Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

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Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by Alex Frakt »

The Gravity sci-fi movie thread brought the movie A Boy and His Dog (starring a young Don Johnson) to mind. It was based on a Harlan Ellison short story of the same name. Which got me thinking, I generally prefer sci-fi novels to short stories, but a few of the latter still stand out in my mind even though it's been 20 or 30 years since I read them. This was one. Others are (I'll include a link if I can find them online)

- Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon - http://virgil.gr/1/MicroCosmicGod.pdf
- Dogfight by Michael Swanwick and William Gibson - http://lib.ru/GIBSON/r_dogfight.txt
- Food of the Gods by Arthur C. Clarke - http://books.google.com/books?id=hbAqAA ... CCwQ6AEwAA (link is to the second page of the story, scroll up to the beginning)
- Nightfall by Isaac Asimov - https://www.uni.edu/morgans/astro/course/nightfall.pdf‎
- A Boy and His Dog - http://www.sfcenter.ku.edu/Sci-Tech-Soc ... s_dog.pdf‎

What are your recommendations?
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by richard »

The Nine Billion Names of God, Arthur C. Clarke http://downlode.org/Etext/nine_billion_ ... f_god.html
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by Alex Frakt »

richard wrote:The Nine Billion Names of God, Arthur C. Clarke http://downlode.org/Etext/nine_billion_ ... f_god.html
Of course. I can't believe that slipped my mind.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by richard »

It's hard to go wrong with Isaac Asimov or Arthur C Clarke. Harlan Ellison and Larry Niven also have some wonderful short stories.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by technovelist »

"Year of the Jackpot" by R. A. Heinlein.
Actually, almost any short story by Heinlein...
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by nisiprius »

These are not necessarily great science fiction stories, they are just stories I've liked that that come up immediately in my mind.

"The Shadow and the Flash" by... Jack London. (Yes, The Call of the Wild)

"The New Accelerator" by H. G. Wells. I don't know why but that story has always just been likable to me.

"Columbus Was A Fool," "Ideas Die Hard," by Isaac Asimov. I hope that's the right one. My dad, who didn't read much SF, read it and the first time he saw the moon through a backyard telescope he said "It really IS made of plaster, isn't it?"

"Compounded Interest" by Mac Reynolds, with a Boglehead slant to it. Mysterious stranger walks into a bank in sixteenth-century Venice with a proposal to deposit a small amount of money for a century, and reappears at one-century intervals with investment tips, until his account dominates the global economy--and then he liquidates it all to buy enough electricity to power the time machines so that he can go to sixteenth-century Venice...

"The Cave of Night," by James Gunn. It has inspired one or two movies or TV shows but all of them miss the point of the original story which is that the astronaut marooned in space is, it is strongly hinted, just a recording that was sent up to create a tearjerker event that would rouse enough public sympathy to fund a real man-carrying-capable rocket for a phony rescue mission.

And of course to second some of the others: "The Nine Billion Names of God," by Arthur C. Clarke; "The Year of the Jackpot," "Blowups Happen," and "The Roads Must Roll," by Robert Heinlein.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by technovelist »

nisiprius wrote: ...
"Compounded Interest" by Mac Reynolds, with a Boglehead slant to it. Mysterious stranger walks into a bank in sixteenth-century Venice with a proposal to deposit a small amount of money for a century, and reappears at one-century intervals with investment tips, until his account dominates the global economy--and then he liquidates it all to buy enough electricity to power the time machines so that he can go to sixteenth-century Venice...
...
Yes, that was a great story!
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by technovelist »

Also, Heinlein's first published story, "Life Line", about a man who figures out how to measure any person's remaining lifespan precisely. Obviously that would make the safe withdrawal rate a lot easier to calculate. :D
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by HelenaJustina »

Anything by Cordwainer Smith, a sadly neglected SF master with a truly unique voice and style. Here are two stories you can read online:

Scanners Live in Vain

The Game of Rat and Dragon

If you enjoy them, then the collection The Rediscovery of Man would certainly be a worthwhile investment of your reading dollars.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by Alex Frakt »

technovelist wrote:"Year of the Jackpot" by R. A. Heinlein.
Actually, almost any short story by Heinlein...
http://www.scribd.com/doc/20578281/Hein ... he-Jackpot - plenty of OCR errors, but readable.

