New Orleans Times-Picayune Review

And meanwhile, back on "Earth" . . .

Sci-Fi stories and a poem by the beloved local writer George Effinger

The New Orleans writer George Alec Effinger, who died in 2002, inspired a devoted following of readers who appreciated his inventive language, skewed perspective, and wide-ranging intelligence. He was known particularly for his "Budayeen" stories and novels, featuring detective Marid Audran, who existed in a walled city that was part French Quarter, part Algeria, part Islamic fortress, all mystery and intrigue. A posthumous collection of stories, Budayeen Nights, was published in 2003. But Effinger was nothing if not prolific. A second posthumous collection, George Alec Effinger Live! From Planet Earth (how he would have loved that title!) showcases his versatility, reprinting 22 stories chosen and introduced by Effinger's large circle of friends and admirers.

My personal favorite is "The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything," introduced by Michael Bishop. The story describes what happens when a race of aliens, the nuhp, land on our planet and begin to improve it beyond our wildest dreams. Then a large portion of the human population begins to emigrate to distant planets, just to get away from their endless personal suggestions. Think of it. No war. No hunger. No poverty. Deserts abloom with hollyhocks and all of it irritating as hell, somehow. That, in short, is a perfect Effinger creation, twisting the world until we see it in a new way, his way.

One of the most interesting sections of the book is the O. Niemand (niemand is German for no one, in one of Effinger's characteristic plays on words), seven stories and a poem written in the styles of O. Henry ("The Wooing of Slowboat Sadie"), John Steinbeck ("The Man Outside"), Ernest Hemingway ("Afternoon Under Glass"), Ring Lardner ("Two Bits"), Don Marquis ("The Artist Passes It By"), James Thurber ("The Day the Invaders Came"), Mark Twain ("The Wisdom of Having Money") and Flannery O'Connor ("Put Your Hands Together"). They are remarkable achievements, collectively and individually. As Gardner Dozois writes in his introduction to this section, "if Don Marquis ever had written a poem about Archy going to a domed city on an asteroid deep in space, then, by God, this is exactly the way it would have come out! I can't think of any other author in science fiction, then or now, past or present, who could have pulled that off as well as George does."

Still another tour de force is "Two Sadnessses," written in a voice that is a combination of A. A. Milne and Kenneth Grahame. While Effinger's voice was uniquely his own, he certainly possessed an uncanny knack for ventriloquism. Readers who are encountering these stories for the first time will be swept away by Effinger's sensibility. Longtime fans will relish the introductions and memory pieces by such well-known writers as Neal Barrett Jr., Michael Bishop, Jack Dann, Bradley Denton, Gardner Dozois, Neil Gaiman, Richard Gilliam, Lawrence Person, Mike Resnick, Howard Waldrop, Pamela Sargent, George Zebrowski, and of course, Barbara Hambly, Effinger's literary executrix. This book is truly a labor of love. There is an elegiac quality to many of the introductions to these stories — the expected sense of loss of what Effinger might have written had he lived longer, a sense of appreciation for what remains of his work, and real sense that these friends feel deprived of the pleasure of his company, even when he was bumming cab fare. Effinger once said that his favorite word was "terrific," and that he had his characters use it as often as possible. It seems appropriate to use it in speaking of this book. Terrific work, Mr. Effinger, just terrific.

— Susan Larson, Book Editor, New Orleans Times-Picayune, Sunday, July 31, 2005


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