In 1986 Gollancz and the London Sunday Times jointly sponsored a science-fiction short-story competition for ""authors who had not previously published science fiction in book form."" Entries were limited to 3,000 words, though some of the stories as they appear here have been revised and/or slightly expanded. This volume comprises all 25 entries on the judges' short list, and the upshot is about what you'd expect. The overall winner, Paul Heapy's ""Moral Technology,"" looks at a 21st-century Catholic priesthood, many of whom are gay but compulsorily celibate thanks to the ravages of ""AIDS III."" Elsewhere the yarns, even taking into account the length restriction, have a bland, same-ish quality, with all-too-familiar ideas: war as entertainment, pollution, post-nuclear scenarios, immortality, time travel, totalitarianism, clones, free will, machine revolt (""I'd just turned eleven when my father was battered to death by an advertisement""), and telepathic Yetis. Competently wrought for the most part, but uninspired and with an inescapable written-to-order feel. One of these authors might soon break out of the pack, but on this evidence it's impossible to predict who.