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MIND MELD: Table of Contents for the Perfect Short Fiction Anthology (Part 2)

[…Continued from Part 1]

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:

Jason Sanford
Jason Sanford‘s novella “Sublimation Angels” was a finalist for this year’s Nebula Award. He is regularly published in Interzone and won their last two Readers’ Polls. Jason has also been published in Year’s Best SF 14, Analog: Science Fiction and Fact, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, The Mississippi Review, Diagram, Pindeldyboz, and other places. His critical essays and reviews can be found in The New York Review of Science Fiction, The Pedestal Magazine, and SF Signal. His website is

My perfect anthology would contrast the “then” and “now” of cutting-edge science fiction. I see many similarities between how science fiction is developing today and how the best science fiction of the 1950s lead into the New Wave movement of the ’60s and ’70s. As Mark Twain once said, “The past may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.” And the science fiction genre has been rhyming to beat the band in recent years.

I’d also include in my perfect anthology stories which were originally published in short form but later expanded into novels. Once these expanded stories are published there is a sad tendency for readers to no longer read the original shorter-length story. Examples of this vary from “The Word for World Is Forest” by Ursula K. Le Guin–published as a novel of the same name in 1976–to “Skinner’s Room” by William Gibson, which he expanded into his Bridge trilogy.


  1. “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury (1950)
  2. “The Nine Billion Names of God” by Arthur C. Clarke (1953)
  3. “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter M. Miller (1955)
  4. “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” by Roger Zelazny (1963)
  5. “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison (1965)
  6. “Aye, and Gomorrah…” by Samuel R. Delany (1967)
  7. “Faith of Our Fathers” by Philip K. Dick (1967)
  8. “The Word for World Is Forest” by Ursula K. Le Guin (1972)
  9. “The Fifth Head Of Cerberus” by Gene Wolfe (1972)


  1. “Tower of Babylon” by Ted Chiang (1990)
  2. “Skinner’s Room” by William Gibson (1991)
  3. “The Wedding Album” by David Marusek (1999)
  4. “The Fluted Girl” by Paolo Bacigalupi (2003)
  5. “Third Day Lights” by Alaya Dawn Johnson (2005)
  6. “Longing for Langalana” by Mercurio D. Rivera (2005)
  7. “The Sky that Wraps the World Round, Past the Blue and Into the Black” by Jay Lake (2008)
  8. “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” by Eugie Foster (2009)
  9. “From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7” by Nnedi Okorafor (2009)
  10. “Eros, Philia, Agape” by Rachel Swirsky (2009)
  11. “The Integrity of the Chain” by Lavie Tidhar (2009)
  12. “Stone Wall Truth” by Caroline M. Yoachim (2010)

Genevieve Valentine
Genevieve Valentine‘s first novel, Mechanique: a Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, is forthcoming from Prime Books in 2011. Her World-Fantasy-Award-nominated short fiction has appeared in, or is forthcoming from: Running with the Pack, Federations, The Living Dead 2, The Way of the Wizard, Teeth, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Escape Pod, and more.

For my dream anthology, I made a vague attempt to balance stories that have meant a lot to me personally with stories that I believe to be genuinely strong. There’s a lot of overlap, I hope, but my attachment to “Bartleby the Scrivener,” for example, is the sort that would rebuff all logical qualitative argument.

