease. An aluminum-toothed jukebox banged somewhere. A junk yard rusted beside the rocketport. Old newspapers danced alone on the windy tarmac.
Wilder, motionless at the top of the gantry elevator, suddenly wished not to move down. The lights suddenly had become people and not words that, huge in the mind, could be handled with elaborate ease.
He sighed. The freight of people was too heavy. The stars were too far away.
"Captain?" said someone behind him.
He stepped forward. The elevator gave way. They sank with a silent screaming toward a very real land with real people in it, who were waiting for him to choose.
At midnight the telegram bin hissed and exploded out a message projectile. Wilder, at his desk, surrounded by tapes and computation cards, did not touch it for a long while. When at last he pulled the message out, he scanned it, rolled it in a tight ball, then uncrumpled the message and read again:
final canal being filled tomorrow week. you are invited canal yacht party. distinguished guests. four-day journey to search for lost city. kindly acknowledge.
i. v. aaronson.
Wilder blinked, and laughed quietly. He crumpled the paper
again, butstopped, lifted the telephone and said:
"Telegram to I. V. Aaronson, Mars City I. Answer affirmative. No sane reason why, but still—affirmative."
And hung up the phone. To sit for a long while watching this night that shadowed all the whispering, ticking and motioning machines.

The dry canal waited.
It had been waiting 20,000 years for nothing but dust to filter through in ghost tides.
Now, quite suddenly, it whispered.
And the whisper became a rush and wall-caroming glide of waters.
As if a vast machined fist had struck the rocks somewhere, clapped the air and cried "Miracle!," a wall of water came proud and high along the channels, and lay down in all the dry places of the canal and moved on toward ancient deserts of dry bone surprising old wharves and lifting up the skeletons of boats abandoned countless centuries before when the water burnt away to nothing.
The tide turned a corner and lifted up—a boat as fresh as the morning itself, with new-minted silver screws and brass pipings, and bright new Earth-sewn flags. The boat, suspended from the side of the canal, bore the name Aaronson I.
Inside the boat, a man with the same name smiled. Mr. Aaronson sat listening to the waters live under the boat.
And the sound of the water was cut across by the sound of a hovercraft, arriving, and a motor bike, arriving, and in the air, as if summoned with magical timing, drawn by the glimmer of tides in the old canal, a number of gadfly people flew over the hills on jet-pack machines and hung suspended as if doubting this collision of lives caused by one rich man.
Scowling up with a smile, the rich man called to his children, cried them in from the heat with offers of food and drink.
"Captain Wilder! Mr. Parkhill! Mr. Beaumont!"
Wilder set his hovercraft down.
Sam Parkhill discarded his motor bike, for he had seen the yacht and it was a new love.
"My God," cried Beaumont, the actor, part of the frieze of people in the sky dancing like bright bees on the wind. "I've timed my entrance wrong. I'm early. There's no audience!"
"I'll applaud you down!" shouted the old man, and did so, then added, "Mr. Aikens!"
"Aikens?" said Parkhill. "The big-game hunter?"
"None other!"
And Aikens dived down as if to seize them in his harrying claws. He fancied his resemblance to the hawk. He was finished and stropped like a razor by the swift life he had lived. Not an edge of him but cut the air as he fell, a strange plummeting vengeance upon people who had done nothing to him. In the moment before destruction, he pulled up on his jets and, gently screaming, simmered himself to touch the marble jetty. About his lean middle hung a rifle belt. His pockets bulged like those of a boy from the candy store. One guessed he was stashed with sweet bullets and rare bombs. In his hands, like an evil child, he held a weapon that looked like a bolt of lightning fallen straight from the clutch of Zeus, stamped, nevertheless: made in u. s. a. His face was sun-blasted dark. His eyes were cool surprises in the sun-wrinkled flesh, all mint-blue-green crystal. He wore a white porcelain smile set in African sinews. The earth did not quite tremble as he landed.
"The lion prowls the land of Judah!" cried a voice from the heavens. "Now do behold the lambs driven forth to slaughter!"
"Oh, for God's sake, Harry, shut up!" said a woman's voice.
And two more kites fluttered their souls, their dread humanity, on the wind.
The rich man jubilated.
"Harry Harpwell!"
"Behold the angel of the Lord who comes with Annunciations!" the man in the sky said, hovering. "And the Annunciation is—"
"He's drunk again," his wife supplied, flying ahead of him, not looking back.
"Megan Harpwell," said the rich man, like an entrepreneur introducing his troupe.
"The poet," said Wilder.
"And the poet's barracuda wife," muttered Parkhill.
"I am not drunk," the poet shouted down the wind. "I am simply high." And here he let loose such a deluge of laughter that those below almost raised their hands to ward off the avalanche.


The Playboy Book of Science Fiction


From the outset, in 1953, Playboy has welcomed science fiction to its pages. Imagination, innovation, and daring have always been the magazine's stock in trade; no wonder it has drawn so many stellar authors from the field. And they have been loyal. Ray Bradbury was the very first young, contemporary author chosen for reprint in the early years when Playboy could not yet afford to publish original fiction, he was one of the first to be paid for original material--and he is still a favorite decades later.

The new magazine offered science fiction writers some things they couldn't get elsewhere in those days: first, the opportunity to break out from the genre magazines to a far larger public. Then too, genre magazines, which counted teenagers as a substantial part of their readership, were restrictive regarding content and Playboy offered the creative freedom to write for an adult audience. And eventually, as a market, Playboy simply looked better than the genre competition, especially after the attention given to "The Fly," by George Langelaan (July, 1957), which almost immediately inspired the first of many movies.

In July and August of 1963, in place of the Interview, the magazine ran an innovative and influential panel entitled 1984 and Beyond. A dozen top science fiction writers, including four collected here (Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Frederik Pohl, William Tenn), gathered to predict the future. The speculations are amusing to read today, some of them pretty accurate (the Russian socialist empire would collapse), some not (telepathic sex). The most creative result of the panel may have been to inspire Clarke, over the next fifteen years, to continue a series of highly regarded articles on science and futuristics for Playboy. He, too, still appears in our pages as he enters his ninth decade.

Because of the difficulties of choosing from the wealth of excellent material accumulated over forty-five years, a few rules are in play here. You will find no more than one story from each author, though some (Bradbury and Robert Silverberg come to mind) contributed far more frequently than others. There's been an effort to mix it up, tossing the lighthearted pieces that readers enjoy together with more serious work, and short stories with longer ones. No stories from The Playboy Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy, published in 1966, are included, even though that book is a hard-to-find collector's item today. And, speaking of fantasy, you won't find it here, or at least not much of it, given the inevitable genre overlap.

Most of these authors are well known, a few of them famous. Over the years, we have published science fiction by lesser lights too, even a few first-timers (we've included one of those), but in a collection like this one, in a field where even the top talents still write short stories (this is rare in the mainstream), it's inevitable. They're a wildly diverse group. We think you'll enjoy their stories.

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