Hertzsprung – Russell rating: B1

Available in: The Pandora Effect

A fiction writer from the far-flung future (or the F3, as scfi fans call it [I feel like I’ve used that joke in this blog before {and also that I’m using too many parenthesis}]) decides to do some research for his next interplanetary adventure novel by actually visiting Venus. But due to tropical storms, alien carnivores, and a below-par Venusian dollar, he pussies out and hightails it back to Earth. To research this story, Jack Williamson must’ve actually visited a crap factory.

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: 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: F104

Available in: The Worlds Of Robert F. Young

An interplanetary mountaineer becomes sexually obsessed with a woman-shaped mountain and decides to ‘tap’ that. Mostly with a mountain-climbing hammer. But he gets his pitons in a knot when he reaches the top and realizes he’s not the first one to plant his flag in her moist, quivering peak. That ignominious, igneous bitch! That’s why, geologically speaking, I’m an isthmus man.

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: K/M102

Available in: Shatterday

Fuckin’ Harlan Ellison’s awesome. Not having intercourse with him, mind you; I mean, he’s a fuckin’ awesome writer. This is a chilling tale about the special hell that awaits people who waste their lives (by, say, writing and reading blogs about science fiction), all told with Ellison’s trademark blend of Beauty N’ HorrorTM. Plus, look at the cover of Shatterday. Doesn’t that just beg for a caption-writing contest?!? Here’s mine:‘Talk about a wrong number!’ Intercourse with Harlan Ellison is awesome.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: F106.5+

Available in: The Big Book Of Adventure Stories

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A scientist develops a formula that reduces him to the size of a single atom (talk about shrinkage!) and allows him to discover and explore hitherto unknown worlds that exist on the microscopic level. Eventually, he falls in love with the tiny unsuper-sized civilizations and decides to stay down there forever. No biggie. While entertaining, the whole story is preposterous: I took a shrink formula thirty minutes ago and nothing is happening yet and oh shit it’s kicking in and if you’re still reading this you have really good eyesight.