  1. “Two Hearts,” Peter S Beagle. One of my favorite writers revisiting the world of The Last Unicorn, one of my favorite books. Sold!
  2. “The Nightingale and the Rose” by Oscar Wilde. I read this as a kid, not realizing that some stories grind your heart into pieces, then kick dirt in your eye. I knew it after this one, though!
  3. “Much Ado” by Connie Willis. I read this in seventh grade, and it’s stayed with me since, which is saying something given my abysmal memory.
  4. “72 Letters” by Ted Chiang. Beautiful, thematically dense, challenging, awesome.
  5. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. Enough said.
  6. “La Reine Blanche” by Tanith Lee. Tanith Lee does inevitability like nobody else; this is a story about the inevitability of inevitability.
  7. “The Lady Or The Tiger?” by Frank Stockton. I disliked this story when I read it in school, and I still do, but there’s no denying it was an important story. (This ends your brief moment of objectivity.)
  8. “The Library of Babel” by Jorge Luis Borges. The bookworm’s Bible.
  9. “Bartleby the Scrivener” by Herman Melville. I have never read this as anything other than a horror story. Some people tell me I should, but I would prefer not to.
  10. “Dogfight” by William Gibson & Michael Swanwick. Spot-on story about the cost of winning.
  11. “In the Company of Wolves” by Angela Carter. Creepy and gorgeous.
  12. “26 Monkeys, also the Abyss” by Kij Johnson. Spare, weird, and beautiful. One of the stories I suggest to people who don’t like short stories.
  13. “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Still not sure why it’s my favorite Holmes, though I figure it must be good to have survived the sheer volume of movie adaptations it’s been through.
  14. “Act One” by Nancy Kress. A genetic-mod yarn that’s hilarious and lonely by turns.
  15. “The Evening and the Morning and the Night” by Octavia Butler. Is “epic” out of style? Can we still use it when it applies?
  16. “The Day Before the Revolution” by Ursula K. Le Guin. An engrossing character study that ends where other stories start.
  17. “The Reach” by Stephen King. Creepy and sweet at the same time.
  18. “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs. Speaking of stories that have stayed with me since, I stopped making wishes after I read this. (I also stopped answering doors.)
  19. “The Birds” by Daphne du Maurier. For when you never want to feel safe near a duck pond again.
  20. “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury. One of my favorite portraits of awful children in science fiction, read at an age where it felt like such children peopled the entire earth.
  21. “The Marching Morons” by C. M. Kornbluth. Some days, you just want to read about how there’s no hope for humanity, you know?
  22. “Somnus’s Fair Maid” by Ann Downer. A fantasy-of-manners fairy tale that’s completely charming in every way.
  23. “What’ll We Do with Ragland Park?” by Philip K Dick. Can a story be delightfully world-weary? Let’s hope so, in this story about the endless bloodlust of politics.
  24. “A Map of the Everywhere” by Matthew Cheney. Turns out some stories just come alive when read out loud. Try it with this one. (Use funny voices!)
  25. “The Last Worders” by Karen Joy Fowler. Sometimes after reading a short story you look for someone else in the room who’s read it, so you can nod at them. This is one of those.
Nancy Jane Moore
Nancy Jane Moore is a member of the online writer’s co-op Book View Café and has stories in most of their e-book anthologies, including the recent Breaking Waves, published to rail money for Gulf oil spill relief. Her collection Conscientious Inconsistencies and novella Changeling remain in print, and her story “Or We Will All Hang Separately” recently appeared on Futurismic.

When I started making up this “anthology,” I thought I might choose a theme: political stories, perhaps, or ones that bend gender in ways I find interesting. But while that is the way fine anthologies are put together, in the end I found I could not bear to part with stories I truly love that did not fit a theme.

So this is an anthology of stories that moved me greatly when I first read them, so greatly that I still remember them very well, even the ones I haven’t re-read in a very long time. They are a mixed bag, a truly personal list, and while I’m sure next week sometime I’ll remember something else I should have included, this list will do for now.

I’ve listed them the way I’d want them published in a book, though I’m not quite sure what the organizing principle is.

