Hertzsprung-Russell rating: F103

Available in: Adventures In Tomorrow

An alien in the year 4000 reads a C20 pulp scifi story about a time machine, builds it, then goes back in time to C20 to write the story he learned about the time machine from. Personally, I hate pulp in my scifi, so I read only the strained, pulp-free kind. Seriously, though: you can’t write a time-travel story without paradox. It’s like writing a tragedy with no sadness – there’s no fucking point. So just pretend it’s your creepy drunken uncle you see once a year at Christmas, embrace it, and hope it doesn’t get a boner.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: F1

Available in: The Wooden Star

A Cold War-era urbanite moves his family to a remote farm in anticipation of an impending Commie A-bomb attack. There, he drills them in the fundamentals of root vegetable farming, iodine consumption, and all-pervading nuclear paranoia. It’s like ‘Green Acres’ with a bomb shelter. The best thing about being a farmer during WWIII is that nuclear fallout completely obscures the sun so, technically, you’re always up before dawn.

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: 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: A102.5

Available in: Robert Adams’ Book Of Alternate Worlds

So many alternate history tales go wrong because they posit realities which differ from ours in ways only appreciated by historical scholars (‘Imagine if Jacob van Arteveld had aligned against Bruges and Ypres in 1337; what a deliciously topsy-turvy world we’d live in now!’). In Earth II of ‘One Way Street’, Toulouse-Lautrec was of average height. Awesome.

Hertzsprung-Russell Rating: M10-4

Available in: The Day It Rained Forever

Things you can’t argue with: a shark attack, gravity, the Mafia and the fact that Ray Bradbury is perhaps the greatest writer of the 20th century in any genre. ‘The Dragon’ is a remarkable fusion of fantasy and time travel, simply constructed and beautifully presented. And if you argue, I’ll send a Mafioso shark to your house to push you down.

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!)