Eighteen tales, 1986-93, drawn from various magazines and original anthologies, by the author of the outstanding novels Brain Rose (1989) and Beggars in Spain (p. 190). Kress brings to her stories the same qualities that imbue her novels: a probing intelligence; compassion lit by insights; an agreeably complex approach; an assured, polished style. Thus her short, imaginative pieces both intrigue and satisfy while defying easy characterization: Soldiers from a Revolutionary War that occurred in another reality (``The Battle of Long Island'') appear in our own time, and are observed by an Army nurse who may or may not be a victim of child abuse; an elderly man steps through the back of his closet into 1937, changing history for the better--but not in the way he intended; an alien-contact yarn develops into an illustration of the gulfs between individual humans no less than their alien counterparts. Also on the agenda: clairvoyant powers, genetic engineering, journeys to nowhere, miniaturization, games above an ecologically devastated Earth, and others ranging from outright horror to straight-up ``inner space'' science fiction. Simultaneously disquieting and memorable: stories of great scope, depth, and unobtrusive charm.