  1. James Tiptree, Jr., “The Women Men Don’t See.” I wish I’d discovered Tiptree before I knew who Tiptree was, because I can’t believe anyone could have read it in 1973 and not known the author was a woman. These days I’d be willing to believe a man understood about being such a woman, but not in 1973.
  2. “What I Didn’t See” by Karen Joy Fowler – There was great controversy when this story won the Nebula, with many purists claiming it had no speculative element at all. I suggest they re-read it in light of the Tiptree story and think again.
  3. “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ – This is not only my favorite of Russ’s works, but it might be my favorite short story ever. And that’s despite the fact that some of my best friends are men and I really want to rewrite the ending.
  4. “The Heat Death of the Universe” by by Pamela Zoline – This story, which was slipstream before slipstream was invented, is yet another argument for my thesis that the best feminist fiction of the 1960s and 70s was written as science fiction.
  5. “The View from Venus” by by Karen Joy Fowler – I cannot read romance and will tell you that I’m not a big fan of love stories. But this is a love story of sorts, and I love it passionately.
  6. “All My Darling Daughters” b yby Connie Willis – I’m fond of Willis’s romantic comedies, but this isn’t one of them. It’s a powerful story that knocked my socks off when I first read it in the Ellen Datlow anthology, Alien Sex. I’m sure there were some other good stories in that anthology, but this is the one I remember.
  7. “The Madonna of the Maquiladora” by Gregory Frost – A political story set on the Texas-Mexico border, told in second person and present tense. Oh, God, I wish I had written it.
  8. “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow” by Ursula K. Le Guin – After I read this story, I could never take seriously any story in which the classic male hero blasts his way to success on the alien planet.
  9. “The Pragmatical Princess” by Nisi Shawl – A princess set out for a dragon: That’s traditional fantasy, but nothing else about this story is. By now you may have gathered that I really like stories that take traditional tropes and turn them on their heads.
  10. “Boobs” by Anne Harris – Yes, it’s about breasts. And other body parts. And no, it’s probably not exactly what you’re thinking.
  11. “Dangerous Space” by Kelley Eskridge – Real music. Dangerous music. And people who walk on the edge.
  12. “The Fool’s Tale” by L. Timmel Duchamp – The details of this story are so thorough that I cannot figure out which among the historical details were invented and which actually exist.
  13. “Tales of the Golden Legend” by Robert Freeman Wexler – I first read this story when Robert and I were at Clarion West. I loved it then and I loved it now. It’s maybe the most joyful story I ever read, and is my favorite among all the new weird/slipstream/stories that don’t quite fit anywhere genre.
  14. “The Door Gunner” by Michael Bishop – You want a great war story – and who doesn’t – this is it.
  15. “The Man Who Lost the Sea” by Theodore Sturgeon – Is there a better story anywhere on the “why” of space travel?
  16. “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe – This is a sentimental favorite, dating back to seventh grade, when our English teacher closed all the blinds, turned out the lights, and read it to us.
  17. “Empire Star” by Samuel R. Delany – As a novella, this may be a bit long for this anthology, but it is my favorite of Delany’s shorter pieces. In an age where simplex reasoning would be an improvement, the concepts of complex and multiplex thinking are more important than ever.
Steven H Silver
Steven H Silver is the editor of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus, the publisher of ISFiC Press, editor of three anthologies for DAW Books, and the author of several short stories, the next, “In the Night,” appearing in Love and Rockets in December. He recently edited a two volume collection of Lester del Rey’s short fiction for NESFA Press.

In creating this list, I set certain guidelines for myself, with the intention of breaking them whenever I wanted to. I wanted stories that weren’t award winners, although you’ll note that one of them recent won the Nebula Award and others have been nominated for various awards. I wanted stories that haven’t been reprinted too many times, although some of the stories are easily found. I wanted to avoid including too many alternate history stories, but as a judge of the Sidewise Award, I’ve read a lot of those over the last fifteen years. I didn’t want to include more than one story by an individual author, and I managed to keep to that rule, although some of the authors have multiple stories I enjoy. Some of the stories are influential on the field, some have an important point to make, and some I just enjoyed and would like to see known by a broader audience.

