Friday, January 04, 2008

900 Grandmothers

Nine Hundred Grandmothers

by R. A. Lafferty

Ceran Swicegood was a promising young Special Aspects Man. But, like all Special Aspects, he had one irritating habit. He was forever asking the questions: How Did It All Begin?

They all had tough names except Ceran. Manbreaker Crag, Heave Huckle, Blast Berg, George Blood, Move Manion (when Move says "Move," you move), Trouble Trent. They were supposed to be tough, and they had taken tough names at the naming. Only Ceran kept his the disgust of his commander, Manbreaker.

"Nobody can be a hero with a name like Ceran Swicegood!" Manbreaker would thunder. "Why don't you take Storm Shannon? That's good. Or Gutboy Barrelhouse or Slash Slagle or Nevel Knife? You barely glanced at the suggested list."

"I'll keep my own," Ceran always said, and this is where he made his mistake. A new name will sometimes bring out a new personality. It had done so for George Blood. Though the hair on George's chest was a graft job, yet that and his new name had turned him from a boy into a man. Had Ceran assumed the heroic name of Gutboy Barrelhouse he might have been capable of rousing endeavors and man-sized angers rather than his tittering indecisions and flouncy furies.

They were down on the big asteroid Proavitus.a sphere that almost tinkled with the potential profit that might be shaken out of it. And the tough men of the Expedition knew their business. They signed big contracts on the native velvet-like bark scrolls and on their own parallel tapes. They impressed, inveigled, and somewhat cowed the slight people of Proavitus. Here was a solid two-way market, enough to make them slaver. And there was a whole world of oddities that could lend themselves to the luxury trade.

"Everybody's hit it big but you," Manbreaker crackled in kindly thunder to Ceran after three days there. "But even Special Aspects is supposed to pay its way. Our charter compels us to carry one of your sort to give us a cultural twist to the thing, but it needn't be restricted to that. What we go out for every time, Ceran, is to cut a big fat hog in the rump.we make no secret of that. But if the hog's tail can be shown to have a cultural twist to it, that will solve a requirement. And if that twist in the tail can turn us a profit, then we become mighty happy about the whole thing. Have you been able to find out anything about the living dolls, for instance? They might have both a cultural aspect and a market value."

"The living dolls seem a part of something much deeper," Ceran said. "There's a whole complex of things to be unraveled. The key may be the statement of the Proavitoi that they do not die."

"I think they die pretty young, Ceran. All those out and about are young, and those I have met who do not leave their houses are only middling old."

"Then where are their cemeteries?"

"Likely they cremate the old folks when they die."

"Where are the crematories?"

"They might just toss the ashes out or vaporize the entire remains. Probably they have no reverence for ancestors."

"Other evidence shows their entire culture to be based on an exaggerated reverence for ancestors."

"You find out, Ceran. You're Special Aspects Man."

· · · · · 

Ceran talked to Nokoma, his Proavitoi counterpart as translator. Both were expert, and they could meet each other halfway in talk. Nokoma was likely feminine. There was a certain softness about both the sexes of the Proavitoi, but the men of the Expeditions believed that they had them straight now.

"Do you mind if I ask some straight questions?" Ceran greeted her today.

"Sure is not. How else I learn the talk well but by talking?"

"Some of the Proavitoi say that they do not die, Nokoma. Is this true?"

"How is not be true? If they die, they not be here to say they do not die. Oh, I joke, I joke. No, we do not die. It is a foolish alien custom which we see no reason to imitate. On Proavitus, only the low creatures die."

"None of you does?"

"Why, no. Why should one want to be an exception in this?"

"But what do you do when you get very old?"

"We do less and less then. We come to a deficiency of energy. Is it not the same with you?"

"Of course. But where do you go when you become exceedingly old?"

"Nowhere. We stay at home then. Travel is for the young and those of the active years."

"Let's try it from the other end," Ceran said. "Where are your mother and father, Nokoma?"

"Out and about. They aren't really old."

"And your grandfathers and grandmothers?"

"A few of them still get out. The older ones stay home."

"Let's try it this way. How many grandmothers do you have, Nokoma?"

"I think I have nine hundred grandmothers in my house. Oh, I know that isn't many, but we are the young branch of a family. Some of our clan have very great numbers of ancestors in their houses."

"And all thse ancestors are alive?"

"What else? Who would keep things not alive? How would such be ancestors?"

Ceran began to hop around in his excitement.

"Could I see them?" he twittered.

"It might not be wise for you to see the older of them," Nokoma cautioned. "It could be an unsettling thing for strangers, and we guard it. A few tens of them you can see, of course."

Then it came to Ceran that he might be onto what he had looked for all his life. He went into a panic of expectation.

"Nokoma, it would be finding the key!" he fluted. "If none of you has ever died, then your entire race would still be alive!"

"Sure. Is like you count fruit. You take none away, you still have them all."

"But if the first of them are still alive, then they might know their origin! They would know how it began! Do they? Do you?"

"Oh, not I. I am too young for the Ritual."

"But who knows? Doesn't someone know?"

"Oh, yes. All the old ones know how it began."

"How old? How many generations back from you till they know?"

"Ten, no more. When I have ten generations of children, then I will also go to the Ritual."

"The Ritual, what is it?"

"Once a year, the old people go to the very old people. They wake them up and ask them how it all began. The very old people tell them the beginning. It is a high time. Oh, how they hottle and laugh! Then the very old people go back to sleep for another year. So it is passed down to the generations. That is the Ritual."

· · · · · 

The Proavitoi were not humanoid. Still less were they "monkey-faces," though that name was now set in the explorers' lingo. They were upright and robed and swathed, and were assumed to be two-legged under their garments. Though, as Manbreaker said, "They might go on wheels, for all we know."

They had remarkable flowing hands that might be called everywhere-digited. They could handle tools, or employ their hands as if they were the most intricate tools.

George Blood was of the opinion that the Proavitoi were always masked, and that the men of the Expedition had never seen their faces. He said that those apparent faces were ritual masks, and that no part of the Proavitoi had ever been seen by the men except for those remarkable hands, which perhaps were their real faces.

The men reacted with cruel hilarity when Ceran tried to explain to them just what a great discovery he was verging on.

"Little Ceran is still on the how-did-it-begin jag," Manbreaker jeered. "Ceran, will you never give off asking which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

"I will have that answer very soon," Ceran sang. "I have the unique opportunity. When I find how the Proavitoi began, I may have the clue to how everything began. All of the Proavitoi are still alive, the very first generation of them."

"It passes belief that you can be so simpleminded," Manbreaker moaned. "They say that one has finally mellowed when he can suffer fools gracefully. By God, I hope I never come to that."

But two days later, it was Manbreaker who sought out Ceran Swicegood on nearly the same subject. Manbreaker had been doing a little thinking and discovering of his own.

"You are Special Aspects Man, Ceran," he said, "and you have been running off after the wrong aspect."

"What is that?"

"It don't make a damn how it began. What is important is that it may not have to end."

"It is the beginning that I intend to discover," said Ceran.

"You fool, can't you understand anything? What do the Proavitoi possess so uniquely that we don't know whether they have it by science or by their nature or by fool luck?"

"Ah, their chemistry, I suppose."

"Sure. Organic chemistry has come of age here. The Proavitoi have every kind of nexus and inhibitor and stimulant. They can grow and shrink and telescope and prolong what they will. These creatures seem stupid to me; it is as if they had these things by instinct. But they have them, that is what is important. With these things, we can become the patent medicine kings of the universes, for the Proavitoi do not travel or make many outside contacts. These things can do anything or undo anything. I suspect that the Proavitoi can shrink cells, and I suspect that they can do something else."

"No, they couldn't shrink cells. It is you who talk nonsense now, Manbreaker."

"Never mind. Their things already make nonsense of conventional chemistry. With the pharmacopoeia that one coulc pick up here, a man never need die. That's the stick horse you've been riding, isn't it? But you've been riding it backward with you head to the tail. The Proavitoi say that they never die."

"They seem pretty sure that they don't. If they did, they would be the first to know it, as Nokoma says."

