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Cover

INTRODUCTION

(Note: Titles in boldface indicate stories or novel excerpts included in this collection.)

Fred Saberhagen is one of the twentieth century's most prolific and versatile writers of fantasy and science fiction. Fred reveals something of what fueled his creative energies at the conclusion of an early berserker short story, "Stone Place." The major character, Mitch Spain, a berserker fighter and aspiring writer, muses:

"The world was bad, and all men were fools—but there were men who would not be crushed. And that was a thing worth telling." And that was a thing Fred told frequently, in a great variety of settings, and with great skill.

Saberhagen's writing career spans forty-six years. He authored over fifty novels and sixty stories. Looking back over his work and choosing a comparatively few representatives was an enjoyable task, but not an easy one. So many are personal favorites. To show the scope of Fred's talent, stories from each stage and field of his work needed to be represented. The selected stories are of the highest quality but for one reason or another have been infrequently published. Even Fred's most ardent fans will have a fresh look at his talents.

Fred wrote stories of alternate history, time travel, and even some early cyberpunk. Much, but not all, of Fred's writing is set in one of his created universes: berserkers, swords, gods, Dracula. Two of his earliest stories included here are set in worlds never expanded into a series, and perhaps for that reason are less known. Whatever the setting, Fred's stories provide fast-moving action and thought-provoking theme.

In the collection, THE BOOK OF SABERHAGEN, Fred claimed "The Long Way Home" as his first published story. The work appeared in Galaxy magazine, June 1961. The story is one of my personal favorites, because of the inventiveness, persistence and faith of the society depicted. And, the thought-provoking final question: "What are we doing to them?" Before I'd met Fred, I visited the headwaters of the Amazon. Sitting in a lounge with other young American adventurers about to poke our noses into tribal hinterlands, I recall heatedly discussing to what extent "the outside world" should interfere with the culture. Perhaps this is always the question, or should be, when cultures meet. And, of course, is never resolved. Certainly this story struck a chord with me.

Another theme in "The Long Way Home" is the vastness of space, a concept that Fred returned to in other stories. In an introduction to the "The Long Way Home," Fred refers to attempts at providing concrete images to illustrate the vastness of space frequently given in popular astronomy lectures: "I don't know that these imaginative exercises were ever of much help to me in trying to realize the distances involved—just looking up and out at night does that, in my case, almost frightening well—but they did eventually provide the idea for my first published story."

Towards the beginning of "The Long Way Home," Fred uses the word "terraform," perhaps indicative of the early influence of science fiction writer Jack Williamson. Years after Fred had written the story, we moved to New Mexico with our family of three children, and met Jack at a gathering of science fiction enthusiasts. Jack became a beloved acquaintance. With a personality as kind and hospitable as Jack's, beloved is not too strong a word for an acquaintance.

In fact, "The Long Way Home" was not Fred's first published story. Three others precede: "Volume PAA-PYX," the novelette "Planeteer," and "Seven Doors to Education" appeared earlier in 1961. Fred may have remembered which story was accepted first and assumed that was the first published. A letter in our files shows H.L. Gold, editor of Galaxy, made an offer for the "The Long Way Home" on Oct 6—no year given. Fred's acceptance letter is dated Oct 9, 1959. Gold's offer on "Volume PAA-PYX" is also undated. The fact that he offered a slightly higher payment may indicate that PAA-PYX was the second purchase. Unfortunately, I can't find a copy of Fred's acceptance letter.

"Volume PAA-PYX" examines power and the abuse of power. About this story Fred said: "After Orwell's 1984, what can a writer say about power and its abuses? Plenty, it seems to me. The subject is practically inexhaustible, as large as mankind itself." The story's ending may surprise you.

