Chris Telden is an avid fan of classic science fiction and has worked as a bookseller and as a supervisor in a large library.
Best Science Fiction Stories of All Time
These are the best science fiction stories of all time, according to somebody who spent much of her life thinking that science fiction sucked. You see, it was only a few years ago that I admitted that I don't like modern science fiction short stories. I much prefer the fantastic science fiction shorts of the Golden Age that first appeared in science fiction short story pulp magazines in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, like Astounding Stories, Amazing Stories, Weird Tales, and the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
To misquote the late Douglas Adams: "That's when stories were real stories. Plots were real plots. And small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were vivid, exotic, fantastic and all too possible." As hokey as they may seem today, the old sci-fi short stories stand the test of time for good, solid fiction, if not for scientific accuracy.
When I compiled this reader's list of the best science fiction short stories of the 20th century (which is the same as "all time," as the genre became full-fledged only in the 1900s), I noticed I was markedly favoring stories published from the 1940s through the 1960s. I tried to like modern speculative fiction—I really did. And I will again, when writers and publishers once again start turning out science fiction stories that actually give me the same sense of wonder as those old tales from the Golden Age did.
Best Science Fiction Stories Ever: The List
- Alfred Bester, "Fondly Fahrenheit"
- William Tenn, "Time in Advance"
- Connie Willis, "Daisy in the Sun"
- Lewis Padgett, "Time Locker"
- Isaac Asimov, "Nightfall"
- Anson MacDonald (Heinlein), "By His Bootstraps"
- Cordwainer Smith, "The Lady Who Sailed the Soul"
- Henry Bates, "Farewell to the Master"
- Murray Leinster, "Pipeline to Pluto"
- Daniel Keyes, "Flowers for Algernon"
This might be obvious, but these are ten of the best science fiction stories ever in my own opinion. It was anxiety-producing to narrow it down this much, as the body of work is so huge. They are in no particular order—except the first one. That one really is the best.
What you'll find: Short reviews of the stories and why I Iiked them.
What you won't find: Detailed plot summaries. What I personally like about top 10 lists is the reviewer's opinions. So that's what I've put here. Plot summaries can be found in the Wikipedia articles linked to here.
How I Picked This List
Here are my criteria for this "best science fiction short stories" list. I based inclusion on whether or not many of these factors were to the story's credit:
- I read the story (with one exception).
- I loved the story.
- The story was fun to read. It wasn't depressing (with one exception).
- The story stayed with me—I thought about it for a long time, either in my nightmares or giggling about it spontaneously at work.
- The story was well-written. I was either not aware of any major writing flaws or I got a shiver of delight at the way the words are written.
- The story gripped me and didn't let go. I never thought, "I've got to go get my laundry out of the dryer" in the middle of it.
- The story made me feel a sense of wonder. Even decades after it was written, in the age of the iPad and Android and suchlike.
- The story is important. It did something new that changed the way science fiction was written afterward, or it changed society.
1. "Fondly Fahrenheit" by Alfred Bester
Alfred Bester won a 1953 Hugo Award for his novel The Demolished Man. Besides being a true personality and a novelist, he was a rare beast amongst Golden Age science fiction writers. He didn't just tell a great tale—he could write. Many Golden Age writers (including one of the best-known, Robert Heinlein) were far better storytellers than they were writers. They had vision, but words—not so much.
Bester wrote with a deep understanding of the psychology of language. He knew English well enough to play with it, mangle it, do impossible things with it. With "Fondly Fahrenheit," the writing doesn't just tell the story—it becomes the story. Which I suspect is why "Fondly Fahrenheit" was not ultimately dismissed as just another science fiction horror story.
Though the story's disturbing premise—that a servile android-robot could turn on its human superiors and commit murder—was probably radical at the time, without Bester's way with words, "Fondly Fahrenheit" wouldn't have become the classic science fiction short story that it is today. It's still cited as one of the best sci-fi stories ever.
"Fondly Fahrenheit" isn't "literary" or prosy like Ray Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder." It's just beautifully written, with a suspenseful mystery and a catchy song you won't forget (but will want to). It's a story you have to keep reading. And the end . . . the end changes everything and makes it, in my book, the undisputed best science fiction short story of all time. (But feel free to dispute it if you like.)
Warning: As it is about a serial killer, "Fondly Fahrenheit" is a fairly dark story and may not be suitable for kids.
