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Here it is, a lifetime’s work in three volumes containing eighty stories published over fifty-four years, from 1960 to 2014. They range from the Baghdad of The Thousand Nights and a Night to the eventual end of the entire universe, from the green hills of Earth to the fiery surface of a dying star, from corporate board rooms to a baseball field in heaven. With plenty of stops in between.

Re-reading these stories—some of them for the first time in decades—I am struck with a bitter-sweet sadness, recalling friends who have died along the way, passions and problems that drove the invention of the various tales. It’s as if I’m a ghost visiting departed scenes, people whom I have loved, all gone now.

Yet they live on, in these stories, and perhaps that is the real reason why human beings create works of fiction: they are monuments to days gone by, memories of men and women who have been dear to us—or visions of what tomorrow may bring.

Every human society has had its storytellers. There is a fundamental need in the human psyche to produce tales that try to show who we truly are, and why we do the things we do.

Most of the stories in this collection are science fiction: that is, the stories involve some aspect of future science or technology that is so basic to the tale that if that element were removed, the story would collapse.

To me, science fiction is the literature of our modern society. Humankind depends on science and technology for its survival, and has been doing so since our earliest ancestors faced saber-toothed cats. We do not grow fangs or wings, we create tools. Tool-making—technology—is the way we deal with the often-hostile world in which we live.

Over the past few centuries, scientific studies of our world have led to vastly improved technologies, better tools with which to make ourselves healthier, richer and more free. Science fiction is the literature that speaks to this.

Every organism on Earth is struggling to stay alive, to have offspring, to enlarge its ecological niche as widely as possible. We humans have succeeded so well at that quest that there are more than seven billion of us on this planet, and we are driving many, many of our fellow creatures into extinction.

The stories in this collection examine various aspects of humankind’s current and future predicaments. Some of the tales are somewhat dated: written half a century ago, they deal with problems that we have already solved, or bypassed. Many of the stories tell of the human race’s drive to expand its habitat—its ecological niche—beyond the limits of planet Earth. Many deal with our interactions with our machines, which are becoming more intelligent with every generation.

The people in these stories include heroes and heels, lovers and loners, visionaries and the smugly blind.

I hope you enjoy their struggles.

—Ben Bova

Naples, Florida

November 2016

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