Hertzsprung-Russell rating: G10-3.5

Available in: 75 Short Masterpieces


A rambling old grandmother in an equally rambling old house warns her grandkids to steer clear of the magical trunk in the attic – it’ll swallow them whole, she warns. They ignore her (as all elderly people everywhere should be ignored) and, sure enough, they vanish one by one as they climb inside. No big loss: if the magical trunk didn’t get them, the bewitched china cabinet or the enchanted credenza would have.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: F0.1

Available in: The Best Science Fiction Of Arthur Conan Doyle

In this story, Doyle postulates colonies of bloodthirsty creatures which inhabit the upper skies, attacking and beheading aviators and tossing their noggin-less corpses to the ground far below. So, technically, The Weather Girls were correct. Initially this premise is horrifying, but having recently sat through The Green Hornet on a four-hour Air Canada flight to Tampa, a mid-air beheading doesn’t sound so bad.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: A/F106.5+

Available in: The Best Of Edmond Hamilton

When scientists discover the sun is about to ‘splode, they devise an ingenious plan: build giant jets in New Zealand and use them to steer the planet to a more hospitable galaxy. It’s a logistical nightmare, but humankind moves Heaven and Earth to move Heaven and Earth to someplace less blowy-uppy. Plus, New Zealand is now obliterated by giant jets, but fuck those guys. Full disclosure: this post is sponsored by Tourism Australia to counter the previous post sponsored by Tourism New Zealand.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: M106.5+

Available in: The Science Fiction Hall Of Fame Volume I

A pair of precocious pre-teens opens a portal to another dimension using nothing but highly-advanced futuristic technology and the prose of Lewis Caroll. Kids; always getting into other dimensions!  ‘Lewis Padgett’ is actually the pen name of a husband and wife scifi writing team, so most Padgett stories involve aliens arguing about money.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: B/A1

Available in: The Third Galaxy Reader


A highly intelligent alien is captured (couldn’t be that intelligent, if they caught him), tortured, brainwashed, and imprisoned on Earth where his superior mind is used to judge a cake-baking contest. Insidious, to be sure. If, however, such initial brutality could guarantee the moistness of all future Earth desserts, I believe we’d have no choice but to support it.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: A10-3

Available in: Button, Button

In a radioactive, post-apocalyptic America (where, in addition to red states and blue states, there are now incandescent green states), a clan of mutant backwoods hillbillies go about their daily lives, which involve foraging for food and having body parts fall off. So, basically, if you live in the American South and there’s a nuke war, you’re really no worse off than you were before.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: O1

Available in: Creatures From Beyond

A young couple discovers that common housecats are actually an intelligent alien species from space. They’re here, no doubt, to plunder our lasagna reserves and enslave humankind in the litter mines of Katssell. And dogs are all, like, “Dude, we told you. Didn’t we tell you?”