Sunday, June 24, 2012

Your Favorite Science Fiction Short Story


I know I could not pose this topic with just any group, but I think I have some SF fans here. It came to mind when Jerry House posted a FFB about the work of Judith Merril Friday and I read her story "THAT ONLY A MOTHER," which was awfully fine. And then, googling her, I ran across a list of stories by Locus Magazine--what they regarded as the top stories a few years aback. I have no idea if the list is a good one or not but here it is.

I am sure some people will regard three Harlan Ellison stories in the first five as too many, but I couldn't say.

So what would you rank as some of the top five SF stories (not novels)? I am looking to add some to my 365 challenge. I am sure my taste would run toward stories like hers rather than stories about alien invasions and intergalactic warfare. But that's just me. Anyway, my tastes aside, what are your favorites? Any great ones been written in the last decade?

And I want to thank Todd Mason for sending me the three collections of SF I have.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'll be curious to see the answers as well, as I am far from expert enough to answer this one. I have read 20 science fiction collections in the last 3 1/2 years including Joe Haldeman, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Connie Willis, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Fredric Brown & Murray Leinster.

"I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" is certainly a memorable one.


Jeff M.

Bill Crider said...

I've read nearly all those stories, but my favorite is "Desertion" by Clifford Simak.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am hoping I can find some of these online. I do have a few anthologies but not that many. Thanks!

John said...

"It's a Good life" by Jerome Bixby is one of the few I've read on the list and it's certainly one of the most original. Now immortalized as one of the most famous episodes of "The Twilight Zone." Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" is brilliant - both as a satire and SF. "The Lottery" is classifed as SF? I would never think that of Shirley Jackson.

My criticism: it's a sin that there is nothing by Theodore Sturgeon on the list, but multiple stories by Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury and Clarke. Couldn't a few of those been knocked off for *at least one* by one of the most fascinating and equally prolific SF writers of short fiction? I nominate "The World Well Lost" since it's quite a groundbreaker.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Clearly this is the magazine's opinion. We could probably find many other lists. SF seems an especially rich outlet for short stories. And when TV used them, even richer.

Deb said...

"Chance" by Connie Willis. It's about a woman who dumped her college boyfriend and her best friend over something that she realizes years later was completely trivial. Then she discovers that she can go back in time and change things--but at what cost? I tear up every time I read it.

Anonymous said...

There is no way "The Lottery" should be considered sf. None.


Jeff M.

Walker Martin said...

I have to question the validity of any poll that puts 3 Harlan Ellison stories in the top five. Also such a poll cannot leave out such excellent writers as Philip K. Dick, Theodore Sturgeon, and J.G. Ballard.

Sure this poll lists some great stories but is too flawed for serious consideration as a legitimate poll. This is just another list of no real consequence, except for LOCUS readers.

Picking one favorite would drive me crazy, though I also like Vonnegut's HARRISON BERGERON.

Jerry House said...

I tend to go for the older stuff but there are a zillion annual "Best of" anthologies easily available, as well as books covering the annual Nebula award winners, plus the various collections of Hugo winners and the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

My list changes daily. Todays picks are:

- Avram Davidson. Anything by this marvelous writer. MY BOYFRIEND'S NAME IS JELLO and POLLY CHARMS, THE SLEEPING WOMAN come to mind first, as well as OR ALL THE SEAS WITH OYSTERS

- C. M. Kornbluth. THE SILLY SEASON and THE MARCHING MORONS

- Fritz Leiber. SPACE-TIME FOR SPRINGERS is one of my all-time favorites. Try also THE NIGHT HE DIED or SHIP of SHADOWS

- Joanna Russ. SOULS or THE EXTRAORDINY VOYAGES OF AMELIE BERTRAND

- James Tiptree, JR. THE SCREWFLY SOLUTION or THE WOMEN MEN DON'T SEE

I'm not sure how many, if any, are available online, but all are readily available through an interlibray loan; a quick check through ISFDB will give you a listing of what books contain these stories.

Naomi Johnson said...

Is THE LOTTERY really considered SF?

I haven't read much science fiction in recent years, and I'm not big on intergalactic warfare/alien invasions either. Here are some stories that have stayed with me since the 80s or thereabouts:

UNACCOMPANIED SONATA by Orson Scott Card
SANDKINGS by George R R Martin (this one is more like a novella)
GRAVES (and many others) by Joe Haldeman
GOD IS AN IRON by Spider Robinson

chad rohrbacher said...