"Planeteer" became the basis for Fred's first novel THE WATER OF THOUGHT in which the Space Force Planeteer Boris Brazil again takes on a starring role as cultures meet. WATER appeared as an Ace double in 1965 and was reprinted in an expanded version from Tor (1981) under the Jim Baen Presents imprint. Fred frames "Planeteer" with a quote from Thoreau's WALDEN POND, perhaps a foreshadow of the subtle spiritual note in Fred's writing. In an introduction to "Planeteer" Fred commented: "Each science fiction writer tends, I suppose, to work mostly in a rather small number of 'worlds' of his own devising, each world being (usually) a future that can be more or less reasonably extrapolated from our own unlikely reality." Hmm. The number of worlds Fred created seems to belie this statement. Or, perhaps at the time Fred didn't realize how many worlds he was destined to create.

Two years after "Planeteer," in 1963, the first Berserker story appeared.

With these opening words to "Without A Thought," Fred Saberhagen launched his classic tales of Berserkers. "The Machine was a vast fortress, containing no life, set by its long-dead masters to destroy anything that lived." "Without a Thought" was published in January 1963 in the magazine IF. A chimp and a game of checkers in the hands of a clever spacer outwit a killing machine, a Berserker. The story is one of Fred's most reprinted with sixteen publication credits, and so does not fit the criteria for inclusion in this collection. Most recently (2007) the story is available in a Blackstone Audio production of BERSERKER. The story also appears under the alternate title: "Fortress Ship."

Fred's early career was greatly influenced by the editors of IF and Galaxy, particularly H.L. Gold, Fred Pohl and James Baen. H.L. Gold gave Fred his first sale. Fred Pohl suggested that Saberhagen might want to continue writing stories featuring those intriguing Berserkers. And, of course, James Baen, the man Fred considered the best editor in the business, played an important role in promoting Fred's work. Later, Jim became the founder and publisher of Baen Books. A working relationship with Baen Books continued throughout Fred's career and continues still.

By 1967 Fred had written enough Berserker stories for a collection entitled BERSERKER. Fred was quite proud. We had been dating for a few months when my birthday rolled around. He presented me with BERSERKER personalized with the unromantic inscription, but with a twinkle in his eyes, "Happy Birthday. Joan, 1967—now you own a first edition. Fred." I wasn't a science fiction fan at the time, but on reading the stories became impressed with the imaginative way Fred's mind works. But then I was becoming favorably impressed by a number of Fred's qualities. We were married the following June.

In the Introduction to BERSERKER, a representative of the Carmpan race tells of the killing machines and explains Earth-descended man's unique adaptation for fighting the threat to life. The Carmpan, an historian, relates stories of man and Berserkers in BERSERKER. One of his favorite tales is "Stone Place".

During the 1970s, Fred was creating the fantasy worlds he would develop throughout his career and some he would abandon. He never expanded on the novels SPECIMENS and MASK OF THE SUN, two of my favorites. The Berserkers were successfully launched and his fantasy trilogy of BROKEN LANDS, BLACK MOUNTAINS and CHANGELING EARTH was completed. By the end of the decade the trilogy was incorporated into the volume EMPIRE OF THE EAST. The story continues into The Swords series. During the decade of the '70s, Saberhagen's Dracula also made his appearance in THE DRACULA TAPES.

The fertile '70s also saw the creation of Azlaroc, a world developed and unfortunately abandoned, or almost abandoned as references to Azlaroc appear in several later Berserker stories. Azlaroc is a strange world, not quite planet and not quite star. Much of the landscape is comprised of stunningly regular geometric solids. Once a year a "veil" of energy encapsulates everything and everyone on the planet. Fred visited the Azlaroc world in only two short stories, "To Mark The Year On Azlaroc" (1974) and "Beneath The Hills Of Azlaroc" (1975), and in one composite of these stories, a novel, THE VEILS OF AZLAROC (1978). The setting of Azlaroc is what seems to have garnered the most attention from reviewers for its uniqueness, visual beauty, and imagery. Fans and reviewers frequently comment that Azlaroc is Fred's most memorable and underappreciated creation.

