Hertzsprung-Russell rating: F106.5+

Available in: The Book Of Philip Jose Farmer

Intercourse between humans and aliens isn’t always the tasteful, soft-lit lovemaking you see on Star Trek and in the studio-owned, unreleased director’s cut of E.T. Sometimes, as in this story, it’s a grotesque biological process involving bizarre skin flaps, pulsing bladders, asexual trenches and a tumescent third leg. Not the Terrestrial slang for ‘penis’, but an actual third leg. Phil Farmer – what a weirdo.


Hertzsprung-Russell rating: A102

Available in: Fire From The Wine Dark Sea

Man, this is a weird one. It’s about a cult of aliens who ride terrestrial roller-coasters to bring about the arrival of their messiah. That’s right; their messiah demands they ride roller coasters to please Him (Her? It?). I’m an atheist, but if I had to choose a belief system, I’d go for the one where I got to spend every Sunday at an amusement park riding a roller coaster. Their communion wafers are probably funnel cake. And their St. Peter is probably a fortysomething ex-con who’s not supposed to let you in if you don’t meet a minimum height requirement, but usually just says fuck it and looks the other way because he’s making eight bucks an hour. Either way, every earthly religion sucks.

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: G106.5

Available in: Faces At The Bottom Of The Well

Aliens land in America with a deal: they’ll give Americans enough gold to wipe out the national debt and extraterrestrial technology that will reverse pollution. In return, they want all the black people (and they’ll be checking, so don’t try to slip any Mexicans in there at the bottom of the pile!) Someone get me a Cosby sweater, because this is a chilling commentary on race in America.

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: 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?”

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: F102.5

Available in: The Book Of Gordon Dickson

When aliens land, it ain’t homo sapiens they want to talk to. It’s those fun, fin-tastic chickens of the sea, the dolphins. Humanity cock-blocked by dolphins! I can’t say I’m surprised, though. The dolphins are intelligent, empathetic, and have a real shot at the playoffs now that Matt Moore has recovered from last season’s injury. Humans are kinda shit. We’re dumb, selfish, and any attempt to jury-rig a blowhole in the back of our skulls with a Makita cordless drill and a hand mirror results in yet another visit to the E.R.

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: 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.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: O/B10

Available in: Thrilling Wonder Stories, Vol. XXIX, No. 3

A Nebraska-grade corny story about a spore-woman from Venus who lands on Earth and grows in a man’s garden. Any guy who can grow a woman from scratch must have quite a green thumb, but the fact that she’s described as being buxom, beautiful, and rooted to the ground tells me it’s not his thumb she should be worried about.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: G104

Available in: Galactic Cluster

Do you like surprise endings? For example; would it thrill you if, instead of the question mark you were expecting at the end of this sentence, there was a miniature picture of Bob Uecker instead Then you should read this story. It has a surprise ending that’ll make that question mark/Uecker thing seem hackneyed and pathetic by comparison. Much like Bob Uecker himself (bet you didn’t see that coming, Uecker!)


Hertzsprung-Russell rating: F106.5+

Available in: The Twelve Frights Of Christmas

Aliens with the ability to mimic humans infiltrate a space colony, and the captain is forced to take desperate measures to figure out who’s who, and who’s an ‘it’. Do you have what it takes to be a captain? One of these blogs is an alien mimic. Figure out which one it is and eliminate it.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: F106.5+

Available in: The Twelve Frights Of Christmas

Aliens with the ability to mimic humans infiltrate a space colony, and the captain is forced to take desperate measures to figure out who’s who, and who’s an ‘it’. Do you have what it takes to be a captain? One of these blogs is an alien mimic. Figure out which one it is and eliminate it.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: G1

Available in: The Farthest Reaches

Spinrad spins a rad yarn about a vanished alien civilization that leaves behind a stately pleasuredome designed to lure humans into eternal paradise. I like this story because it uses the word ‘spacer’ to describe professional interstellar travelers. Such a sadly optimistic, fun, corny, word. ‘Spacer’. Say it with me now: ‘spacer’. Neat.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: A/F10

Available in: The Mind Spider And Other Stories

This story has something for everyone: a family of telepaths and an unfathomably evil presence from beyond the stars imprisoned at the South Pole which they band together to defeat. On second thought, this story doesn’t really have something for everyone. In fact, the segment of people this story appeals to is incredibly small: the intersection of the Venn diagram for readers who enjoy both familial telepathy and imprisoned evil looks like Smurfette’s vagina. Still, ich liebe Leiber.

 

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: F0.5

Available in: Supertoys Last All Summer Long

This is good entry-level Aldiss: a more-or-less straightforward tale about an alien invasion and a single terrestrial priest struggling to maintain his faith in the face of powers much greater than his beloved Biblical God. Many of the other stories in this anthology were, I found, too weird for words. Mind you, the phrase ‘too weird for words’ actually uses words, so I guess it’s somewhat redundant. Not to mention redundant.