"What? Have these creatures humor?"


"But, Ceran, you don't understand how big this is."

"I'm the only one who understands it so far. It means that if the Proavitoi have always been immortal, as they maintain, then the oldest of them are still alive. From them I may be able to learn how their species.and perhaps every species.began."

Manbreaker went into his dying buffalo act then. He tore his hair and nearly pulled out his ears by the roots. He stomped and pawed and went off bull-bellowing: "It don't make a damn how it began, you fool! It might not have to end!" so loud that the hills echoed back:

"It don't make a fool."

Ceran Swicegood went to the home of Nokoma, but not with her on her invitation. He went without her when he knew that she was away from home. It was a sneaky thing to do, but the men of the Expedition were trained in sneakery.

He would find out better without a mentor about the nine hundred grandmothers, about the rumored living dolls. He would find out what the old people did do if they didn't die, and find if they knew how they were first born. For his intrusion, he counted on the innate politeness of the Proavitoi.

The house of Nokoma, of all the people, was in the cluster on top of the large flat hill, the Acropolis of Proavitus. They were earthen houses, though finely done, and they had the appearance of growing out of and being a part of the hill itself.

Ceran went up the winding, ascending flagstone paths, and entered the house which Nokoma had once pointed out to him. He entered furtively, and encountered one of the nine hundred with whom nobody need be furtive.

The grandmother was seated and small and smiling at him. They talked without real difficulty, though it was not as easy as with Nokoma, who could meet Ceran halfway in his own language. At her call, there came a grandfather who likewise smiled at Ceran. These two ancients were somewhat smaller than the Proavitoi of active years. They were kind and serene. There was an atmosphere about the scene that barely missed being an odor.not unpleasant, sleepy, reminiscent of something, almost sad.

"Are there those here older than you?" Ceran asked earnestly.

"So many, so many, who could know how many?" said the grandmother. She called in other grandmothers and grandfathers older and smaller than herself, these no more than half the size of the active Proavitoi.small, sleepy, smiling.

Ceran knew now that the Proavitoi were not masked. The older they were, the more character and interest there was in their faces. It was only of the immature active Proavitoi that there could have been a doubt. No masks could show such calm and smiling old age as this. The queer textured stuff was their real faces.

So old and friendly, so weak and sleepy, there must have been a dozen generations of them there, back to the oldest and smallest.

"How old are the oldest?" Ceran asked the first grandmother.

"We say that all are the same age since all are perpetual," the grandmother told him. "It is not true that all are the same age, but it is indelicate to ask how old."

"You do not know what a lobster is," Ceran said to them, trembling, "but it is a creature that will boil happily if the water on him is heated slowly. He takes no alarm, for he does not know at what point the heat is dangerous. It is that gradual with me. I slide from one degree to another with you and my credulity is not alarmed. I am in danger of believing anything about you if it comes in small doses, and it will. I believe that you are here and as you are for no other reason than that I see and touch you. Well, I'll be boiled for a lobster, then, before I turn back from it. Are there those here even older than the ones present?"

The first grandmother motioned Ceran to follow her. They went down a ramp through the floor into the older part of the house, which must have been underground.

Living dolls! They were here in rows on the shelves, and sitting in small chairs in their niches. Doll-sized indeed, and several hundres of them.

Many had wakened at the intrusion. Others came awake when spoken to or touched. They were incredibly ancient, but they were cognizant in their glances and recognition. They smiled and stretched sleepily, not as humans would, but as very old puppies might. Ceran spoke to them, and they understood each other surprisingly.

Lobster, lobster, said Ceran to himself, the water has passed the danger point! And it hardly feels different. If you believe your senses in this, then you will be boiled alive in your credulity.

He knew now that the living dolls were real and that they were the living ancestors of the Proavitoi.

Many of the little creatures began to fall asleep again. Their waking moments were short, but their sleeps seemed to be likewise. Several of the living mummies woke a second time while Ceran was still in the room, woke refreshed from very short sleeps and were anxious to talk again.

"You are incredibly!" Ceran cried out, and all the small and smaller and still smaller creatures smiled and laughed their assent. Of course they were. All good creatiures everywhere are incrdible, and were there ever so many assembled in one place? But Ceran was greedy. A roomful of miracles wasn't enough.

"I have to take this back as far as it will go!" he cried avidly. "Where are the even older ones?"

"There are older ones and yet older and again older," said the first grandmother, "and thrice-over older ones, but perhaps it would be wise not to seek to be too wise. You have seen enough. The old people are sleepy. Let us go up again."

Go up again, out of this? Ceran would not. He saw passages and descending ramps, down into the heart of the great hill itself. There were whole worlds of rooms about him and under his feet. Ceran went on and down, and who was to stop him? Not dolls and creatures much smaller than dolls.

Manbreaker had once called himself an old pirate who reveled in the stream of his riches. But Ceran was the Young Alchemist who was about to find the Stone itself.

He walked down the ramps through centuries and millennia. The atmosphere he had noticed on the upper levels was a clear odor now.sleepy, half-remembered, smiling, sad, and quite strong. That is the way Time smells.

"Are there those here even older than you?" Ceran asked a small grandmother whom he held in the palm of his hand.

"So old and so small that I could hold in my hand," said the grandmother in what Ceran knew from Nokoma to be the older uncompounded form of the Proavitus language.

Smaller and older the creatures had been getting as Ceran went through the rooms. He was boiled lobster now for sure. He had to believe it all: he saw and felt it. The wren-sized grandmother talked and laughed and nodded that there were those far older than herself, and in doing so she nodded herself back to sleep. Ceran returned her to her niche in the hive-like wall where there were thousands of others, miniaturized generations.

Of course he was not in the house of Nokoma now. He was in the heart of the hill that underlay all the houses of Proavitus, and these were the ancestors of everybody on the asteroid.

"Are there those here even older than you?" Ceran asked a small grandmother whom he held on the tip of his finger.

"Older and smaller," she said, "but you come near the end."

She was asleep, and he put her back in her place. The older they were, the more they slept.

He was down to solid rock under the roots of the hill. He was into the passages that were cut out of that solid rock, but they could not be many or deep. He had a sudden fear that the creatures would become so small that he could not see them or talk to them, and so he would miss the secret of the beginning.

But had not Nokoma said that all the old people knew the secret? Or course. But he wanted to hear it from the oldest of them. He would have it now, one way or the other.

"Who is the oldest? Is this the end of it? Is this the beginning? Wake up! Wake up!" he called when he was sure he was in the lowest and oldest room.

"Is it Ritual?" asked someone who woke up. smaller than mice they were, no bigger than bees, maybe older than both.

"It is a special Ritual," Ceran told them. "Relate to me how it was in the beginning."

What was that sound.too slight, too scattered to be a noise? It was like a billion microbes laughing. It was the hilarity of the little things waking up to a high time.

"Who is the oldest of all?" Ceran demanded, for their laughter bothered him. "Who is the oldest and first?"

"I am the oldest, the ultimate grandmother," one said gaily. "All the others are my children. Are you also of my children?"

"Of course," said Ceran, and the small laughter of unbelief flittered out from the whole multitude of them.

"Then you must be the ultimate child, for you are like no other. If you be, then it is as funny at the end as it was in the beginning."

"How was it in the beginning?" Ceran bleated. "You are the first. Do you know how you came to be?"

"Oh, yes, yes," laughed the ultimate grandmother, and the hilarity of the small things became a real noise now.

"How did it begin?" demanded Ceran, and he was hopping and skipping about in his excitement.

"Oh, it was so funny a joke the way things began that you would not believe it," chittered the grandmother. "A joke, a joke!"

"Tell me the joke, then. If a joke generated your species, then tell me that cosmic joke."

"Tell yourself," tinkled the grandmother. "You are a part of the joke if you are of my children. Oh, it is too funny to believe. How good to wake up and laugh and go to sleep again."

Blazing green frustration! To be so close and to be balked by a giggling bee!

"Don't go to sleep again! Tell me at once how it began!" Ceran shrilled, and he had the ultimate grandmother between thumb and finger.

