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.

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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: F0.1

Available in: Study War No More

A tale of futuristic American military Imperialism, but instead of bombing, torture and rendering extraordinarily, invading soldiers deliver brand-new home appliances to third world countries and force enemy combatants to use them at gunpoint.  Forget napalm in the morning; wait’ll you get a whiff of freshly-made Freedom Toast served piping hot from a General Electric 3000-Series Liberator oven. Yum! BREAKING NEWS: I’ve just learned that, because of its involvement in the overcooking of a civilian casserole , General Electric has been court-martialed.

I’m reading my way through the science fiction and fantasy stories of the 20th century. Here’s why:

I love science fiction and fantasy novels. But, like most people who received vaccinations as a child, I am full of nanomachines. And as these tiny robots gain more and more control of my body, they demand I spend more and more time studying nanomachine periodicals. Magazines like Popular Nanomechanics and The Nano Yorker. I just don’t seem to have the time to enjoy long-form scifi and fantasy anymore, and am thus forced to read only short stories. In fact, I only have time to read one scifi story published in each year of the 20th century.

Damn nanomachines.

As a service to those with even less time than me, I will give every story I read a rating, so that the may know which stories are good and which are turds. To do this, I will use the most accurate and well-respected form of literary criticism available, the Hertzsprung-Russell star classification chart:

This chart generates a story rating based on two factors: the quality of the story and its length. Quality is represented by star class letter, O,B,A,F,G,K,M, from bad to good. Length is determined by star luminosity, from 10-5 solar units (short) to 106 solar units (long).

For example, an excellent 7,000-word story would receive a Hertzsprung-Russell rating of M102. A bad 1,000-word story would receive a Hertzsprung-Russell rating of O10-4.  It couldn’t be simpler.

To sum up: If you’re looking for pithy, illuminating insight into the science fiction and fantasy stories of the 20th century, this website may prove to be a complete waste of your time.

Then again, what in this life isn’t?

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: 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: B103

Available in: Infinite Dreams

A highly-advanced human mutant catches shit from his muttie brethren for canoodling with a run-of-the-mill homo sapiens female. Apparently, mutants are the Southerners of the future and don’t like miscegenatin’ bloodlines and such. Also, if you’re Jewish and stop at a mutant gas station, they’ll glare at you menacingly with their third infrared eye and tell you telepathically they don’t like your kind ‘round those parts. Also, they’ll sodomize Ned Beatty.