Some of the MY FAVORITE SF STORIES anthologies feature stories that the writer choses from his or her oeuvre. But in Marty Greenberg’s My Favorite Science Fiction Story (1999), writers chose stories they love written by other writers.

Several of my favorite SF stories grace the Table of Contents. Love C. M. Kornbluth’s “The Little Black Bag.” What happens when a doctor’s kit from the Future shows up now? The results will surprise you.

I’m also fond of Cordwainer Smith’s “The Ballad of Lost C’mell,” one of his most moving Instrumentality stories. And who can forget Keith Laumer’s classic “The Last Command”?

A couple of these stories were new to me (or I had completely forgotten I read them). “Black Charlie” by Gordon R. Dickson explores what Art really is. And Greenberg cleverly ends this wonderful anthology with one of C. M. Kornbluth’s darkest (yet insightful) stories about the price of ignoring the lessons of History. All in all, this is a great collection of stories. The short essays by the chosers also provide additional information about the writer and the story. Highly recommended! How many of these stories have you read? GRADE: A


Introduction — ix

The man who lost the sea / Theodore Sturgeon — Chosen by Arthur C. Clarke — 1

The last command / Keith Laumer — Chosen by Anne McCaffrey –13

Day million — Frederik Pohl — Chosen by Joe Haldeman — 32

The little black bag / C.M. Kornbluth — Chosen by Fredrick Pohl — 38

A galaxy called Rome / Barry N. Malzberg — Chosen by Mike Resnick — 67

Diabologic / Eric Frank Russell — Chosen by Andre Norton — 86

Untouched by human hands / Robert Sheckley — Chosen by Alan Dean Foster — 108

Black Charlie / Gordon R. Dickson — Chosen by Poul Anderson — 123

The ugly chickens / Howard Waldrop — Chosen by Harry Turtledove — 139

The mathenauts / Norman Kagan — Chosen by Greg Bear — 162

Lot / Ward Moore — Chosen by Connie Willis — 178

The ballad of lost C’mell / Cordwainer Smith — Chosen by Lois McMaster Bujold — 205

A Martian odyssey / Stanley G. Weinbaum — Chosen by L. Sprague de Camp — 226

Common time / James Blish — Chose by Robert Silverberg — 262

The engine at heartspring’s center / Roger Zelazny — Chosen by Greg Benford — 273

Nerves / Lester del Rey — Chosen by Mariam Zimmer Bradley — 282

The only thing we can learn / C.M. Kornbluth — Chosen by David Drake — 356

26 thoughts on “WEDNESDAY’S SHORT STORIES #14: MY FAVORITE SCIENCE FICTION STORY Edited by Martin H. Greenberg

  1. Steve Oerkfitz

    I read this anthology years ago. My favorite story is Howard Waldrop’s The Ugly Chickens. Other favorites would be the Cordwainer Smith, Ward Moore, Theodore Sturgeon and C.M. Kornbluth. The only clunkers are Nerves by Lester del Rey and A Martian Odyssey by Stanley Weinbaum both of which have dated badly.. All in all a pretty good collection.

    1. george Post author

      Steve, I agree with you on “A Martian Odyssey” and “Nerves.” Those stories show their age. But, there’s plenty of other SF stories in this anthology to like…a lot!

      1. Todd Mason

        I was very young when I read the Weinbaum and he Del Rey, so I was less disturbed by, for example, the stage ethnicity shtick of a few of Weinbaum’s characters (albeit that was already an example of making fun of the default stereotypes).

        And these were stories that introduced approaches and concepts.

  2. Jeff Meyerson

    Yeah, when I read “A Martian Odyssey” for the first time a couple of years ago, I was surprised it wasn’t better. The Kornbluth stands out of course. Also read the Waldrop and Cordwainer Smith and Moore and Malzberg and a few others, more than usual for me. The best part of these anthologies can be the authors’ essays.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, you are so right about the authors’s essays! Fascinating! I think I have a copy of MY FAVORITE HORROR STORY around here somewhere which I suspect follows the same format as MY FAVORITE SCIENCE FICTION STORY. If I find it, I’ll read it and post a review about it soon.

  3. Patti Abbott

    I wonder what the secret is to writing ageless stories. Is it more style? The use of dated technology? Concerns that are no longer concerns. I would like to read an essay on this.

    1. george Post author

      Patti, Harold Bloom addresses this question of great books appealing to generations of readers in THE BRIGHT BOOK OF LIFE. I’m sure your local Library will have a copy. Just read the Preface for Bloom’s thoughts on ageless stories.

      1. Todd Mason

        Don’t ground your story in transient concerns unless they have human-condition resonance. “A Martian Odyssey” is a better story than, say. “Nightfall” by Asimov (I read them for the first time about a day apart), but both were written by relative kids, and “Nightfall” was based on arguing a point with a poet, while the Weinbaum was about how aliens, if we encounter them, are likely to be extremely alien rather than us with different helmets. This was not a widely-acknowledged point in newsstand sf, even with the examples of Wells or Fitz-James O’Brien, and the Weinbaum aliens weren’t inherently vicious or eerie so much as either exhibiting some strange behavior but interested in their new human companion, or oblivious. And Weinbaum’s prose was less clumsy than Asimov’s.

      2. Todd Mason

        He got better as he went along, except when a story was just an exercise in keeping a hand in. The notion that “Nightfall” was the best thing he wrote hurt his feelings to some degree when suggested by some burbling fan or another, and with good reason.

        I see I underestimated Weinbaum’s age at time of publication of “Odyssey” he started a bit late, into his 30s, and was 32.

  4. Jerry House

    Not only are the stories great, but they give some insight into the respective authors who chose them. A fascinating anthology.