  1. Murray Leinster, “Sidewise in Time,” Astounding, 6/34. I named the Sidewise Awards after this story, so clearly I enjoyed it. In fact, although Leinster presents several alternative worlds in the story, it is more a multiple universe story with each of those universes encroaching on parts of our own world and his characters trying to move through their own world as it is dotted with groups from other timelines.
  2. “Fane of the Black Pharoah” by Robert Bloch, Weird Tales, 12/37. Bloch’s rather straightforward tale within the Cthulhu mythos doesn’t employ any of the horrific monsters that populate so much of the mythos, but does use history to build an ancient wonder that only becomes horrifying as the story plays out.
  3. “The Wheels of If” by L. Sprague de Camp, Unknown, 10/40. de Camp uses the idea of multiple worlds before he settles into a timeline in which North America is settled by the Norse. Once there, he mixes the discovery of the alternate setting with a police procedural and a mystery as his protagonist tries to live the life of the person he replaced.
  4. “It Didn’t Happen” by Fredric Brown, Playboy, 10/63. An existential story in which Brown looks at where someone gets their morality in a world in which other people literally don’t matter. A wonderful bit of paranoia and self importance.
  5. “The Horror Out of Time” by Randall Garrett, F&SF, 3/78. Garrett’s take on the Cthulhu mythos, although with a twist ending that makes it horrific satire rather than the simply horrific. To say more would ruin the ending.
  6. “The Fundamental Right” by Doug Larsen, Analog, 5/92. Larsen looks at the quadrennial presidential election and tries to figure out how to make issues take a front seat to personality. The story stayed with me, although I couldn’t remember who wrote it. Asking Stan Schmidt didn’t help because he didn’t remember it. Eventually, I managed to rediscover it in my collection.
  7. “Must and Shall” by Harry Turtledove, Asimov’s, 11/95. I finished reading this short story of New Orleans occupied by Federal forces long after the end of the Civil War and later found myself wanting to return to find out what happened next, only to remember it was a short story, not a novel.
  8. “The Ladies of Grace Adieu” by Susanna Clarke, Starlight, 1996. Not necessarily the best of Clarke’s short fiction, but representative and it served as her introduction, providing hints of what to expect in her eventual masterpiece debut novel, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.
  9. “Abandon in Place” by Jerry Oltion, Analog, 12/96. Oltion would turn this story into a novel, but the full impact of the space age ghost story is presented in this shorter form, undiluted by the additional plotlines necessary for the novel.
  10. “The Babe, the Iron Horse and Mr. McGillicuddy” by Ben Bova & Rick Wilber, Asimov’s, 3/97. The story of two all-star teams of baseball’s greatest at their prime against each other in a story which is an odd blend of W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe and the musical Damn Yankees.
  11. “Billy Mitchell’s Overt Act” by William Sanders, Alternate Generals, 1998. Billy Mitchell, who had incurred the enmity of the armed forces, has the opportunity to put his version of the air corps into reality at Pearl Harbor. Sanders gives his fictional version of the general the same types of problems to overcome as the real world did.
  12. “Kaddish for the Last Survivor” by Michael Burstein, Analog, 11/00. Specifically about the death of the last survivor of the Holocaust and the way it effects his granddaughter, Burstein’s story is also about the death of customs and cultures and the fact that their extinction can be caused by the choice of a culture’s practitioners as well as imposed by outsiders.
  13. “Seventy Two Letters” Ted Chiang, Vanishing Acts, 2000. Winner of the Sidewise Award, this is a story in which Jewish mysticism functions as science and a look at the social conscience needed to apply scientific principles and extrapolate morality.
  14. “A Book, By Its Cover” by P.D. Cacek, Shelf Life, 2002. Originally published in a small press edition, it was picked up for David Hartwell’s Year’s Best anthology. It looks at the tie between people and their favorite books set against the backdrop of Kristallnacht in Germany in the 1930s.
  15. “Somewhere in My Mind There Is a Painting Box” by Charles de Lint, The Green Man, 2002. Magic permeates de Lint’s worlds, but in an almost naturalistic manner. This story presents a missing persons problem, the creative process, and, of course, de Lint’s magic.
  16. “The Héloïse Archive” by L. Timmel Duchamp, Love’s Body, Dancing in Time, 2004. A retelling of the story of Abelard and Heloise from Heloise’s point of view. An excellent (and rare) example of an alternate history that does not rely on warfare to change the world or to tell its story.
  17. “A Key to the Illuminated Heretic” by A.M. Dellamonica, Alternate Generals 2, 2005. The story of a Joan of Arc who wasn’t burned at the stake, but simply imprisoned, and the difficulties she has dealing with those who she helped establish in a world where they have to deal with her as a troublesome person rather than as an honored martyr.
  18. “Recovering Apollo 8” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Asimov’s, 2/07. Another Sidewise Award winner and non-military alternate history which serves up the nostalgia of the space age. In this case, the failure of an early Apollo manned mission and the way that even its failure could capture the imagination of the world in a way that the current space program no longer can.
  19. “Quaestiones Super Caelo et Mundo” by Michael F. Flynn, Analog, 7/07. Tying for the Sidewise Award with Rusch’s story is Flynn’s recreation of the Medieval style of teaching through questioning which successfully manages to recreate the period and tell a story about the advancement of science.
  20. “The Cambist & Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics” by Daniel Abraham, Loggorhea, 2007. This is a clever fable which uses exchange rates to tell the story of a cambist, one who trades money, who must provide advice to a tyrant. Abraham uses traditional tropes of fairy tales to tell his story of using one’s own wits to overcome hardship.
  21. “A Buyer’s Guide to Maps of Antarctica” by Catherynne Valente, Clarkesworld 5/08. Not really a short story, Valente’s work uses descriptions of maps to form an almost epistolary story of the feud between two rival cartographers and explorers.
  22. The Women of Nell Gwynne’s by Kage Baker, Subterranean Press, 2009. This one won this year’s Nebula Award and was nominated for a Hugo, so it isn’t exactly forgotten, but it was originally published in a very limited edition that sold out quickly. It tells the story of a select group of female spies in London.
Rick Klaw
Professional reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon, Rick Klaw has supplied countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including The Austin Chronicle, The San Antonio Current, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, SF Site, Moving Pictures, RevolutionSF, King Kong Is Back!, Conversations With Texas Writers, Farscape Forever, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains Universe, and Steampunk. MonkeyBrain Books published the collection of his essays, reviews, and other things Klaw, Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century (with an amazing gorilla gumshoe cover by World Fantasy Award Winner John Picacio). He can often be found pontificating on Twitter and over at The Geek Curmudgeon.

