Hertzsprung-Russell rating: 0106.5+

Available in: The Early Del Ray Volume 1

A brilliant biologist imbues a statue of Hermes with life using unorthodox methods. But in order to survive, his creation requires a steady diet of hard liquor.  I suppose you could call it a science experiment gone a-rye. Many famous scientists allowed alcohol to interfere with their work. A drunken Nikola Tesla, for example, would often ‘prank’ Thomas Edison by leaving a steaming ‘Tesla coil’ on Edison’s doorstep. And every Saturday night ended with Marie Curie puking her guts out, although that was from radiation poisoning.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: O103.5

Available in: The Vortex Blasters (duh)

E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith is of an era when professional scifi writers often adopted their former day jobs as nicknames. Smith, for example, maintained a lifelong correspondence with Robert ‘Halal Butcher’ Silverberg, Harry ‘Non-Union-Bull-Inseminator’ Turtledove, and Philip Jose ‘Farmer’. But if Smith was as bad a doctor as ‘The Vortex Blasters’ is a story, I’m going to stop mailing him my urine samples, because I don’t think he knows what he’s doing.

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: 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: A106.5+

Available in: The Mammoth Book Of Golden Age Science Fiction

The language is corny, the characters are 1D and the title has an exclamation mark after it. But, despite all that, this classic story about a possessed and rampaging bulldozer is quite enjoyable. It is a testament to Sturgeon’s mastery of language that he is able to make a detailed technical description of heavy machinery interesting to read for more than fifty pages. Indeed, his skill at keeping the reader ‘hooked’ is why he eventually had a fish named in his honour.

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: 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: B0.5

Available in: Thrilling Wonder Stories, Volume XXX, No. 3

A  mapcap tale in which highly-intelligent donkeys enslave humans. They’re all, like, ‘Fuck this – you guys pull the carts and carry Juan Valdez’ coffee and bring Jesus into Jerusalem and be the briefly amusing but now thoroughly grating comic sidekick in Shrek.’ Basically, it’s Planet Of The Apes, but with donkeys (and somewhere, someone has spoken the previous sentence to the head of a movie studio, who is currently writing them a cheque for a hundred million dollars.)

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: B106.5+

Available in: The Science Fiction Hall Of Fame Volume IIB

Rumour has it this story served as the inspiration for Marvel’s X-Men: a psychiatry professor (possibly bald; it’s not explicitly stated that he is, but we have no reason to assume he’s not) discovers a brilliant mutant child (possibly with the innate ability to shoot lasers from his eyes; it’s never alluded to, but we have no reason to assume it couldn’t happen) and encourages him to seek out and band together with other mutant children (possibly to fight Magneto; no such conflict is even hinted at, but we should just go ahead and imagine that’s what the authour intended).  Also, the word SNIKT! appears over 400 times in the story.


Hertzsprung-Russell rating: A/F1

Available in: Alternating Currents

After a nuclear holocaust, a dude goes back in time to prehistoric days to try and change history, but returns to find ants ruling the world. And said ants fuckin’ kill him. D’jever notice that, post WWII, everyone was terrified of ants? If I had a nickel for every mid-20th century scifi story that posits a future where ants rule the world, I’d have thousands of sugar-standard-based ant dollars I could use to buy a 20,000-room anthill right beside a picnic basket. I’d just sit on my thorax all day while my centipede butler brought me cookie crumbs. That’d be the life.