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Summary: Anthology with short story about afterlife being a giant movie theater.

I am looking for a collection of short stories of a particular author. It was published in hardcover, and I picked up at a Barnes and Noble sometime in the late 80s or early 90s. The cover artwork was dark and shadowy with I believe red lettering.

The short stories principally of a surreal nature; some in the vein of absurdist dark humor, others bleak and bordering on horror. Unfortunately I only recall the plot line of one of the stories which for some reason I think was tied to this collection's title. The story implied that the character was in some sort of an afterlife which consisted of a gigantic movie theater where people needed to interpret an endless series of films and the main character makes an attempt to reach the projector room (God?).

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F! There isn't a lot of detail here; you should check out the suggestions for story id questions to see if they help you remember any additional details.
    – DavidW
    Oct 21, 2019 at 18:26
  • Maybe one of these by j.G. Ballard? He wrote a lot of surreal, absurdist, and dark stories, but I haven't read them all. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Oct 22, 2019 at 7:33
  • Anytime someone mentions surreal short fiction, my first thought is Philip K Dick. Oct 25, 2019 at 23:55

2 Answers 2

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Any chance that story is the novella "The Calvin Coolidge Home for Dead Comedians" by Bradley Denton, republished in both his collection of that name and his collection One Day Closer to Death? There's no quest for God in that story, but, quoting Wikipedia's summary,

In the afterlife, Leonard finds himself confined to the Calvin Coolidge Home for Dead Comedians, an institution where comedians who were rude, offensive, obscene, and blasphemous are kept until they can learn to shed those elements of their personalities which would make them unfit for Heaven.

The inmates are forced, every night, to watch It's a Wonderful Life. We eventually learn (or figure out?) that "Leonard" is Lenny Bruce. Excellent story.

The stories in One Day Closer to Death are uniformly dark, or angry. Some might qualify as horror.

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Well, since others are answering with stories instead of anthologies, I will stop withholding the story that kept intruding on my thoughts - mainly because the good SF story is a tad disgusting.

It is "Spectator Sport by John D. MacDonald.

It was also answered with some story details a few years ago here.

I searched to see if it were part of an anthology on afterlife as a theater, but it doesn't seem to be so.

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    If it doesn't involve a movie theatre, or the afterlife, I'm not uncertain how it answers the question. Could you explain?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Oct 22, 2019 at 19:14

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