Post by James Nicoll
The Barbie Murders by John Varley
I'm going to keep making the joke about following a best of... collection with a second best of... until somebody laughs. The chronological overlap between the stories in this book and _Persistence of Vision_ is enough to support the idea.
A throwing of "the door dilated" moments at the reader in the first paragraph or so was a notable attribute of the stories in the first collection. Here I see it in only two stories: "Goodbye, Robinson Crusoe" with: "He had not felt more alive since his original childhood back in the spring, when the sun grew closer and the air began to melt." and "Picnic on Nearside" with the narrator's comment on his mother: "We don't get along well most of the time, and I think it's because I'm twelve and she's ninety-six." The Anna-Louise Bach stories, before the bottom of the first page, do introduce a talking bomb, and point out a morgue attendant hadn't noticed that the sex of a corpse wasn't specified for us to notice.
Has Varley become more gloomy, or just his stories? You say he set a challenge to writes stories in the Eight Worlds where most people are well off, as if shifting to a gloomier background would be an easier path. (_Blue Champagne_ has only two Eight Worlds stories -- is "Lollipop and the Tar Baby" different from the one here? Contrast to "Press Enter _?", "The Manhattan Phone Book (Abridged)", and "The Unprocessed Word", which I think was supposed to be funny. But then even _Persistence of Vision_ had "Air Raid" and the title story.) Or are the character's outlooks gloomier in themselves? I remember the hero of _Steel Beach_ was pissed off that the Central Computer made an alteration such that she wakes up in the morning with minty-fresh breath.