cover image Can & Can’tankerous

Can & Can’tankerous

Harlan Ellison. Subterranean, $45 (240p) ISBN 978-1-59606-751-6

This hefty and impressive collection from one of SF’s leading authors showcases Ellison’s versatility. Ellison can go from anguished to zany in an instant. The first story, the 2010 Hugo-winner “How Interesting: A Tiny Man,” memorably depicts humanity’s smallness of spirit when people driven by irrational fears turn on an innocent victim. That scathing tale is followed by “Never Send to Know for Whom the Lettuce Wilts,” in which aliens plan to conquer humanity by subtly demoralizing methods such as the invention of wilted lettuce, buttons that cut thread, and the English language. Among the other eight pieces here are a modern re-envisioning of a schlock SF yarn Ellison wrote in 1957, 26 short pieces gathered as “From A to Z, in the Sarsparilla Alphabet,” and a loving tribute to Ray Bradbury. Ellison seems somewhat mellower here than in the past, but his writing still memorably grabs and bites. (Dec.)