I second Deb's suggestion Connie Willis is awesome. And Naomi's suggestion about Sandkings is right up there. I actually teach that story. Resnick is great. Old McDonald Has a Farm is an interesting genetic manipulation and food ethics piece.

Anonymous said...

i'm surprised no-one has mentioned the absence of any of Alfred Bester's stories.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've read a lot of those. "I have no mouth and I must scream" is definitely a good story. My favorite on that list might be "The Country of the Kind." "Cold Equations" should be on there. The best SF collection of all time is the SF hall of fame, volume 1. Another great story is "Surface tension"

George said...

This is a question with many, many answers. Tomorrow, my choices would probably be different, but today my recommended SF short stories are:
"The Dead Lady of Clown Town"-Cordwainter Smith, "Think Blue, Count Two"-Cordwainer Smith, "That Hell-Bound Train" -Robert Bloch, "Sandkings"-George R. R. Martin, and "The Screwfly Solution"-Raccoona Sheldon (aka, James Tiptree, Jr.).

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am surprised that neither my local or university library has the Hall of Fame book. And I am also surprised that few of these are free online. I would classify THE LOTTERY as horror. Now Juliette is a horror story too but it has many elements of SF. The lottery does not-although it is dystopian, I guess.

pattinase (abbott) said...

And again, this list was one I just happened on. I am sure there are many and probably better ones.

Naomi Johnson said...

Anon, I almost mentioned Alfred Bester's GALATEA GALANTE. I remember liking it and what it was about in general, but I don't really remember the impact it had.

Walker Martin said...

Yes, anonymous is right about the lack of Alfred Bester, who not only wrote two of the very best SF novels, but also wrote several brilliant SF short stories.

le0pard13 said...

"A Sound of Thunder" (1952) by Ray Bradbury
"A Boy and His Dog" (1969) by Harlan Ellison
"Soldier From Tomorrow" (1957) by Harlan Ellison

Cap'n Bob said...

I was going to say "A Boy and His Dog" but it's really a novella. I'll say "The Green Hills of Earth" just so I don't repeat someone else's answer.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I'll see if that one is online.

Todd Mason said...

Well, Patti, at this point I'm not sure which three collections of the books I've sent that you refer to as sf collection...the CRANK! magazine anthology, I suspect, is one (which definitely mixes sf and fantasy)...and you'd probably do at least as well digging in there and seeing what does and doesn't appeal. Most of the arguably classic sf stories of the last century are still making reprint money for someone somewhere, or it is hoped they might, so keeping them off the web just seems prudent...

For all the foofaraw about how "The Lottery" isn't sf, it certainly can be seen as such, since it's about a village that observes vicious crop-appeasing rituals (I'd tend to think of it as more of a suspense story), while "That Hell-Bound Train" (while it was the first out and out fantasy story to win the Hugo, but not close to being the last) is absolutely not sf, and has no business being voted on by even the sloppiest-minded (or most Bloch-centric) of LOCUS readers, in 1979 or any year. "The Lottery" is AT LEAST as much an sf story as something like Arthur C. Clarke's "The Nine Billion Names of God," despite computers helping drive the fantasticated premise there (his "The Star," likewise, depends on taking the objective correctness of religious belief as a given, but is somewhat less notional.)

Really, polls are not the best way to suss out what's good, as you've heard me bleat before, or else TITANIC really should be everyone's second-favorite movie.

Jonathan Strahan, who has been editing a best of the year volume for several years now, is no fool, as he puts it in the article excerpting the Highly Questionable poll:

Before I start, though, two things I'd point out. First, these comments are just my point of view. Yes, I'll discuss them with Charles , yes they're published on the Locus blog, and yes, it's based on a Locus list, but still. I'm deliberately keeping this a personal project. It's not an official opinion, it's a set of thoughts in progress, a response to something of interest. Second, I'm calling this the All-Time Top 40 (-ish). There are 43 stories on the list. I know.

--which isn't close to strong enough. And "Harrison Bergeron" isn't hardly the best of Vonnegut's short fiction...but it's notable that it's hortatory enough (or disturbing enough) that the SATURDAY EVENING POST and the like turned it down, and Avram Davidson took it for F&SF instead.

Todd Mason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Todd Mason said...

Make no mistake, Harlan Ellison is a talented writer, and when he still had energy, he produced even better work. During our second conversation, he remarked (correctly) that I sounded as exhausted as he...he pointed out that as he was in his 70s, that was only fitting on his end