2. "Time in Advance" by William Tenn
(Note: Don't confuse the short story "Time in Advance" with the title of the volume of four stories that contains it, called Time in Advance.)
William Tenn is one of those science fiction writers who are well-known by dedicated fans and hardly known by casual readers. When asked to choose a favorite William Tenn science fiction short story, many would name "The Brooklyn Project." And "The Brooklyn Project" is almost a perfect short story—satirical and ironic, with cut-throat social commentary and deftly drawn archetypes.
But maybe because it's a linear, straight-shot fable-like morality tale, "The Brooklyn Project" is almost too perfect. I like character-driven stories, lighthearted humor and a twist that sneaks up on you, and science fiction author William Tenn delivered truly wicked humor and characterization in "Time in Advance."
"Time in Advance" is the story of a man who's about to commit a lethal crime—a crime for which he's already paid his debt to society. Far from being a dark story of a vicious criminal secretly planning a covert murder, Tenn's tale takes a light approach. In this world, society views the crime as perfectly legal, if something of a novelty. The hero is aiming to commit a vile crime, and not only is nobody about to stop him . . . his criminal intentions make him a celebrity. Cool concept, huh?
How many times have you read a story that starts off with a good idea, but has poor execution? This is not one of those times. "Time in Advance" has almost perfect execution. The "what if" in this case is "What if people paid for the crime of murder before they committed it, and the penury was so heinous that nobody ever survived to commit the crime . . . until now?" Tenn takes this premise and develops its permutations with complete and utter mastery.
Tenn excels at twist endings—hilarious "aha" endings, such as in "The Brooklyn Project." "Time in Advance" not only has that, it also has a "feel good" ending, something sorely lacking in science fiction today, as if a happy ending would signify the end of speculative fiction as we know it. Yes, the ending somewhat dulls the cutting edge of the social commentary. But it works. I consider "Time in Advance" truly one of the best science fiction stories of all time.
3. "Daisy, In the Sun" by Connie Willis
Connie Willis, speculative fiction novelist and author of tragic science fiction (Passage) and comic science fiction (To Say Nothing of the Dog), is one of the most popular modern science fiction authors writing today. A story she published back in 1979, "Daisy, In the Sun," appearing in the short story collection Fire Watch, is one of the few (ironically) dark stories I love. And though it's not from the Golden Age, it is a real card-carrying, sense-of-wonder-bringing "what if" story.
Though other readers rave about "Fire Watch," and I'm a sucker for romance and would have loved to choose "Blued Moon" for this list, as it honestly is one of my favorite sci-fi stories ever, I kept coming back to "Daisy, In the Sun."
"Daisy" is disturbing, far more disturbing in its way than the devastating turn Willis takes in "A Letter from the Clearys." Not anywhere as gritty or extreme as the long and chilling "All My Darling Daughters." And its scientific logic leaves . . . well, everything to be desired, mixed up as it is with spiritual fantasy and strange allegorical illogic. Surreal.
It does have the usual Connie Willis twist, however. And despite being told as a kind of dreamy teen angst story, it's one of those stories you think about again and again. It's less character-driven than most of her stories. It's tragic. And happy. Kind of.
And, as inadequate as that is, that's all I can say about it, without giving it away, because the describing of the story is the telling of it, which I suppose is one reason it's on this top 10 list.
4. "The Time Locker" by Lewis Padgett
Henry Kuttner and his wife, C.L. Moore, produced an amazing body of work, both in quantity and quality. These were mostly short stories, written both individually and co-authored under several pseudonyms in the 1940s and 1950s. One major pen name was Lewis Padgett.
As Lewis Padgett, this writing team wrote marvelous science fiction and fantasy stories with great characterization—yes, you read me right, the stories feature that rare animal in science fiction, honestly likable characters. And each story really is a gem.
If asked to cite a favorite science fiction short story by Lewis Padgett, many readers would pick the complex and interesting "Mimsy Were the Borogoves," on which the 2007 movie The Last Mimsy was based. Others might pick the hilarious "The Proud Robot" or the now-not-so-new-and-different, but radical-at-the-time "The Twonky," about a robot that goes wonky.
Me, I'm a sucker for time travel. The kind of time travel many critics scoff at as cliched. Time travel in which the attempt to break the Second Law of Thermodynamics and betray Nature's linear preference causes a shocking paradox. Time travel used as a vehicle to teach bad people the good lesson that enterprise driven by self-serving greed has a price. It's trite. It's old-fashioned. But gee, that's a good story. And that's what's missing from today's fiction.
