View Full Version : Recommending short stories

Paul Beardsley
2010-Dec-22, 05:08 PM
There's a fair bit of discussion about books, good and bad, which is generally interesting. But a book tends to be a commitment, especially for someone like myself who has a slow reading speed, and sometimes a one-night-stand is preferable.

Many of the most enjoyable and memorable works I've read have been short stories. And when a short story proves lame or disappointing, then at least I know I haven't wasted too much time on it.

So, what are the great, wonderful, moving, memorable, funny, scary, short stories you've read? I'm looking for individual ones, collections by a single author, anthologies by many authors, editions of a particularly good issue of a short story magazine - anything, but preferably something moderately obtainable. Any genre, too, although SF, fantasy, horror, mystery and historical whodunnit count among my personal favourites.

To get the ball rolling:

SF: Arthur C. Clarke's Expedition to Earth is one fine collection of Golden Age stories of the solar system, deep time (past and future), poignant encounters, and idea which are largely familiar now but were mostly new at the time. Quite a few of them reappeared in somewhat different form in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but they're all standalone.

Horror: Michael Marshall Smith's "The Dark Land". I started reading it in an anthology called Darklands, and initially thought it was just another dream-written-up story. But a few more pages in I was hooked. The author also writes crime fiction without the Smith part of his name, and the story was collected in What You Make It. I haven't read all the others yet.

2010-Dec-22, 05:33 PM
Short stories work well for my short attention span, so I'll be watching this thread. Thanks Paul!

As for my recommendations; I've brought them up in multiple threads over the years, but I've read every Ray Bradbury short story collection I can get my hands on, and loved them all. If I had to chose, my two favorites were probably One more for the Road and The Illustrated Man (the collections, as both draw their titles from shorts contained within.)

I also suprisingly enjoyed Stephen King's Skelleton Crew (I say surprisingly, because I'm not otherwise much a fan of King.) This particular collection includes the story, 'The Mist', which unlike the dreadful theatrical counter-part, is actually pretty good.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Dec-22, 06:47 PM
Thanks for your suggestions, Fazor.

I enjoyed The Illustrated Man many, many years ago. At the time I was a little bothered that the Mars in one story was clearly not the Mars in another story, which felt like a bit of a cheat, but I liked the stories themselves. I haven't read the other collection. Any standout stories in that?I've read a few of his other collections, although I was so young I didn't "get" all of them, especially the ones heavy on the lit references.

Like you, I haven't read much King, but I do have the Skeleton Crew collection, and I've read the first few in that. I enjoyed "The Mist" (I actually liked the film too) but found the others a bit mixed. Still, I expect I'll enjoy the others when I get round to them. I've also read the Shawshank short story, which I thought was magnificent.

I'm planning on reading a bunch of Poirot short stories, but will probably get through the novels I've got first.

2010-Dec-22, 07:31 PM
It's been years since I read through them. Looking through the table of contents, there's a handful that stand out but that I don't recall. If I get some time tonight, I'll grab it off the shelf and give it a skim. I'm pretty busy putting together the new blog, but if I can't find time tonight, we're only working a half day tomorrow, so I'll check it then.

2010-Dec-25, 06:25 PM
Most of my favorite short works tend to be novellas rather than short stories proper, but I have a few faves, though I can't pick possibly one category.

Old collection, SF: Asimov's Mysteries. This book has been out of print for years, and the works within are all from early in Asimov's career (including his first short story, "Marooned Off Vesta"). Nonetheless, looking back on my childhood it is indisputably the book that got me interested in short SF.

New Collection, SF: Year's Best SF 12, ed. by Hartwell. The first collection in the series I read, there are some outstanding works in this single volume, the pick of the litter being works by Nancy Kress and Michael Flynn.

Favorite single SF short story: "Traveler's Rest", by David Masson. A haunting tale about living on a planet where time flow changes by latitude,

Horror Collection: As much of King as I've read, I've found nothing that beats Night Shift, though Skeleton Crew comes very close.

Favorite overall short fiction collection: Barry Lopez's Field Notes. It's extremely difficult to summarize his terse yet poetic style, save to say that it's not quite nature writing and not quite magic realism, but work with entirely its own flavor, best appreciated in quiet solitude.

2010-Dec-25, 06:34 PM
I think we'd be remiss not to point out that Mike Alexander has recently published what I think are a couple of fine short stories in two separate issues of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Of the two, I like the first one better - Advances in Modern Chemotherapy (F&SF, July/Aug). The other one is in the latest issue and I can't find it right now or I'd give the title.

Halcyon Dayz
2010-Dec-27, 05:57 AM
“Ware of the Worlds.”

2010-Dec-27, 02:48 PM
@Paul; with the busy holidays I only had time to re-read two of the shorts whose titles jumped out at me (From One More for the Road.) The first, 'Quid Pro Quo' was an interesting idea and speaks to a feeling that I think we've all had, but probably wouldn't reach my top 50.

