Gene Wolfe, Ursula K. Le guin, Octavia E. Butler and I are sitting on a bench.

Patrick O’Leary’s new novel “51” is coming from Tachyon.

Gene is to my right fiddling around with his cane.

Ursula — or “Ullyses Kingfisher” as I like to call her, is smoking a pipe. (We’ve never met.)

Ms Butler is sitting way down at the end.

I realize that they are dead and this is a dream.

But I seize the moment.

I can now ask them the one question I’ve wondered about for years.


He raises an unruly eyebrow at me, his handlebar droops, unimpressed.

“When you were alive who did you think was the best writer in the world?”

Gene full-faces me and raises the other eyebrow.

I have never been so insulted in my life.

A waft of cannabis pulls me to my left. “How about you, UK?”

“Don’t call me U U!”

“I did not call you: you you!”

“You did it again!”

“Come on! Who was the best?”

“Who gives a fuck?” She points. “Look at that hawk!”

I look. Perfectly flat slate of water to the horizon. Total Bergman.

When I turn back, Ursula is gone.

I look to my right. Gene left his cane. It makes that face at me.

I turn to Octavia who is sitting like a blue rock in a river.


“Me,” she says.

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