So my choice for one of the 10 best science fiction stories of all time is the 1943 piece "The Time Locker." It's fun. It's satisfying. It's not new rocket science. But it's creative, and funny, and it's one of the very best. If a bit disgustingly squishy.
5. "Nightfall" by Isaac Asimov
I'll probably be lambasted for not putting this one in the number 1 spot. Sorry. "Nightfall," published first in Astounding Science Fiction in 1941, is a classic science fiction short story, no doubt about it. Asimov made it into a novel, too. I haven't read the novel. But this story really is mind-blowing. Devastating. But in a good way.
It's not the writing. "Nightfall" is easy and enjoyable to read, but typical of Isaac Asimov, the writing is not as tight as it could be, and the dialogue wanders a bit. It's a tad long for what it is. The characters, though well-defined, lack that spark that would make them truly likable.
But all that doesn't matter. Because the ending is really unexpected—or it was, for me—and has a mind-blowing effect, even now. It's just not what you expect, and you're led to expect a lot of different things.
Since "Nightfall," other stories and films have been written using the premise of a world that never sees night except once in a rare aeon. "Nightfall" is probably the reason why. I saw one such movie, and it was so forgettable, I forget the title. "Nightfall" is not forgettable. "Nightfall" is an example of how wonderful a "what if" story can be if handled by a born storyteller.
(Note: "Nightfall" is available in Isaac Asimov: The Complete Stories, Vol. 1. The novel Nightfall is a different book.)
6. "By His Bootstraps" by Anson MacDonald (Robert Heinlein)
I'll just say it: I'm not a big Robert Heinlein fan. Yes, I'm possibly the only science fiction fan who doesn't like Robert Heinlein. I've read a couple of his books, including Stranger in a Strange Land, and several short stories. While I found his ideas (occasionally) interesting, his characters and writing never thrilled me. I'm told I haven't given him enough of a chance. That's probably true.
But I loved, loved, loved "By His Bootstraps," which Heinlein wrote as Anson MacDonald. It's another time travel story. I still didn't like the main character; Heinlein's characters just don't do it for me. But at least this story is about a character, not a society that doesn't seem real (which is one of my complaints about Heinlein's stories).
Reading the story is pure fun. The paradoxical logic was terribly clever. And as the story unfolded, it became obvious that it was perhaps the best time travel story I'd ever read. As a bonus, it's re-readable, despite the fact that the ending is not exactly forgettable. It's like re-reading an Agatha Christie novel. You remember whodunnit, but you want to see how you were tricked.
But why is it in the top 10 science fiction short stories? Because it was one of the first science fiction stories to explore the time travel paradox. Because it did so to extremes. The story is a flawless, step-by-step execution of the time travel paradox.
7. "The Lady Who Sailed the Soul" by Cordwainer Smith
Under the pen name Cordwainer Smith, Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger wrote a series of related short stories taking place in a futuristic world that is drawn with an eerie combination of cool, clinical precision and fairy tale lyricism. "Scanners Live in Vain," a story clearly inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and one of the first ever featuring a half-man, half-machine protagonist, was published in 1945 and remains his most famous short work.
I've read a few, though, and the one that stands the test of time for me is "The Lady Who Sailed the Soul." Written with an almost poetical quality, "The Lady Who Sailed the Soul" is a dark romance, a psychological study, a haunting space opera, a wildly inventive science and, in the end, a fairy tale. And one of the best sci-fi stories ever. You can find it in The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith.
8. "Farewell to the Master" by Henry Bates
"Farewell to the Master," published in 1940, is the only story I've read by Henry Bates, and it's the basis for the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. Henry Bates wasn't just any Golden Age writer. He was the founding editor of the magazine that became Astounding Stories. His fiction went beyond the usual space operas of the time.
"Farewell to the Master" was an important story, while in some senses it was typical of what made Golden Age science fiction great. But it did it so well. It was ahead of its time, delivering a postmodern lesson in the harm of self-importance that eventually became cliched, but at the time must have been awe-inspiring. And in truth, it inspired awe in me reading it from the timeframe of the new millennium, cynic though I am.
Like so many others on this list, the suspense of the story would be compromised with too much revelation of plot. So if you're looking for a summary, I'm afraid you'll have to look elsewhere. But suffice it to say a man and a robot come to Earth. Something bad happens. The robot begins to do something scary. And in the end, something good happens. And bad. Which is bittersweet. And powerful.