"This is not Ritual," the grandmother protested. "Ritual is that you guess what it was for three days, and we laugh and say, 'No, no, no, it was something nine times as wild as that. Guess some more.' "

"I will not guess for three days! Tell me at once or I will crush you," Ceran threatened in a quivering voice.

"I look at you, you look at me, I wonder if you will do it," the ultimate grandmother said calmly.

Any of the tough men of the Expedition would have done it.would have crushed her, and then another and another and another of the creatures till the secret was told. If Ceran had taken on a tough personality and a tough name he'd have done it. If he'd been Gutboy Barrelhouse he'd have done it without a qualm. But Ceran Swicegood couldn't do it.

"Tell me," he pleaded in agony. "All my life I've tried to find out how it began, how anything began. And you know!"

"We know. Oh, it was so funny how it began. So joke! So fool, so clown, so grotesque thing! Nobody could guess, nobody could believe."

"Tell me! Tell me!" Ceran was ashen and hysterical.

"No, no, you are no child of mine," chortled the ultimate grandmother. "Is too joke a joke to tell a stranger. We could not insult a stranger to tell so funny, so unbelieve. Strangers can die. Shall I have it on conscience that a stranger died laughing?"

"Tell me! Insult me! Let me die laughing!" But Ceran nearly died crying from the frustration that ate him up as a million bee-sized things laughed and hooted and giggled:

"Oh, it was so funny the way it began!"

And they laughed. And laughed. And went on laughing . until Ceran Swicegood wept and laughed together, and crept away, and returned to the ship still laughing. On his next voyage he changed his name to Blaze Bolt and ruled for ninety-seven days as king of a sweet sea island in M-81, but that is another and much more unpleasant story.

The End


Slow Tuesday Night
by R.A. Lafferty

A panhandler intercepted the young couple as they strolled down the night street.

"Preserve us this night," he said as he touched his hat to them, "and could you good people advance me a thousand dollars to be about the recouping of my fortunes?"

"I gave you a thousand last Friday," said the young man.

"Indeed you did," the panhandler replied, "and I paid you back tenfold by messenger before midnight."

"That's right, George, he did," said the young woman. "Give it to him, dear. I believe he's a good sort."

So the young man gave the panhandler a thousand dollars; and the panhandler touched his hat to them in thanks and went on to the recouping of his fortunes.

As he went into Money Market, the panhandler passed Ildefonsa Impala, the most beautiful woman in the city.

"Will you marry me this night, Ildy?" he asked cheerfully.

"Oh, I don't believe so, Basil," she said. "I marry you pretty often, but tonight I don't seem to have any plans at all. You may make me a gift on your first or second, however. I always like that."

But when they had parted, she asked herself: "But whom will I marry tonight?"

The panhandler was Basil Bagelbaker, who would be the richest man in the world within an hour and a half. He would make and lose four fortunes within eight hours; and these not the little fortunes that ordinary men acquire, but titanic things.

· · · · · 

When the Abebaios block had been removed from human minds, people began to make decisions faster, and often better. It had been the mental stutter. When it was understood what it was, and that it had no useful function, it was removed by simple childhood metasurgery.

Transportation and manufacturing had then become practically instantaneous. Things that had once taken months and years now took only minutes and hours. A person could have one or several pretty intricate careers within an eight-hour period.

Freddy Fixico had just invented a manus module. Freddy was a Nyctalops, and the modules were characteristic of these people. The people had then divided themselves.according to their natures and inclinations.into the Auroreans, the Hemerobians, and the Nyctalops; or the Dawners who had their most active hours from 4 A.M. till Noon, the Day-Flies who obtained from Noon to 8 P.M., and the Night-Seers whose civilization thrived from 8 P.M. to 4 A.M. The cultures, inventions, markets, and activities of these three folk were a little different. As a Nyctalops, Freddy had just begun his working day at 8 P.M. on a slow Tuesday night.

Freddy rented an office and had it furnished. This took one minute, negotiation, selection, and installation being almost instantaneous. Then he invented the manus module; that took another minute. He then had it manufactured and marketed; in three minutes it was in the hands of key buyers.

It caught on. It was an attractive module. The flow of orders began within thirty seconds. By ten minutes after eight every important person had one of the new manus modules, and the trend had been set. The module began to sell in the millions. It was one of the most interesting fads of the night, or at least the early part of the night.

Manus modules had no practical function, no more than had Sameki verses. They were attractive, of a psychologically satisfying size and shape, and could be held in the hands, set on a table, or installed in a module niche of any wall.

Naturally Freddy became very rich. Ildefonsa Impala the most beautiful woman in the city was always interested in newly rich men. She came to see Freddy about eight-thirty. People made up their minds fast, and Ildefonsa had hers made up when she came. Freddy made his own up quickly and divorced Judy Fixico in Small Claims Court. Freddy and Ildefonsa went honeymooning to Paraiso Dorado, a resort.

· · · · · 

It was wonderful. All of Ildy's marriages were. There was the wonderful floodlighted scenery. The recirculated water of the famous falls was tinted gold; the immediate rocks had been done by Rambles; and the hills had been contoured by Spall. The beach was a perfect copy of that at Merevale, and the popular drink that first part of the night was blue absinthe.

But scenery.whether seen for the first time or revisited after an striking for the sudden intense view of it. It is not meant to be lingered over. Food, selected and prepared instantly, is eaten with swift enjoyment: and blue absinthe lasts no longer than its own novelty. Loving, for Ildefonsa and her paramours, was quick and consuming; and repetition would have been pointless to her. Besides Ildefonsa and Freddy had taken only the one-hour luxury honeymoon.

Freddy wished to continue the relationship, but Ildefonsa glanced at a trend indicator. The manus module would hold its popularity for only the first third of the night. Already it had been discarded by people who mattered. And Freddy Fixico was not one of the regular successes. He enjoyed a full career only about one night a week.

They were back in the city and divorced in Small Claims Court by nine thirty-five. The stock of manus modules was remaindered, and the last of it would be disposed to bargain hunters among the Dawners, who will buy anything.

"Whom shall I marry next?" Ildefonsa asked herself. "It looks like a slow night."

"Bagelbaker is buying," ran the word through Money Market, but Bagelbaker was selling again before the word had made its rounds. Basil Bagelbaker enjoyed making money, and it was a pleasure to watch him work as he dominated the floor of the Market and assembled runners and a competent staff out of the corner of his mouth. Helpers stripped the panhandler rags off him and wrapped him in a tycoon toga. He sent one runner to pay back twentyfold the young couple who had advanced him a thousand dollars. He sent another with a more substantial gift to Ildefonsa Impala, for Basil cherished their relationship. Basil acquired title to the Trend Indication Complex and had certain falsifications set into it. He caused to collapse certain industrial empires that had grown up within the last two hours, and made a good thing of recombining their wreckage. He had been the richest man in the world for some minutes now. He became so money-heavy that he could not maneuver with the agility he had shown an hour before. He became a great fat buck, and the pack of expert wolves circled him to bring him down.

Very soon he would lose that first fortune of the evening. The secret of Basil Bagelbaker is that he enjoyed losing money spectacularly after he was full of it to the bursting point.

· · · · · 

A thoughtful man named Maxwell Mouser had just produced a work of actinic philosophy. It took him seven minutes to write it. To write works of philosophy one used the flexible outlines and the idea indexes; one set the activator for such a wordage in each subsection; an adept would use the paradox feed-in, and the striking analogy blender; one calibrated the particular-slant and the personality-signature. It had to come out a good work, for excellence had become the automatic minimum for such productions.

"I will scatter a few nuts on the frosting," said Maxwell, and he pushed the lever for that. This sifted handfuls of words like chthonic and heuristic and prozymeides through the thing so that nobody could doubt it was a work of philosophy.

Maxwell Mouser sent the work out to publishers, and received it back each time in about three minutes. An analysis of it and reason for rejection was always given.mostly that the thing had been done before and better. Maxwell received it back ten times in thirty minutes, and was discouraged. Then there was a break.

