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Charley is an athlete. He wants to grow up to be the fastest runner in the world, like his father. He wants to be painted crossing the finishing line, in his racing silks, with a medal around his neck.
Charley lives in a stable. He isn’t a runner, he’s a mount. He belongs to a Hoot: The Hoots are alien invaders. Charley hasn’t seen his mother for years, and his father is hiding out in the mountains somewhere, with the other Free Humans. The Hoots own the world, but the humans want it back. Charley knows how to be a good mount, but now he’s going to have to learn how to be a human being.
“It is important and salutary to speak of incomprehensible things,” aliens advise the middle-aged divorcée in “The Start of the End of It All.” So begins a master plan to change the world, eliminating cats and establishing a “vast kitchen network.”
Replete with fierce humor and insight, Carol Emshwiller’s stories turn reality upside down. Humans are seen by soaring bird-men as those creatures “with heavy thighs, flat faces, funny little teeth all in a row.” And everyday life is seldom predictable: One morning a man awakens in his small, neat apartment to find a winged, naked woman with wild eyes.
Emshwiller’s tales are full of ordinary people discovering extraordinary lives. In “The Circular Library of Stones,” a woman finds a buried library in which she daily makes startling archaeological finds. In another story, a woman suddenly decides…[more]
What if the world ended on your birthday—and no one came? What if your grandmother was a superhero? What if the orphan you were raising was a top-secret weapon, looked like Godzilla, and loved singing nursery rhymes? What if poet laureates fought to the death, in stadiums? Emshwiller’s previous books (Joy in Our Cause, Carmen Dog, Ledoyt, and others) have won her a devoted cult following. Her short fiction is about women and men, monsters, obsessions, art, and falling in love. She writes witty, humane, endearingly odd stories that play with all the genres and conventions you can put a name to—science fiction, Western, romance, postmodern, tabloid, literary—and some that haven’t even been invented yet. Suspect that life is much stranger than anyone ever admits? Buy this book. Unhappy in love? Buy this book. About to visit the dentist or embark on a long voyage? Buy this book. Troubled by dreams you can never quite remember in the morning? Buy this book. Love good short fiction? Buy this book.