9. "Pipeline to Pluto" by Murray Leinster
In his day, author Will Jenkins (pen name Murray Leinster) wrote some incredible stories—in the good sense, not the bad sense—not the least of which was his most famous, "First Contact," and arguably his most fun, "A Logic Named Joe." If you love creative, entertaining and fascinating stories about early computers and their effects on society, then you might think "A Logic Named Joe" belongs on this list instead of "Pipeline to Pluto," and you'd be right. It does. It should be here.
But I chose "Pipeline to Pluto," because while more understated, it's more of a human story, with a larger-than-life lesson, and—are you sensing a trend?—it's got a grand old twist. It's simply a more impressive literary feat.
"Pipeline to Pluto," which you can find in First Contacts: The Essential Murray Leinster, is a highly detailed and convincing tale of space travel. It's anything but a space opera filled with glamour and adventure, though. The story describes a prosaic world of blue-collar transportation—freight, in fact.
Like much Golden Age science fiction, the story, told through fast-paced narrative and dialogue, isn't concerned with conveying a political viewpoint or defending a special interest group. It's concerned with ideas: the concepts, possibilities, and ironies of a newly technological world unfolding for human beings possessed of universal flaws and compromised value systems.
It's the good guys vs. the bad guys in a universe that doesn't care. It's essentially modern and optimistically heroic. It's righteous (in a good way). It's better than Terminator 2. And all of this won't make any sense to you unless you read it.
Suffice it to say that if stories like "Pipeline to Pluto" were written today, I'd be out there reading them instead of writing this. And it's not just because there's a [spoiler alert: do not read on if you don't want to know how it ends] happy ending.
10. "Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes
This list wouldn't be complete without "Flowers for Algernon," but I almost left it out. This Hugo Award-winning short story and literary classic is simply amazing. Unfortunately, it almost didn't make it onto my list of best science fiction short stories of all time, because I couldn't read it.
I have no spine when it comes to Nazi stories, stories about human lab experiments, and stories about mental disability. This one is not a Nazi story, but it has two out of three, and that's enough for me. But my husband insisted that if I wouldn't read it, at least it should go on this list.
And so here it is. If you're stronger than me, and if you didn't already read it in school, read "Flowers for Algernon." It's one of the few science fiction stories that have become famous in the mainstream, and with good reason.
Questions & Answers
Question: Who wrote The H.O.R.R.A.R.S. of war?
Answer: Gene Wolfe? (says the Internet)
James Van Pelt on May 17, 2020:
Daryl Gregory's "Second Person, Present Tense" is amazing. I loved Fritz Leiber's "A Pail of Air." Ray Bradbury, "The Fox and the Forest." Robert Heinlein's "All You Zombies." Paolo Baccigalupi's "The Fluted Girl." Rachel Swirsky's "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love." James Patrick Kelly's "Think Like a Dinosaur." Connie Willis's "The Soul Selects Her Own Society." Harlan Ellison's "Croatoan."
Alexandra on February 11, 2020:
Ray Bradbury, Frost and Fire. I read it as a parable of something we have lost (lost condition? fallen humanity?) as I was a teen.
Also, a great story with philosophical implication: The Star, by Arthur Clarke.
Veronica on October 29, 2019:
I can’t believe that Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Kurt Vonnegut’s
“Harrison Bergeron” are not on this list as are 2 of my favorites!
As for more modern sci-fi short stories there are actually quite a few, the problem is finding them! Some good ones I can think of are “ Peter Skilling" by Alex Irvine, "Just Do It" by Heather Lindsley, and “Ten With A Flag" by Joseph Paul Heines.
Aidan on September 08, 2019:
It's short, but I like "There Will Come Soft Rains" by Ray Bradbury
Stan on July 28, 2019:
The Story of Your Life - Ted Chiang
Jonah Easley from New York, NY on July 25, 2019:
I guess you never read Vintage Season by Lawrence O'Donnell (C. L. Moore and Henry Kuttner). It is superior to Time Locker. Not a terrible list, though. Thanks for sharing.
C Ravoori on June 08, 2019:
Between the Dark and the Daylight by Algis Budrys
AKSHIT on May 25, 2019:
Sunquist on March 28, 2019:
The Cold Equations and
Think Like a Dinosaur. Both utterly stunning.