Ladion's work had become a hit within the last ten minutes, and it was now recognized that Mouser's monograph was both an answer and a supplement to it. It was accepted and published in less than a minute after this break. The reviews of the first five minutes were cautious ones; then real enthusiasm was shown. This was truly one of the greatest works of philosophy to appear during the early and medium hours of the night. There were those who said it might be one of the enduring works and even have a hold-over appeal to the Dawners the next morning.

Naturally Maxwell became very rich, and naturally Ildefonsa came to see him about midnight. Being a revolutionary philosopher, Maxwell thought that they might make some free arrangement, but Ildefonsa insisted it must be marriage. So Maxwell divorced Judy Mouser in Small Claims Court and went off with Ildefonsa.

This Judy herself, though not so beautiful as Ildefonsa, was the fastest taker in the City. She only wanted the men of the moment for a moment, and she was always there before even Ildefonsa. Ildefonsa believed that she took the men away from Judy; Judy said that Ildy had her leavings and nothing else.

"I had him first," Judy would always mock as she raced through Small Claims Court.

"Oh that damned Urchin!" Ildefonsa would moan. "She wears my very hair before I do."

· · · · · 

Maxwell Mouser and Ildefonsa Impala went honeymooning to Musicbox Mountain, a resort. It was wonderful. The peaks were done with green snow by Dunbar and Fittle. (Back at Money Market, Basil Bagelbaker was putting together his third and greatest fortune of the night, which might surpass in magnitude even his fourth fortune of the Thursday before.) The chalets were Switzier than the real Swiss and had live goats in every room. (And Stanley Skuldugger was emerging as the top actor-imago of the middle hours of the night.) The popular drink for that middle part of the night was Glotzenglubber, Eve Cheese and Rhine wine over pink ice. (And back in the city, the leading Nyctalops were taking their midnight break at the Toppers' Club.)

Of course it was wonderful, as were all of Ildefonsa's. But she had never been really up on philosophy, so she had scheduled only the special thirty-five minute honeymoon. She looked at the trend indicator to be sure. She found that her current husband had been obsoleted, and his opus was now referred to sneeringly as Mouser's Mouse. They went back to the city and were divorced in Small Claims Court.

The membership of the Toppers' Club varied. Success was the requisite of membership. Basil Bagelbaker might be accepted as a member, elevated to the presidency and expelled from it as a dirty pauper from three to six times a night. But only important persons could belong to it, or those enjoying brief moments of importance.

"I believe I will sleep during the Dawner period in the morning," Overcall said. "I may go up to this new place Koimopolis for an hour of it. They're said to be good. Where will you sleep, Basil?"


"I believe I will sleep an hour by the Midian Method," said Burnbanner. "They have a fine new clinic. And perhaps I'll sleep an hour by the Prasenka Process, and an hour by the Dormidio."

"Crackle has been sleeping an hour every period by the natural method," said Overcall.

"I did that for a half hour not long since," said Burnbanner. "I believe an hour is too long to give it. Have you tried the natural method, Basil?"

"Always. Natural method and a bottle of red-eye."

· · · · · 

Stanley Skuldugger had become the most meteoric actor-imago for a week. Naturally he became very rich, and Ildefonsa Impala went to see him about 3 A.M.

"I had him first!" rang the mocking voice of Judy Skuldugger as she skipped through her divorce in Small Claims Court. And Ildefonsa and Stanley-boy went off honeymooning. It is always fun to finish up a period with an actor-imago who is the hottest property in the business. There is something so adolescent and boorish about them.

Besides, there was the publicity, and Ildefonsa liked that. The rumor-mills ground. Would it last ten minutes? Thirty? An hour? Would it be one of those rare Nyctalops marriages that lasted through the rest of the night and into the daylight off-hours? Would it even last into the next night as some had been known to do?

Actually it lasted nearly forty minutes, which was almost to the end of the period.

It had been a slow Tuesday night. A few hundred new products had run their course on the markets. There had been a score of dramatic hits, three-minute and five-minute capsule dramas, and several of the six-minute long-play affairs. Night Street Nine.a solidly sordid offering.seemed to be in as the drama of the night unless there should be a late hit.

Hundred-storied buildings had been erected, occupied, obsoleted, and demolished again to make room for more contemporary structures. Only the mediocre would use a building that had been left over from the Day-Flies or the Dawners, or even the Nyctalops of the night before. The city was rebuilt pretty completely at least three times during an eight-hour period.

The Period drew near its end. Basil Bagelbaker, the richest man in the world, the reigning president of the Toppers' Club, was enjoying himself with his cronies. His fourth fortune of the night was a paper pyramid that had risen to incredible heights; but Basil laughed to himself as he savored the manipulation it was founded on.

· · · · · 

Three ushers of the Toppers' Club came in with firm step.

"Get out of here, you dirty bum!" they told Basil savagely. They tore the tycoon's toga off him and then tossed him his seedy panhandler's rags with a three-man sneer.

"All gone?" Basil asked. "I gave it another five minutes."

"All gone," said a messenger from Money Market. "Nine billion gone in five minutes, and it really pulled some others down with it."

"Pitch the busted bum out!" howled Overcall and Burnbanner and the other cronies. "Wait, Basil," said Overcall. "Turn in the President's Crosier before we kick you downstairs. After all, you'll have it several times again tomorrow night."

The Period was over. The Nyctalops drifted off to sleep clinics or leisure-hour hideouts to pass their ebb time. The Auroreans, the Dawners, took over the vital stuff.

Now you would see some action! Those Dawners really made fast decisions. You wouldn't catch them wasting a full minute setting up a business.

A sleepy panhandler met Ildefonsa Impala on the way.

"Preserve us this morning, Ildy," he said, "and will you marry me the coming night?"

"Likely I will, Basil," she told him. "Did you marry Judy during the night past?"

"I'm not sure. Could you let me have two dollars, Ildy?"

"Out of the question. I believe a Judy Bagelbaker was named one of the ten best-dressed women during the frou-frou fashion period about two o'clock. Why do you need two dollars?"

"A dollar for a bed and a dollar for red-eye. After all, I sent you two million out of my second."

"I keep my two sorts of accounts separate. Here's a dollar, Basil. Now be off! I can't be seen talking to a dirty panhandler."

"Thank you, Ildy. I'll get the red-eye and sleep in an alley. Preserve us this morning."

Bagelbaker shuffled off whistling "Slow Tuesday Night."

And already the Dawners had set Wednesday morning to jumping.

The End


The Transcendent Tigers
by R. A. Lafferty

This was the birthday of Carnadine Thompson. She was seven years old. Thereby she left her childhood behind her, and came into the fullness of her powers. This was her own phrase, and her own idea of the importance of the milestone.

There were others, mostly adult, who thought that she was a peculiarly backward little girl in some ways, though precocious in others.

She received for her birthday four presents: a hollow, white rubber ball, a green plastic frog, a red cap, and a little wire puzzle.

She immediately tore the plastic frog apart, considering it a child's toy. So much for that.

She put on the cap, saying that it had been sent by her Genie as a symbol of her authority. In fact none of them knew who had sent her the red cap. The cap is important. If it weren't important, it wouldn't be mentioned.

Carnadine quickly worked the wire puzzle, and then unworked it again. Then she did something with the hollow, white rubber ball that made her mother's eyes pop out. Nor did they pop all the way in again when Carnadine undid it and made it as it was before.

Geraldine Thompson had been looking pop-eyed for a long time. Her husband had commented on it, and she had been to the doctor for it. No medical reason was found, but the actual reason was some of the antics of her daughter, Carnadine.

"I wonder if you noticed the small wire puzzle that I gave to my daughter," said Tyburn Thompson to his neighbor, H. Horn.

"Only to note that it probably cost less than a quarter," said Horn, "and to marvel again at the canny way you have with coin. I wouldn't call you stingy, Tyburn. I've never believed in the virtues of understatement. You have a talent for making stingy people seem benevolent."

