The Man Who Never Was by R.A. Lafferty
Hardcover – Centipede Press – Apr 2021 – 384 pages
In a career that began in 1959 and continued until his death in 2002, R.A. Lafferty garnered the admiration of authors and editors including Robert A.W. Lowndes, Harlan Ellison, A.A. Attanasio, Gene Wolfe, Michael Swanwick and many, many others. His body of short fiction is comprised of well over 200 stories and, despite his vast popularity, there was never a concerted effort made to produce a comprehensive collection of his short fiction, until now.
Welcome once again to the sometimes nightmarish, occasionally hilarious, always fascinating universe created by the incomparable R. A. Lafferty. The stories in this sumptuous volume are some of Lafferty’s finest — taut and terrifying, yet pungent with his uniquely cynical tone.
He stares down mercilessly at a world gone quietly mad. “The Man Who Never Was” treads across the thin line between reality and illusion, thickening the haze that separates who we are from who we pretend to be. “Maleficent Morning” is about undoing the unthinkable, a masterful take on themes that range from the myth of Aladdin’s Lamp to the curse of “The Monkey’s Paw.” Coursing between nightmare and waking, its folksiness makes it all the more jarring.
“Groaning Hinges of the World” is a dark fable about a world overtaken by depravity, more relevant now than ever. “Long Teeth” is a strange brew of grue, gore, and greed, a corrosive narrative about the cyclical effect of avarice. “Day of the Glacier” is a prescient, literally spine-chilling account of a climatic catastrophe fueled by paranoia and militarism. “Three Shadows of the Wolf” is a suspenseful, fanciful, and undeniably moody mystery about the hunt for an elusive and very intelligent werewolf.
This special Centipede Press edition is graced with a poignant introduction by Neil Gaiman, a combination valentine and tribute to his favorite writer that incorporates an incisive interview Gaiman conducted with Lafferty. “I like almost all my short stories,” Lafferty declared. He undoubtedly loved the ones contained between these covers. Dig in, and savor one of fantasy literature’s most ferociously imaginative authors.