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Design Your Own Dream Anthology

After reading so many short stories last year, I have developed a new sense of respect for anthology editors. These fine folks cull through numerous stories and hand-pick the best for our reading pleasure. The task may be made even more challenging if a themed anthology is being created (like military sf, time travel or Armageddon, ), as opposed to a “Year’s Best” or “Best of All Time” anthology. Although, now that I think about it, a “Best of All Time” anthology is no easy task because the length of said book would be finite and even I can come up with enough good short science fiction to fill a book.

Hmmmm. That’s an interesting challenge. So let’s play a game…

You are assigned the task of creating an anthology. Let’s make it easy and not confine it to a single theme. You must pick your favorite short fiction (short stories, novelettes or novellas) that will go into the book. Naturally, the book cannot contain everything and picking a flat number of stories is not necessarily realistic as 10 novellas are way longer than 10 short stories. So let’s use the patented SF-POINTS© system and say:

  • 1 point = Short Story (1,000 – 7,500 words)
  • 2 points = Novelette (7,500 – 17,500 words)
  • 4 points = Novella (17,500 – 40,000)

Your task, then, should you choose to accept it, is to compile a list of short science fiction totalling no more than 50 points. By comparison, the latest Year’s Best anthology by über-editor Gardner Dozois totals 60 points, which is quite large and thus published only in hardback or trade paperback. If you don’t know whether a story is a short story, novellete or novella, I recommend using the Locus Index to Science Fiction as a reference. Of course, if this is too much work, just list your favorite 20 stories, Lazy Bones. šŸ™‚

Here’s my own Dream Anthology…


…with their SF-POINT© values, the stories of which I choose to order by year of first publication:

  1. [2] “The Machine Stops” by E.M. Forster (1909)
  2. [2] “The Roads Must Roll” by Robert A Heinlein (1940)
  3. [2] “Nightfall” by Isaac Asimov (1941)
  4. [2] “Microcosmic God” by Theodore Sturgeon (1941)
  5. [1] “Huddling Place” by Clifford D. Simak (1944)
  6. [1] “Desertion” by Clifford D. Simak (1944)
  7. [2] “Scanners Live In Vain” by Cordwainer Smith (1950)
  8. [2] “The Little Black Bag” by C.M. Kornbluth (1950)
  9. [1] “A Pail of Air” by Fritz Leiber (1951)
  10. [2] “Surface Tension” by James Blish (1952)
  11. [1] “It’s a GOOD Life” by Jerome Bixby (1953)
  12. [2] “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin (1954)
  13. [2] “Fondly Fahrenheit” by Alfred Bester (1954)
  14. [1] “All You Zombies…” by Robert A. Heinlein (1959)
  15. [2] “Flowers For Algernon” by Daniel Keyes (1959)
  16. [1] “‘Repent Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison (1965)
  17. [1] “Light of Other Days” by Bob Shaw (1966)
  18. [4] “A Boy and His Dog” by Harlan Ellison (1969)
  19. [2] “The Bicentennial Man” by Isaac Asimov (1976)
  20. [2] “Think Like a Dinosaur” by James Patrick Kelly (1995)
  21. [2] “Downloading Midnight” by William Browning Spencer (1995)
  22. [4] “Diamond Dogs” by Alastair Reynolds (2002)
  23. [4] “Stories For Men” by John Kessel (2002)
  24. [1] “The Waters of Meribah” by Tony Ballantyne (2003)
  25. [4] “The Ice” by Steven Popkes (2003)

So what does your Dream Anthology look like?

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

3 Comments on Design Your Own Dream Anthology

  1. Last time I tried to do this, I couldn’t get into the Locus index. But I do want to try it. Some of our lists will overlap, of course.

  2. Oh my!! I think “The Machine Stops” is a story that’s been playing in the back of my mind for over 20 years. We read a short story at school that I barely paid attention to at the time, but as years have gone by I’ve wanted to read it agin and again. But the only thing I could remember about it was that a plate broke and the humming stopped and cubicle doors opened and a man met his mother?!?! I’m sure this is it. Am going to buy a copy immediately. Thanks.

  3. Bellulah, FYI…you can also read the story online or see a television adaptation at Google Video.

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