"I know. Many people misunderstand me. But consider that wire puzzle. It's a very simple-appearing puzzle, but it's twenty-four centuries old. It is unworkable, of course, so it should keep Carnadine occupied for some time. She has an excess of energy. This is one of the oldest of the unworkable puzzles."

"But, Tyburn, she just worked it," said his wife, Geraldine.

"It is one of the nine impossible apparatus puzzles listed by Anaximandros in the fifth century before the common era," continued Tyburn. "And do you know, in all the centuries since then, there have been only two added to the list."

"Carnadine," said her mother, "let me see you work that again."

Carnadine worked it again.

"The reason it is unworkable," said Tyburn, "though apparent to me as a design engineer, may not be so readily apparent to you. It has to do with odds and evens of lays. Many of the unworkable classic puzzles are cordage puzzles, as is this, actually. It is a wire miniature of a cordage puzzle. It is said that this is the construction of the Gordian knot. The same, however, is said of two other early cordage puzzles."

"But she just worked it, Tyburn, twice," said the wife.

"Stop chattering, Geraldine. I am explaining something to Horn. Men have spent years on the puzzle, the Engineering Mind and the recognition of patent impossibility being less prevalent in past centuries. And this, I believe, is the best of all the impossible ones. It is misleading. It looks as though there would surely be a way to do it."

"I just believe that I could do it, Tyburn," said Horn.

"No, you could not. You're a stubborn man, and it'd drive you crazy. It's quite impossible. You would have to take it into another dimension to work it, and then bring it back."

Carnadine once more did something with the hollow rubber ball.

"How did you make the rubber ball turn red and then white again, Carnadine?" her mother asked her.

"Turned it inside out. It's red on the inside."

"But how did you turn it inside out without tearing it?"

"It'd spoil it to tear it, mama."

"But it's impossible to turn it inside out without tearing it."

"Not if you have a red cap it isn't."

"Dear, how do you work the puzzle that your father says can't be worked?"

"Like this."

"Oh, yes. I mean, how does it happen that you can work it when nobody else could ever work it before?"

"There has to be a first time for everything, mama."

"Maybe, but there has to be a first-class explanation to go with that first time."

"It's on account of the red cap. With this cap I can do anything."

· · · · · 

So Carnadine Thompson in the fullness of her powers, and in her red cap, went out to find the rest of the Bengal Tigers. This was the most exclusive society in the world. It had only one full member, herself, and three contingent or defective members, her little brother Eustace, Fatty Frost, and Peewee Horn. Children all three of them, the oldest not within three months of her age.

The Bengal Tigers was not well known to the world at large, having been founded only the day before. Carnadine Thompson was made First Stripe for life. There were no other offices.

Yet, for a combination of reasons, the Bengal Tigers now became the most important society in the world. The new power was already in being. It was only a question of what form it would take, but it seemed to show a peculiar affiliation for this esoteric society.

· · · · · 

Clement Chardin, writing in Bulletin de la Société Parahistorique Française, expressed a novel idea:

It is no longer a question whether there be transcendent powers. These have now come so near to us that the aura of them ruffles our very hair. We are the objects of a visitation. The Power to Move Mountains and Worlds is at hand. The Actuality of the Visitation is proved, though the methods of the detection cannot now be revealed. The question is only whether there is any individual or group with the assurance to grasp that Power. It will not be given lightly. It will not come to the craven or contabescent. There is the sad possibility that there may be none ready in the World to receive the Power. This may not be the first Visitation, but it may well be the last. But the Power, whatever its form and essence (it is real, its presence had been detected by fine instrumentation), the Power, the Visitation may pass us by as unworthy. This parenthetical for those who might not have read it in the journal.

· · · · · 

That which struck just west of Kearney, Nebraska, was an elemental force. The shock of it was heard around the world, and its suction flattened farmhouses and barns for miles.

The area of the destruction was an almost perfect circle about two miles in diameter, so just over two thousand acres were destroyed. The first reports said that it was like no disaster ever known. Later reports said that it was like every disaster ever known; and it did have points of resemblance to all.

There was the great crater as though a meteorite had struck; there was the intense heat and the contamination as though it had been of fissionable origin; there was an afterflow of lava and the great ash clouds as though it were the supervolcanic explosion of another Krakatoa. There was the sudden silence of perhaps two seconds actually, and perhaps two hours as to human response. And then the noise of all sorts.

The early reports said that the hole was three miles deep. That was said simply to have a figure and to avoid panic. It was not known how deep the hole was.

But it was very much more than three miles.before the earthquake had begun to fill and mask it.before the hot magma had oozed up from its bottom to fill those first miles. It was still very much more than three miles deep after the rapid gushing had declined to a slow waxlike flowing.

Had anyone heard the preceding rush, or seen a meteor or any other flying object? No. There hadn't been a sound, but there had been something pitched a little higher than sound.

There hadn't been a meteor or a flying ball. But there had been what some called a giant shaft of light, and others a sheen of metal: a thing too big to be believed, and gone too soon to be remembered.

One farmer said that it was like the point of a giant needle quickly becoming more than a mile thick, and a hundred thousand miles long.

Did he know how to judge distances? Certainly, he said, I know how to judge distances. It is ninety yards to that tree; it is seven hundred yards to that windmill. That crow is flying at right onto eighty yards above the earth, though most would guess him higher. And that train whistle is coming from a distance of five and one-quarter miles.

But did he know how to judge great distances? Did he know how far was a hundred thousand miles? Certainly, he said, a great distance is easier to judge than a small one. And that sudden bright shaft was one hundred thousand miles long.

The farmer was the only one who offered any figures. Few had seen the thing at all. And all who had seen it maintained that it had lasted only a fraction of a second.

"There should be something to take the minds of the people from the unexplained happening near Kearney, Nebraska," said a group of advisors who had national status. "It will not be good for too much notice to be taken of this event until we have an explanation of it."

Fortunately something did take the minds of the people off the unexplained happenings near Kearney. What took their minds from the unusual happenings in Nebraska were the happenings at or near Hanksville, Utah, Crumpton, Maryland, Locust Bayou, Arkansas, and Pope City, Georgia. All of these sudden destructions were absolutely similar in type and vague in origin. National panic now went into the second stage, and it was nearly as important to halt it as to solve the disasters themselves.

And what in turn took the minds of the people off these disasters were the further disasters at Highmore, South Dakota, Lower Gilmore, New Hampshire, Cherryfork, Ohio, and Rowesville, South Carolina.

And what took the minds of the people off these later disasters were still further disasters at.but this could go on and on.

And it did.

· · · · · 

So with the cataclysmic disasters erupting over the country like a rash, there wasn't a large audience for the academic discussions about the New Potential of Mankind. There were those, concerned about the current catastrophes, who said that Mankind might not last long enough to receive the New Potential.or anything else.

But Winkers observed from the Long Viewpoint.paying no more attention to the destructions than if they had been a string of firecrackers, such not being his field:

It is paradoxical that we know so much and yet so little about the Power Immanent in the World: the Visitation, the Poyavlenie, as it is now called internationally. It has been detected, but in ways twice removed. An earlier statement that it had been detected by instrumentation is inaccurate. It has not been detected by instrumentation, but by para-instrumentation. This is the infant science of gathering data from patterns of failure of instruments, and of making deductions from those failure patterns. What our finest instruments fail to detect is at least as important as what they do detect. In some cases it is more so. The patterns of failure when confronted with the thesis of the Visitation have been varied, but they have not been random. There appears to be a validity to the deductions from the patterns. The characteristics of the Power, the Visitation, as projected by these methods (and always considered in the Oeg-Hornbostel framework) is that it is Aculeiform, Homodynamous, Homochiral, and (here the intelligence reels with disbelief, yet I assure the lector that I am deadly serious) Homoeoteleutic.

For there is a Verbal Element to it, incredible as it seems. This raises old ghosts. It is almost as if we hear the returning whisper of primitive magic or fetish. It is as if we were dealing with the Logos.the word that was before the world. But where are we to find the logic of the Logos?

