Posts tagged ‘Short Story’

June 3, 2014

The Machine Stops

hover chair

‘The Machine Stops’ is a science fiction short story written in 1909 by E. M. Forster, who known for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society. After initial publication in ‘The Oxford and Cambridge Review,’ the story was republished in Forster’s ‘The Eternal Moment and Other Stories’ in 1928. It is particularly notable for predicting new technologies such as instant messaging and the Internet.

Forster describes a world in which most of the human population has lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth. Individuals lives in isolation below ground in a standard ‘cell,’ with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent, global ‘Machine.’ Travel is permitted but unpopular and rarely necessary. Communication is made via a kind of instant messaging/video conferencing machine called the speaking apparatus, with which people conduct their only activity: the sharing of ideas and what passes for knowledge.

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October 20, 2013


Nightfall‘ is a 1941 science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov about the coming of darkness to the people of a planet ordinarily illuminated at all times on all sides. It was adapted into a novel with Robert Silverberg in 1990. It was first published in an issue of ‘Astounding Science Fiction’ magazine under editor John W. Campbell. It was the 32nd story by Asimov, written while he was working in his father’s candy store and studying at Columbia University.

According to Asimov’s autobiography, Campbell asked Asimov to write the story after discussing with him a quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God!’ Campbell’s opinion to the contrary was: ‘I think men would go mad.’

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March 28, 2013


Superduperman‘ is a satirical story by cartoonists Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood that was published in the fourth issue of ‘Mad’ in 1953. Lampooning both Superman and Captain Marvel, it revolutionized the types of stories seen in ‘Mad,’ leading to greatly improved sales. Writers such as Alan Moore have cited this story as an influence.

The plot parallels the Superman scenario of the period: ‘Clark Bent’ is a lowly assistant to the copy boy at ‘The Daily Dirt’ newspaper, where he tries, unsuccessfully, to woo the narcissistic and indifferent ‘Lois Pain.’

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January 23, 2013

Second Variety

Second Variety is an influential short story by Philip K. Dick first published in ‘Space Science Fiction’ magazine in 1953. A nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the West has reduced much of the world to a barren wasteland.

The war continues however among the scattered remains of humanity. The Western forces have recently developed ‘claws,’ which are autonomous self-replicating robots to fight on their side. It is one of Dick’s many stories in which nuclear war has rendered the Earth’s surface uninhabitable. The story was adapted to the movie ‘Screamers’ in 1995.

January 9, 2013

Burning Chrome


Burning Chrome‘ is a short story, written by William Gibson and first published in ‘Omni’ in 1982. Gibson first read the story at a science fiction convention in Denver in the autumn of 1981, to an audience of four people, among them Bruce Sterling (who Gibson later said ‘completely got it’). It was collected with the rest of Gibson’s early short fiction in a 1986 volume of the same name.

‘Burning Chrome’ tells the story of two hackers who breaking into computer systems for profit. The two main characters are Bobby Quine who specializes in software and Automatic Jack whose field is hardware. A third character in the story is Rikki, a girl with whom Bobby becomes infatuated and for whom he wants to become wealthy. Automatic Jack acquires a piece of Russian hacking software that is very sophisticated and hard to trace. The rest of the story unfolds with Bobby deciding to break into the system of a notorious and vicious criminal called Chrome, who handles money transfers for organized crime, and Automatic Jack reluctantly agreeing to help.

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December 6, 2012

Sidewise in Time

Murray Leinster

Sidewise in Time‘ is a science fiction short story by Murray Leinster that was first published in a 1934 issue of ‘Astounding Stories.’ In the story, professor Minott is a mathematician at Robinson College in Virginia who has determined that an apocalyptic cataclysm is fast approaching that could destroy the entire universe. The cataclysm manifests itself on June 5, 1935 (one year in the future in terms of the story’s original publication) when sections of the Earth’s surface begin changing places with their counterparts in alternate timelines.

A Roman legion from a timeline where the Roman Empire never fell appears on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. Viking longships from a timeline where the Vikings settled North America raid a seaport in Massachusetts. A traveling salesman from Louisville, Kentucky finds himself in trouble with the law when he travels into an area where the South won the American Civil War. A ferry approaching San Francisco finds the flag of Czarist Russia flying from a grim fortress dominating the city.

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December 6, 2012

A Logic Named Joe

How to Create a Mind

A Logic Named Joe‘ is a science fiction short story by Murray Leinster that was first published in a 1946 issue of ‘Astounding Science Fiction.’ The story actually appeared under Leinster’s real name, Will F. Jenkins, since the issue also included a story under the Leinster pseudonym ‘Adapter.’

The story is particularly noteworthy as a prediction of massively networked personal computers and their drawbacks, written at a time when computing was in its infancy. The story’s narrator is a ‘logic’ (much like a personal computer) repairman nicknamed Ducky. In the story, a logic whom he names ‘Joe’ develops some degree of sapience and ambition.

