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What are some of your favorite Sci Fi short stories?

  1. Feb 13, 2017 #1
    I think the short story is great for Science Fiction. I grew up reading If, Amazing, analog et.c. And have been reading a lot of SF Short Story Collections lately.

    In my opinion Asimov was a great short story teller. It seems much easier to have a great idea and tell it that way rather than having to construct intricate plots and personas in a novel.

    Some of my favourite short stories are :
    Clerical Error (1956 Astounding SF(ASF)) by Mark Clifton.
    E for Effort (1947 ASF) by TL Sherred.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 13, 2017 #2

    Buzz Bloom

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    Hi John:

    I am guessing you experienced the "Golden Age of Science Fiction" about when I did. Not long after that I learned that the GAOSF was 16.

    I recall the best short story I read from those days was "By His Boot Straps" by Heinlein (1941), although when I first read it the published author was Anson McDonald. I did not find out until about 20 years later that it was a Heinlein pen name, and when I looked it up it in Wikipedia it was classified as a novella.

    For a more modern era a favorite is "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card (1977) which later was expanded into a novel and a sequel and still later into a movie.
    Another favorite from that era is "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas", by Ursula Le Guin (1973).

    Le Guin is my all time favorite author. I love everything by her that I have ever read. The following may be useful to locate some of her short story collections.

  4. Feb 13, 2017 #3
    One of my favorites is "The Last Question" by Isaac Asimov.
  5. Feb 13, 2017 #4


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    I'm a great Stanislav Lem fan and like all his writings, but as for short stories, all adventures of Ion Tyche and of Cpt. Pirx.
  6. Feb 13, 2017 #5
  7. Feb 13, 2017 #6


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    I remember a short story of an alien crashing on the Earth and he needs a special part to repair his craft. After a bit of searching with the help of some human friends he finds it... a light bulb.

    I don't recall the authors name or the story title.

    Asimov short stories were great to read and ponder how he would play around with the three laws. Here's one called Runaround that illustrated a problem with the three laws reminiscent of problems in prolog programming and predicate logic:

  8. Feb 13, 2017 #7
    Also, "Bridge" by James Blish. It was in an anthology I read and probably still have somewhere; original publication was apparently in Astounding Science Fiction, 1956; later sandwiched together with a companion story into a novel, They Shall Have Stars.

    Plot is that humankind is coming to the end of its rope - lots of threats of global nuclear war on Earth, and FTL still hasn't been invented so spacefaring hasn't gotten much farther than Jupiter . . . on which, in an "Easter Island" type of project, i.e. last pointless effort of a doomed civilization, they're trying to build a gigantic bridge of ice; the engineers remote-control the machines that dig & build from consoles on one of the moons, if I recall correctly. The hero is a skeptical mid-level engineer on the project; every morning he wakes up screaming from a dream that he is in a spacesuit on the "surface" of Jupiter, part of some experimental test of a suit that can withstand the gravity & compression; the suit always fails, which is when he wakes up. Plot follows from there.

    Link via Google books to a story collection that will show you the front couple of pages; the spacesuit dream is further in. If you like the tone, the collection can be bought on Amazon as a used paperback for $.01 plus shipping, or as a Kindle edition for under $5.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2017
  9. Feb 13, 2017 #8


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  10. Feb 13, 2017 #9
    Forgot to mention The Keys to December," by Zelazny. I assume he probably wrote a lot of short sci-fi or fantasy, but other than this I've only read his novels.

    Anyway, whimsical narration to start off with, but ultimately heartbreaking. Someone's review here; and below are the first few paragraphs to give the flavor:

    BORN OF MAN and woman, in accordance with Catform Y7
    Coldworld Class (modified per Alyonal), 3.2-E,
    G.M.I. option, Jarry Dark was not suited for existence anywhere
    in the universe which had guaranteed him a niche. This was
    either a blessing or a curse, depending on how you looked at it.

    So look at it however you would, here is the story.

    It is likely that his parents could have afforded the temperature
    control unit, but not much more than that. (Jarry required
    temperature of at least -50 C. to be comfortable.) It is unlikely
    that his parents could have provided for the air pressure control
    and gas mixture equipment required to maintain his life. Nothing
    could be done in the way of 3.2-E grav-simulation, so daily
    medication and physiotherapy were required. It is unlikely that
    his parents could have provided for this.

    The much-maligned option took care of him, however. It
    safe-guarded his health. It provided for his education. It assured
    his economic welfare and physical well-being.

    It might be argued that Jarry Dark would not have been a homeless
    Coldworld Catform (modified per Alyonal) had it not been for
    General Mining, Incorporated, which had held the option. But then
    it must be borne in mind that no one could have foreseen the nova
    which destroyed Alyonal.

    Below is the cover of a 2009 release of his collected stories - apparently in two volumes; so likely this story could be found there. Worth the read, especially if you like his other work.

  11. Feb 14, 2017 #10


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    "Who Goes There?" by John Campbell

    Great suspense story. Read it in some collection.

    The Thing movie (John Carpenter version) was based on it.
  12. Feb 14, 2017 #11
    Yes, I recently read this in a pretty neat collection, which unfortunately I have mislaid. It's a bit heavy on the "rugged, brilliant he-men out in the wild" purple prose, but enjoyable. In close proximity to a Heinlein story about dinosaur hunting and an early A.E. Van Vogt, "The Black Destroyer"; all three are what we might call "action/adventure/gore" sci fi, though the Heinlein story had a bit of humor and the Van Vogt story had a touch of social theory.
  13. Feb 14, 2017 #12
    There's a good chance you've read/seen it before, but I figure "Call of Cthulhu" by H.P. Lovecraft is worth mentioning.
  14. Feb 14, 2017 #13
    I'm surprised and pleased to find I have a copy of analog science fiction science fact August 1977 with Enders Game in it (as well as something by Larry Niven.) Next in line to read. Thank you. My reading was stalling a bit. Lots of new material to read. And to reread.

