A mutant baby goes on a rampage through Central Park. An immigrant reveals secrets in the folds of a perfect gift. Lucky Cats extend their virtual paws to salute a generous revolution. The Internet invades a third-world village.
The premier speculative-fiction magazine Fantasy & Science Fiction continues to discover and showcase many of the most inventive authors writing in any genre. Now drawing even more deeply upon F&SF's impressive history, this extraordinary companion anthology expands upon sixty-five years' worth of top-notch storytelling. The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume Two is a star-studded tribute to the continuing vision of F&SF.
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About the Author
Two-time Hugo Award winner Gordon Van Gelder has been the editor of Fantasy & Science Fiction since 1996. As an editor at St. Martin's Press for twelve years, he worked with such writers as Christopher Priest, George Pelecanos, and Kate Wilhelm. Van Gelder has also received the World Fantasy, and Locus awards. He lives Hoboken, New Jersey.
Charles de Lint is the best-selling author of more than seventy adult, YA, and children's books, including Moonheart, The Onion Girl, Widdershins, Medicine Road, and Under My Skin. He is the recipient of the World Fantasy, YALSA, Crawford, and Aurora awards. De Lint is a poet, songwriter, performer, and folklorist, and he writes a book review column for Fantasy & Science Fiction.
Stephen King is the bestselling author of more than forty novels and over 100 short stories, such as Carrie, The Dark Tower, Under the Dome, and Children of the Corn. He is the recipient of the Hugo, Shirley Jackson, Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, Horror Guild, and World Fantasy awards. King's work has been made into major motion pictures, such as The Dead Zone, Carrie, The Shining, and Misery.
Jane Yolen is an American author of close to 300 books. Her books are primarily fantasy, science fiction, folktales and children's books. Her Nebula nominated novella "The Devil's Arithmetic" was made into a movie starting Kristin Dunst and Brittany Murphy. She is also known for her Pit Dragon Quadrilogy.
Paolo Bacigalupi's debut novel The Windup Girl, took the science fiction field by storm, winning the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Compton Crook, and John W. Campbell Memorial awards. He is also the author of the young adult novel, Ship Breaker, which won the Michael L. Printz Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. His latest novel is The Drowned Cities, a companion novel to Ship Breaker.
Harlan Ellison has written or edited more than 75 books and more than 1,700 stories, essays, articles, and newspaper columns as well as two dozen teleplays and a dozen movies. His work includes such classics as Deathbird Stories, I, Robot, Strange Wine, Shatterday, and Angry Candy. He has won multiple Hugo, Nebula, Edgar, Stoker, Locus, and Audie awards as well as the Silver Pen, World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Bradbury, and American Mystery awards.
Date of Birth:September 21, 1947
Place of Birth:Portland, Maine
Education:B.S., University of Maine at Orono, 1970
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The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction Volume 2
By Gordon Van Gelder
Tachyon PublicationsCopyright © 2014 Gordon Van Gelder
All rights reserved.
The Third Level (1952)
The author of The Woodrow Wilson Dime, Marion's Wall, and Assault on a Queen, Jack Finney (1911–1995) is best known nowadays for two works: The Body Snatchers, which formed the basis for the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Time and Again, a classic novel of traveling back through time to New York City in 1982.
Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Jack Finney worked in advertising in New York before moving to California in the 1950s. His appreciation of Manhattan as a place of magic and mystery is obvious in this short yarn.
The presidents of the New York Central and the New York, New Haven and Hartford railroads will swear on a stack of timetables that there are only two. But I say there are three, because I've been on the third level at Grand Central Station. Yes, I've taken the obvious step: I talked to a psychiatrist friend of mine, among others. I told him about the third level at Grand Central Station, and he said it was a waking-dream wish fulfillment. He said I was unhappy. That made my wife kind of mad, but he explained that he meant the modern world is full of insecurity, fear, war worry and all the rest of it, and that I just want to escape. Well, hell, who doesn't? Everybody I know wants to escape but they don't wander down into any third level at Grand Central Station.
But that's the reason, he said, and my friends all agreed. Everything points to it, they claimed. My stamp collecting, for example; that's a "temporary refuge from reality." Well, maybe, but my grandfather didn't need any refuge from reality; things were pretty nice and peaceful in his day, from all I hear, and he started my collection. It's a nice collection, too, blocks of four of practically every U.S. issue, first-day covers, and so on. President Roosevelt collected stamps, too, you know.
Anyway, here's what happened at Grand Central. One night last summer I worked late at the office. I was in a hurry to get uptown to my apartment so I decided to take the subway from Grand Central because it's faster than the bus.