Although I almost wish I hadn't. I enjoy an end of the world story as much as anyone, but IMO this is a little clumsy.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by dimideme »

"I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream" - Harlan Ellison is one of my favorites

And not quite science fiction, but a bit of light fantasy:
"The Lottery" - Shirley Jackson
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by Boglenaut »

I don't recall if they were long short stories or short novels (I read them long ago), but I liked:

Enemy Mine
Dark Benediction

(I read a lot of Heinlen as well.. H.G. Wells had a lot of good ones too.)

What's the name of the one where the girl stowed away on a ship with limited fuel?
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by Alex Frakt »

dimideme wrote:And not quite science fiction, but a bit of light fantasy:
"The Lottery" - Shirley Jackson
Light? I'm not staying for bedtime stories at your house.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by telemark »

"To Serve Man" is the Damon Knight story everyone remembers, but I like "The Big Pat Boom." Interstellar tourists visit the Earth and cow pies become fantastically valuable.

"Day Million" by Frederick Pohl.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by placeholder »

"Columbus Was A Fool," by Isaac Asimov. I hope that's the right one.
It's "Columbus was a Dope" and by Heinlein.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by placeholder »

What's the name of the one where the girl stowed away on a ship with limited fuel?
"The Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by placeholder »

My recommendations:
Larry Niven, the best were the Known Space stories collected in Tales of Known Space and Neutron Star.

Alastair Reynolds, several collections out there. Some in Revelation Space uni others outside.

Peter Hamilton, he has great ideas and backgrounds but the novels are so long. No time for 800 page door stops.

The New Space Opera 1&2 anthologies edited by Gardner Dozois.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by technovelist »

placeholder wrote:
What's the name of the one where the girl stowed away on a ship with limited fuel?
"The Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin.
I was impressed when I first read that story, but there was a savage deconstruction of it awhile back, pointing out how ridiculous the lack of precautions was.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by technovelist »

Alex Frakt wrote:
dimideme wrote:And not quite science fiction, but a bit of light fantasy:
"The Lottery" - Shirley Jackson
Light? I'm not staying for bedtime stories at your house.
Same here. :?
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by Levett »

Vonnegut's short story, "Harrison Bergeron."

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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by nisiprius »

Alex Frakt wrote:
technovelist wrote:"Year of the Jackpot" by R. A. Heinlein.
Actually, almost any short story by Heinlein...
http://www.scribd.com/doc/20578281/Hein ... he-Jackpot - plenty of OCR errors, but readable.

Although I almost wish I hadn't. I enjoy an end of the world story as much as anyone, but IMO this is a little clumsy.
The sex, right? Heinlein (in my opinion) was always clumsy when it came to writing about sex, and that includes Stranger in a Strange Land. And what is the title of the godawful one in which everyone spends the whole book talking about sex but never actually having any?

But perhaps his editors made him do it. If you've ever read Jack London's The Sea Wolf--the narrator and his girlfriend, soulmate, whatever, are literally stranded on a desert island, and the first thing they do is to build two huts. The magazine editors insisted. But that was in 1904.

I seem to recall (I could look up your link but I'd prefer to recall it) that this was from the years when he had the bad habit of starting every line of dialog with a grunt. "Eh? That's what the equations show?" "So? If we can't get someone to marry us, why not marry ourselves?" "Huh? Woman, let's say our vows before we go inside, or we might forget."

Oh, oh, oh, I almost forgot. I think this might be Heinlein's greatest short story, unless you want to disqualify it as being a novella: "Universe." Giant ecologically self-sustaining spaceship on its way to Alpha Centauri, and over the years the inhabitants forget the literal reality of the situation and how to operate the ship, and develop a religious and mystical theory in which "the ship" and "the voyage" and "Centauri" are thought to be spiritual allegories.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by lightheir »

I recently TRIED to read Stranger in a Strange Land, after having heard of all the hubbub about it for the last 30 years for me (I'm pushing 40).

