Barnes’s first collection, comprising 13 stories, including four previously unpublished, and eight essays, is divided, obscurely, into sections headed “While you Wait,” “For the End,” “Let Us Spend some Time,” and “Talking to People Who Aren’t There.” The essays form two groups: one, for and about teenagers and what it means to be one today, holds little interest for anyone else; the second concerns science fiction and writing: building a convincing new world or future (Barnes, in meticulous and tedious detail, shows how he modeled his novels A Million Open Doors, 1992, and Earth Made of Glass, p.450); the craft of SF; SF and unreasonable hopes; SF and the future; and creative writing and “that style thingie.” In the fiction, two stories are set in worlds created in novels (Mother of Storms, 1994, and Kaleidoscope Century, 1995). There are three rather tiresome stories about writing stories. In the humor department, we meet Christopher Columbus as he certainly wasn’t, and ponder thoughts considered as particles, or “thinkons.” In a flawed but fascinating fantasy—it reads like a poorly condensed novel—Creators are malicious gods; we killed ours, but in Faerie theirs is still alive, so elves are evil oppressors. Another yarn features intelligent animals and interspecies sex that, it seems, humans have a hard time accepting. And Barnes offers a banal explanation for why we’ve had no alien visitors. The remainder are rather heavily political consciousness-raisers: a world where the communists won the Cold War; America under a religious dictatorship; and, somehow not so different, America under a moral dictatorship. Concerns that in Barnes’s fine novels may be assets, or minor flaws—density; limited originality; pedestrian writing—become problems in the shorter format; annoying, too, is the presumption of a largely teenaged audience.