Now, I don't know why this should have happened to me. I'm just an ordinary guy named Charley, thirty-one years old, and I was wearing a tan gabardine suit and a straw hat with fancy band; I passed a dozen men who looked just like me. And I wasn't trying to escape from anything; I just wanted to get home to Louisa, my wife.
I turned into Grand Central from Vanderbilt Avenue, and went down the steps to the first level, where you take trains like the Twentieth Century. Then I walked down another flight to the second level, where the suburban trains leave from, ducked into an arched doorway heading for the subway—and got lost. That's easy to do. I've been in and out of Grand Central hundreds of times, but I'm always bumping into new doorways and stairs and corridors. Once I got into a tunnel about a mile long and came out in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel. Another time I came up in an office building on Forty-sixth Street, three blocks away.
Sometimes I think Grand Central is growing like a tree, pushing out new corridors and staircases like roots. There's probably a long tunnel that nobody knows about feeling its way under the city right now, on its way to Times Square, and maybe another to Central Park. And maybe—because for so many people through the years Grand Central has been an exit, a way of escape—maybe that's how the tunnel I got into ... But I never told my psychiatrist friend about that idea.
The corridor I was in began angling left and slanting downward and I thought that was wrong, but I kept on walking. All I could hear was the empty sound of my own footsteps and I didn't pass a soul. Then I heard that sort of hollow roar ahead that means open space and people talking. The tunnel turned sharp left; I went down a short flight of stairs and came out on the third level at Grand Central Station. For just a moment I thought I was back on the second level, but I saw the room was smaller, there were fewer ticket windows and train gates, and the information booth in the center was wood and old-looking. And the man in the booth wore a green eyeshade and long black sleeve protectors. The lights were dim and sort of flickering. Then I saw why; they were open-flame gaslights.
There were brass spittoons on the floor, and across the station a glint of light caught my eye: a man was pulling a gold watch from his vest pocket. He snapped open the cover, glanced at his watch, and frowned. He wore a dirty hat, a black four-button suit with tiny lapels, and he had a big, black, handlebar mustache. Then I looked around and saw that everyone in the station was dressed like 1890 something; I never saw so many beards, sideburns and fancy mustaches in my life. A woman walked in through the train gate; she wore a dress with leg-of-mutton sleeves and skirts to the top of her high-buttoned shoes. Back of her, out on the tracks, I caught a glimpse of a locomotive, a very small Currier & Ives locomotive with a funnel-shaped stack. And then I knew.
To make sure, I walked over to a newsboy and glanced at the stack of papers at his feet. It was the World; and the World hasn't been published for years. The lead story said something about President Cleveland. I've found that front page since, in the Public Library files, and it was printed June 11, 1894.
I turned toward the ticket windows knowing that here—on the third level at Grand Central—I could buy tickets that would take Louisa and me anywhere in the United States we wanted to go. In the year 1894. And I wanted two tickets to Galesburg, Illinois.
Have you ever been there? It's a wonderful town still, with big old frame houses, huge lawns, and tremendous trees whose branches meet overhead and roof the streets. And in 1894, summer evenings were twice as long, and people sat out on their lawns, the men smoking cigars and talking quietly, the women waving palm-leaf fans, with the fireflies all around, in a peaceful world. To be back there with the First World War still twenty years off, and World War II over forty years in the future ... I wanted two tickets for that.
The clerk figured the fare—he glanced at my fancy hatband, but he figured the fare— and I had enough for two coach tickets, one way. But when I counted out the money and looked up, the clerk was staring at me. He nodded at the bills. "That ain't money, mister," he said, "and if you're trying to skin me you won't get very far," and he glanced at the cash drawer beside him. Of course the money was old-style bills, half again as big as the money we use nowadays, and different looking. I turned away and got out fast. There's nothing nice about jail, even in 1894.
And that was that. I left the same way I came, I suppose. Next day, during lunch hour, I drew $300 out of the bank, nearly all we had, and bought old-style currency (that really worried my psychiatrist friend). You can buy old money at almost any coin dealer's, but you have to pay a premium. My $300 bought less than $200 in old-style bills, but I didn't care; eggs were thirteen cents a dozen in 1894.
But I've never again found the corridor that leads to the third level at Grand Central Station, although I've tried often enough.
Louisa was pretty worried when I told her all this, and didn't want me to look for the third level any more, and after a while I stopped; I went back to my stamps. But now we're both looking, every week end, because now we have proof that the third level is still there. My friend Sam Weiner disappeared! Nobody knew where, but I sort of suspected because Sam's a city boy, and I used to tell him about Galesburg—I went to school there—and he always said he liked the sound of the place. And that's where he is, all right. In 1894.
