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Time and the Riddle: thirty-one Zen stories

At last! A complete collection of Howard Fast's "Zen stories" -- a unique blend of fantasy, science fiction, philosophy, and humor. Written over a period of twenty years and including Fast's latest work, never before published, these stories combine the comic with the cosmic, the playful with the profound. As a whole, they are marked by paradox and poetry, irony and suspense, mystery and hope. To their world-famous, best-selling author, they are, moreover, "the most important writing I have done."

Like the scientists in a few of these stories, Fast bends time and ties knots in space to give us another view of reality. He takes the ethics and habits of mankind out of their comfortably familiar context and examines them from another dimension.

So skillfully does he weave the fantastic with the commonplace, that we do not bother to question the existence of giant ants, half-inch men, time warps, telepathic children, lakes of blood, or the devil himself at the doorstep. Instead, our wonder is directed toward the paradoxes inherent in human existence. And from this literary magic, comes a sudden vision, a flash of understanding, in a laugh, a shudder, or simply a smile. We have been taken a step beyond time to come a step closer to the riddle.

from the dust jacket of the 1975 Ward Ritchie first edition


Foreword by Louis Untermeyerix
Introduction by Frank Campennixi
1. UFO1
2. The Hole in the Floor7
3. General Hardy's Profession15
4. Echinomastus Contentii31
5. Tomorrow's Wall Street Journal45
6. A Matter of Size57
7. Show Cause71
8. The Martian Shop83
9. The Pragmatic Seed105
10. The Trap111
11. The Hoop205
12. The Cold, Cold Box219
13. The Talent of Harvey233
14. The Wound255
15. The General Zapped an Angel267
16. The Price277
17. The Vision of Milty Boil289
18. Cato the Martian301
19. Not with a Bang313
20. The Movie House317
21. Cephes 5335
22. Of Time and Cats345
23. The Interval357
24. The Egg367
25. The Insects377
26. The Sight of Eden391
27. The Mind of God405
28. The Mohawk417
29. The Mouse425
30. The Large Ant435
31. The Hunter445
Afterword by the author481