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Some years ago, never mind how many, (Early 2000-2010) my mother gifted me a thick volume of sci-fi short stories. I vaguely remember the dust jacket being covered in greenery.

I feel like the title was something like "Tales from Down under" but that search yields no fruit.

There were two stories in it that I remember quite well.

The first is a story about a hotel/resort/living situation that's high in a snowy mountain range. Everyone that lives there is immortal. In their immortal state, they experience everything through a filter. They can sort of taste and feel and smell, but not really. The only way they can end their lives completely is by complete incineration, which some of them choose in favor of madness. The protagonist is either a journalist that's interviewing one of these super rich immortals, or a potential inductee into their cabal of eternal life. I can't quite recall which.

The second story I can remember is a short about a South American prostitute. They live in a future world where a drug has been invented that can completely repair and perfect your genetic code. It starts off as something only for the super rich, but bootlegs end up becoming available over time. The only caveat is that it changes your sex each time you take it. So if you keep taking it, you will oscillate between male and female. But most consider that a reasonable price to pay.

Can anyone think of what book I might be remembering? Thank you so very much for your attention.

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. It would help us a fair bit if we knew approximately what year it was; it makes a big difference if it was 2010 or 1950.
    – DavidW
    Nov 30, 2022 at 22:05
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    Given the timeframe, the second story sounds similar to the Gaiman short story "Changes" except there is no prostitute. It only shows up in one collection in that time period though, and it didn't have green dust jacket. And the first story doesn't match the collection either.
    – DavidW
    Nov 30, 2022 at 22:31

2 Answers 2

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I think the first story you describe is Entre les Beaux Morts en Vie (Among the Beautiful Living Dead), a short story by the Australian writer Sean Williams. It deals with a man, Martin Winterford, attempting to join a society of immortal beings called "reves". The resort is in a mountainous area "that had once been called Switzerland". The reves are all extremely wealthy people, who form a society called "The Plutocracy" and have undergone a treatment called "revenation" that makes them essentially immortal:

Revenation was an expensive process, restricted by necessity to the few. Applicants had not only to demonstrate fitness but ability to pay their way through the process and out the other side. A single immortal life would be an expensive burden upon the welfare system if that person proved to be unproductive. As result, only wealthy families could afford to raise a member to reve status.

Reves can be killed, however, and as recalled in the question, one method is by fire:

inflict upon any reve a magnetic field of more than a few thousand Tesla and he or she would experience spasms, even unconsciousness. Or put it to the flame and watch it burn like summer kindling to nothing, as though its life had vanished in a single, sudden flash

This story was collected in an anthology of Australian science fiction short stories entitled Dreaming Down Under - very similar to the OP's remembered title of Tales from Down Under. The cover indeed contains greenery.

Cover of "Dreaming Down Under"

However the second story does not ring any bells with me, and I doubt it is in Dreaming Down Under. Possibly the OP's memory is mistaken.

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  • YOU'RE AMAZING. Thank you so much! I have been looking for this book on and off for over a decade. Thank you again. You're the GOAT Dec 16, 2022 at 20:11
  • Happy to help @JamesWatkins ! If you get a chance, can you please click the tick next to my answer to accept it? Then people will know that the question has been answered. Thanks! Dec 16, 2022 at 23:16
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Since we have an almost definite match for the first story in the question, in an anthology that doesn't contain a match for the second, I'm going to propose "Changes" (1998) by Neil Gaiman as a match for the second story.

In the given time frame "Changes" had been published in the Gaiman collection Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions, which doesn't have any stories that match a society of immortals living in the mountains.

It does have a drug, Reboot, that repairs cellular damage (it was originally intended as a cancer cure) with the side-effect of changing one's biological sex. The inventor, Rajit, intends and expects it to be a medical drug, and is surprised when its use spreads beyond that.

While Rajit realised that Reboot would make gender-reassignment surgery obsolete, it never occurred to him that anyone might wish to take it for reasons of desire or curiosity or escape. Thus, he never foresaw the black market in Reboot and similar chemical triggers; nor that, within fifteen years of Reboot's commercial release and FDA approval, illegal sales of the designer Reboot knock-offs (bootlegs, as they were soon known) would outsell heroine and cocaine, gram for gram, more than ten times over.

There isn't a prostitute, but later in his life Rajit lives in Rio de Janeiro, which is also where he dies, on the Copacabana.

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  • I feel like "rebootlegs" would be a much more sensible name for a knock-off copy of reboot
    – Valorum
    Dec 1, 2022 at 13:29

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