Truly the most puzzling aspect of all is this Verbal Element detected in it, even if thus remotely. Should we believe that the Power operates homeopathically through some sort of witches' rhyming chant? That might be an extreme conclusion, since we know it only by an implication. But when we consider all the foregoing in the light of Laudermilk's Hypothesis, we are tempted to a bit of unscientific apprehension.

How powerful is the Power? We do not know. We cannot equate it in dynes. We can only compare effect with effect, and here the difference is so great that comparison fails. We can consider the effect of the Titter-Stumpf Theory, or of the Krogman-Keil Projection on Instrumentation and Para-Instrumentation. And we humbly murmur "very powerful indeed."

· · · · · 

Carnadine Thompson had begun to read the newspapers avidly. This was unexpected, since reading was her weak point. She had had so much trouble with the story of the Kitten and the Bell in the First Reader that her mother had come to believe that she had no verbal facility at all. This had been belied a moment later when Carnadine had torn the offending pages out of the Reader and told her mother and the world just what they could do with that kitten, and told it with great verbal facility. But it seemed that for reading Carnadine had no talent.

But now she read everything she could find about the new disasters that had struck the it out loud in a ringing voice in which the names of the destroyed places were like clanging bells.

"How come you can read the paper so well, Carnadine?" her mother asked her. "How do you know how to say the names?"

"Oh, it's no great trick, mama. You just tie into the stuff and let go. Crumpton! Locust Bayou! Pope City! Cherryfork! Rowesville!"

"But how can you read all those hard names in the paper when you couldn't even read the story about the little kitten?"

"Mama, with things going the way they are, I think there's a pretty good chance that that damned kitten will get what's coming to her."

· · · · · 

Far out, very far out, there was a conversation.

This was on a giant world of extreme sophistication and nondependence on matter. It was such a world as those on which Laudermilk's Hypothesis was built. That such a world existed, even in a contingent sense, was a triumph for Laudermilk.

"Then you have invested one?" asked Sphaeros, an ancient rotundity of that advanced world.

"I have invested one," said Acu, the eager young sharpie, and bowed his forehead to the floor. The expression was figurative, since there was neither forehead nor floor on that world.

"And you are certain that you have invested the correct one?"

"You toy with me. Naturally I am not certain. Every investiture may not be successful, and every seed may not grow. One learns by experience, and this is my first experience on such a mission.

"I examined much of that world before I found this person. I thought first that it would be among the masters of the contrapuntal worlds.for even there they have such and masters of such. But none of these persons.called by themselves actors and impresarios and promoters and hacks.none of these qualified. None had the calm assurance that is the first requisite. What assurance they had was of another sort, and not valid. Also, their contrapuntal worlds were not true creations in our sense.not really worlds at all."

"Then where did you look?" asked Sphaeros.

"I looked to the heads of the apparatus. On retarded worlds there is often an apparatus or 'government.' On that world there were many. But the leaders of these.though most showed an avidity for power.did not show the calm assurance that should go with it. Their assurance, if it could be called such, was of an hysterical sort. Also, most of them were venal persons, so I rejected them."

"And then?"

"Then I explored remote possibilities. Those who employ in their work a certain power over another species.jockeys, swineherds, beekeepers, snake-charmers. But with them I didn't find what I looked for.the perfect assurance of the truly superior being."

"And then, Acu?"

"Then I went into instruments, not trusting my own judgment. I set the Calm Assurance Indicator on automatic and cruised about that world. And on that whole world I found only one person with perfect impervious to doubt of any kind and totally impervious to self-doubt. On this one I made the investiture and conferred the concept of great Power and Sharpness."

"You have made a mistake. Fortunately it is not a great mistake, as it is not a great world. You were too anxious to make a good showing on your first attempt. When nothing can be found, you should leave that world alone. On very many of them nothing can be found. Assurance is not the only quality that makes up this competence; it is simply the quality for which we look first on alien spheres.

"The one on whom you made the Investiture, though full of assurance, was not full of other qualities equally important. It was in fact a pupa form, a child of the species, known locally as a kid. Well, it's done and cannot be undone. Fortunately such power conferred carries its own safety factor. The worst it can do is destroy its own world and seal it off safely from others. You made the Investiture correctly?"

"Yes. I left the Red Cap, the symbol of authority and power. There was instant acceptance and comprehension."

· · · · · 

"Now we'll do the big towns," screamed Carnadine Thompson in the clubhouse of the Bengal Tigers.

"Peas and Beans.
New Orleans!"

She jabbed the needle into New Orleans on the map, and the great shaft a hundred thousand miles long came down into the middle of the Crescent City.

A needle? Not a pin? No. No. Pins won't work. They're of base metal. Needles! Needles!

"Candy store.

"Baltimore," howled Carnadine and jabbed in another needle, and the old city was destroyed. But there was never a place that screamed so loudly over its own destruction or hated so much to go.

"Fatty's full of bolonio.
San Antonio."

And Carnadine stuck it in with full assurance of her powers, red cap atilt, eyes full of green fire. There were some of us who liked that place and wished that it could have been spared.

"Eustace is a sisty.
Corpus Christi."

"I know one," said Eustace, and he clapped the red cap on his own head:

"Eggs and Batter.

He rhymed and jabbed, manfully but badly.

"That didn't rhyme very good," said Carnadine. "I bet you botched it."

He did. It wasn't a clean-cut holocaust at all. It was like a clumsy, bloody, grinding job.not what you'd like.

"Eustace, go in the house and get the big world map," ordered Carnadine, "and some more needles. We don't want to run out of things."

"Peewee is a sapolis.

"Let me do one," pleaded Peewee, and he snatched the red cap:

"Hopping Froggo.

"I do wish that you people would let me handle this," said Carnadine. "That was awful."

It was. It was horrible. That giant needle didn't go in clean at all. It buckled great chunks of land and tore a ragged gap. Nothing pretty, nothing round about it. It was plain brutal destruction.

· · · · · 

If you don't personally go for this stuff, then pick a high place near a town that nobody can find a rhyme for, and go there fast. But if you can't get out of town in the next two minutes, then forget it. It will be too late.

Carnadine plunged ahead:

"What the hecktady.

That was one of the roundest and cleanest holes of all.

"Flour and Crisco.
San Francisco."

That was a good one. It got all the people at once, and then set up tidal waves and earthquakes all over everywhere.

"Knife and fork.

The End


R. A. Lafferty

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R. A. Lafferty

Lafferty in a portion of his extensive library.

November 7, 1914(1914-11-07)
Neola, Iowa

March 18, 2002 (aged 87)
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Novelist, short story author

Science fiction, Fantasy

Debut works
"The Wagons" (1959)

Irish and Greek mythology, Teresa of Ávila

Neil Gaiman, Terry Bisson, Gene Wolfe, Ray Vukcevich

Raphael Aloysius Lafferty (November 7, 1914 - March 18, 2002) was a noted science fiction and fantasy writer of Irish descent, famous for his original use of language, metaphor, and narrative structure[1], as well as for his etymological wit. He also wrote a set of four autobiographical novels, In a Green Tree; a history book, The Fall of Rome; and a number of novels that could be more or less loosely called historical fiction.


Lafferty was born on 7 November 1914 in Neola, Iowa to Hugh David Lafferty (a broker dealing in oil leases and royalties) and Julia Mary Burke, a teacher, the youngest of five siblings. His first name, Raphael, derived from the day he was expected to be born on (the Feast of St. Raphael). At the age of 4, his family moved to Perry, Oklahoma. He attended night school at the University of Tulsa for two years from 1933, mostly studying math and German, but left. He then began to work for a "Clark Electric Co.", in Tulsa, Oklahoma and apparently a newspaper as well; during this period (1939-1942), he attended the International Correspondence School.

R. A. Lafferty lived most of his life in Tulsa, with his sister, Anna Lafferty. Lafferty served for four years in the U.S. Army during World War II. He enlisted in 1942. Affter training in Texas, North Carolina, Florida, and California, he was sent to the South Pacific Area, serving in Australia, New Guinea, Morotai and the Philippines. When he left the Army in 1946, he had become a 1st Sergeant serving as a staff sergeant and had received an Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal [1]. He never married.

