Sunday, July 6, 2008

Birthday special: An online science fiction anthology for genre novices, 2008 Edition

Today is the first birthday of Variety SF; so I thought I would do a different kind of post.

Idea here is a selection of 20 stories, chosen only from among those available online, that can hopefully hook someone well read but uninterested in written science fiction on to the genre.

Genre veterans will likely find many entries familiar. I would love to hear your suggestions & critique in the comments.

Selections include only science fiction - no place here for stories that are not clearly science fiction.

I prefer light fun stories - there are 12 of them in the list below. But science fiction is full of dark stories or with heavier subjects; I include 8 of the kind that touched me at some level.

Limiting selection to online stories made me leave out some of the best genre stories. But stories in this list are meant to be broadly accessible.

Selections are meant for international audience - no stories here that are accessible only to people from a certain region, or of a certain religion or culture. I've had much frustration with stories of this kind.

While I explicitly avoid stories I would rate C, I do not always choose the best stories even from among those available online. Idea is to give a broad exposure to genre - within other constraints.

In the lists below, link labeled "download" fetches the story text. Link on story title goes to my old post on the story, if there is one. Where there is a link on author name, it takes you to author blog, site, or biography (none yet).

Selected fun stories.

  1. [ss] Eric Frank Russell's "Allamagoosa"; download; Astounding, May 1955; Hugo 1955 winner; humor: Among the 300 odd authors represented at this site, Russell along with Kuttner/Moore writing together, stands out. They deliver the best ratio of great fun reads to second rung stuff. Unfortunately, none of the Kuttner/Moore greats seem to be online - so I had to skip them.

    This story is about organizational behavior gone wild.
  2. Eric Frank Russell's "... And Then There Were None"; download; Astounding, June 1951; humor: Colonists face Gandhian resistance. Hilarious story.
  3. Issac Asimov's "The Last Question"; download; Science Fiction Quarterly, November 1956: Among the better stories from Asimov's vast bibliography. An intelligent machine is assigned an impossible task...
  4. Arthur Clarke's "Rescue Party"; download; Astounding, May 1946: My first preference for a Clarke story would be "Superiority" or "First Encounter". But they aren't online, & this one is pretty good.

    There is life even after apocalypse - so don't lose hope.
  5. [novelette] Robert Heinlein's "- And He Built a Crooked House -"; download; Astounding, February 1941; humor: No great message but a fun read. How to build a 6 room house in physical space that will only accommodate a single room?
  6. Jules Verne & Michel Verne's "In the Year 2889"; download; The Forum, New York, February 1889: A quick look at technology in the foreseeable future. Fast moving story of vast scope.
  7. [ff] Glenn Davis' "In His Image"; download; AntiSF, #116 (January/February 2008): Time travel to past can be more rewarding than expected!
  8. [ff] Ellen Klages' "Ringing Up Baby"; download; Nature, 27 April 2006; humor: Seeking advise of a little one for physical specifications of her would be sibling can have unintended consequences.
  9. [ff] Charles Stross' "MAXO Signals"; download; Nature, 25 August 2005; humor: First contact with aliens might turn out to be rather mundane.
  10. [ff] Greg Wickenhofer & Rick Wickenhofer's "Orbiter's Reward"; download; AntiSF, #117 (February/March 2008); humor: Beware of cute & very useful robots.
  11. [ff] Brendon D Carson's "Spawnotrim!!!"; download; AntiSF, #117 (February/March 2008); humor: Providers of your weight loss treatment are getting more than your money...
  12. John Scalzi's "Pluto Tells All"; download; Subterranean, Spring 2007; humor: Written in a format perhaps appropriate for early teen readers, we get to hear Pluto's reactions to its demotion from the status of a planet last year by humans.

Selected stories (heavier subjects).

  1. Edgar Allen Poe's "A Descent Into The Maelström" aka "In a Maelström"; download; Carpenter's Penny Book, London, April 1841; hard sf: A man survives a disaster by forcing his head to override his heart. Of the two parts, meaty stuff is in second part.
  2. Katherine Maclaine's "All Kinds of Reasons"; download; Strange Horizons, 3 September 2007: Ability to choose a baby, from among all you can potentially have with your mate, can be emotionally very stressful.
  3. [ff] Ted Chiang's "What's Expected of Us"; download; Nature, 7 July 2005; philosophy: Ability to communicate with past implies lack of free will!
  4. Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life"; download; Patrick Nielsen Hayden (Ed)'s "Starlight 2", October 1998: What we can think depends on the language we think it in.
  5. H Beam Piper's "Omnilingual"; download; Astounding, February 1957: A rosetta stone to decode the writings of a long dead civilization known to be at about our level of technological ability.
  6. [novelette] A Bertram Chandler's "Familiar Pattern" (as by George Whitley); download; Astounding, August 1959: A replay of European colonization pattern with aliens.
  7. [ff] Julie Bailue's "Egg Sharing"; download; AntiSF, #110 (July/August 2007): Near future implications of sperm or egg donation.
  8. [ff] Cory Doctorow's "Printcrime"; download; Nature, January 2006: Appreciating this dark story on reckless patent & copyright enforcement requires patience. I didn't like it much when I first read it, but had different opinions 3 or 4 months down the line.


First post a year back announced the intention to begin posting in a few days! Current post count is 870, including this one. Excluding the flood of posts early May 2008, that would be an average of some 1.5 posts a day. I think coming year will average less.


Krishnan said...

Congratulations Tinkoo on completing a year ! I look forward to your posts daily. Continue the good work.

Rusty said...

Hey - congratulations on making it to the one year mark! I have appreciated your reviews, and have used several of them as inspiration for my own reviews. Keep up the good work, and thanks for these lists of great stories.