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MIND MELD: Table of Contents for the Perfect Short Fiction Anthology (Part 1)

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Very rarely does a short fiction anthology score a home run with every single story it contains. Tastes differ from reader to reader. We asked this week’s participants to play the role of Editor:

Q: If you could publish a short fiction anthology containing up to 25 previously-published sf/f/h stories, which stories would it include and why?

Here’s what they said:

Nancy Kress
Nancy Kress is the author of 26 books of SF, fantasy, and writing advice. Her most recent novel is Steal Across the Sky (Tor, 2009), an SF novel about a crime committed by aliens against humanity 10,000 years ago – for which they would now like to atone. Her fiction has won multiple Nebula and Hugo awards, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

I teach SF often and have never been able to find the exact anthology I want to teach! This would be it. I know there are many wonderful stories I left out either because I had no room (you limited me to 25) or haven’t read them. There are also great writers whose novels I prefer to their short fiction. But this anthology would be a joy to teach.

  1. “Sandkings” by George R.R. Martin
  2. “Nine Lives” by Ursula K. LeGuin
  3. “Houston, Houston, Do You Read” by James Tiptree, Jr.
  4. “Morning Child” by Gardner Dozois
  5. “Johnny Mnemonic” by William Gibson
  6. “A Braver Thing” by Charles Sheffield
  7. “We See Things Differently” by Bruce Sterling
  8. “Firewatch” by Connie Willis
  9. “The Faithful Companion at Forty” by Karen Joy Fowler
  10. “Baby Makes Three” by Theodore Sturgeon
  11. “Continued on the Next Rock” by R.A. Lafferty
  12. “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ
  13. “For I Have Touched the Sky” by Mike Resnick
  14. “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang
  15. “Dead Worlds” by Jack Skillingstead
  16. “Divining Light” by Ted Kosmatka
  17. “Blood Music” by Greg Bear
  18. “The Undiscovered” by William Sanders
  19. “The Stars My Destination” by Alfred Bester
  20. “The Star” by Arthur Clarke
  21. “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” by Neil Gaiman
  22. “Daddy’s World” by Walter Jon Williams
  23. “The People of Sand and Slag” by Paolo Bacigalupi
  24. “Lincoln Train” by Maureen McHugh
  25. “Aye, and Gomorrah” by Samuel L. Delaney

A.M. Dellamonica
A.M. Dellamonica‘s short fiction work has appeared in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, SciFi.Com’s SciFiction, and Strange Horizons, as well anthologies including the upcoming Passing for Human , edited by Steve Utley and Michael Bishop. Her stroy “The Sorrow Fair” appeared in Helix Speculative Fiction. Her first novel, Indigo Springs, appeared in 2008. She has been awarded a Canada Council for the Arts Grant for another work, The Wintergirls. Dellamonica’s web site is at She teaches writing through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.

Today, I’d do an antho of my favorite time travel, alternate history and history-themed stories:

  1. “Backward, Run Backward,” by James Tiptree, Jr. (This, by the way, would also be the title piece of the antho.)
  2. “One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty,” by Harlan Ellison.
  3. “p dolce,” by Louise Marley
  4. “The Undiscovered,” by William Sanders
  5. “Timebox,” by Douglas Lain
  6. “Mozart in Mirrorshades,” by Bruce Sterling and Lewis Shiner
  7. “I, Iscariot,” the first Michael Bishop story I ever read
  8. “Strawberry Spring,” by Stephen King, which isn’t exactly time travel but which strikes a note of nostalgia for times past that would fit with the rest.
  9. “A Sound of Thunder,” by Ray Bradbury
  10. “Santacide,” by Eliot Fintushel
  11. “Receding Horizon,” by Jonathan Lethem and Carter Scholtz
  12. “There’s a Hole in the City,” by Richard Bowes
  13. Harry Turtledove’s “Counting Up” and “Counting Down” diptych
  14. “Fire Watch,” by Connie Willis

Having chosen the above, I would then write Ray Vukcevich, Neil Gaiman, Jessica Reisman, Saladin Ahmed, Peter Watts and Nalo Hopkinson, and beg them each for something appropriate.