Stories featuring apes are almost as old as the art of storytelling. There are stories about apes in most societies. Simians, especially the great apes, play an integral, vital role in our culture, our collective unconsciousness. These creatures represent a part of humanity that must remain hidden. They can be both savage and gentle. They are much like man but they are not men. With their human-like appearance and actions, it’s easy to see what Darwin saw. They may be humanity’s closest relation. How could apes not fascinate?

Early art influenced by apes includes Shakespeare’s Tempest, Workshop Bestiary (12th Century text, one of the earliest English bestiaries), the fairy tale “Beauty & the Beast”, Monkey Breaker (c. 1425-50. This medieval painting is one of the first to feature apes), Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus by Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, John Gay, Thomas Parnell, and John Arbuthnot (1741. One of the first collaborations of the Scriblerus Club). According to legend, Aesop was a baboon, granted speech by Isis and storytelling by the Muses.

The first definitive pop culture reference to a great ape was in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726). When the diminutive Gulliver is among the Brobdingnag giants, he encounters a giant chimpanzee. (Swift does not name the creature as such but with the first science book to describe chimpanzees in 1699, there is no doubt that was what the author was referring to. The chimpanzee was not named until 1788.)

It would be almost a century after Swift’s masterpiece before a book featuring a simian was published. Thomas Love Peacock’s Melincourt, or Sir Oran Haut-ton (1817), a satire about an educated orangutan who becomes a member of Parliament, was the first tale to actually mention a species of great ape. Produced sometime between 1809-1822, the anonymous The Comical Tale of the Baboon was published as part of a series of animal autobiographical tales. 1835 saw the release of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Monikins, a story of a lost civilization of intelligent apes. Cooper’s tale would go on to influence Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan, Gorilla City from Flash (DC Comics), and pretty much every other story that features a society of intelligent simians.

Edgar Allan Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841), cited incorrectly by many to be the first detective fiction story, informed a different view of apes. The murderer, an orangutan, savagely maims and kills with no remorse. Poe created a beast of terror. Primarily thanks to that portrayal, the majority of future ape stories show these animals as savage beasts to be feared.

The 1859 publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species spawned another type of simian story: apes behaving as humans. This type of story existed before Darwin’s work, but now with the concept of humans and primates as one family, they flourished with works by Thomas De Quincey, Robert Louis Stevenson, H. G. Wells, and many others.

By the beginning of the next century, the ape was a significant and regular part of fiction with Rudyard Kipling, Franz Kafka, and Gaston Leroux all contributing works, but these tales were stylistically still apart of the previous century. The 20th century for the cultural gorilla really begins in October, 1912.

Without a doubt, the king of the literary ape story is Edgar Rice Burroughs with his Tarzan adventures. Beginning in 1912 in All-Story Magazine, the story of an English aristocrat raised by apes transcended its pulp beginnings and thrust the simian into the mainstream. With Tarzan, Burroughs presented the world in black and white, where good is good and evil is evil. The Jungle Lord himself spoke to the noble savage within. Despite the inherent racism with in the novel, the publication of Tarzan of the Apes is a watershed moment in 20th century pop culture.

In the early part of the century, Edgar Rice Burroughs certainly wasn’t the only one using gorillas in fiction. Throughout the thirties and forties, apes appeared regularly in the pulps including stories by Max Brand, Earle Stanley Gardner, L. Sprague de Camp and others.

With the 1930 publication of Wyndam Lewis’s The Apes of God, the simian took on a new role in literature: representing a being who is the parody of humankind or of a deity. Other examples include C. S. Lewis’s The Last Battle (1956), Herbert Rosendorf’s German Suite (1972), and Robert Irwin’s Arabian Nightmare (1983).

