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Jonathan Strahan
Posted on Thursday, March 06, 2003 - 03:29 pm:   

A little while ago I was playing one of those getting to know you better games that you do with friends, talking about things that were most important to you at various times in your life, and the person I was talking to asked what books have changed your life?

Well, I unhesitatingly answered Michael Bishop's anthology Light Years and Dark. It was a book that I picked up when it first came out in way back in 1984 and it completely reshaped my reading universe. Living in a fairly isolated city (Perth, Western Australia) where almost all of the sf available was reprint fiction from the '40s and '50s, it introduced me in one neatly packaged volume to J. G. Ballard, Pat Cadigan, Jack Dann, Gardner Dozois, George Alec Effinger, Joe Haldeman, M. John Harrison, John Kessel, R. A. Lafferty, Ursula K. Le Guin, Elizabeth Lynn, Thomas M. Disch, Barry Malzberg, Christopher Priest, Tom Reamy, Pamela Sargent, Carter Scholz, Michael Swanwick, James Tiptree Jr., Steven Utley, Howard Waldrop, Kate Wilhelm, Gene Wolfe, and Roger Zelazny. And all for the first time.

I donít think I can clearly express how that changed my reading world view and, in some ways, how it changed every moment afterwards too. It was the Rosetta Stone. These were writers who became, icons, touchstones, essential parts of my reading universe, as well as, in some cases, dear friends. I even went on to publish a book by one of them. I donít know whether Light Years and Dark is the finest anthology ever published, but it was a good one and the most important Iíve ever read.

The friend I was telling the story to, who happened to be one of the writers who had a story in Light Years and Dark, pointed out that I should let the editor of the book know how much it meant to me, and, thanks to this message board I can. I donít know how, after all these years, you feel about the book Mike, but it changed at least one readerís life for which you have my sincerest gratitude.

Jonathan
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Michael Bishop
Posted on Friday, March 07, 2003 - 10:45 am:   

Dear Jonathan,

Wow. You've described feeling about *Light Years and Dark* as I felt about Harlan Ellison's *Dangerous Visions* when I first encountered it, and I'm grateful to you for taking the time to let me know how the book affected you. And I would like to thank your friend for suggesting that you contact the editor -- in this instance, me -- with your gratifying story.

Meanwhile, I can tell you that just today Marty Halpern at Golden Gryphon Press asked me if I would photocopy and send him George Alec Effinger's "Terrific Park" from *Light Years and Dark*. Marty wants to consider the story for a collection of GAE's best that Golden Gryphon will do soon. I told Marty that I'd be glad to copy the story for him, but that I was down to two badly yellowed and rapidly decaying copies of the trade paperback of the anthology, implying, I guess, that the photocopy might not prove the most amenable to either his or my sore eyes. That I've had two e-mail messages about that 1984 anthology within 24 hours strikes me as quite unusual, but, again, I'm delighted to learn that the book still continues to mean something to people who care about the field.

By the way, Jonathan, hang on to your copy of the book for as long as you can. It's hard to find nowadays -- at least in my experience -- and it never had the mass-market paperback edition that Berkley led me to believe, back then, that it would eventually have. It has never been reprinted, and most readers today have never even heard of it. It did, however, win the Locus Award for the Best Anthology of 1984, an honor that translated into few reader purchases and absolutely no additional editions. But enough griping. I've never been sorry that Berkley gave me the chance to do the book or that I settled on *Light Years and Dark* as the volume's title. I had first called it -- don't ask me why, I must have been in a hebephrenic fog -- *Cosmocopia*.

Thank you, Jonathan, for your thoughtful and encouraging message.

Mike
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Bruce Chrumka
Posted on Wednesday, April 28, 2004 - 10:54 am:   

Good day,

I'd like to echo Jonathan's kudos to 'Light Years and Dark'. I'd permanently lent my copy out years ago but I see Abebooks has four copies for sale, including a $50 edition with thirteen signatures including Mr. Bishop's.

Very small point: wasn't the original title 'Cosmopedia'?

I'd already discovered F&SF prior to 'Light Years and Dark'. The anthology that rocked my world was Terry Carr's Best SF of the Year #3. First time for me as well: Gene Wolfe, Ursula K. LeGuin, James Tiptree Jr., Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Philip Jose Farmer, Vonda N. McIntyre, R.A. Lafferty, F.M. Busby, Jack Vance and Alfred Bester. And so began a thirty years Jones.
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Bruce Chrumka
Posted on Wednesday, April 28, 2004 - 09:31 pm:   

"Very small point: wasn't the original title 'Cosmopedia'?"

...and so it niggled me for hours; where the hell had I heard that?

From [Gaah!] Howard Waldrop, Purveyor of the Arcane, naturally. {intro to 'Helpless, Helpless from his splendid second collection for those interested in minutiae}

Sorry, Mr. Bishop, I was misled :0)


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mike
Posted on Thursday, April 29, 2004 - 02:30 pm:   

Actually, the original title was Cosmocopia, which Howard hated. Oddly, Paul Di Filippo recently put together yet another collection of his stories, and he entitled his book Cosmocopia. His editor at Four Walls Eight Windows accepted the manuscript, but doesn't really care for the title, either. So Paul will probably wind up using something else. And, to tell the truth, I'm glad that I eventually came up with Light Years and Dark.

Thanks for writing. And, hey, we're all misled at some time or other. Sometimes by ourselves.

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