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: F101.5

Available in: The Book Of Saberhagen

What happens when the leader of a totally totalitarian (‘totallytarian’?) society decides to rebel? Well, I don’t want to give away the ending, but it involves torture, brainwashing and the reconfiguration of reality itself. You want my advice? Saberhagen has way better stuff; read that instead. You want some more of my advice? Learn to drink vodka straight, with no chaser. That way, if you go to a cottage for the weekend you’ll only have to carry one bottle.


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: A10-3

Available in: Button, Button

In a radioactive, post-apocalyptic America (where, in addition to red states and blue states, there are now incandescent green states), a clan of mutant backwoods hillbillies go about their daily lives, which involve foraging for food and having body parts fall off. So, basically, if you live in the American South and there’s a nuke war, you’re really no worse off than you were before.

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: 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.