Lafferty did not begin writing until the 1950s, but he eventually produced thirty-two novels and more than two hundred short stories, most of them at least nominally science fiction. His first published story was "The Wagons" in New Mexico Quarterly Review in 1959. His first published science fiction story was "Day of the Glacier", in The Original Science Fiction Stories in 1960, and his first published novel was Past Master in 1968.

Until 1971, Lafferty worked as an electrical engineer. After that, he spent his time writing until around 1980, when he retired from that activity as well, due to a stroke. In 1994, he suffered an even more severe stroke. He died 18 March 2002, aged 87 in a nursing home in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. His collected papers, artifacts, and ephemera were donated to the University of Tulsa's McFarlin Library, Department of Special Collections and University Archives. Other manuscripts are housed in the University of Iowa's Library special collections department.


Lafferty's quirky prose drew from traditional storytelling, both Irish and Native American, and his shaggy characters and tall tales are unique in science fiction. Little of Lafferty's writing is considered typical of the genre. His stories are more tall tale than traditional science fiction and are deeply influenced by his Catholic beliefs; Fourth Mansions, for example, draws on The Interior Mansions of Teresa of Avila.

In any event, his writings, both topically and stylistically, are not easy to categorize. Plot is frequently secondary to anything else Lafferty does in his stories, which has caused him to have a loyal cult following, but has caused some readers to give up attempting to read his work.

Not all of Lafferty's work was science fiction or fantasy; his novel Okla Hannali [2], published by University of Oklahoma Press, tells the story of the Choctaw in Mississippi, and after the Trail of Tears, in Oklahoma, through an account of the larger-than-life character Hannali and his large family. This novel was thought of highly by the novelist Dee Brown[2], who published an influential book (Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee) in 1970 on the violent relationship between Native Americans and American expansionism.

Lafferty's work is represented by Virginia Kidd Literary Agency[3].

List of works

Publication dates have generally been left out, since they rarely give a clue about when some particular work was written, and since the list also contains works not yet published.


Lafferty, R. A. [1971]. The Fall of Rome (hardcover), first (in English), Garden City, N.Y. USA: Doubleday, 302. LCCN 73-131087.  -(Lafferty's fifth book)
Lafferty, R. A. [1995]. It's down the slippery cellar stairs : essays and speeches on fantastic literature (in English). San Bernardino, California: Borgo Press. 

Historical novels

The Flame is Green, 1st volume of the Coscuin Chronicles
Half a Sky, 2nd volume of the Coscuin Chronicles
Sardinian Summer, 3rd volume of the Coscuin Chronicles (unpublished)
First and Last Islands, 4th and final volume of the Coscuin Chronicles (unpublished)
Lafferty, R. A. [1972]. Okla Hannali (hardcover), first (in English), Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 221. LCCN 73-186035. 
Esteban (unpublished)

Science Fiction and Fantasy novels

Past Master
Lafferty, R. A. [1968] (April 2000). The Reefs of Earth (softcover), Wildside edition (in English), Berkeley Heights, New Jersey; or Gillette, NJ: Wildside Press, 144. ISBN 1-880448-98-X. 
Space Chantey (a retelling of the Odyssey in SF terms).
Lafferty, R. A. [1969] (1999). Fourth Mansions (softcover), Wildside edition (in English), Berkeley Heights, New Jersey; or Gillette, NJ: Wildside Press, 252. ISBN 1-880448-96-3. 
Arrive at Easterwine: The Autobiography of a Ktistec Machine as Conveyed to R. A. Lafferty
Not to Mention Camels
Annals of Klepsis
Serpent's Egg
East of Laughter
Sindbad: The Thirteenth Voyage
The Elliptical Grave
When All the World Was Young (unpublished)

Autobiographical novels

In a Green Tree

My Heart Leaps Up, 1920-1928
Grasshoppers and Wild Honey, 1928-1942 (unpublished)
Deep Scars of the Thunder, 1942-1960 (unpublished)
Incidents of Travel in Flatland, 1960-1978 (unpublished)

The Devil is Dead Trilogy

Lafferty, R. A. [1979]. Archipelago: the first book of The Devil is Dead trilogy, 1st edition (in English), Lafayette, La.: Manuscript Press, 283. LCCN: 79-127387; OCLC: 5944486. 
Lafferty, R. A. [1971] (1999). The Devil is Dead (softcover), Wildside edition (in English), Berkeley Heights, New Jersey; or Gillette, NJ: 1999 edition, Wildside Press; 1971/1977 edition, Gregg Press of Boston (The Gregg Press science fiction series), 224. ISBN 1-880448-95-5; ISBN 0-8398-2364-9; LCCN: 77-5038; OCLC: 2896356. 

the "Interglossia"; a portion of The Devil is Dead which was omitted from printings of it; the Interglossia has been republished in How Many Miles to Babylon? & in pgs 16-18, Issue 5 of A Magazine of Popular Literature and Popular Culture, in 1972 (ed. by Tom Collins & published by Fan Press of Lakemont, GA[3]; OCLC: 70161160
"Apocryphal Passage of the Last Night Of Count Finnegan On Galveston Island"; the last chapter of The Devil Is Dead, omitted from the standard version, because the publisher of the first edition did not receive it in time to include it; later published separately in Episodes of the Argo

More Than Melchisedech

Tales of Chicago
Tales of Midnight

Miscellaneous unpublished novels or otherwise unknown

Iron Tongue of Midnight
Dark Shine
Fair Hills of Ocean
Promontory goats (c. 1988; Publisher: United Mythologies Press)
True believers (c. 1988; Publisher: United Mythologies Press)
Strange skies (c. 1988; Publisher: United Mythologies Press)
Mischief malicious (c. 1991; Publisher: United Mythologies Press)


How Many Miles to Babylon?

Where have You been Sandaliotis?
The Three Armageddons of Enniscorthy Sweeney

Lafferty, R. A. [1971]. Ishmael into the Barrens, 1st edition (in English), 1-50.  Ishmael into the Barrens was first printed in the 1971 anthology Four Futures: Four Original Novellas of Science Fiction, New York, New York; Hawthorn Books (195 pages; it contains the "Foreword: Four Themes for Four Futures" by Isaac Asimov; Ishmael into the Barrens by R. A. Lafferty; Braver Newer World by Harry Harrison; How Can We Sink When We Can Fly? by Alexei Panshin; and Going by Robert Silverberg; LCCN: 79-158024)

Short Stories

"And Walk Now Gently Through the Fire"

Short story collections

(the following collections have no overlap)

