This is perhaps my favorite SF anthology of all time: pretty much solid gold. Despite the fact that I last saw a copy 40 years ago, I look at the table of contents and immediately recall every story in considerable detail. Anne McCaffrey contributes her first episode of Dragonriders
; she spent most of her life writing sequels. Michael Moorcock's Behold the Man
is a brilliantly provocative time-travel piece where the guy goes back to the first century A.D. to meet Jesus, and finds he has to become Him. Fritz Leiber's Gonna Roll the Bones
is the best dicing-with-the-Devil story ever written. J.G. Ballard's Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D
and Samuel R. Delaney's Aye, and Gomorrah
are elegantly incomprehensible. Well, the New Wave was just getting started.
But my favorite was Harlan Ellison's Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes
. Maggie, a beautiful, imperious call-girl with a weak heart, is in Vegas. She's just had a falling-out with her client, a minor Mob figure. He wanted her to do something that even she wasn't prepared to offer. (What was it? I'm still wondering).
, Nuncio!" she spits, and then she takes all his money as he watches helplessly (he is in love with her, there is nothing he can do). She goes down to the casino and buys a basket of silver dollars. Then she stands in front of the old-fashion silver dollar slot machine, feeding in the coins and pulling the handle and hating Nuncio and herself and her life and the whole world. Suddenly, her heart gives out, and she collapses dead on the floor. But her hatred is so strong that her lovely, evil spirit finds its way into the machine.
A few weeks later, a loser named Kostner is standing in front of the same machine. He thinks he's just blown everything he had at the blackjack table. Now, to his surprise, he puts his hand in his pocket and finds a silver dollar. He puts it in the slot and pulls the handle.
I won't tell you what happens next, except to say that Ellison does not waste his terrific intro. If you like classic SF, you should check out this book.