Though labeled ""science fiction,"" this generous collection--28 stories and sketches plus assorted commentaries--emphasizes the comic/literary aspect of Malzberg's prolific, erratic output. A half-dozen absurdist variations on mystery-story formulae (most of them originally published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine). Four glimpses of life in writers' heaven with Big Ernie, Ring, Carson, Flannery, and Dashiell (who says: ""It is writer's heaven because we do not have to write. . . because. . . I don't want to anymore""). Bitter satires on the more earthly literary life, including a grim, oblique portrait of sad, sad Cornell Woolrich in his last days. Plus: ""The Man Who Married a Beagle""; the murder of Sigmund Freud; a few allegorical fantasies and psychosexual parables; an essay on science fiction in ""The Fifties"" (a nice complement to the picture presented in Galaxy, p. 267); and ""Thirty-Six Views of His Dead Majesty,"" offering the thoughts of a space-explorer drowning in his crashed cockpit--a provocative, somewhat pretentious, but beautifully-voiced prose poem. Throughout, even when the ideas are slight or preciously narrow, Malzberg displays the exuberance, wit, and, above all, the terrific ear that distinguish his best work. Unfortunate, then, that he has defaced this volume with embarrassing afterwords for nearly every piece: breathtakingly self-indulgent, self-pitying, self-deluding notes on the selling of these stories (The New Yorker hasn't the vision to buy them) and related lit-world business. They're off-putting enough to ruin the stories themselves--so readers who want to find the sophisticated fun in this collection should be advised to shut their eyes right and turn the page whenever those heart-on-sleeve laments intrude.