Natalie Babbitt first published “Simple Sentences” in her collection The Devil’s Other Story Book, which includes a variety of tales about humanity’s encounters with the Devil. The book is a follow-up to her collection The Devil’s Story Book, so there are plenty of tales for Babbitt’s fans. This particular story was selected by Terri Windling for inclusion in The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection, which Windling co-edited with Ellen Datlow and became the first volume of the twenty-one volume series that was later called The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.
Best known for writing the novel Tuck Everlasting, Babbitt clues in the reader with the first line that “Simple Sentences” will be a humorous story. The demons processing new arrivals to Hell are having trouble determining what to do with two men who arrived simultaneously. One of the men is a professional pick pocket, the other an author of complex books the surpassed the understanding of readers.