Tomorrow, of course, I’d pick an entirely different theme.

Angela Slatter
Angela Slatter writes speculative fiction. Her short stories have appeared in Dreaming Again, Strange Tales II, 2012, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and Shimmer. Her work has had Honourable Mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies and has been shortlisted for an Aurealis Award three times. She blogs at

Okay, wish list for the dream team – which, of necessity, will require a lot of authors to be brought back as zombies for the book launch and tour.

  1. “The Tower” by Marghanita Laski because it’s creepy feeling of dread stays with me to this day even though I first read it when I was fifteen … and that’s a looooooooong time ago.
  2. Angela Carter’s “Peter and the Wolf” because – hell, it’s Angela Carter! There’s just such a wonderful sense of a character’s life turning, pivoting on a single moment that is wonderfully elegant and believable and disturbing.
  3. Emma Donoghue’s “The Tale of the Kiss”, because it comes at the end of a series of beautifully framed, re-written fairytales and then breaks out by being an original tale which gives a lovely sense of continuing a tradition. It makes the reader feel as though they are part of something larger – which is the same sense I got when I read Carter’s In the Company of Wolves, where there’s a line about everyone gathering around the fire to listen to stories – that as a reader you’re part of a broader community and a tradition that has continued for hundreds of years.
  4. China Miéville’s “The Ball Room” because has a wonderfully gruesome feel and reminds me of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw.
  5. Margo Lanagan’s “My Lord’s Man” because the voice of the narrator is so engaging and how he views his Lord and Lady and their relationship is so fascinatingly done – it’s like watching someone crack open a treasure chest and pick through each item inside, seeing what they discard and what they examine is as telling about that character as any physical description a writer might come up with.
  6. I have a vague recollection of a story that may have been called “The Drover’s Wife” – but it’s not the one by Henry Lawson – although it is about a woman left alone in the bush with a new baby while her husband goes off droving for months at a time. A drifter comes visiting and it doesn’t end well. What’s awesome about the story is how it evokes the Australian landscape and that terrible, terrible sense of being alone in a place where just about everything tries to kill you.
  7. Robert Shearman’s “Damned if You Don’t” from Tiny Deaths – Hitler’s dachshund! What more do I need to say? The way Shearman takes you down into the pit of human evil and doesn’t let you know it until absolutely the last moment is awesome. He’s such a skilled and observant writer it’s breathtaking.
  8. Neil Gaiman’s “Bitter Grounds”, because it harks back to traditional zombies instead of using brain-eating same-old, same-old zombies. It’s also a lovely examination of someone just floating through life and losing heart.
  9. Neil Gaiman – again – “Harlequin Valentine”. Because it’s a nasty little tale of love turned on its head and manipulation gone wrong.
  10. Karen Russell’s “Ava Wrestles the Alligator” from St Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves because it walks that fine line between being speculative and mysteriously ‘not’ – you feel like there’s something hidden beneath the story, something you’re not being told and it makes your imagination work overtime, which is something I think good writing should do: leverage off the reader’s imagination.
  11. Aimee Bender’s “Ironhead” from the Willful Creatures collection because it is sad and beautiful ad weird.
  12. Kelly Link’s “Flying Lessons” from Stranger Things Happen because it’s an awesome and inventive take on the Orpheus myth.
  13. And again with the Kelly Link, “Some Zombie Contingency Plans” because it is once again one of those stories that act on your imagination to scare the hell out of you, and one of those stories that doesn’t quickly leave the mind.
  14. Gavin Grant’s “Heads Down, Thumbs Up” because it’s wonderful to see an editor who can actually write fiction and it’s got a terrific fairytale kind of feel to it, like the world is untethered.
  15. Kaaron Warren’s “Dead Sea Fruit” because it is unexpected and delves into that everyday awfulness of relationships and just adds a speculative twist – she is wonderful at the ‘what if’ question.
  16. Lisa Hannett’s “Singing Breath Into The Dead”, in the Music for Another World anthology, because she has the most extraordinary imagination, marrying horror with beauty and some lovely, lovely writing.
  17. Peter M Ball’s “On the Destruction of Copenhagen by the War-Machines of the Merfolk”, because it is tremendously odd and there is a lot more going on in the story than just the destruction of Copenhagen.
  18. Robert Shearman’s “Love Among the Lobelias” from Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical – Satan writes a romance novel. I do not have to justify this choice in any way, shape or form.
  19. Tanith Lee’s “Wolfland”, because it has a great depiction of the relationship between granddaughters and grandmothers, of finding similarities where one thinks there may be none.
  20. Delia Sherman’s “The Fidler of Bayou Teche”, because the voice of the narrator is so engaging that the story’s pace feels a bit like a dance rhythm and I find that fascinating.
  21. John Connolly’s novella in the Nocturnes collection, “The Reflecting Eye”, because it does awesome scary things with mirrors.
  22. Again with Connelly, “Some Children Wander by Mistake”, because (a) the title rocks and (b) clowns. Scary, scary clowns.
  23. Saki’s “Gabriel-Earnest” for a neat werewolf tale mixed with clueless Englishmen.
  24. “Red Reign” by Kim Newman – again a novella, but soooo brilliant, perfectly pitched and darkly imagined.
  25. Oh and what the hell, Le Fanu’s “Camilla” – because, Le Fanu! Vampire woman!
Robert Sabella
Bob Sabella is a high school math teacher who spends his free time editing a monthly online sf fanzine Visions of Paradise and blogging about sf. He published the book Who Shaped Science Fiction? and co-edited Nanking 1937: Memory and Healing with Fei Fei Li.