'The Enemy in the Wheat' was really good, and speaks to another human condition that I think a lot of us can relate to (particularly if you spend time in the CT section of BAUT!)

After that, I decided to just start from the beginning and read them all again. Shouldn't take long; they're all pretty quick reads.

2010-Dec-27, 03:54 PM
David Brin's "Otherness" is a good collection of short stories. Salmon of Doubt isn't bad either.

2010-Dec-27, 03:58 PM
Anything with a name such as "Salmon of Doubt" has to be a winner in my book. :-D What kind of stories are they?
ETA: I checked it out at Amazon; I didn't realize that was a Douglas Adams collection, but read the description. I've never actually read any of his stuff, including Hitchhiker

2010-Dec-27, 08:22 PM
Apart from agreeing with the suggestions already mentioned, I'd say the early Zelazny short stories stand out as special, those in the The Last Defender of Camelot collection (review (http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2009/07/review-last-defender-of-camelot-by-roger-zelazny/)).

2010-Dec-27, 09:47 PM
I love Douglas Adams. I loved almost all he wrote, especially the Dirk Gentely books and "Last Chance to See". I thought the last Hitchhiker book was a let down. Oh well, can't expect a guy to be excellent/amazing everytime.

mike alexander
2010-Dec-28, 02:09 AM
By Raphael A. Lafferty: "One at a Time","Land of the Great Horses", "Continued on Next Rock"

By Craig Strete: "Nocka-Nocka, or, the Dirty Old Man"

By James Tiptree: "Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death", "Your Faces, Oh My Sisters! Your Faces Filled with Light!", "The Last Flight of Dr. Ain"

By Cordwainer Smith: "The Game of Rat and Dragon", "The Ballad of Lost C'mell", "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard", "Mother Hittun's Little Kittuns"

By Ray Bradbury: "The Golden Apples of the Sun", "The Machineries of Joy", "The Fog Horn", "Uncle Einar", "In a Season of Calm Weather" and several dozen others

By Robert Heinlein: "The Man Who Traveled in Elephants"

Norman Spinrad: "Carcinoma Angels", "The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde"

By Theodore Sturgeon: "The (Widget), the (Wadget) and (Boff)", "Slow Sculpture", "To Here and the Easel", "Brownshoes" and a dozen others

By Gordon Dickson: "On Messenger Mountain"

By Isaac Asimov: "Unto the Fourth Generation"

By Terry Carr: "The Dance of the Changer and the Three"

B y Clifford Simak: "The Thing in the Stone", "Time Deer", "Skirmish"

By Harlan Ellison: "Pennies, Off a Dead Man's Eyes", "Daniel White for the Greater Good"

By Daniel Keyes: "Flowers for Algernon"

Better stop here.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Dec-28, 09:43 AM
@Mike - an excellent selection! I've read about half of them. Wasn't "The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde" a Jerry Cornelius story?

@Solfe - the Douglas Adams books are not short stories, and therefore are not relevant to this thread, although I for one am perfectly happy to be reminded of them. I've read them all except "Last Chance", which I've heard abridged on tape. (Hmm, might start an audio thread.) His (and John Lloyd's) The Deeper Meaning of Liff is highly recommended by me too.

@Henrik - I went off Zelazny a bit when the second Amber chronicles wandered all over the place, revealed too many "ordinary" people who knew about Amber, and generally became a melange of stuff. I keep trying to read "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" but every time I start something important comes up and I have to put it aside. The collection you mention sounds good.

@Fazor - thanks for answering my question.

@Romanus - I'm sure I have a copy of "Traveler's Rest" somewhere in the house. Your recommendation has inspired me to look for it next time I'm in the loft.

2010-Dec-28, 05:46 PM
Off the top of my mind:

Rescue Party - Clarke (For how good it makes you feel about being of human race.)

All you zombies - Asimov (For the mind bending number of characters involved in it.)

Cold Equations - Tom Godwin (For the ending even though the science is a bit dodgy.)

From non-SF world:

The Emperor - Frederick Forsyth (For the description of the fight between man and fish)

Paul Beardsley
2010-Dec-28, 06:04 PM
All you zombies - Asimov (For the mind bending number of characters involved in it.)

Not Asimov, Heinlein.

Cold Equations - Tom Godwin (For the ending even though the science is a bit dodgy.)

I've never been able to find a copy of this.

2010-Dec-28, 06:12 PM
Not Asimov, Heinlein.

Ah, my fault. It is indeed Heinlein.

I've never been able to find a copy of this.

If you don't mind an online version, you can find it here. Clicky (http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/13-TheBalticWarCD/TheBalticWarCD/The%20World%20Turned%20Upside%20Down/0743498747__19.htm)