Selected and introduced by Nebula-winner Effinger's fellow SF authors, these 22 provocative short stories represent three decades of fiction written under great physical and financial hardship. His friends often described Effinger (1947-2002), who called himself "Piglet," as "fey," a quality echoed in "Two Sadnesses" and "At the Bran Foundry," both of which denounce a world gone so mad it devours its own young. Among his most memorable works are the eight "O. Niemand" stories, pitch-perfect pastiches of such writers as Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck, which chronicle life, alienation and death on the asteroid Springfield, "a rock in the middle of nowhere." In the brilliant "Solo in the Spotlight," a U.S. president faced with an international "situation" while on Air Force One depends on his teenage daughter to pull solutions out of her Barbie doll Tarot deck. While commenting on the absurdity of human actions, this compassionate tale underlines the awful truth that nobody's really in charge any more. Agent, Richard Curtis. (May)
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