Nine Hundred Grandmothers (21 stories): Nine Hundred Grandmothers / Land of the Great Horses / Ginny Wrapped in the Sun / The Six Fingers of Time / Frog on the Mountain / All the People / Primary Education of the Camiroi / Slow Tuesday Night / Snuffles / Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne / Name of the Snake / Narrow Valley / Polity and Custom of the Camiroi / In Our Block / Hog-Belly Honey / Seven-Day Terror / The Hole on the Corner / Whatâ..s the Name of That Town? / Through Other Eyes / One at a Time / Guesting Time
Strange Doings (16 stories): Rainbird / Camels and Dromedaries, Clem / Continued on Next Rock / Once on Aranea / Sodom and Gomorrah, Texas / The Man with the Speckled Eyes / All But the Words / The Transcendent Tigers / World Abounding / Dream / Ride a Tin Can / Aloys / Entire and Perfect Chrysolite / Incased in Ancient Rind / The Ugly Sea / Cliffs That Laughed. 276 pages, 1972, SBN 684-12530-7; New York, America and Canada, Charles Scribner's Sons.
Does Anyone Else Have Something Further To Add? Stories About Secret Places and Mean Men (16 stories): About a Secret Crocodile / Mad Man / Nor Limestone Islands / The Man Underneath / Boomer Flats / This Grand Carcass Yet / In the Garden / Groaning Hinges of the World / Golden Trabant / How They Gave It Back / Maybe Jones and the City / Seven Story Dream / Adam Had Three Brothers / Pig in a Pokey / The Weirdest World / The Ultimate Creature
Golden Gate and Other Stories (16 stories): Golden Gate / Mr. Hamadryad / This Boding Itch / Condillac's Statue / The Cliff Climbers / McGruder's Marvels / Tongues of the Matagorda / Ishmael into the Barrens (previously published in Four Futures) / Eurema's Dam / Days of Grass, Days of Straw / Make Sure the Eyes Are Big Enough / Bequest of Wings / Fall of Pebble-Stones / Marsilia V / One-Eyed Mocking Bird / Sky
Through Elegant Eyes (15 stories): The All-At-Once Man / Mud Violet / Barnaby's Clock / And Read the Flesh Between the Lines / Animal Fair / The Ungodly Mice of Dr. Drakos / The Two-Headed Dragon of Chris Benedetti / The Hellaceous Rocket of Harry O'Donovan / The Wooly World of Barnaby Sheen / Rivers of Damascus / Old Helloweens on the Guna Slopes / Brain Fever Season / What Big Tears the Dinosaur's / And all the Skies Are Full of Fish / St. Poleander's Eve
Iron Tears (15 stories): You Can't Go Back / Ifrit / Lord Torpedo, Lord Gyroscope / Funnyfingers / Thieving Bear Planet / Berryhill / The World As Will and Wallpaper / Horns On Their Heads / By the Sea Shore / Selenium Ghosts of the Eighteen Seventies / Magazine Section / Or Little Ducks Each Day / Cabrito / Le Hot Sport / Gray Ghost: A Reminiscence
Lafferty in Orbit (19 stories, 4 overlap the above; in addition, another 4 can be found in the collection Ringing Changes, below): Old Foot Forgot / All Pieces of a River Shore / Bright Coins in Never-Ending Stream / Flaming Ducks and Giant Bread / The Hole on the Corner / The Skinny People of Leptophlebo Street / Continued on Next Rock / Entire and Perfect Chrysolite / Great Day in the Morning / The Hand with One Hundred Fingers / One at a Time / Royal Licorice / And Name My Name / Fall of Pebble Stones / Configuration of the North Shore / Dorg / When All the Lands Pour Out Again / Interurban Queen / The Only Tune That He Could Play
Ringing Changes (20 stories, 13 overlap the above): Parthen / Old Foot Forgot / Dorg / Days of Grass, Days of Straw / Brain Fever Season / And Read the Flesh Between the Lines / Old Halloweens on the Guna Slopes / The Ungodly Mice of Doctor Drakos / The Wooly World of Barnaby Sheen / Rivers of Damascus / Among the Hairy Earthmen / In Outraged Stone / And Name My Name / Sky / For All Poor Folks at Picketwire / Oh Whatta You Do When the Well Runs Dry ? / And Some in Velvet Gowns / The Doggone Highly Scientific Door / Interurban Queen / Been a Long Long Time
The back door of history, 1988, United Mythologies Press in Weston, Ont., Canada: Phoenic / Six leagues from Lop / Rainy day in Halicarnasses / Assault on Fat Mountain / Calamities of last pauper / Rogue raft.
The early Lafferty, c. 1988, United Mythologies Press.
The early Lafferty II, c. 1990, United Mythologies Press.

Awards and Recognition

Lafferty received Hugo nominations for Past Master, "Continued on the Next Rock," "Sky," and "Eurema's Dam," the last of which won the Best Short Story Hugo in 1973 (shared with Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth's "The Meeting.") [4] He received Nebula Award nominations for "Slow Tuesday Night," Past Master, Fourth Mansions, "Continued on Next Rock," and The Devil is Dead. He never received a Nebula award. His collection Lafferty in Orbit was nominated for a World Fantasy Award, and in 1990, Lafferty received a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2002, he received the Cordwainer Smith Foundation's Rediscovery award[5].

Fourth Mansions was also named by David Pringle as one of his selections for Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels.


"[Once a] French publisher nervously asked whether Lafferty minded being compared to G. K. Chesterton (another Catholic author), and there was a terrifying silence that went on and on. Was the great man hideously offended? Eventually, very slowly, he said: 'You're on the right track, kid,' and wandered away." [4]

In his 2006 short story collection Fragile Things, Neil Gaiman includes a short story called "Sunbird" written in the style of Lafferty. In the introduction, he says this about Lafferty:

There was a writer from Tulsa, Oklahoma (he died in 2002), who was, for a little while in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the best short story writer in the world. His name was R. A. Lafferty, and his stories were unclassifiable and odd and inimitable -- you knew you were reading a Lafferty story within a sentence. When I was young I wrote to him, and he wrote back. "Sunbird" was my attempt to write a Lafferty story, and it taught me a number of things, mostly how much harder they are than they look....[5]

Books in Print


Past Master
The Reefs of Earth
Fourth Mansions
The Devil Is Dead
Okla Hannali
Serpent's Egg
Annals of Klepsis
Not to Mention Camels
Sindbad: The Thirteenth Voyage
My Heart Leaps Up

Short Story Collections

Nine Hundred Grandmothers
Does Anyone Else Have Something Further to Add
Iron Tears
Lafferty in Orbit

Further reading

Cranky old man from Tulsa: interviews with R.A. Lafferty.[6] R.A. Lafferty, 1990, United Mythologies Press


1. ^ Gene Wolfe wrote in an introduction to Episodes of the Argo that "[Lafferty may be] the most original writer in the history of literature"; Michael Swanwick has written that "if there were no Lafferty, we would lack the imagination to invent him", this is quoted on the back cover of the original edition of Lafferty in Orbit; Neil Gaiman has said that "[Lafferty's] stories are without precedent"; Harlan Ellison has written that "Lafferty defies categorization; his work is unlike anyone else's"... See "Quotations about Lafferty" for more:

2. ^ In the back cover of the edition of Okla Hannali published by University of Oklahoma Press, there is a quotation from Dee Brown, in which he writes "The history of the Choctaw Indians has been told before and is still being told, but it has never been told in the way Lafferty tells it ... Hannali is a buffalo bull of a man who should become one of the enduring characters in the literature of the American Indian." He also wrote, "It is art applied to history so that the legend of the Choctaws, their great and small men, their splendid humor, and their tragedies are filled with life and breath."
3. ^ "Virginia Kidd was the first female literary agent in the genre of speculative fiction, and over the next 3 decades represented some of the field's most important authors, including Ursula K. LeGuin, Anne McCaffrey, Gene Wolfe, R.A. Lafferty, Alan Dean Foster, and many others." "Virginia Kidd (1921-2003)"
4. ^ From an SFX magazine column by David Langford; issue #92, June 2002
5. ^ Introduction to Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman. published 2006 by William Morrow. page xxvii

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
R. A. Lafferty

R. A. Lafferty at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
R. A. Lafferty Devotional Page


R. A. Lafferty: Effective Arcanum - a critical examination of aspects of Lafferty's prose
"And They Took the Sky Off at Night" - an appreciation of Lafferty by editor Brian Cholfin
"The Devil is Dead", a review
"The Flame is Green", an essay and review of Lafferty's (non-SF) novel of revolutionary Europe, by John J. Reilly
"Past Master", a review at the Writers' Circle
"Okla Hannali", a book review and generous sampler
Collection of obituaries

An obituary by Cassutt

Article on Lafferty at Everything2
University of Tulsa McFarlin Library's inventory of the R. A. Lafferty collection housed in their special collections department
University of Iowa's page on their special collection of his papers
Virginia Kidd Literary Agency is where R. A. Lafferty's agent can be reached.
"The Cranky Old Man of Tulsa"
"R. A. Lafferty: Winner of the 2002 Cordwainer Smith Foundation "Rediscovery" Award

Works available online

Narrow Valley
Slow Tuesday Night
Nine Hundred Grandmothers
The Transcendent Tigers
Sodom and Gomorrah, Texas


Lafferty, Raphael Aloysius

Lafferty, R.A.; Lafferty, R. A.; Lafferty, Ray

American writer

November 7, 1914

Neola, Iowa

March 18, 2002

Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Retrieved from ""

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posted by u2r2h at Friday, January 04, 2008


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