Because one night, fussing with my stamp collection, I found—Well, do you know what a first-day cover is? When a new stamp is issued, stamp collectors buy some and use them to mail envelopes to themselves on the very first day of sale; and the postmark proves the date. The envelope is called a first-day cover. They're never opened; you just put blank paper in the envelope.
That night, among my oldest first-day covers, I found one that shouldn't have been there. But there it was. It was there because someone had mailed it to my grandfather at his home in Galesburg; that's what the address on the envelope said. And it had been there since July 18, 1894—the postmark showed that—yet I didn't remember it at all. The stamp was a six-cent, dull brown, with a picture of President Garfield. Naturally, when the envelope came to Granddad in the mail, it went right into his collection and stayed there—till I took it out and opened it.
The paper inside wasn't blank. It read:
941 Willard Street
July 18, 1894
I got to wishing that you were right. Then I got to believing you were right. And, Charley, it's true; I found the third level!
I've been here two weeks, and right now, down the street at the Dalys', someone is playing a piano, and they're all out on the front porch singing "Seeing Nellie Home." And I'm invited over for lemonade. Come on back, Charley and Louisa. Keep looking till you find the third level! It's worth it, believe me!
The note is signed SAM.
At the stamp and coin store I go to, I found out that Sam bought $800 worth of old-style currency. That ought to set him up in a nice little hay, feed and grain business; he always said that's what he really wished he could do, and he certainly can't go back to his old business. Not in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1894. His old business? Why, Sam was my psychiatrist.
The Cosmic Expense Account (1956)
C. M. Cornbluth
Cyril Kornbluth (1923–1958) was one of the young New York science-fiction fans who formed the group known as the Futurians in the 1930s. He began publishing fiction as a teen and ultimately wrote about a dozen novels (including collaborations with Frederik Pohl and Judith Merril) and six dozen short stories before he died at the age of thirty four. His sharp and cynical view of the future is perhaps best displayed in such stories as "The Marching Morons" and such novels as The Space Merchants.
Kornbluth suffered from heart problems and was prescribed medication, but the medication made his head cloudy, so he stopped taking it. In 1958, after shoveling his driveway, he ran to catch a train, and his heart gave out on the train platform. One aspect of his tragic death that is often overlooked: The train was going to take him into New York, where he was scheduled to meet with Bob Mills about becoming editor of F&SF. Sadly, we can only imagine what Kornbluth's tenure as editor might have been like, but at least we have "The Cosmic Expense Account" to suggest what he might have done as an employee of Mercury Press.
The Lackawanna was still running one cautious morning train a day into Scranton, though the city was said to be emptying fast. Professor Leuten and I had a coach to ourselves, except for a scared, jittery trainman who hung around and talked at us.
"The name's Pech," he said. "And let me tell you, the Peches have been around for a mighty long time in these parts. There's a town twenty-three miles north of Scranton named Pechville. Full of my cousins and aunts and uncles, and I used to visit there and we used to send picture post cards and get them, too. But my God, mister, what's happened to them?"
His question was rhetorical. He didn't realize that Professor Leuten and I happened to be the only two people outside the miscalled Plague Area who could probably answer it.
"Mr. Pech," I said, "if you don't mind we'd like to talk some business."
"Sorry," he said miserably, and went on to the next car.
When we were alone Professor Leuten remarked: "An interesting reaction." He was very smooth about it. Without the slightest warning he whipped a huge, writhing, hairy spider from his pocket and thrust it at my face.
I was fast on the draw too. In one violent fling I was standing on my left foot in the aisle, thumbing my nose, my tongue stuck out. Goose flesh rippled down my neck and shoulders.
"Very good," he said, and put the spider away. It was damnably realistic. Even knowing that it was a gadget of twisted springs and plush, I cringed at the thought of its nestling in his pocket. With me it was spiders. With the professor it was rats and asphyxiation. Toward the end of our mutual training program it took only one part per million of sulfur dioxide gas in his vicinity to send him whirling into the posture of defense, crane-like on one leg, tongue out and thumb to nose, the sweat of terror on his brow.
"I have something to tell you, Professor," I said. "So?" he asked tolerantly. And that did it. The tolerance. I had been prepared to make my point with a dignified recital and apology, but there were two ways to tell the story and I suddenly chose the second. "You're a phoney," I said with satisfaction. "What?" he gasped.
"A phoney. A fake. A hoaxer. A self-deluding crackpot. Your Functional Epistemology is a farce. Let's not go into this thing kidding ourselves."