During the second half of the 20th century stories featuring intelligent and wise apes-as-humans and dark fables of transformation became popular simian tales. Stories such as Roger Price’s J. G. the Upright Ape (1960), Pierre Boulle’s Swiftian satire La Planete des Singes (The Monkey Planet, 1963), Hans Werner Henze’s opera Der junge Lord (The Jungle Lord 1965), Paddy Chayefsky’s Altered States (1978), Michael Crichton’s Congo (1980 also a return to the lost world gorilla novel), Pat Murphy’s Rachel In Love (1987 which is but one of the tales that explores feminism from the perspective of caged animals), Bernard Malamud’s God’s Grace (1982), Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael (1992) and others treat the complexities of human existence through the lens of ape reality.

Surprisingly, given the simian’s important and influential role in popular culture, only one anthology of ape fiction exists. Published in 1978 by Corgi, The Rivals of King Kong collected eight reprinted stories, two originals, and excerpt from one of H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quartermain books. Editor Michel Parry contributed the introduction and checklist of simian cinema. The difficult-to-locate paperback original commands collectible prices, ranging from $30-$200), when found.

My well chronicled proclivity toward apes in fiction, be it film, comics, or even prose, led to my desire to compile my ultimate ape fiction anthology.

  1. “Murders in the Rue Morgue – Edgar Allan Poe
  2. “Dr. Hudson’s Secret Gorilla” by Howard Waldrop
  3. “An Ape About the House” by Arthur C. Clarke
  4. “Red Shadows” by Robert E. Howard – (Solomon Kane vs a gorilla in Africa!)
  5. “Quidquid volueris” by Gustave Flaubert
  6. “The Saint” by V. S. Pritchett
  7. “After King Kong Fell” by Philip Jose Farmer – (The disturbing, twisted account of the dark days following the defeat of Kong.)
  8. “Ubermensch” by Kim Newman
  9. “Cult of the White Ape” by Hugh B. Cave
  10. “Her Furry Face” by Leigh Kennedy
  11. “The Soul of a New Machine” (Doom Patrol #34 May 1990) – written by Grant Morrison, art by Richard Case and John Nyberg – (A brilliant satire of gay love from the pages of the Doom Patrol comic book. Yes, a comic…it’s my anthology and my rules.)
  12. “Deviation from a Theme” by Steven Utley
  13. “The Maze of Maal Dweb” by Clark Ashton Smith
  14. “Godzilla’s Twelve Step Program” by Joe R. Lansdale (Though not the main character, the crippled post-fall, Barbie-loving Kong plays a central role in the tale.)
  15. “Gorilla Suit” by John Shepley
  16. “Rachel in Love” by Pat Murphy
  17. “Evil Robot Monkey” by Mary Robinette Kowal – (At less than 1,000 words, this tale of an artistic chimp is perhaps the shortest story ever nominated for a Hugo.)
  18. “The Strange Island of Dr. Nork” by Robert Bloch
  19. “The Voices of Time” by J. G. Ballard
  20. “The Albino Gorilla” by Italo Calvino
  21. “A Report to an Academy” by Franz Kafka – (Opens with the memorable: “Honored members of the Academy! You have done me the honor of inviting me to give your Academy an account of the life I formerly lead as an ape.”)
Kelley Eskridge
Kelley Eskridge is the author of the New York Times Notable Novel Solitaire (which will be published in a new edition by Small Beer Press in January 2011) and the collection Dangerous Space. She’s a winner of the Astraea Prize, a three-time Nebula finalist, and has a screenplay currently in development. She is the Board Chair of the Clarion West Writers Workshop.

There are stories I like, and then there are the stories that give me an electric connection of recognition, whether comfortable or not. I’m an emotional writer, and I remember how exciting it was for me to discover that speculative fiction was chock full of stories told from an emotional base, not just a “big idea.” There’s room for me, I thought, and jumped in.

These are some of the stories that did that for me – that made me see myself in speculative fiction, and that pushed me to add my voice to the conversation. They are stories of rhythm and riff and emotional punch; of choice and consequence. Speculative fiction is such a wonderful playground for exploring humanity, and that’s what I find in these stories.