Science fiction anthologies tend to be either thematic-space opera, galactic empires, sword and sorcery, cyberpunk, steampunk, splatterpunk-or devoted to a specific period of time-best of the year, best of the decade. For historical perspective, I enjoy anthologies which cover specific eras in the field: Brian W. Aldiss & Harry Harrison’s Decade the 40s / 50s / 60s and Isaac Asimov & Martin Greenberg’s The Mammoth Book of [Classic / Golden Age / Vintage / New World / Fantastic] Science Fiction, which examined novellas from the 1930s through the 1970s, are two good examples.

A period which has never been examined, but which was seminal in the development of modern science fiction, was the New Wave era, running roughly from the mid-1960s through the mid 1970s. Detractors claimed it vanished at that point, but supporters, including myself, realize that its influence has been embedded in most science fiction ever since. The 1980s’ Cyberpunk movement could not have existed without the New Wave movement (and certainly without the influence of Samuel R. Delany, one of the most important writers of the New Wave).

Here are the contents of a virtual New Wave Retrospective anthology. It contains authors who were seminal in its creation, those who first became popular during it, and those who were obviously influenced by it (some of whom actually pre-dated the New Wave, but whose post-1960s fiction showed obvious influences of it).

Part One: the Precursers

  1. “Total Environment” by Brian W. Aldiss
  2. “The Voices of Time” by J.G. Ballard
  3. “Riders of the Purple Wage” by Philip José Farmer
  4. “Behold the Man” by Michael Moorcock
  5. “The Dead Lady of Clown Town” by Cordwainer Smith

Part Two: The New Wave Writers

  1. “The White Otters of Childhood” by Michael Bishop
  2. “The Star Pit” by Samuel R. Delany
  3. “The Asian Shore” by Thomas M. Disch
  4. “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison
  5. “Continued on Next Rock” by R.A. Lafferty
  6. “Nine Lives” by Ursula K Le Guin
  7. “Sundance” by Robert Silverberg
  8. “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ
  9. “A Thing of Beauty” by Norman Spinrad
  10. “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” by James Tiptree, Jr.
  11. “The Persistence of Vision” by John Varley
  12. “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories” by Gene Wolfe
  13. “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” by Roger Zelazny

