Hertzsprung-Russell rating: A10-4.5

Available in: Irish Folk Tales

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Two travelers on a lonely road encounter a demonic pig. Terrified, they run, but the bedeviled ham follows them until it vanishes mysteriously, leaving just a whiff of brimstone in the air. Delicious, delicious bacon-scented brimstone. Personally, I prefer my fictional pigs friendly, bipedal and wearing white gloves while gesturing invitingly for me to eat them. That’s also how I prefer my women.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: F10-5

Available in: The Book Of Fantasy

A woman is sitting alone in a house. She knows she is alone in the whole world: every other living thing is dead. The doorbell rings. That’s not a synopsis – that’s the whole story (the Coles Notes are ‘Woman. Alone. Doorbell.’) Writing of this brevity was common in the early twentieth century, when a single piece of typewriter paper cost more than a pair of spats. Spats, in turn, cost so much that people would fight over them in the streets. These disagreements were called ‘spats spats’ and could easily escalate into full-blown spattles.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: O103.5

Available in: The Coming Of The Robots

A Martian robot crash-lands in Australia (which is really close to picturesque New Zealand, by the way) and battles both the rude locals and the poorly-performing Australian dollar in an attempt to get back to his home on the red planet. Australia has a lot in common with Mars: both are sandy, devoid of intelligent life and far less preferable than a seven-day family-friendly stay in New Zealand starting at an affordable $499 per person, all inclusive. Full disclosure: this post is sponsored by Tourism New Zealand. New Zealand: Land Of Zeal!TM (we gotta work on that tagline, guys).

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: F/G3.5

Available in: The Thirty-First Of February

Things I love: fart jokes, lollipops, the songs of Tom T. Hall, and stories where historical and/or cultural phenomena are explained as being the result of alien intervention. In this tale, God is an alien scientist who was exiled to Earth by His alien superiors because He created a disobedient race of creatures called ‘humans’. Take it away, Tom T. Hall: ‘I love candy on a stick/fart jokes that are sick/songs by Tom T. Hall/and scifi stories where historical and cultural phenomena are explained as being the result of alien intervention.’ Okay, the lyrics need some polishing, but cut Tom T. Hall some slack; he’s 75, for Christ’s sake.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: M10-3

Available in: A Cupful Of Space

A short, beautiful, surreal story in which the basement of a nondescript dive bar contains a portal to another dimension. And that’s why you should patronize locally-owned watering holes instead of faux-Irish chain ‘pubs’; in addition to never forcing you to listen to a Chinese girl in a kilt tell you the special of the day is traditional Irish lasagna with a pint of Bud for $13.99, they also contain portals to other dimensions.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: F/G10-2.5

Available in: The Best From Fantasy & Science Fiction

Dirt: we earthlings never realize how important it is until we don’t have any under us, on us, or in us. In this story, a criminal exiled in space longs for the brown, brown ground of home. The lesson? Don’t take Earth dirt for granted. Stop washing your potatoes before you eat them. Re-watch the seminal 2001 David Spade comedy Joe Dirt. And for Christ’s sake lay off the Tide.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: B103

Available in: Infinite Dreams

A highly-advanced human mutant catches shit from his muttie brethren for canoodling with a run-of-the-mill homo sapiens female. Apparently, mutants are the Southerners of the future and don’t like miscegenatin’ bloodlines and such. Also, if you’re Jewish and stop at a mutant gas station, they’ll glare at you menacingly with their third infrared eye and tell you telepathically they don’t like your kind ‘round those parts. Also, they’ll sodomize Ned Beatty.