June on March 18, 2019:
"Mars is Heaven!" by Ray Bradbury - aka "The Third Expedition"
William H Reams on January 09, 2019:
How in the world did you miss
"The Last Question"
"The Last Question" is a science fiction short story by American writer Isaac Asimov.
Bill Cleere on December 12, 2018:
You had me at "By His Bootstraps", the very best time travel story of .... well, all time. And, like you, I'm not a Heinlein fan, but BHB and "He Built a Crooked House" are the best (and least characteristic) things he ever produced. Needless to say, the rest of your selection is excellent.
Amy on November 28, 2018:
Bernie on November 09, 2018:
How about “Light of Other Days” ? Number one in my list.
Bill Justice on October 28, 2018:
There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradberry
Evan on July 02, 2018:
The Last Question by Isaac Asimov
Matty on June 10, 2018:
John Wyndham - Chrysalids
Ralph Houston on May 05, 2018:
Interesting list. Isn't the Weird Tales cover more likely to be by Margaret Brundage?
Naveera on December 19, 2017:
This was very awesome
I like it
I love it when I am reading these all
My favorite is the night fall one
But I hope and wish that make it more interesting
Hollis Ramsey on October 19, 2017:
let me share my favorite SF short stories (and 3 novels) with you. i've input, formatted, and uploaded them into PRESCIENCE, https://presciencesf.blogspot.com/. it's poorly formatted -- sorry about that, i'm only an egg -- but i'm sure you can manage. the novels are THE DEMOLISHED MAN (Bester), THE SPACE MERCHANTS (Kornbluth & Pohl), and LEST DARKNESS FALL (L. Sprague de Camp) -- that last one being MY fave time-travel novella. my fave author is Clifford Simak, and many of his short stories are included, the best of which IMO is THE BIG FRONT YARD (a true classic), IMMIGRANT, DESERTION, and NEW FOLKS 'HOME -- i'd have a hard time keeping those off a "best of" list. however, i also love Kuttner & Moore, and VINTAGE SEASON & MIMSY are included, as well as Moore's THE BRIGHT ILLUSION, which always gets to me. the weirdest SF i've ever read is Kornbluth's THE WORDS OF GURU -- it's very short but very unsettling. THE MOON MOTH (Jack Vance) is a very creative murder mystery -- i'm not a fan of those; this one is very clever. you will probably (i hope!) enjoy CONSIDER HER WAYS (John Wyndham), which was also televised in the early '60s and done quite well (i have it somewhere). Wyndham wrote THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, but i prefer the short stories. SIDEWISE IN TIME (Murray Leinster) is a crazy time-travel tale, but not your normal back-and-forth kind; this one goes sideways. unfortunately, i have neither INSTRUCTIONS (Bob Leman) nor ROGUE TOMATO (Michael Bishop), better known for BLOODED ON ARACHNE. those two are a real kick, funny as all get-out. also, John Varley's 1989 JUST ANOTHER PERFECT DAY (not Golden Age but quite nice) might be thought of as the inspiration for the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore film 50 FIRST DATES. i like the short story more. and there are several more stories that i haven't mentioned but that doesn't mean they aren't very good as well! i am pretty sure these -- or most of them -- will be new to you, so go on, enjoy!
MineralizedGlenn on April 30, 2017:
Great list, but misses a lot of classics. I like, e.g. A Canticle for Leibowitz, perhaps because of the irony involved. Several Isaac Asimov robot stories are great and humorous at the same time, and hard to forget The Little Black Bag by Kornbluth. I like Nightfall as the premise is outstanding, but it is indeed a few page story pulled out to 15.
Dennis Couch on January 14, 2017:
Jeffrey is Five, Harlan Ellison
John Hansen from Queensland Australia on January 23, 2016:
I enjoyed this hub and your selection of short stories. Of these authors however I only know Asimov and Heinlein. The trouble is I mainly read science fiction novels and not short stories. My favourite Heinlein novel and the first I ever read was "Glory Road" and I must have read it four times now. I found "Stranger in a Strange Land" heavy going from about half way through. I do like H G Wells (eg. Time Machine) and Edgar Rice Burroughs, but my favourite SF short story writer is Robert Silverberg though I can't tell you the names of any of his short stories off hand. One of his novels was Lord Valentine's Castle.