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May 7, 2012

Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan

jg ballard

Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan is a short work by dystopian English author J.G. Ballard, first published in 1968 as a pamphlet by the Unicorn Bookshop in Brighton, England. It was later collected in ‘The Atrocity Exhibition’ (an experimental collection of Ballard’s ‘condensed novels’).

It is written in the style of a scientific paper and catalogs an apocryphal series of bizarre experiments intended to measure the psychosexual appeal of Ronald Reagan, who was then the Governor of California and candidate for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination.

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March 24, 2012

The Most Dangerous Game

Richard Connell

The Most Dangerous Game,’ also published as “The Hounds of Zaroff”, is a short story by Richard Connell. It was published in ‘Collier’s Weekly’ in 1924. Widely anthologized, and the author’s best-known work, it features as its main character a big-game hunter from New York, who falls off a yacht and swims to an isolated island in the Caribbean, where he is hunted by a Cossack aristocrat. The story is an inversion of the big-game hunting safaris in Africa and South America that were fashionable among wealthy Americans in the 1920s.

The story has been adapted for film numerous times. The most significant of these adaptations (and the only one to use the original characters) was RKO’s ‘The Most Dangerous Game,’ released in 1932, having been shot (mostly at night) on sets used during the day for the ‘Skull Island’ sequences of ‘King Kong.’ The film added two other principal characters: brother and sister pair Eve Trowbridge (Fay Wray) and Martin Trowbridge (Robert Armstrong). (Wray and Armstrong were also filming King Kong on the same sets during the day.)

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March 24, 2012

The Prize of Peril

Prix du Danger

The Prize of Peril is a science fiction short-story by Robert Sheckley, written in 1958 and first published in the collection ‘Store of Infinity’ in 1960 by Bantam Books. The short story is noted for its plot’s anticipation of Reality television shows such as Survivor and Fear Factor by several decades. The screenplay for the fake German reality show ‘Das Millionenspiel’ (‘The Million Game’) was based on the story, as was the French film version of ‘Das Millionenspiel,’ ‘Le prix du danger.’ The protagonist of the story is Jim Raeder, a man only notable due to his normality, who has been a participant in many reality television-shows (given the name ‘thrill shows’) and thus become a celebrity.

In all the shows the risk of dying has been a part of the concept; he has fought a real bull in Spain, he has driven a Formula 1-car, and fought with other divers while trying to escape sharks and other sea monsters. In the story he partakes in the greatest of all reality shows; he is to be hunted by professional gangland murderers. As he is hunted, his journey is shown all over the US on TV and he receives help from the viewers; the so called Good Samaritans and the commentator, Mike Terry, makes a point of this during the show: ‘All of America is ready to help Jim!,’ but Raeder soon finds out that things are not what he expected them to be and that maybe his survival is not the main priority among the public. The story ends with Raeder winning The Prize of Peril, but being dragged away after presumably having a mental breakdown, not being ‘himself’ at the moment according to Terry.

March 18, 2012

The Space Traders

The space traders

The Space Traders is a science fiction short story by Derrick Bell (1930 – 2011), the first tenured African-American Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and one of the originators of critical race theory (which argues that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society). Published in 1992, its subject is the arrival of apparently benevolent and powerful extraterrestrials that offer the United States a wide range of benefits such as gold, clean nuclear power and other technological advances, in exchange for one thing: handing over all black people in the U.S. to the aliens. The story posits that the people and political establishment of the U.S. are willing to make this deal, passing a constitutional amendment to enable it.

‘The Space Traders’ was adapted for television in 1994 by director Reginald Hudlin and writer Trey Ellis. It aired on HBO as the leading segment of a three-part television anthology entitled ‘Cosmic Slop,’ which focused on minority-centric science fiction. In the run-up to the 2012 U.S. presidential election, the story became the subject of political controversy. A review of the TV adaptation on the conservative news site argued that it ‘captures the stupidity, paranoia, and shameless race-hustling of the people that Obama embraces.’ In ‘The Atlantic,’ Conor Friedersdorf replied by arguing that the story’s critics ‘would do well to acknowledge that for many decades of American history, including years during Professor Bell’s life, a majority of Americans would have voted in favor of trading blacks for fantastic wealth, unlimited energy, and an end to pollutants.’

April 11, 2011

Harrison Bergeron

harrison bergeron

Harrison Bergeron‘ is a satirical, dystopian science fiction short story written by Kurt Vonnegut and first published in 1961. The story is set in the year 2081. Due to the 211th, 212th and 213th Amendments to the Constitution of America, all Americans are mandated equal.

‘They were not only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way.’ In America no one is more intelligent than anyone else, no one is better looking or more athletic than anyone else. In order to stop any sort of competition in society these measures are enforced by the United States Handicapper General.

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