Part Three: Writers Influenced By It

  1. “Kyrie” by Poul Anderson
  2. “The Totally Rich” by John Brunner
  3. “The Electric Ant” by Philip K Dick
  4. “Masks” by Damon Knight
  5. “April Fool’s Day Forever” by Kate Wilhelm
Ian Sales
Ian Sales reviews books for Interzone and DVDs for, and writes his own fiction. He is represented by the John Jarrold Literary Agency. His blogs can be found at and

It’s not always easy to define why a specific story appeals to you, or what it is about it which impresses you so much; and even harder to explain why it becomes a favourite. Excellent writing helps, of course; and a fascinating and inventive premise. But there’s usually something else there, something which resonates, which affects you emotionally, and it is this which elevates the story from merely good to one you reread again and again.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that the twenty-five stories below are among my favourite genre short stories. I say “among” because I wanted to limit the list to one story per author, and some authors have written more than a single story I consider a favourite. Only eight of the stories were published in the years before I started reading science fiction. Some of the stories have won awards, but most haven’t. Some of have been collected repeatedly; others are only available in a single issue of a magazine, or in one anthology. The stories do, however, show quite a wide spread within the genre — which surprised me when I put the list together, as I didn’t think my tastes in science fiction were especially diverse.

And speaking of diversity, I would have liked to present a more diverse roster of authors, but the sad fact is that most of the genre stories I regard as favourites were written by white men. For the record, the list breaks down as 64% male and 36% female. More than half of the stories are by US authors. There is one Australian author, and the rest are British.

The stories are listed in chronological order of original publication.

  1. ‘That Only a Mother’, Judith Merrill (1948)
  2. ‘The Sword of Rhiannon’, Leigh Brackett (1949)
  3. ‘The Time-Tombs’, JG Ballard (1963)
  4. ‘Aye, And Gomorrah’, Samuel R Delany (1967)
  5. ‘And I Awoke And Found Me Here On The Cold Hill Side’, James Tiptree Jr. (1971)
  6. ‘The Lake of Tuonela’, Keith Roberts (1973) – discussed here
  7. ‘A Little Something for Us Tempunauts’, Philip K Dick (1974)
  8. ‘A Woman Naked’, Christopher Priest (1974) – discussed here
  9. ‘Air Raid’, John Varley (1977)
  10. ‘The Gernsback Continuum’, William Gibson (1981)
  11. ‘The Brains Of Rats’, Michael Blumlein (1986)
  12. ‘The View from Venus: A Case Study’, Karen Joy Fowler (1986)
  13. ‘A Gift From The Culture’, Iain M Banks (1987)
  14. ‘Great Work of Time’, John Crowley (1989)
  15. ‘Forward Echoes’, Gwyneth Jones (1990)
  16. ‘FOAM’, Brian Aldiss (1991)
  17. The Road To Jerusalem‘, Mary Gentle (1991)
  18. ‘Forgiveness Day’, Ursula K LeGuin (1994)
  19. ‘In Saturn Time’, William Barton (1995)
  20. ‘Beside the Sea’, Keith Brooke (1995)
  21. A Map of the Mines of Barnath‘, Sean Williams (1995)
  22. ‘Beauty and the Opéra or the Phantom Beast’, Suzy McKee Charnas (1996)
  23. ‘Marrow’, Robert Reed (1997)
  24. ‘The Avatar of Background Noise’, Toiya Kristen Finley (2006)
  25. ‘The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate’, Ted Chiang (2007)
Tinkoo Valia
Tinkoo, an engineer by education & a programmer by vocation, runs Variety SF as a hobby and lives in Bombay, India.

I’ve put some additional constraints on selections. No more than one story by any author or on any subject. And I’ve avoided including “obvious” choices like “The Cold Equations”, “Flowers for Algernon”, “Alamagoosa”, “Superiority”, “Twonky”, …; instead, I have preferred somewhat less widely read stories of those authors – good stories that deserve to be read more widely than they are. Where there was a choice without much compromising of quality, I’ve preferred an online story to one that is not online.

My personal reading has been generally limited to fiction of 1940s & 1950s, & then from 2006 onwards. That’s why other periods get less representation.

