Hertzsprung-Russell rating: M10-4

Available in: Interfaces

The sole survivor of a once mighty empire returns to the glorious city of his birth to find it overrun with barbarians who’ve slaughtered the inhabitants. Hey, barbarians – would it kill you to not kill everyone for once? Sheesh! I loved this story, cuz it reminded me of when I was 35 and went back to my favourite university dive bar, only to discover it had been converted to a fabric store. Curiouser still, my favourite university fabric store is now a dive bar. So, zing.

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: F104

Available in: The First Omni Book Of Science Fiction

Two enterprising young computer hackers set out to rob an online criminal syndicate (The C++osta Nostra, if you will) of millions of dollars online. And these hackers are no hacks: they get away scot free with billions of bucks to their name. The word ‘cyberspace’, coined by Gibson, was first used in this story, as were the words ‘floobstick’, ‘tittycat’ and ‘shmutzfinkler’. They, of course, proved less popular. You can watch William Gibson talking about the inspiration behind cyberpunk etymology by clicking on the never-before-seen video below!

(Note: if the video doesn’t play you’ll have to download an updated shmutzfinkler onto a floobstick and optimize your browser to allow tittycats. You can get a great deal on 5GB floobsticks here.)

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: G105.5

Available in: The Second Omni Book Of Science Fiction

A sentient, bio-engineered house turns on its masters and imprisons them within its walls, and all without a Mike Holmes in sight to make their plight right (older readers may want to substitute a Bob Villa reference there). This story is a good lesson for first–time homebuyers; if you walk into a house and discover the corpses of two people it’s imprisoned, try to leverage that.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: A/F10-4

Available in: The Orange Book

A utopian comic tale of government-funded public masturbation sessions that take place several times a day, leaving the populace clear-headed, focused, and altogether more productive. In the future, being paid by the government to jerk off is called progress. Today, it’s called ‘an arts grant’.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: B10-2

Available in: Azazel

This story is part of a series of ‘comedic’ (the great thing about the printed word is that you don’t have to use air quotes: you can use real ones!) fantasies Asimov wrote about a demonic imp named Azazel who grants humans their hearts’ desires, only to leave them disappointed with the results. The moral? Impin’ ain’t easy.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: A10-2.5

Available in: Sword And Sorceress III

A wandering African female warrior meets a shape-shifting succubus in the jungle and is lured into a life of captive lesbian sexuality that makes said jungle even hotter and stankier than it is. ‘Marwe’s Forest’ is part of an anthology of ‘female fantasy’ that purportedly celebrates strong female characters penned by strong female writers, but it’s written by a guy and is naught but boner-inducing jack-fodder. You get the feeling it started off as something serious and sincere, but kept coming back from a cigar-chomping editor with ‘NEEDS MORE TITS’ scrawled in the margins. And tits it got.