Chris Telden (author) from Pacific Northwest, U.S.A. on November 08, 2015:
I'm so happy it led you to some fun reading. Here's to the forgotten and the underdogs of SF! And if you come across anything else you think should be on this list in your reading travels, do post!
John Otterbein on November 08, 2015:
Thanks for a great list! While I'm sure many would opt to select different stories, this list is a great jump off point for someone like me who has always cradled an affinity for science fiction but hasn't dabbled in the classics that set the stage for today's storytelling. After stumbling across this list, I read Fondly Fahrenheit and Time in Advance in one sitting! Both incredible stories. Dune initially lured me into the realm of sci-fi, which I re-read every two years or so because of its richness, but branching off into the classics seems all the more intriguing after today. Thanks again!
Chris Telden (author) from Pacific Northwest, U.S.A. on January 21, 2015:
Hmm, it's been quiet here for a while, so I thought I'd update with some of my latest reads. I just read two short stories from the Golden Age: "Roog" (which I'd read previously) and "Stability" by Philip K. Dick. I sure wanted to like 'em. Haven't read much PK Dick, but I remember liking "Skull" the first time I read it. "Stability" didn't strike me as masterful writing by any means, but this is not surprising...apparently, it was written before he was 20 (or had published anything) and wasn't actually set into print till the 1980s. "Roog" just didn't seem to commit to being any particular kind of story at all, if that makes sense - funny, sad, scary, whatever...and the details didn't corroborate the theme for me (seeing things from a dog's perspective). Both failed to be sufficiently "ooh, wow, YEAH!" for me to think of them as classics. Anyone else's thoughts...?
Steel Engineer from Kiev, Ukraine on October 02, 2014:
I also gave you a 5-star review on Amazon. That should help, too.
Steel Engineer from Kiev, Ukraine on October 02, 2014:
I also bought YOUR book, Looping with Quinia. And, this is a very good read. You write science fiction the way it ought to be written. Good sci-fi always has some wit, some theory, and some of the unexpected. You have all. The author name is Karen Kolodenko, not Chris Teldon... are you pulling an Andre Norton? (Female writer using male name to bypass gender bias of sci-fi readers.) Either way, very good short story.
One business note: I think you will get more sales with a lower price. For $2.99, readers can buy collections of sci-fi short stories. It might bring some sales. Peace and best wishes.
PS- -enko is Ukrainian. I'm living in Kiev, so I know all about -enko and -chuk. The politicians nowadays need good Ukrainian names to win elections.
Chris Telden (author) from Pacific Northwest, U.S.A. on September 30, 2014:
Thanks for following up, Steel Engineer. Yeah, Connie Willis isn't known for action-based stories. She's more character-based and about shifts in paradigms and often bridges science fiction and fantasy. I find her very re-readable, but my husband does not. He is the major sciencefictionite around these parts and would put together a completely different list, I think, and include A Martian Odyssey.
Steel Engineer from Kiev, Ukraine on September 30, 2014:
Well, I made a third effort to read Connie Willis' book today. I realized it was work. She does a lot of explaining through thoughts... which can be tough reading. Not so much action. And, the sci-fi aspects are not that convincing. I will try some other stories. But, I plan to abandon page much sooner if it is not interesting.
Chris Telden (author) from Pacific Northwest, U.S.A. on September 29, 2014:
You're right - A Martian Odyssey was life-changing and society-changing and a true "first." It didn't have that "total charm" factor for me, but even though it was a several years ago that I read it, I can still vividly picture that alien doing its alien thing. I think I need to give it another read and come at it with expectations not so modern.
Rtich on September 26, 2014:
What list of the Best SF Short Stories omits Weinbaum and A Martian Odyssey????
Steel Engineer from Kiev, Ukraine on December 11, 2013:
I bought Connie Willis' book, 12 stories, through your link. The preceding had no Kindle versions. I'll let you know later what I think. Hubbers should shop first for another hubber's link... I often do. Peace.
dyvind on October 29, 2013:
Too hard to pick just ten, but i think The Sentinel by A.C. Clarke should be included.
Fran on June 25, 2013:
I'm looking forward to reading some of the books on the list again. There is a short story called Slow Birds by Ian Watson from I think about 1985 that I read about 10 years ago and just can't get it out of my head.
ThePelton from Martinsburg, WV USA on April 15, 2013:
I agree with theframjak about "Nine billion names". Wonderful story. Never read the "Last Question" by Aasimov. Another thing for my "to do" list.
