R.A. Lafferty's Nine Hundred Grandmothers was a nostalgic read for me, even though I'd never read it (or anything quite like it) before. Because, see, the publisher -- coincidentally, the same Wildside Press that republished the Ethshar books I've been devouring lately -- typeset the book straight from the 1970 edition. Which means that it has the exact same typeface as all the Asimov collections I devoured from the library back in my teens.

It has another similarity to those Asimov collections: The short stories are actually short. Like novels, short stories have grown longer over the years, so that a book of short stories these days seemingly consists of a half-dozen fifty page pieces. Not here, though: Lafferty crams a full twenty-one stories into a mere 300-odd pages.

So we've got story length and typefaces, but that's about where the similarities to Asimov end, because Lafferty isn't writing straight science fiction in the Asimov/Clarke mold. Instead he's writing... well, it's hard to pigeonhole him, exactly. There's a strong element of science fantasy to it, spiced occasionally with mysticism and folktale elements, and often covered with a veneer of spaceship 'n' computer SF -- as if he were trying to fool the editors at Analog into publishing his stories (which appear to have been mostly published in Galaxy). The best I can come up with for a comparison is Stanislaw Lem's Cyberiad.

It took me a bit to warm to Lafferty, primarily because the Asimov-reminiscent typeface and some false story cues led me to expect science-heavy SF; but once I realized what Lafferty was actually doing, I thoroughly enjoyed the stories. Highly recommended to fans of Lem, Jack Vance, or Avram Davidson.


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