Hertzsprung-Russell rating: F106.5+

Available in: 100 Years Of Science Fiction: Book One



In this visionary tale of a glorious world-to-be, humankind’s airways have become populated with thousands of flying machines that criss-cross the globe delivering goods and sundries. ‘Sundries’ is always plural; you never hear of someone buying a single sundry. While we’re on the subject, what are ‘notions’?  And why are some ice cream desserts called ‘novelties’? Ice cream’s been around forever – there’s no novelty to it any more. Unless, of course, you had the notion to make a novelty ice cream sundry. Now that’s visionary – take note, Mr. Kipling.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: G102

Available in: Strange News From Another Star

A naïve young lad from a peaceful, peaceable kingdom (read: ‘pussies’) journeys to the warring nation next door and witnesses, for the first time in his life, death, suffering and bloodshed. How much bloodshed? Well, they have an actual blood shed – a small wooden structure designed to hold all the blood that’s been shed until they figure out what to do with it. JK, of course. But this story does mess with your head a little bit. No wonder it prompted already-insane Spanish dramatist Jacinto Benavente y Martínez to exclaim when he read it in 1915: ‘You tryin’ to get crazy with us Hesse? Don’t you know I’m loco?” (Christ; that was long way to go for a really outdated Cypress Hill reference.)

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: B10

Available in: The Best Of Raymond Z. Gallun

When a long-abandoned alien ship is found orbiting Jupiter, an intrepid space explorer boards ‘er to discover what he can about the long-abandonees. He examines the aliens’ long-abandoned records, rifles through their long-abandoned underwear drawer and puzzles at their long-abandoned technology (this ‘Zune’ they had – what purpose did it serve?) The result of his intensive six-week, $181,000 investigation? The ship was abandoned. Possibly long ago. And that’s why the space program should be funded by the private sector.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: G/K10

Available in: The Twilight Zone – The Original Stories

A guy with the ability to see all possible future timelines provides people with everyday items they’ll need to better themselves in those timelines – non-slip shoes, scissors, a dildo, a comb (just checking to see if you’re paying attention [he never gives anyone a comb]). This story was made into a classic episode of The Twilight Zone, so if it would help you for me to type like Rod Serling spoke, I’ll try: “THIS IS A story ABOUT A MAN WITH A gift. A GIFT THAT, WHEN opened, ALSO OPENS THE door TO A strange AND OMINOUS place, KNOWN as……LINE?” Pretty good, huh?

Hertzsprung-Russell Rating: M10-4

Available in: The Day It Rained Forever

Things you can’t argue with: a shark attack, gravity, the Mafia and the fact that Ray Bradbury is perhaps the greatest writer of the 20th century in any genre. ‘The Dragon’ is a remarkable fusion of fantasy and time travel, simply constructed and beautifully presented. And if you argue, I’ll send a Mafioso shark to your house to push you down.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: B0.5

Available in: Good Neighbors And Other Strangers

Little blue alien bugs invade Earth and fill hitherto normal people with self-loathing and rabid misanthropy. Apparently the office where I work is their base of operations.  Pangborn is a great writer, but this story didn’t quite cut the mustard. I didn’t relish it at all and just wanted to finish it Quik-ly  (so I use Strawberry Quik as a condiment – sue me.)


Hertzsprung-Russell rating: G0.1

Available in: The Best Of New Dimensions

A 22nd-century rabble rousing artist visits a walled ‘Utopia’ to convince its inhabitants their ‘freedom’ is illusory and that their quotation marks are being used to express false ‘sincerity’. But the sheeple say no thanks-y to this futuristic Banksy and choose to remain high, dumb and happy. I really don’t think sheep deserve their obsequious reputation. Ever tried to tongue-kiss one against its will? They bite!

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: B10-2

Available in: Azazel

This story is part of a series of ‘comedic’ (the great thing about the printed word is that you don’t have to use air quotes: you can use real ones!) fantasies Asimov wrote about a demonic imp named Azazel who grants humans their hearts’ desires, only to leave them disappointed with the results. The moral? Impin’ ain’t easy.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: G106

Available in: Tales From Jabba’s Palace

Tales from Jabba's Palace

Return Of The Jedi aficionados know Bib Fortuna as a head-tentacled bit player at Jabba’s palace; a pale, near-anonymous Rusty the Bailiff to the Hutt’s imposing Judge Wapner. But we always wanted more Bib. Give us more Bib, we pleaded with George Lucas, but an extended ‘Now With 48% More Bib Fortuna!’ version of ROTJ was not forthcoming. And we wept. Then this story came along. It’s all about Bib Fortuna; his character, his desires, his backstory, and his never-ending machinations against Jabba the Hutt. And it was good. So good, in fact, it left me drooling. Luckily, I was wearing a….wait for it…..napkin in the front of my shirt.