A sprightly collection, not overly loud about its own importance. These 19 stories show women sci-fi writers as eclectic explorers, roving from urban pathology (Rachel Cosgrove Payes' ""Escape to the Suburbs"") to alternate-history scenarios (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's very funny ""Space/Time Arabesque,"" in which an alien assistant history-programmer inadvertently produces a Wagner who invents the electric tuba and a Peter the Great who starts Europeanizing Russia with Norelco shavers). Ursula K. LeGuin wittily portrays a world gone mad in search of a ""Sanity Quotient""; Katherine MacLean grimly portrays one ready for the theology of ritual murder. The gems of the collection are Josephine Saxton's ""Alien Sensation,"" a devastating bagatelle about an atrophied humanity; Grania Davis' neat genetic fable about a mysterious competition among a group of children; and Kay Rogers' account of a sudden hitch in the conditioning of a youthful assassin. Other celebrated participants are Andre Norton (who contributes a brief introduction on the role of women in sci fi), Zenna Henderson, Anne McCaffrey, and the able Sydney J. Van Scyoc, author of a fine story about a future civil war of all-embracing insanity (""Nightfire""). A pleasure.