His accent thickened a little. "Led me remind you, Mr. Norris, that you are addressing a Doctor of Philosophy of the University of Gottingen and a member of the faculty of the University of Basle."
"You mean a privatdozent who teaches freshman logic. And I seem to remember that Gottingen revoked your degree."
He said slowly: "I have known all along that you were a fool, Mr. Norris. Not until now did I realize that you are also an anti-Semite. It was the Nazis who went through an illegal ceremony of revocation."
"So that makes me an anti-Semite. From a teacher of logic that's very funny."
"You are correct," he said after a long pause. "I withdraw my remark. Now, would you be good enough to amplify yours?"
"Gladly, Professor. In the first place—"
I had been winding up the rubber rat in my pocket. I yanked it out and tossed it into his lap where it scrabbled and clawed. He yelled with terror, but the yell didn't cost him a split second. Almost before it started from his throat he was standing one-legged, thumb to nose, tongue stuck out.
He thanked me coldly, I congratulated him coldly, I pocketed the rat while he shuddered and we went on with the conversation.
I told him how, eighteen months ago, Mr. Hopedale called me into his office. Nice office, oak panels, signed pictures of Hopedale Press writers from our glorious past: Kipling, Barrie, Theodore Roosevelt and the rest of the backlog boys.
What about Eino Elekinen, Mr. Hopedale wanted to know. Eino was one of our novelists. His first, Vinland the Good, had been a critical success and a popular flop; Cubs of the Viking Breed, the sequel, made us all a little money. He was now a month past delivery date on the final volume of the trilogy and the end was not in sight.
"I think he's pulling a sit-down strike, Mr. Hopedale. He's way overdrawn now and I had to refuse him a thousand-dollar advance. He wanted to send his wife to the Virgin Islands for a divorce."
"Give him the money," Mr. Hopedale said impatiently. "How can you expect the man to write when he's beset by personal difficulties?"
"Mr. Hopedale," I said politely, "she could divorce him right here in New York State. He's given her grounds in all five boroughs and the western townships of Long Island. But that's not the point. He can't write. And even if he could, the last thing American literature needs right now is another trilogy about a Scandinavian immigrant family."
"I know," he said. "I know. He's not very good yet. But I think he's going to be, and do you want him to starve while he's getting the juvenilia out of his system?" His next remark had nothing to do with Elekinen. He looked at the signed photo of T. R.—"To a bully publisher—" and said: "Norris, we're broke."
I said: "Ah?"
"We owe everybody. Printer, papermill, warehouse. Everybody. It's the end of Hopedale Press. Unless—I don't want you to think people have been reporting on you, Norris, but I understand you came up with an interesting idea at lunch yesterday. Some Swiss professor."
I had to think hard. "You must mean Leuten, Mr. Hopedale. No, there's nothing in it for us, sir. I was joking. My brother—he teaches philosophy at Columbia—mentioned him to me. Leuten's a crackpot. Every year or two Weintraub Verlag in Basle brings out another volume of his watchamacallit and they sell about a thousand. Functional Epistemology—my brother says it's all nonsense, the kind of stuff vanity presses put out. It was just a gag about us turning him into a Schweitzer or a Toynbee and bringing out a one-volume condensation. People just buy his books—I suppose—because they got started and feel ashamed to stop."
Excerpted from The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction Volume 2 by Gordon Van Gelder. Copyright © 2014 Gordon Van Gelder. Excerpted by permission of Tachyon Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsForeword Gordon Van Gelder,
Introduction Micahel Dirda,
The Third Level Jack Finney,
The Cosmic Expense Account C. M. Kornbluth,
The Country of the Kind Damon Knight,
The Anything Box Zenna Henderson,
The Prize of Peril Robert Sheckley,
"'—All You Zombies—'" Robert A. Heinlein,
A Kind of Artistry Brian W. Aldiss,
Green Magic Jack Vance,
Narrow Valley R. A. Lafferty,
Sundance Robert Silverberg,
The Attack of the Giant Baby Kit Reed,
The Hundredth Dove Jane Yolen,
Jeffty Is Five Harlan Ellison,
Salvador Lucius Shepard,
The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything George Alec Effinger,
Rat James Patrick Kelly,
The Friendship Light Gene Wolfe,
The Bone Woman Charles De Lint,
Maneki Neko Bruce Sterling,
Winemaster Robert Reed,
Suicide Coast M. John Harrison,
Have Not Have Geoff Ryman,
The People of Sand and Slag Paolo Bacigalupi,
Echo Elizabeth Hand,
The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates Stephen King,
The Paper Meagerie Ken Liu,