cover image Impossible Things

Impossible Things

Connie Willis. Spectra Books, $7.99 (480pp) ISBN 978-0-553-56436-5

Willis ( Lincoln's Dreams ) demonstrates her sly wit and quirky perspective in this solid collection of 11 previously published science fiction pieces. Romance becomes entangled with interplanetary negotiations when a Navy linguist and the neglected fiancee of an officious NASA diplomat try to keep a visiting alien happy--even though language problems obscure whether the powers-that-be are arranging a space program or a spice pogrom. In a story that will look like SF only to readers who have steered clear of higher education lately, a consultant promoting ``relevantness'' and modern pedagogical theory nips at the heels of professors teaching paleontology at a state university. During the Battle of Britain, a Civil Defense worker gains a disturbing insight into himself and the war from a mysterious volunteer who has an uncanny ability to locate bombing victims buried under rubble. Willis's fondness for Shakespeare translates into two stories: one considers how much text would be left intact if all right-wing, left-wing and special-interest groups could delete the bits of which they do not approve; the other tackles the old conundrum, If Shakespeare wasn't Shakespeare, who was? (Jan.)