  1. “The Body” by Stephen King
  2. “The Long Walk” by Richard Bachman
  3. “Game Night at the Fox and Goose” by Karen Joy Fowler
  4. “The Women Men Don’t See” by James Tiptree, Jr.
  5. “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs” by Harlan Ellison
  6. “Jeffty is Five” by Harlan Ellison
  7. “The Winter Beach” by Kate Wilhelm
  8. “It Was The Heat” by Pat Cadigan
  9. “The Saturn Game” by Poul Anderson
  10. “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card
  11. “Souls” by Joanna Russ
  12. “San Diego Lightfoot Sue” by Tom Reamy
  13. “April 2000: The Third Expedition” by Ray Bradbury (from The Martian Chronicles).
  14. “Stardance” by Spider Robinson and Jeanne Robinson
Sanford Allen
Sanford Allen is a musician and former newspaper reporter from San Antonio, Texas. He gave up on journalism after he found out it’s more fun to tell lies than to uncover the truth. Since then, more than two dozen of his horror and dark fantasy stories have been featured in magazines, web publications and anthologies. His band, Boxcar Satan, recently finished a six-month stint as house band in R’lyeh.

Here’s the contents of my imagined anthology, called Horror? Dark Fantasy? Or Just Goddamned Weird?

I’m not sure there’s any underlying theme that runs through these 25 stories, other than they’re all plenty dark and they all inspired me to write or to keep writing. If you twisted my arm a bit, and maybe even licked my earlobe, I might concoct some cockamamie story about there being a thread of surrealism and absurdity that runs through most (but not all). I tend to like my dark fiction with a side of either.

Or, even better, both.

  1. “A Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka
  2. “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor
  3. “The Drowned World” by Jeffrey Ford
  4. “I am the Doorway” by Stephen King
  5. “In the Hills, the Cities” by Clive Barker
  6. “Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man’s Back” Joe R. Lansdale
  7. “The Scythe” by Ray Bradbury
  8. “The Last Day” by Richard Matheson
  9. “Moon on the Water” by Mort Castle
  10. “The Neglected Garden” by Kathe Koja
  11. “The Motion Demon” by Stefan Grabinski
  12. “The Belonging Kind” by William Gibson
  13. “Our Temporary Supervisor” by Thomas Ligotti
  14. “At the Mountains of Madness” by H.P. Lovecraft
  15. “In the Bag” Ramsey Campbell
  16. “A Pail of Air” by Fritz Leiber
  17. “The Events at Poroth Farm” by T.E.D. Klein
  18. “The Drowned Giant” by J.G. Ballard
  19. “Delia and the Dinner Party” by John Shirley
  20. “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison
  21. “The Unfortunate” by Tim Lebbon
  22. “San Andreas” by Caitlin R. Kiernan
  23. “Lilies” by Iain Rowan”
  24. “My Father’s Mask” by Joe Hill
  25. “Mysterium Tremendum” by Laird Barron
Scott A. Cupp
Scott A. Cupp is a short story writer from San Antonio. He has been nominated for the John W. Campbell Award as Best New Writer and the World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology. He lost both. He is a former co-owner of Adventures in Crime and Space bookstore in Austin. His website features links to several odd stories including “Johnny Cannabis and Tony, the Purple Paisley (Sometimes) Colored White Lab Rat“. You should check it out.

This anthology is entitled STUFF SCOTT REALLY LIKES so there is no underlying theme other than my normal obsessions