Gotta admit - what a letdown. Maybe it was more timely/relevant/interesting back in the era it was written (since it was obviously enjoyed by many millions), but I found it almost like a lame adolescent wet dream fantasy of unrealistic characters and situations. I forced my way through 75% of it, and the had to call it quits, something I rarely do.

Starship Troopers, on the other hand, was excellent, and is still in my list of all time favorite scifi books.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by technovelist »

nisiprius wrote:
Alex Frakt wrote:
technovelist wrote:"Year of the Jackpot" by R. A. Heinlein.
Actually, almost any short story by Heinlein...
http://www.scribd.com/doc/20578281/Hein ... he-Jackpot - plenty of OCR errors, but readable.

Although I almost wish I hadn't. I enjoy an end of the world story as much as anyone, but IMO this is a little clumsy.
The sex, right? Heinlein (in my opinion) was always clumsy when it came to writing about sex, and that includes Stranger in a Strange Land.
He had to bowdlerize Stranger to get it published, even in the 60's. But I think he got more relaxed about writing about sex in his later books, which I liked even if some people think he was getting senile by that point.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by Rob5TCP »

dimideme wrote:"I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream" - Harlan Ellison is one of my favorites

And not quite science fiction, but a bit of light fantasy:
"The Lottery" - Shirley Jackson
I remember, as a kid, being in SHOCKED in school when we read this story. True, it's not the classical definition of scifi;
but it does fit in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. The ending probably had my draw dropping.
Great choice.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by skylar »

I'll second Alastair Reynolds, especially if you like dark sci-fi. Iain Banks is another great British author (sadly, recently deceased), and isn't quite as dark.

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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by LadyGeek »

A classic collection of short stories: The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by nisiprius »

placeholder wrote:
"Columbus Was A Fool," by Isaac Asimov. I hope that's the right one.
It's "Columbus was a Dope" and by Heinlein.
No, darn it. That's a different story.

I had a double layer of error. Not only did I remember the wrong title; I remembered the wrong title, wrongly. The correct story is:

Ideas Die Hard, by Isaac Asimov. The reason I keep thinking of the wrong title is that the characters spend some time talking about Columbus. The essential idea is that when astronauts round the moon, they discover that it is made of plaster and propped up in back with two-by-fours. I forget what the explanation is. It occurs to me that a recurrent theme in Asimov is the fragility of sanity, because the astronauts cannot stand it and go insane (like the general populace in "Nightfall.")
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by nisiprius »

Mentioning Ray Bradbury instantly called to mind "Rocket Summer." Just the shortest of squibs but memorable. Also, a little heavy and clunky, but "There Will Come Soft Rains."

Oh, Jack Finney. "Such Interesting Neighbors." Though to tell the truth what made it memorable to me is a weirdly prescient bit, which I scoffed at at the time. It soon becomes obvious to the reader, though not to the narrator, that the neighbors are time travelers from the future who have come to escape a dreadful dystopic future by seeking refuge in the halcyon, simple, days of our modern times, which would have been 1951. The neighbor makes a living by coming up with "inventions." One of them is a gadget that looks like a flashlight, that measures distances very accurately. You just shine a beam of light--"a special kind of light"--and read off the distance in feet, inches, and fractions. The narrator asks him "but how does it work?" and the neighbor says "On flashlight batteries."

And I remember reading it in the mid-fifties when it was anthologized, and saying "what awful guff, a special kind of light, how could there be a special kind of light, c'mon." And then in the late fifties they invented lasers. ("Optical masers," as they were originally called).
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by sidesh0w »

The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect is quite good, if kinda disturbing.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by Case59 »

A second vote for Microcosmic God, by Sturgeon.