"To Mark the Year On Azlaroc" was first sent to Fred Pohl who was looking for stories for SCIENCE FICTION DISCOVERIES, an anthology he and Carol Pohl were editing. Pohl saw the potential for the story and for the concept of the veils and encouraged a rewrite with less exposition in conversation and more doing and feeling. After revising about sixty percent of the story per Pohl's recommendations Fred resubmitted. In the correspondence with Pohl, Saberhagen notes that " . . . the Veils were invented for this one, just to concretize the old idea that You Can't Go Home Again." Fred Pohl bought the rewritten story. Both the revised and original versions of the story are in our files.

The companion story, "Beneath the Hills of Azlaroc," is a loose retelling of the story of nineteenth century poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti's bizarre exhuming of a book of his verse from his wife's grave. The story was published by Roger Elwood in the December 1975 issue of the magazine Odyssey.

Perhaps as a counter to the theme of Rossetti's obsession with beautiful women Fred wrote a very short piece, "Martha." "Martha" was first published in the Dec 1976 Amazing and then was chosen by Isaac Asimov for his 1977 collection 100 GREAT SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORIES. The story is a fun romp through the female (albeit computer female) psyche. The setting is the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, the heroine a poor confused computer trying to please. As usual Fred's humor is subtle and thought-provoking. This story, along with the Berserker story "Mr. Jester" are his most markedly humorous stories.

Fred's very last Berserker short story written solo, in 1996, was "The Bad Machines" which appears in THE WILLIAMSON EFFECT, an anthology honoring science fiction pioneer Jack Williamson, edited by Roger Zelazny. Jack Williamson's humanoids, machines protective of life, are, in their way, as dangerous as Berserkers. What chance do humans have when two races of machines are out for our life and soul? The story has an answer. You might want to take a careful look at the name of the negative gravitational radiant in which the story takes place. Fred uses one of his favorite naming techniques to pay homage to Jack's hometown.

As I mentioned, Fred was a great admirer of Jack Williamson and Jack's work. We frequently drove across New Mexico on a trek to the Williamson Lectureships held annually at Eastern New Mexico University. Fred was always pleased that Jack referred to him as "that promising young author," this even after Fred had graduated to Medicare. It is interesting to note that Fred's last Berserker story, "The Bad Machines," like his first story, was touched by Williamson's work.

Fred's last solo Berserker story appeared in an anthology edited by his friend, Roger Zelazny. Fred and Roger never collaborated on a short story but did coauthor two novels. At the time of the coauthoring Roger and his family were living in Santa Fe, we were in Albuquerque about 55 miles away, commuting distance in the West. The idea for their first book together was born on one of our joint family outings. Fred often remarked that collaborating with Roger was some of the easiest and most enjoyable writing he'd ever done. Fred and Roger jointly authored two books, COILS and BLACK THRONE. Both writers were great fans of Edgar Allan Poe. Fred often told me of Roger having an uncanny ability to imitate Poe's style. The collaboration started a Saberhagen tradition: a celebration of Poe's birthday with a large party for many of the local writers and fans.

The very last Berserker story, "Servant of Death," was coauthored with Jane Lindskold, an established fantasy author and family friend and incidentally also from New Mexico. The story appears in MAN VS MACHINE released July 2007.

Fred often commented that he knew the future of his dreams had arrived when he saw his first chess-playing machine. Fred was an enthusiastic chess player and devoted hours to the game. It was not uncommon to find a chess strategy book on any flat surface in our home. When we played, Fred almost always won, and usually rather easily. Having a more challenging and ever ready automated opponent became one of Fred's great joys. We co-edited an anthology of chess stories, PAWN TO INFINITY, where Fred's "Without A Thought" appears, along with Roger's very unique "Unicorn Variation." The list of contributors for this little known collection was impressive, including Gene Wolfe, Poul Anderson, Fritz Leiber, George RR Martin, Joanna Russ, Ruth Berman and others. An academic, Fred Stewart, added an interesting take on the chess game in Lewis Carroll's THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. At our house, chess-playing machines were soon followed by home computers.

In the early '80s, Fred became fascinated by the then nascent phenomena of home computers and home computer gaming. His early experience with word processors had him saying: "A word processor does to words, what a food processor does to food." Fortunately for writers, word processors improved quickly. Fred's favorite computer games were "Myst" and "Kasparov Chessmate." He once wrote a very humorous guest of honor speech for our local science fiction convention, Bubonicon, based on a conversation with Eliza, the computer psychotherapist.

