UPDATE: during its second month (February 2022), this topic challenge will be held jointly with Science Fiction & Fantasy SE. Note that, for written sci-fi stories, the two sites' scopes don't differ that much, so you can basically feel free to ask on either site: however, bearing in mind the different communities and audiences, it might be recommended, for example, to ask about science-fictional aspects on SFF and to ask about deeper literary analysis on Literature.

In accordance with our meta agreement to have topic challenges and a later meta agreement to have topic challenges lasting for two months and overlapping by one month, it is time to announce the January–February 2022 topic challenge.

Based on the number of votes (+5), the first topic challenge of the year 2022 will be

the works of R. A. Lafferty

What's a topic challenge?

See the meta posts linked above, and also this main Meta post. In short, during January and February 2022 you are invited to try to read at least one work by the American science fiction and fantasy author and ask questions about it.

Participation is not obligatory in any sense, and questions on other works are more than welcome during January and February too; they just won't count as part of this topic challenge.

How can I take part?

By getting hold of the one or more works by R. A. Lafferty and asking good questions about it (or them). Questions about these works should be tagged with and a tag for the work's title (for book-length works). We'll keep a list of all such questions in an answer to this meta post.

Below is Peter Shor's presentation:

R.A. Lafferty was an American science fiction author, who wrote a large number of short stories, as well as over a dozen novels. His works are relatively little known today.

His writing tends towards the literary end of the science fiction spectrum, and is very idiosyncratic. Wikipedia says

Lafferty's quirky prose drew from traditional storytelling styles, largely from the Irish and Native American, and his shaggy-dog characters and tall tales are unique in science fiction. Little of Lafferty's writing is considered typical of the genre.

He has also written two historical novels, The Fall of Rome and Okla Hannali. Okla Hannali covers the history of the Choctaw Indians from the viewpoint of the larger-than-life character of Hannali Inominee.

Many of his novels are out of print and very hard to obtain. However, The Best of R.A. Lafferty, a collection of his short stories, was reprinted in England in 2019, and it will appear in the U.S. in February 2021. A number of his short stories are online. There is a webpage with links to them.

What's next?


2 Answers 2


List of all questions posted in this topic challenge

  1. What is the appearance of the protagonist in Lafferty's "All the People"? by Rand al'Thor, 03/01/2022 (4 votes, 1 answer).
  2. Who are these historical people alluded to by R.A. Lafferty? by Peter Shor, 06/01/2022 (4 votes, no answers).
  3. What is a Special Aspects Man in "Nine Hundred Grandmothers"? by Rand al'Thor, 07/01/2022 (2 votes, 1 answer).
  4. What's the point of Bascombe Swicegood eating so much? by Rand al'Thor, 11/01/2022 (5 votes, 1 answer).
  5. What is the lamp-post jag? by Rand al'Thor, 12/01/2022 (4 votes, 1 answer; HNQ).

The highest-voted of these is What's the point of Bascombe Swicegood eating so much?, with a score of 5 at the end of February.

The most viewed is What is the lamp-post jag? (HNQ), with approximately 200 views during the months of January and February.

In February, this topic challenge ran in parallel with an R. A. Lafferty challenge on Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange, which resulted in one (1) question.


(Sorry, too long for a comment.)

Lafferty short stories and novelettes which are freely available from Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, etc. (Starred stories are favorites of mine.)

Moreover, some of Lafferty's stories were originally published in anthologies, some of which can be "borrowed" from the Internet Archive (free registration required):

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