List below is by order of publication; most recently published first.

  1. Trailhead” by E.O. Wilson – [ss, The New Yorker, 25 January 2010; hard sf] Life-cycle of a colony of ants! I now understand this is now part of a much longer novel on environment. But it still reads well enough as a story.
  2. “Confido” by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr – [ss, Playboy (US), September 2009] Now no one need be lonely! While this story was written early in Vonnegut’s career, it got published for the first time in 2009 only.
  3. A New Note For Nat” by Gareth Owens – [flash fiction, Nature, 30 August 2007] What if adults couldn’t hear kids’ music?
  4. What’s Expected of Us?” by Ted Chiang – [ff, Nature, 7 July 2005] Story that made me notice Chiang.
  5. The Mountains of Mourning” by Lois McMaster Bujold [novella, Analog, May 1989] An infanticide story for which I could easily see parallels in India. Her solutions, while thoughtful, have actually been tried in India, but with limited success, because roots of the problem are too intricately tied up with the structure of society.
  6. “A Question of Guilt” by Hal Clement [novelette, The Year’s Best Horror Stories: Series IV (1976) ed Gerald W Page] A look at the dark underbelly of medical profession. It’s very unusual to see a very dark story from Clement. And he pulls it off beautifully.
  7. Bagatelle” by John Varley [novelette, Galaxy, October 1976] Defusing a human bomb.
  8. “Plaything” by Larry Niven [ss, If, July/August 1974] Mars rover meets the Martians! This appears to be one of the more obscure stories of Niven, though among his best.
  9. Out, Wit!” by Howard L Myers – [ss, Analog, June 1972] Wrapper matters more than its contents! Among the very best of dark stories of the genre, by a now forgotten master.
  10. “Playback” by Arthur Clarke – [ss, Playboy, December 1966] Probably the best braindump story I’ve see so far.
  11. The Yellow Pill” by Rog Phillips [ss, Astounding, October 1958] Patient claims the psychiatrist is crazy rather then the patient…
  12. Business as Usual, During Alterations” by Ralph Williams [novelette, Astounding, July 1958] Several authors have speculated on “what if stuff were free” – Murray Leinster’s funny look at economic implications, Cory Doctorow & Bruce Sterling’s copyright dystopias, among others. This is by far the best I’ve seen of the class: a cool headed look at the economic implications of free stuff because copying is free.
  13. “Meet Miss Universe” by Jack Vance – [Fantastic Universe, March 1955] When the idea of “feminine beauty” needed to be defined with mathematical rigor!
  14. Youth” by Isaac Asimov – [Space Science Fiction, May 1952] We tend to get less daring as we grow up.
  15. [novelette] Eric Frank Russell’s “Dear Devil“; Other Worlds Science Stories, May 1950] Humanity rises from post-nuclear-war apocalypse – with some external help. Among the best post-apocalypse stories of the genre.
  16. Delilah & the Space-Rigger” by Robert A. Heinlein – [Blue Book, December 1949] Funny story on the movement towards sex-neutral employment opportunities.
  17. Happy Ending” by Henry Kuttner – [ss, Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1948] When a man got what he “desired”! Mid parts get a bit draggy, but it’s as good a psychological thriller as any from Kuttner. And with an unusual story structure.
  18. First Contact” by Murray Leinster – [Astounding, May 1945] While this is one of the widely anthologized stories of the genre, I still include it because it’s one of the few stories I’ve seen that models a first contact scenario very similar to that seen every day in internet transactions: how to go about establishing trust among strangers where the cost of misplaced trust is unacceptably high.
  19. “No Woman Born” by C.L. Moore – [Astounding, December 1944] While not the best of Moore, if you add her joint works with Kuttner, it’s among the science fiction’s most important stories. Said to be the first cyborg story by anyone.
  20. The Harmonizer” by A.E. van Vogt – [Astounding, November 1944] A super-peacekeeper is policing the earth! One of the better stories of van Vogt, but apparently a relatively obscure one.
  21. “The Star Mouse” by Fredric Brown; [novelette, Planet Stories, Spring 1942] When “Mitkey” mouse represented earth during first contact with aliens!
  22. “Rust” by Joseph E Kelleam – [ss, Astounding, October 1939] Among the very best of science fiction’s apocalypse stories, & probably a precursor to Fred Saberhagen’s Berserker series (I haven’t personally read the Berserker stories themselves; only about them). Killing robots meant to destroy the enemy have done a minor change to their mission – “kill everything that lives”, including those who built them.
  23. The Mortal Immortal” by Mary Shelley – [The Keepsake (1934)] One of the earlier story speculating on the problems we’ll face if someone actually achieves immortality.
  24. Micromegas” by Voltaire – [1752?] Using genre props in a satire on society. While this is a well known story, it probably is read less widely than it should be. Many people reading genre probably don’t even associate Voltaire with the genre.
  25. Kaulik & the Princess” by Vishnu Sharma – A young man builds a flying machine to impress the girl he’s mooning, & ends up disturbing gods! While there are a lot of old Sanskrit stories that clearly have genre tropes, they tend to be episodes of larger stories. This one is unusual in that it’s a stand alone story, & from a short fiction collection. Originally published in author’s widely translated Sanskrit collection, Panchtantra, sometime about 200 BC. This is the collection that is said to have inspired The Arabian Nights, & via that Aesop’s Fables. Story linked here is an unusual one in the collection, a good many of which involve talking animals.
Violette Malan
Violette Malan lives in a nineteenth-century farmhouse in southeastern Ontario with her husband. Born in Canada, Violette’s cultural background is Spanish and Polish, which can make things interesting in the kitchen. She has worked as a teacher of creative writing, English as a second language, Spanish, and choreography for strippers. Her most unusual job, if you don’t count writing fantasy novels, was translating letters between lovers, one of whom spoke only English, the other only Spanish. Her novels are available from DAW. Visit Violette on Facebook, or on her website:

Like so many of you, I can say that I’ve probably read thousands of short stories. So I wasn’t surprised when I got this request from SF Signal and almost immediately the titles, or in a few cases the plot lines, of some of these stories began to fly around my brain. It didn’t take me long to realize that most of the stories I was remembering were those I’d read very early in my life, or early in my career as a writer. These were the stores that influenced me most at those stages, and which still resonate for me now. I decided, then, that I would create an anthology of the tales of my youth.

A couple of my choices for authors would be obvious to anyone. Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury are the gods of the short story, for any SF or F fan. For me, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock and Roger Zelazny are almost more important. Leiber since his Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories are the inspiration for my own Dhulyn and Parno books; Moorcock for the chilly perfection of the Elric of Melibone stories, and Zelazny for the elegance and purity of his writing. I haven’t gone for some of the better known of Zelazny’s work, but for the stuff that still resonates for me. Larry Niven is perhaps better known for his novels (especially with Jerry Pournelle), than for his short fiction, but for me he has no greater creation than Beowulf Shaeffer and the tales of Known Space.

I think you’ll detect another theme here. All of these writers stress the importance of the individual, and if their heroes are a trifle manqué, that just makes them all the more real to me. I would love to have had the time to reread the stories several times over, to actually set them in the order I would place them in a real anthology, but it can’t be, so here they are in no order at all.

Fritz Leiber:

  1. “Thieves House” – My first encounter with Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser
  2. “Ill Met in Lankhmar”
  3. “Gonna Roll the Bones” – My husband’s favourite story of all time

Roger Zelazny

  1. “The Bells of Shoredan” – My first encounter with Dilvish the Damned
  2. “Unicorn Variations” – clever in the best way

Ray Bradbury: As the crime writers (and statistics) say, you’re more likely to be killed by someone close to you than by a stranger. Well, it’s also the people closest to you who know what you’re really afraid of.

  1. “The Veldt”
  2. “The October Game”
  3. “All Summer in a Day” – Ah, the casual cruelty of childhood
  4. “Gotcha” – The only story that had such an impact on me that I’ve never been able to re-read it.

