Virtual Unrealities: The Short Fiction of Alfred Bester
is a short
story collection containing the best short works of Alfred Bester, ranging from
his early stories to past
his death-- including two stories that were found in his notes after his death and only published in this collection.
As Robert Silverberg says in the introduction, not all of his work is included--only his best. The pulp stories of lesser quality were
not included. The stories chosen for this book capture much of the same
mood, word play, typography, and twists in his two science fiction novels The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man. Reading this book even 20 years
after the last story was published and nearly 50 years after the first story,
I still find each one thought provoking, and maybe even a bit eye opening.
There are very few other science fiction authors I can say this about.
Silverberg mentions one thing in the introduction that helped me appreciate Alfred Bester's fiction
more. His education is in Psychology; as such, I feel the best elements of his stories are not the technology or superpowers or whatever, but the extraordinary item's social consequences and effects on human emotion.
The technical science aspects of his
stories are hard to take seriously, and usually easily read over anyway.
The social implications and character studies are sometimes mind blowing.
Most of these stories have a message to tell... some serious... others... well, you decide.
As these are short stories, not much can be said about them without giving
away the story, but here is the list of titles, from the table of contents,
and what little comment I could think up to remind you if you've read these...
Content of the links below is only as relevant to the stories as Bester
intended the titles to be.
- Disappearing Act
- Where would you go if you could?
- Oddy and Id
- luckiest man in the world...
- Star Light, Star Bright
- The search for talent can be dangerous!
- Sometimes ugliness can inspire art, but not always.
- Fondly Fahrenheit
- Do you get the urge to sing when it's hot out?
- Hobson's Choice
- When were the good old days?
- Of Time and Third Avenue
- Beware of men in strange clothes bearing future gifts.
- Time is the Traitor
- All the money in the world can't make you happy.
- The Men Who Murdered Mohammed
- Be careful what you do in the past!
- The Pi Man
- If we were all this in balance...
- They Don't Make Life Like They Use To
- similar to many other nuclear holocaust stories, with Bester's usual twists...
- Will You Wait
- Bester's modern twists on the age old Bargain with the Devil story...
- The Flowered Thundermug
- What will future historians think of our artifacts?
- Adam and No Eve
- Even Mad Scientists must deal with consequences.
- And 3 1/2 to Go
- (fragment--not completed before death)
- Galatea Galante
- to make the perfect woman...
- The Devil Without Glasses (previously unpublished)
- Am I a man or a butterfly?