  1. “Manatee Gal Won’t You Come Out Tonight?” by Avram Davidson – I loved this story from the first time I ever read it and it is still great!
  2. “Angel’s Egg” by Edgar Pangborn – A great, moving first story from an unjustly forgotten writer.
  3. “Instructions” by Bob Leman – one serious twisted horror/sf/first contact story that will warp your mind.
  4. “The Lady Who Sailed the Soul” by Cordwainer Smith – not my favorite CS story (that would be “The Dead Lady of Clown Town”) but I love this story of Helen America and Mr. GreyNoMore.
  5. “The Voice in the Night” by William Hope Hodgson – another horror piece with great atmosphere.
  6. “Flying Saucer Rock and Roll” by Howard Waldrop – Time to change the mood a little with a wonderful Waldrop tale.
  7. “The Big Flash” by Norman Spinrad – probably the ultimate in science fiction rock and roll, short of Brad Denton’s Wrack And Roll and Gwyneth Jones’ Bold As Love novel sequence.
  8. “Winter on the Belle Forche” by Neal Barrett Jr. – the true story of Emily Dickinson’s trip out west and her encounter within Liver Eating Johnson!
  9. “For the Sake of Grace” by Suzette Hadin Elgin – a science fiction story about poetry and power.
  10. “Herman Melville, Space Opera Virtuoso” by John Kessell – I’ve loved Kessell’s work from the beginning and this piece in particular. It is not in his Arkham House collection because it already had a Herman Melville story (Another Orphan) in. You cannot have too many great Melville stories in a collection!
  11. “Catch That Zeppelin!” by Fritz Leiber – Hard to choose only one Leiber story. I wanted “A Desk Full of Girls” or “Gonna Roll the Bones” or any of 30 or 40 others, but I arbitrarily limited myself to one per writer.
  12. “Pigeons From Hell” by Robert E. Howard – Again I could have chosen several but this one is great creepy southern Gothic.
  13. “Rats in the Walls” by H.P. Lovecraft – Not a Mythos story, but good creepy fun. If I have Howard, I got to have Lovecraft and…
  14. “City of the Singing Flame” by Clark Ashton Smith – a rollicking superscience SF adventure from one of the premier fantasists. Got to use the expanded version which integrates the sequel into the main story line.
  15. “Pretty Maggie Money Eyes” by Harlan Ellison – A more modern piece of fantasy from a wonderful stylist.
  16. “The Terminal Beach” by J.G. Ballard – Again, 20 or 30 to choose from and I am not sure why this one was the one. Awesome imagery and style.
  17. “Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man’s Back” b y Joe R. Lansdale – Absolutely incredible vision of a post Holocaust world with plants.
  18. “The Persistence of Vision” by John Varley – a story that has haunted me ever since I first read it. Gut-wrenchingly beautiful.
  19. “He That Hath Wings” by Edmond Hamilton – With great power and great love comes great sacrifice. Different from most of Hamilton’s work (which I like).
  20. “Vintage Season” by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore – Frequently attributed to just C. L. Moore, it is now generally accepted as a collaboration. A different look at time travel and time travelers.
  21. “… And He Built a Crooked House” by Robert A. Heinlein – I did a paper on this in high school that I used in a math conference and a science fair (finished last and got an Honorable Mention, respectively). A four dimensional house is a wonderful place!
  22. “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones” by Samuel R. Delany – About as far from Heinlein as you go. I love Delany’s work up through about Dahlgren and I sampled much after that, including Stars In My Pockets Like Grains Of Sand which was brilliant but incomplete.
  23. “Behold, The Man” by Michael Moorcock – the novella version which won a Nebula. An odd view of a possible life of Christ.
  24. “The Man Who Lost the Sea” by Theodore Sturgeon – Sturgeon was a master short story teller and there were many I could have chosen. This story blew my socks off and still does. Amazing!
  25. “A Rose For Ecclesiastes” by Roger Zelazny – My favorite piece of short science fiction, though all of these could qualify. Art, religion, and beauty combine. In the original appearance, it had a masterful cover from Hannes Bok.

On any other day it might be a different group. I wanted to include Jack Vance, Brian Aldiss, Philip Jose Farmer, T: Sherred, Clifford Simak, James M. Schmitz, Lord Dunsany, Thomas Burnett Swan, Robert Scheckley, Charles deLint, Robert Bloch, Cyril Kornbluth, Fred Pohl, Manly Wade Wellman, Karl Edward Wagner, Philip K. Dick, Bradley Denton. John W. Campbell and more. The list goes on and on.

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.

4 Comments on MIND MELD: Table of Contents for the Perfect Short Fiction Anthology (Part 2)

  1. Guy Plunkett III // October 13, 2010 at 8:56 am //

    Wonderful anthologies all! … if I was in a bookstore with all of them on the shelf, and could only buy one (no!), I’d linger longest on the decision between Jason Stanford’s and Scott Cupp’s

  2. It seems to be just me, but I can’t get interested in short stories.  You just get into the story and the characters and they are over.

  3. @Chad:  Funny…I always saw that as a sign of a good story.  I’d much rather have that than a book that overstays its welcome. 🙂

  4. Jeff VanderMeer // October 13, 2010 at 8:01 pm //

    If I have time tomorrow, I’ll rate these from “most expensive” to “least expensive”, in terms of acquiring the stories. Heh.


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