    I Robot of course. I wonder if the installments that made up Foundation are 'short stories'. Another by Asimov.
  15. Feb 14, 2017 #14

    Buzz Bloom

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    Hi john:

    Each of the original Foundation trilogy novels were two connected novellas. Later sequels and prequels were individual novels.

  16. Feb 15, 2017 #15
    Hi Buzz, thanks for that.


    here's a pic of my motheaten analog :

    sf1.jpg sf2.JPG
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2017
  17. Feb 15, 2017 #16
    When I was a kid, my grade school had a library chock full of science fiction; and I probably read every single book in it, which must have been 30 to 50 books. Asimov was great fun at that age, and the three collections of robot stories in particular; it was hard not to love the robots since they tried so hard to do what was right! And it seems likely Asimov and his laws must have had a big influence on how robots would be viewed from then onwards; e.g. there are traces of the laws in Data and his evil twin Lore; in the "synthetic persons" of the Alien trilogy; etc.

    I wish I could go back in time and find out the titles of those sci-fi books that the library carried; I still vaguely remember the gist of certain stories, but probably never be able to remember enough detail to track them down. For example there was a quite simple story about what a ***** it was to try and colonize or even explore Mercury without burning to a cinder; yet somehow the very difficulty kept drawing "men" back (it was always men who were explorers in these early stories) to try again and again, sort of a "because it's there" adventure theme.

    I also enjoy remembering that because the books had been bought by a library, as usual the original covers were replaced by those sturdy pasteboard covers in plain blue or green or brown colors, no lettering except on the spine. You had to open the book to find out what was inside. Although I often came to love, as everyone must have, the cheesy illustrations for Analog covers. Somewhere there must be a coffee table book of sci fi book covers.

    NOTE: Goodness, the forum platform automatically changes the display of the word bitc_ into *****. Well, it is something of a sexist term, I guess; at least in some contexts.
  18. Feb 15, 2017 #17
    Just thought of maybe my favorite sci fi story of all time - although really there are too many great ones to pick a favorite - surprised it isn't gotten mentioned yet:

    "Scanners Live In Vain," by the incredibly strangely brilliant Cordwainer Smith!!!

    The Wikipedia article on the story, link above, quotes this mini-review from Robert Silverberg: ". . . one of the classic stories of science fiction" for "sheer originality of concept" and "deceptive and eerie simplicity of narrative."

    Apparently the full text is now in the public domain - or so says Archive.org. The body font is a little funky but let me assure you, if you have never read this story, you really really want to read it, even if you don't know it yet: https://archive.org/stream/ScannersLiveInVain/SmithCordwainer-ScannersLiveInVain.txt

    Here's the first paragraph:

    "Martel was angry. He did not even adjust his blood away from anger. He stamped
    across the room by judgment, not by sight. When he saw the table hit the floor, and
    could tell by the expression on Luci's face that the table must have made a loud crash,
    he looked down to see if his leg were broken. It was not. Scanner to the core, he had
    to scan himself. The action was reflex and automatic. The inventory included his legs,
    abdomen, Chestbox of instruments, hands, arms, face, and back with the mirror. Only
    then did Martel go back to being angry. He talked with his voice, even though he knew
    that his wife hated its blare and preferred to have him write."

  19. Feb 15, 2017 #18


    Staff: Mentor

    Another great short story by Ben Bova: A Slight Miscalculation

  20. Feb 15, 2017 #19


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    Another great one is Nightfall by Asimov.

    I remember when I was reading what is now considered classic sci fic in the 50's, Asimov and Heinlein were my favorites.
  21. Feb 15, 2017 #20
    I guess we are demonstrating that perhaps the major category, or at least one of the major categories of the sci-fi short story, is the "O. Henry twist at the end when everything suddenly goes to hell." E.g Asimov's "Nightfall," Clarke's "The Nine Billion Names of God," etc. The Clarke story in particular has what may be one of the greatest one-sentence endings ever; I'd quote it here but don't want to give the story away for anyone who hasn't read it.

    Along those same lines is the Brian W. Aldiss story, "The Small Betraying Detail." Set in England near the seaside; the protagonist is suffering from a recurrence of tuberculosis, and is being driven to a sanitarium for a rest cure by his brother and a friend. Along he way, he starts suffering from strange thoughts which he feels may be a product of his fever; one of these thoughts is the suspicion that humankind is actually split into two different groups that evolved in different ways; and that he is a member of the minority group that is being systematically oppressed and possibly slowly murdered by the other group. Great ending, again a one-sentence job.

    The story first appeared in New Worlds SF, May 1965; however I came upon it in a great collection, The Best SF Stories from New Worlds, 1968. That collection also has the Zelazny story "Keys to December" that I mentioned earlier. Also it has one of those typically weird sci fi book covers that is hard to forget:

  22. Feb 15, 2017 #21


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    Yes, that WAS one of the best last lines ever if not THE best ever.
  23. Feb 16, 2017 #22
    I thought Bill for Delivery by Christopher Anvil was a good one.
  24. Feb 16, 2017 #23
    Jerry Was A Man.
  25. Feb 17, 2017 #24
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2017
  26. Feb 18, 2017 #25
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