Harlan Ellison: As with Bradbury, it’s particularly difficult to choose only one or two examples of Ellison’s work. These are the three that really stand out in my memory

  1. “Repent Harlequin, said the Tick-Tock Man.”
  2. “Shatterday”
  3. “A Boy and his Dog”

Larry Niven:

  1. “The Jigsaw Man” – from Ellison’s Dangerous Visions, and the first time I really saw how something that existed in the here-and-now could become something totally different in the future
  2. “Neutron Star” – My first Beowulf Shaeffer and Known Space story

Michael Moorcock: Alas, I find I no longer own an un-collected and un-revised version of the Elric stories that I remember so well. I’d have to find one if I were actually going to edit this anthology.

Karen Burnham
Karen Burnham reviews for Salon Futura,Strange Horizons, and SF Signal, blogs at Spiral Galaxy Reviews and works for NASA

When I look back at short fiction books that have really stuck with me, I tend to think of single-author collections–Heinlein’s The Past Through Tomorrow or Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others. However, as I’ve been getting myself up to speed with the history of the field, a few anthologies have been invaluable. I’m thinking of Adventures in Time and Space (1946, ed. Healy and McComas) and Dangerous Visions (1967, ed. Harlan Ellison). Those two take a high-quality snapshot of the field at a specific time. If you want to get a feel for sf of the Golden Age, the fastest way to do that is to read Adventures. Dangerous Visions (and its sequel Again, Dangerous Visions) does the same for the New Wave era. Could a similar anthology be put together for today? Probably not–the field is so scattered! To steampunk or not to steampunk? New Weird? Slipstream? It’s crazy. Part of me thinks that you need some distance, maybe 20 years or so, to be able to look back and see how things fell out–what was really important? But I’m inspired by the trailblazing examples of Healy, McComas and Ellison–they didn’t wait, they dove right in! Some of the stories don’t hold up, some of them were awful–so what? So here’s a list I’d put together to try to give people a flavor for what’s happening *now*–they’re all stories I like, but will they be *important* or even *good* 25 years from now? Doesn’t matter–moving forward!

  1. Exhalation” by Ted Chiang (Brilliantly written, pure science)
  2. Crystal Nights” by Greg Egan (Speculative science combined with ethics)
  3. The Little Goddess” by Ian McDonald (Among the best stories from his India-based near future sf)
  4. “Magic for Beginners” by Kelly Link (Amazing story from one of our best writers)
  5. Recovering Apollo 8” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Alt-history featuring a nostalgic streak for the future we might have had)
  6. “Stars Seen Through Stone” by Lucius Shepard (A beautiful and haunting story with excellent imagery and character)
  7. People of Sand and Slag” by Paolo Bacigalupi (Not part of his “Calorie Man” future, but a kick to the gut in terms of environmental devestation)
  8. The Cambist and Lord Iron” by Daniel Abraham (Excellent dissection of an idea for our enlightenment)
  9. “Singing My Sister Down” by Margo Lanagan (Another intimate yet haunting tale)
  10. Spar” by Kij Johnson (Alien and alienating, horrific and illuminating)
  11. “Kiosk” by Bruce Sterling (An incisive look at economics”)
  12. The Empire of Ice Cream” by Jeffrey Ford (Another of my favorite prose stylists in sf/f)
  13. Somadeva: A Sky River Sutra” by Vandana Singh (A beautiful meditation on Story)
  14. “Paul Kishosha’s Children” by Ken Edgett (A heartening story set in Africa)
  15. “Baby Doll” by Johanna Sinisalo (A disturbing extrapolation of youth sexuality)
  16. And the Blood of Dead Gods will Mark the Score” by Gary Kloster (A gritty piece–tattoos, violence, and gender)
  17. Generate E: The Emoticon Generation” by Guy Hasson (Taking the Twitter phenomenon one step further)
  18. “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy)” by Geoff Ryman (Redemption of a kind, in Cambodia)
  19. The Goddess of Discord Lives on Mulberry Street” by Adam Callaway (A spot of surrealism from Flurb)
  20. Throwing Stones” by Mishelle Baker (Gender ambiguity and rich metaphor)
  21. “The Overseer” by Albert Cowdrey (Horror in the Civil War and Reconstruction)
  22. Burn” by James Patrick Kelly (SF looking at the environment and Thoreau)
  23. Stories for Men” by John Kessel (Set in a matriarchal lunar colony)
  24. Second Person, Present Tense” by Daryl Gregory (Neuroscience and identity)
  25. Lobsters” by Charles Stross (Part of his acclaimed Accelerando series)