The Sound of Thunder, by Bradbury

The Sandkings, by George R.R. Martin (back when he wrote sci-fi)

By His Bootstraps, by Heinlein

Re Heinlein, I grew up on his so-called "juveniles": Have Spacesuit Will Travel, Rocket Ship Galileo, Podkayne of Mars, etc. etc. He had a profound impact on my young life. Sadly, I think the popular success of Stranger went to his head, and his later stuff is unreadable. He came across like a dirty old man who was sorry he missed the sexual revolution. Time Enough for Love (1973) I think is the book the earlier poster is referring to, where everyone talks about sex and nobody gets any.
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I never read the novel (actually I think it was based on the screenplay), but as a movie I loved Silent Running.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by dumbmoney »

lightheir wrote:I recently TRIED to read Stranger in a Strange Land, after having heard of all the hubbub about it for the last 30 years for me (I'm pushing 40).
It's been a while, but as I recall, the first half or so was good, or at least not bad, and the second half was a hack job, as if it were finished by a ghostwriter.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by fandango »

If you want to try a relatively new author, check out the Wool series by Hugh Howey. Very creative and well written series. I am a long term science fiction fan, and this is the best series that I have read in a very long time.

He published all his books on Amazon and recently sold the paper copy rights to a major publisher when the series became extraordinarily popular. He recently completed a deal for a movie. An example of how small authors can make a tremendous impact through digital publishing.

Prior to all of this success, he worked at a small book store and wrote at night to produce his first book, Wool. Currently, the Kindle edition of Wool is available for free from Amazon. Once you finish Wool, you'll want to read the entire series.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by JupiterJones »

nisiprius wrote:Oh, Jack Finney.
Yeah, tough to go wrong with Jack Finney. I loved Of Missing Persons.

I had that one in a collection of sci-fi stories I used to read as a kid. Another one from there I remember liking is Fredric Brown's Puppet Show.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

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Anything by Cordwainer Smith.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

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Image

I prefer novels, but short stories that impressed me were "Gomez" (1954), "The Mindworm" (1950), and "That Share of Glory" (1962) by C. M. Kornbluth (1923 – 1958), all collected in The Explorers (1954).

I think Heinlein peaked with The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966).
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

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A descent into the maelstrom. Edgar Allen Poe.

http://www.eapoe.org/works/tales/maelsa.htm
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by Boglenaut »

technovelist wrote:
placeholder wrote:
What's the name of the one where the girl stowed away on a ship with limited fuel?
"The Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin.
I was impressed when I first read that story, but there was a savage deconstruction of it awhile back, pointing out how ridiculous the lack of precautions was.

Yep, that's the one I was thinking of. I was young when I read it so not sure if I'd like it more or less now.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by Boglenaut »

dumbmoney wrote:
lightheir wrote:I recently TRIED to read Stranger in a Strange Land, after having heard of all the hubbub about it for the last 30 years for me (I'm pushing 40).
It's been a while, but as I recall, the first half or so was good, or at least not bad, and the second half was a hack job, as if it were finished by a ghostwriter.
I read the first half when I was a kid and enjoyed it, but never finished it. I usually like Heinlein.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

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"The Shadow Out of Time" by HP Lovecraft

"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by sometimesinvestor »

Am really surprised no one has yet mentioned THE LAST QUESTION by ASIMOV.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by letsgobobby »

Do you think if Alex had asked for great short romance novels we would have had even one tenth the replies?
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by jimgour »

"The Little Black Bag", a short story by science fiction author Cyril M. Kornbluth.

Published in 1950, it was one I liked very much. Some might say it says something about problems we have in our educational system today.

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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by MickeyCharles »

fandango wrote:If you want to try a relatively new author, check out the Wool series by Hugh Howey. Very creative and well written series. I am a long term science fiction fan, and this is the best series that I have read in a very long time.

He published all his books on Amazon and recently sold the paper copy rights to a major publisher when the series became extraordinarily popular. He recently completed a deal for a movie. An example of how small authors can make a tremendous impact through digital publishing.

Prior to all of this success, he worked at a small book store and wrote at night to produce his first book, Wool. Currently, the Kindle edition of Wool is available for free from Amazon. Once you finish Wool, you'll want to read the entire series.
+1. I'm in the middle of this series now and can't but it down!
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by HelenaJustina »

Stonebr wrote:Anything by Cordwainer Smith.
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

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Gonna Roll the Bones by Fritz Leiber
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Post by reggiesimpson »

Ringworld.....Larry Niven
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Re: Sci-Fi Short Story Recs

Post by placeholder »

reggiesimpson wrote:Ringworld.....Larry Niven
Not a short story.
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