In 1982, with Jim Baen's backing and promise of publication, Fred and I founded a computer gaming company, Berserker Works Ltd (BWL). The company produced, sponsored and developed seven titles. All the latest machines, i.e. the Apple II, Commodore 64 and IBM-jr, had a BWL game developed for them.

The games Fred and I designed and produced were based on works of fiction, mostly Fred's works. Unfortunately not all the games came to completion. We worked with authors such as Steven R. Donaldson, Walter Jon Williams, and Gordon Dickson. Also on our team were some brilliant programmers and talented computer artists. The games were quite innovative and earned no money. (For a more complete story of the games google "Berserker Works Ltd games" and view the article on the website Games That Weren't.)

All this leads to Fred's popular fantasy series The Swords and Lost Swords. Fred wrote the first Swords books with game development in mind. And a rudimentary attempt was made at coding and art work for the game by a very talented programmer employed by Berserker Works. The technology just was not up to the task. The Swords series has yet to be turned into a computer game.

Fred's Swords stories proved very popular among readers. Fred developed the story line so that the three original Book Of Swords (1983–1984) and the eight Lost Swords (1986–1994) along with the final Swords book, ARDNEH'S SWORD (2006) which connects the Swords world with Fred's 1979 fantasy world EMPIRE OF THE EAST, all fit together into one massive fantasy world. Somewhat surprisingly, Fred did only one short story set in this world. When putting together an anthology of Swords stories, Fred invited some impressive writing talents to contribute; many are personal friends. Our son, Tom, had his first fiction publication in AN ARMORY OF SWORDS (1995). Fred's introductory story "Blind Man's Blade" does a superb job of introducing the first-time reader to the world of Swords while relating a great standalone tale.

Fred was fascinated by mythology as the number of books on myth in his library attest. His short story "Starsong" retells the Orpheus myth in a Berserker-threatened galaxy. And his five volume series THE BOOK OF THE GODS retell and mix the ancient myths from many cultures. The GODS books didn't spawn any short stories, although "White Bull" is in the same vein as the series. Students struggling with school will sympathize with Theseus. Ariadne appears in her own tale BOOK OF THE GODS vol 2: ARIADNE'S WEB (2000).

On a completely different note from classic myth, lightly touching horror (although Fred did not consider himself a horror writer), are Fred's explorations into the world of vampires. One day on rereading Bram Stoker's original DRACULA, probably on impulse as the book was one of the dog-eared paperback versions on a shelf in his study, Fred came downstairs and said: "You know, there's nothing in this book from the title character's viewpoint." That's all he said. And so started Fred's fascination with Dracula.

(Unless you give credence to Fred's relating of how as a young boy of six or so he hid under the seat in the movie theater to escape Bela Lugosi's Dracula.) Critics of the vampire genre have noted that Fred was the first writer to have a vampire tell his own story. That was in THE DRACULA TAPE. Almost all of Fred's Dracula stories are told as full-length novels, ten in all. He wrote only two Dracula stories ("From the Tree of Time," "Box Number Fifty") and one vampire story ("A Drop of Something Special in the Blood"). Set in 1897, "Box Number Fifty" exposes Dracula's rather surprising paternal feelings. The story originally appeared in DRACULA IN LONDON edited by P.N. Elrod. Fred's last solo short story, "A Drop of Something Special in the Blood," presents one possible origin of Bram Stoker's work DRACULA. "A Drop of Something Special in the Blood" appeared in an anthology edited by Andrew Greeley entitled EMERALD MAGIC. Fred enjoyed Fr. Greeley's work, especially the nonfiction, from as far back as our days in Chicago, when we avidly read Greeley's column on sociology in the Chicago Sun Times.

Hope you enjoy the stories in this collection.

—Joan

It was my honor and my life's greatest joy to be Fred's wife from June 29, 1968 to June 29, 2007. See you at home, Fred.

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