I’ve put an arbitrary limit on the list, so everything on it dates from 2000 or later. And I’ve refused to repeat authors, although picking a single Ted Chiang or Daryl Gregory story was tough. I hope this list gets the idea across of diversity: in ideas, themes, approaches, sub-genres, and authors. It makes me a bit sad that this list is limited only to things that I’ve read–I know I haven’t read everything, and I’m sure I’m missing some gems (although thank goodness I’m not length-limited, I think at least 8 of those are novellas). But I’m sure that other editors have bemoaned the same state of affairs. I’m looking forward to seeing the other lists in this Mind Meld.

Continued in Part 2

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.

7 Comments on MIND MELD: Table of Contents for the Perfect Short Fiction Anthology (Part 1)

  1. I am somewhat boggled that Robert Sabello manages to put together a TOC for a New Wave anthology, but only 4 of his 25 stories are by Brits. The New Wave was a British sf movement, and only occurred in the US after the publication of an anthology of British SF, England Swings.

  2. Hard to pick out of 100 or so that are s/f/h, but here’s today’s 25


    Barron, Laird – Hallucigenia
    Blackford, Russell – The Soldier In the Machine
    Brackett, Leigh – Black Amazon Of Mars
    Broderick, Damien – Schrodinger’s Dog
    Chiang, Ted – Exhalation
    Denton, Bradley – Sergeant Chip
    Dowling, Terry – Colouring the Captains
    Egan, Greg – Luminous
    Frahm, Leanne – Rain Season
    Howard, Robert E. – Red Nails
    Kress, Nancy – Saviour
    Leinster, Murray – Exploration Team
    Lethem, Jonathan – Vanilla Dunk
    Lovecraft, H. P. – The Colour Out of Space
    McDonald, Ian – Verthandi’s Ring
    Moore, C. L. – Quest Of the Starstone
    Palmer, David R. – Emergence
    Reynolds, Alastair – Diamond Dogs
    Robinson, Spider – Melancholy Elephants
    Shepard, Lucius – Radiant Green Star
    Shiner, Lewis – Pennies From Hell
    Smith, Cordwainer – Mother Hitton’s Littul Kittons
    Steele, Allen M. – The Death of Captain Future
    Stross, Charles – Lobsters
    Williams, Walter Jon – The Green Leopard Plague

  3. Alice Marie Conrad // October 13, 2010 at 7:26 pm //


    I agree that the New Wave as a “movement” in sf was inaugurated by the British, but saying that it “only occurred in the US” after England Swings SF is facile. England Swings SF was published in 1968, a year after Ellison’s Dangerous Visions had been published, which contained stories by Aldiss, Ballard, and Brunner, amongst other already established American New Wave writers.

  4. I love Angela Slattery’s choices and rationales, particularly for Rob Shearman’s story.

  5. Alice: At the time Dangerous Visions was published there was no New Wave movement in the US, although there were certainly US authors inspired by the UK New Wave and writing New Wave fiction. The movement is still more associated with UK sf than with US, which is why an anthology covering it which includes only four Brits surprises me.

  6. Wow.  Thank you, Karen.  I’m speechless.

  7. This Mind Meld is inspiring!  It makes me want to take a couple years off from reading novels and devote myself exclusively to short stories.  But where to find all of these stories?  It’s a shame SF Signal can’t make all these would-be editors into real editors and produce a line of Kindle anthologies. 

    And I think Tinkoo has a calling for this kind of work.

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