cover image The Best of R.A. Lafferty

The Best of R.A. Lafferty

R.A. Lafferty. Tor Essentials, $18.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-77853-6

World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award winner Lafferty (1914–2002) wrote the 22 stories of this distinguished collection in the 1960s and ’70s. Offbeat, usually joyful, and always a few steps beyond reality, these tales showcase Lafferty’s humanism and linguistic mastery. Lafferty lived most of his life in Oklahoma and drew on the U.S. Western and Native American tall-tale traditions for stories like “Narrow Valley,” which celebrates human decency and resilience. In Hugo winner “Eurema’s Dam,” Lafferty’s schlemiel inventor Albert hilariously and eerily forecasts today’s computer-centric world. “The Primary Education of the Camiroi,” presented as a report to a PTA, skewers self-serving and illogical leaps in education, like speed reading and curriculum overhauls; it even suggests that “a little constructive book burning, especially in the field of education” may be necessary for human progress. Each story is accompanied by an introduction by a noted contemporary science fiction author, among them Samuel R. Delany, Neil Gaiman, and Nancy Kress. In clever prose, Lafferty invites readers both to deplore human frailties and learn to laugh at them, resulting in a collection to reread and savor. (Feb.)