    And, yes, the Weinbaum and the del Rey are dated, but so were most of the bookls I ahd to read in high school and college. Those books, and these particular stories, endure. I feel sorry for anyone who would skip these two just because they are dated.

    1. Rick Robinson

      There’s skipping, and there’s read it a couple of times and that’s enough. Martian Odyssey was very highly thought of before I read it in high school, and did not impress. I reread it sometime in the 1980s, and though I appreciated it differently, still was not wowed by greatness. Asimov, I’ve almost always enjoyed, especially the Robot stories.

      By the by, I’m now reading a short story collection by H. Beam Piper.

    1. george Post author

      Rick, I own a few dozen of Greenberg’s books so I feel I’m entitled to address him the way Isaac Asimov did in THE GREAT SF STORIES series.

  5. Todd Mason

    I’ve read most of them…not yet the Russell nor the Zelazny. Pretty good selection.

    Interesting–I managed to miss MY FAVORITE HORROR STORY in the flood of Greenberg anthologies, and a Whole Bunch of the stories are reasonably or utterly realistic suspense stories rather than supernatural horror stories. To an even greater degree than usually in such compilations. With at least an arguable case or two such as “The Human Chair” by “Rampo”…

    ix • Introduction (My Favorite Horror Story) • essay by Mike Baker and Martin H. Greenberg
    1 • Sweets to the Sweet (introduction) • (1982) • essay by Stephen King
    2 • Sweets to the Sweet • (1947) • short story by Robert Bloch
    11 • The Father-Thing (introduction) • essay by Ed Gorman
    12 • The Father-Thing • (1954) • short story by Philip K. Dick
    26 • The Distributor (introduction) • essay by F. Paul Wilson
    27 • The Distributor • (1958) • short story by Richard Matheson [suspense story]
    47 • A Warning to the Curious (introduction) • essay by Ramsey Campbell
    48 • A Warning to the Curious • (1925) • short story by M. R. James
    68 • Opening the Door (introduction) • essay by Peter Atkins
    70 • Opening the Door • (1931) • short story by Arthur Machen
    85 • The Colour Out of Space (introduction) • essay by Richard Laymon
    89 • The Colour Out of Space • [Cthulhu Mythos] • (1927) • novelette by H. P. Lovecraft
    124 • The Inner Room (introduction) • essay by Peter Straub
    125 • The Inner Room • (1966) • novelette by Robert Aickman
    162 • Young Goodman Brown (introduction) • essay by Rick Hautala
    163 • Young Goodman Brown • (1835) • short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    179 • The Rats in the Walls (introduction) • essay by Michael Slade
    180 • The Rats in the Walls • (1924) • novelette by H. P. Lovecraft [ss]
    204 • The Dog Park (introduction) • essay by Richard Christian Matheson
    205 • The Dog Park • (1993) • short story by Dennis Etchison [need to read this one, but have suspicions]
    219 • The Animal Fair (introduction) • (1995) • essay by Joe R. Lansdale
    220 • The Animal Fair • (1971) • short story by Robert Bloch [ss]
    236 • The Pattern (introduction) • essay by Poppy Z. Brite
    237 • The Pattern • (1976) • novelette by Ramsey Campbell
    258 • The Tell-Tale Heart (introduction) • essay by Joyce Carol Oates
    259 • The Tell-Tale Heart • (1843) • short story by Edgar Allan Poe [ss]
    266 • An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (introduction) • essay by Dennis Etchison
    267 • An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge • (1890) • short story by Ambrose Bierce [ss]
    279 • The Human Chair (introduction) • essay by Harlan Ellison
    281 • The Human Chair • (1956) • short story by 江戸川乱歩? (trans. of 人間椅子? 1925) [as by Edogawa Rampo] [ss]
    299 • About the Authors (My Favorite Horror Story) • essay by uncredited

    So, thanks for mentioning this book!

    1. george Post author

      Todd, I’m always astounded at how many good paperbacks I missed in the 1980s and 1990s. I could blame it on working on my PhD. which diverted my attention from genre fiction. But, I think I was just busy being a Dad and a Professor and a Doctoral Student.

      1. Todd Mason

        Well, it was almost impossible to keep up with all the Greenberg anthologies being offered, even if they were finding their way to one’s local bookshops, which some weren’t. In 1982, I was finishing high school and beginning university in Hawaii, and the Honolulu Book Shop chain, my major source of new books at the time, was rather like a slightly (but only slightly) better-stocked B. Dalton or Waldenbooks, with taller shelves. So, the shelves were about as crowded as the stores were with customers.

      2. george Post author

        Todd, I had the same problem with keeping up with Greenberg anthologies. It seemed like a couple were published every month!

      3. Todd Mason

        Guess what! ISFDB, perhaps cogently, but without explanation, lists all the HORROR selectors’ notes as having been written or published in 1982 (though where published would be a good question, not answered), but the book didn’t find its way into print till 2000…after co-editor Mike Baker’s early death (a lot of that going around in our comments today). I hope you won’t be too put off if I poach the horror volume for a few stories and quick discussion for my SSW today…impulsive passion for this kind of thing, doncha know…look forward to your full review!

  6. Michael Padgett

    Richard Laymon! Now there’s a name I haven’t seen in a while, and introducing nothing less than my favorite Lovecraft story. Hard to believe he’s been gone for 20 years. I’ve probably read more Laymon novels than I’ve read by any other writer, and am not sure I’ve even read all of them. Purists and the la-de-dah crowd hated him, but he could keep a story moving like nobody else I ever read.

    1. george Post author

      Michael, I too like Richard Laymon’s works. I’ll have to dig out a couple and do some FFB reviews. I like his choice in MY FAVORITE HORROR STORY!


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