Is there a sci-fi short story that really hit you? Something that struck a chord? Short stories are different from novels – they’re a snapshot of a character incident, usually punchy, usually with a twist line at the end.
I tend not to agree with ‘best of’ lists; everything has its merits and a lot rests on the way the story is received by the reader; one person’s gem might be another’s rubbish. But here are a few that impressed me – there are more, of course. Murray Leinster’s The Aliens; Asimov’s Nightfall. John Campbell’s haunting Who Goes There. The list also includes just about everything Arthur C. Clarke ever wrote. Anyhow:
Arthur Porges – The Ruum (1953)
A dramatic exploration of the psychology of being hunted and of the survival instinct; one man in the Canadian wilds tries to stay alive in the face of a remorseless alien machine.
Cyril M. Kornbluth - The Marching Morons (1951)
A biting satire on post-WW2 American values and the way power corrupts individuals. Still strikes chords today.
Arthur C. Clarke – The Nine Billion Names Of God (1953)
Still the best ever last line of any short story, ever – SF or otherwise.
Isaac Asimov – The Last Question (1956)
Vies with Clarke for best last line; and a provocative take on religion.
Paul Ernst – Nothing Ever Happens On The Moon (1939)
At a time when a lot of SF tended to veer towards spectacle, this tale explored the psychology of isolation.
All of them were old-ish when I first read them – yet they remain timeless. Why? Because each, in their own way, has captured some aspect of the human condition – which remains true for us today.
Has anyone else read these? What do you think of them? And – more to the point – what’s your pick? Do share!
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2012