Why isn't Ellison--one of the most gifted sci-fi writers of the age--writing masterpieces instead of marvelous razzle-dazzle? The answer lies in the difference between an idea and a gimmick. Fancies like a crew of gremlins filling in for a dried-up writer or a Jewish mother returning from the grave to keep tabs on her offspring (""A certifiable pigsty. My son lives in filth"") clearly don't pretend to much more than cute. But Ellison's handling of weightier notions seems only to involve some weightier cuteness. Conceits like a WASPified Jew suddenly finding himself among the ghosts of Nazi war criminals--or a man retributively poisoned with the loneliness he has inflicted on women--are efficiently packaged rather than wrestled with. Ellison's real ideas come when he lets go with some lyrical impulse--whether beautiful, frightening, or lurid. Thus the description of the mutant girl's kaleidoscopic perceptions in ""Seeing"" is a moment of real wonder and terror. And the portrayals of rare sounds in a ravishing story of an intergalactic ""sonority gathering"" (""The Wine Has Been Left Open. . ."") show Ellison at his rarely-seen best: a sci-fi imagination of peerless audacity. A fair collection with gorgeous moments.