FantasyGirl from USA on April 12, 2013:
What a great list. I agree with many, my favorite remains Flowers for Algernon but I have read almost everything in your list. Some of these I had forgotten about! I agree with your comment on Heinlein though- I remember Stranger in a Strange Land and liking it (hey- it was the 60s) but the rest of his stuff I could do without.
You have inspired me to do more Golden Oldies on my blog. We really do need to pay homage to the older writers and introduce the young uns to them.
Dale Anderson from The High Seas on September 12, 2012:
What an interesting list! (Voted up). I love science fiction stories and the passing of Bradbury was just tragic and all too soon, a great light gone out in the literary sky. Very good hub.
htodd from United States on May 27, 2012:
Thanks a lot for the nice post..Great list
theframjak from East Coast on April 27, 2012:
Nice list. Two of my favorites are The Last Question by Asimov and The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke.
Marquis from Ann Arbor, MI on March 04, 2012:
I made a list of the greatest novels of all time.
I had a top 50 list, but it was more than 10,000 words. So I decided to just make a top 10 list.
Jakebrap from Liverpool, UK on February 23, 2012:
Really great page :] thanks for the list, not heard of some of them!
Tamara Wilhite from Fort Worth, Texas on November 12, 2011:
Another issue with modern "science fiction" is the inclusion of fantasy elements and the repeat titles of a current story line until the old master has degenerated it completely (series like Ringworld, Dune)
That Fantasy Blog on September 23, 2011:
Nice list ive only read one of these (Farewell to the Master) and enjoyed it so will look into the rest of the list. Thanks for sharing.
Chris Telden (author) from Pacific Northwest, U.S.A. on June 10, 2011:
Um. This hub is all about the old SF masters, and I honestly meant to keep it that way. But then, under the influence of a lot of caffeine, I decided it would be very, very wrong not to self-promote my brand new short story ebook available for purchase on Kindle:
Looping With Quinia: A Time Travel Comedy
It's not hard sci-fi - in fact, it's fairly squishy. But some of you might recognize the occasional gentle bow to some of the Golden Age greats....
ThePelton from Martinsburg, WV USA on May 21, 2011:
I agree with ArthurChappel on "The Nine Billion Names of God." Definitely an awesome story, and I don't use that word lightly.
ryanedel from Baltimore, MD on April 25, 2011:
Flowers for Algernon is a definite classic - I think it captures the hopes and frustrations of intellect in a way that few other works can match.
Just out of curiosity, have you read Heinlein's "Starship Troopers"? I, too, tend not to enjoy Heinlein much, but "Starship Troopers" seems to be far more realistic and "grounded" than most of his other works. It gets a bit melodramatic in a few places, but still a good read.
Jeff Duff from Southwest Wisconsin on March 04, 2011:
A personal favorite of mine is Roger Zelazny's short story, "For A Breath I Tarry".
Otherwise, I generally agree with your Top Ten list. You did a nice job, here!
Why not expand it to a Top Twenty or Top Thirty list? I know that I - at least - would also enjoy reading your Hub on that topic, too.
PeregrinatingPenn on January 25, 2011:
Let me be one of the crowd who will lambaste you for not putting Nightfall in the top spot in SF short stories. It should be there. It has all the elements including, as you so aptly point out, the wonderful surprise ending. Asimov should have left it at that. He should have resisted the temptation to turn it into a novel. It came out while I was reviewing, and I read it and was disappointed, especially after the nice, tight writing and great plot of the original.
I absolutely agree with including By His Bootstraps. An excellent time-travel paradox story.
Arthur C. Clark's The Star comes to mind as another story that would have qualified for this list, as does R.U.R. by Karel Capek and the dystopian classic With Folded Hands by Jack Williamson.
And read Flowers for Algernon - the original. It's not gruesome, though it is sad.There is, particularly toward the end, a sensitive sort of reverie, a bittersweetness. In a way, it is a sort of paradigm for Alzheimers disease now, as Charlies watches his gifts slip away from him.
arthurchappell from Manchester, England on January 08, 2011:
good list - Flowers For Algernon is actually a novel rather than a short story - it was expanded on to create a longer work and is now easier to obtain in its full length edition. There are 100's of great stories that could be included - Clarke's 9 Billion Names Of God, Asimov'sMultivac stories, John W Campbell's Who Goes There? etc, but your lest is excellent and well thought out.