Ten award-winning stories, 1982-2007, plus three equally well-regarded award acceptance speeches, from the much-celebrated author (All Clear, 2011, etc.).
Hard to say which of these stories is the most famous; probably “Fire Watch” (Hugo winner), in which a time traveler helps save St. Paul’s cathedral from incendiaries in 1940. Not far behind would be “The Last of the Winnebagos” (Hugo and Nebula winner), depicting a future in which dogs are extinct, and the Humane Society, mutated into a crypto-fascist police organization, is liable to shoot you for accidentally running over a coyote; or the wrenching post-apocalyptic “A Letter from the Clearys” (Nebula winner). Returning to the “Fire Watch” theme, “The Winds of Marble Arch” (Hugo) explores a London Underground haunted by the ghosts of the Blitz. And in “Death on the Nile” (Hugo), the protagonists are dead but don’t know it—an idea that Willis would explore in more depth in her brilliant novel Passage. The remaining tales show off Willis’ gift for comedy. Who else, for instance, could write about menstruation (“Even the Queen,” Hugo and Nebula) and make it screamingly funny? In “All Seated on the Ground” (Hugo), weird alien visitors do nothing but stand around and glare disapprovingly. Who better than Emily Dickenson (“The Soul Selects Her Own Society,” Hugo) to save Earth from Wellsian Martian invaders or arch-skeptic H. L. Mencken (“Inside Job,” Hugo) to debunk a fake psychic? Finally, in “At the Rialto” (Nebula), attendees of a quantum physics conference at a Hollywood hotel stumble into delightfully probabilistic chaos.
Ranging from the hilarious to the profound, these stories show the full range of Willis’ talent for taut, dazzling plots, real science, memorable characters, penetrating dialogue and blistering drama—and may guide inquisitive readers toward her equally accomplished and acclaimed novels.