-‘Ishmael Into the Barrens’ in Four Futures (1976), edited by Isaac Asimov
‘R. A. Lafferty… one of our favorite authors, first appeared in Orbit in 1967, and since then has contributed sixteen more stories. We meet him only at science fiction conventions, where he smiles inscrutably.’
-‘Fall of Pebble Stones’ in Orbit 19 (1977), edited by Damon Knight
‘Anyone familiar with the Chrysalis series knows that I am addicted to lafferties and suffer withdrawal symptoms unless I can include one in my current anthology. This time around R. A. Lafferty is represented by a zany piece entitled “Crocodile.” Technically, “Crocodile” is not an “original” story for it appeared ten years ago in a small fanzine, Phantasmicon. Still, very few people have read it and it is a true lafferty.
‘Do you remember Isaac Asimov’s The Three Laws of Robotics?
1—A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2—A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3—A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
HANDBOOK OF ROBOTICS
56TH EDITION, 2058 A.D.
Well, in “Crocodile,” Lafferty diabologically refutes them. I don’t know if he is successful, but it’s a lot of fun anyway.’
-‘Crocodile’ in Chrysalis 8 (1980), edited by Roy Torgeson
‘Raymond [sic] Aloysius Lafferty began writing science fiction when he was well past forty, producing a large body of work that can only be described as wonderful, wild, and often bewildering. His is an original voice, and his contributions to sf are only now becoming apparent. Lafferty also meant a great deal to Galaxy in the 1960s, with something like 20 stories, including such major works as “Sodom and Gomorrah, Texas” (December 1962), the fabulous “Slow Tuesday Night” (April 1965), “Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne” (February 1967), and “Primary Education of the Camiroi” (December 1966) and its sequel “Polity and Custom of the Camiroi” (June 1967).
‘“About a Secret Crocodile” [August 1970] is one of his best and most famous stories, one that rewards rereading time and time again. Lafferty’s agent, Virginia Kidd, tells us that when the story appeared in Galaxy, she received an indignant call from the editors of Playboy magazine wanting to know why they hadn’t seen it first. Virginia says, “Frankly, it had never occurred to me that it was anything but a Galaxy story, so that is where I sent it.”’
-Galaxy: Thirty Years of Innovative Science Fiction (1980), edited by Frederik Pohl, Marin H. Greenberg, and Joseph D. Olander
‘We don’t think it lazy to say that R. A. Lafferty’s stories need no introduction—or rather that they brook no introduction. They all stand as the perfect gems of an extraordinary imagination and we feel they should simply be read and loved and not explained beforehand. Suffice it to say this is one we found particularly wonderful and wanted to share with you.’
-‘In Deepest Glass: An Informal History of Stained Glass Windows’ in The Berkley Showcase: New Writings in Science Fiction and Fantasy (1981), edited by Victoria Schochet and John Silbersack
‘Mr. Lafferty worked at the respectable trade of electrical engineer for some thirty-five years; he didn’t take up writing and selling SF until he was 46 years old. Not all his stories are as strange as this one, but then, some are even more so.’
-‘New People’ in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (March, 1981)
‘Mr. Lafferty says that he was already an old man when he started to write, 21 years ago. Since then he has had published thirteen novels and about two hundred short stories. Until he lost 60 pounds, about 13 years ago, he was in contention for the title of the biggest man in science fiction.’
-‘You Can’t Go Back’ in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (September, 1981)
‘If any modern writer is imbued with the true spirit of Hamlet’s “antic disposition,” that writer is R. A. Lafferty. His stories are light, bright, inventive, shaped with cunning and written with panache. But always lurking behind the wit and the charming grace is a new perception, a new angle of vision, a way of seeing something old through eyes that are new.
‘In “Ifrit,” Lafferty takes us to a place we’ve never been before and presents us with a unique angle on questions of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But don’t trust him; the strangest things can seem to make sense in Lafferty’s world.’
-‘Ifrit’ in Perpetual Light (1982), edited by Alan Ryan
‘R. A. Lafferty started writing in 1960, at the relatively advanced age (for a new writer, anyway) of forty-six, and in the years before his retirement in 1987, he published some of the freshest and funniest short stories ever written, almost all of them dancing on the borderlines between fantasy, science fiction, and the tall tale in its most boisterous and quintessentially American forms.
‘Lafferty has published memorable novels that stand up quite well today—among the best of them are Past Master, The Devil Is Dead, The Reefs of Earth, the historical novel Okla Hannali, and the totally unclassifiable (a fantasy novel disguised as a non-fiction historical study, perhaps?) The Fall of Rome—but it was the prolific stream of short stories he began publishing in 1960 that would eventually establish his reputation. Stories like “Slow Tuesday Night,” “Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne,” “Hog-Belly Honey,” “The Hole on the Corner,” “All Pieces of a River Shore,” “Among the Hairy Earthmen,” “Seven Day Terror,” “Continued on Next Rock,” “All But the Words,” and many others, are among the most original and pyrotechnic stories of our times.
‘Almost any of those stories would have served for this anthology, even those published ostensibly as science fiction—but I finally settled on the story that follows. It’s one of Lafferty’s least-known and least-reprinted, but a little gem regardless that demonstrates all of Lafferty’s virtues: folksy exuberance, a singing lyricism of surprising depth and power, outlandish imagination, a store of offbeat erudition matched only by Avram Davidson, and a strong, shaggy sense of humor unrivalled by anyone.
‘His short work has been gathered in the landmark collection Nine Hundred Grandmothers, as well as in Strange Doings, Does Anyone Else Have Something Further to Add?, Golden Gate and Other Stories, and Ringing Changes. Some of his work is available only in small press editions—like the very strange novel Archipelago, or My Heart Leaps Up, which was serialized as a sequence of chapbooks—but his other novels available in trade editions (although many of them are long out of print) include, Fourth Mansions, Arrive at Easterwine, Space Chantey, and The Flame Is Green. Lafferty won the Hugo Award in 1973 for his story “Eurema’s Dam,” and in 1990 received the World Fantasy Award, the prestigious Life Achievement Award. His most recent books are the collections Lafferty in Orbit and Iron Star [sic; the correct title is Iron Tears].’
-‘The Configuration of the North Shore’ in Modern Classics of Fantasy (1997), edited by Gardner Dozois
‘R A Lafferty (1914—2002) was unique amongst the annals of science fiction. It’s almost impossible to categorise his work because although much of it uses the standard images and icons of science fiction, they are just pieces on a board game for which Lafferty seems to make up the rules as he goes along. His stories are anarchic and at times incomprehensible, and yet they can be compelling.
‘Their delight comes from Lafferty’s acute observation of the illogicality of the lives we lead and his marvellous use of language. There are phrases dotted through his stories that make you stop in your tracks in amazement. Lafferty seldom starts from an obvious point and never takes an obvious route, and yet somehow you reach a natural conclusion in his stories.
‘The following, about a man’s quest for immortality, is one of his more easily accessible stories, though it’s no less extreme in its conclusion. There have been several collections of Lafferty’s stories, many from specialist presses, and most are worth tracking down, including Nine Hundred Grandmothers (1970 [sic]), Strange Doings (1972) and Through Elegant Eyes (1983), but there is so much more.
‘A fan website devoted to Lafferty and his work is www.mulle-kybernetik.com/RAL/’
-‘The All-At-Once-Man’ in The Mammoth Book of Extreme Fantasy (2008) edited by Mike Ashley (this story was originally published in Galaxy magazine, July 1970)