Paul Bryant's Reviews > The Norton Book of Science Fiction: North American Science Fiction, 1960-90

The Norton Book of Science Fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin
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Nov 01, 2008

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bookshelves: aliens-ate-my-lunch
Read from August 31 to September 06, 2010

This collection kicks off with a favourite of mine, "The Handler" by Damon Knight. Pete, the big man, steps into a room where a showbiz apres-show party is in mid-swing and everyone lights up like neon, now he's here. The whole place is really jumpin and jivin, Pete is ladling out the praise for everyone involved and they're all loving him right back. He was the star of the show and it's a hit. The love is flowing like the champagne. Then he says "Now, I'd like you to meet my handler" and he .. stops moving. There's a kind of interior quiver and his dinner jacket splits right up the back, and a little man climbs out of him - "almost a dwarf, stoop-shouldered and round-backed in a sweaty brown singlet and shorts". He closes up the big man's back and asks for a beer. He starts to come out with the same kind of smooth-talking glad-handing bonhomie that Pete was, a few minutes previously. But now the words fall flat. There's a hush, everyone's a bit embarrassed. People begin looking at watches, getting their coats. One guy leans forward and says "Listen Harry, why don't you get back inside?" Everyone watches unsmilingly as he finishes his beer and unzips the big man's back and climbs back in. After a moment Pete suddenly snaps back into life - "Well hey there, whatsa matter with this party anyhow? Let's see some action - what I mean is, are we alive or are we just waiting for the wagon to pick us up? How's that again? Can't hear you!" and of course there's a roar and everyone is suddenly right back in the swing of it, having the greatest time.

This is a great little companion fable to Kit Reed's story "Automatic Tiger" which Manny describes here

I believe a lot of stories comment on or complement each other, either consciously or otherwise - popular songs do it too, all the time.

As for this SF collection, it ran into a lot of flak because Ursula Le Guin was perceived to be performing some affirmative action program on behalf of feminism, by including so many stories by female writers - there's actually a whopping 42% of the total stories written by females - how about that. Outrageous. Everyone knows that women only write 7% of science fiction.
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