After mysteries, speculative fiction is my favorite genre to read. Two of my favorite novels, regardless of genre, are speculative fiction, the fantasy Watership Down by Richard Adams and The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. Click on the titles to read my reviews.
I also love reading short stories. The anthology Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers contains four of my favorite speculative fiction short stories. If you love science fiction or fantasy, try to get your hands on a copy of the anthology or see if the short stories below are reprinted online.
The Tryouts by Barry B. Longyear
On the planet of Momus, reporting the news isn’t a right or a job. It’s an art, which people pay for like any other art. That makes it very difficult when an ambassador from the Ninth Federation needs to tell the people of Momus about an imminent invasion from the Tenth Federation. As a newsteller, an artist who performs the news, put it, this story has “great heroes and high comedy.”
This story is original and fun, especially for a writer. As the newsteller performs his news, his audience of three critiques it like an agent or editor. They remark on whether the opening has a good enough hook, if the hero is described well enough, or if he has sufficient motivation. It also has a great twist ending.
The Homesick Chicken by Edward D. Hoch
Edward D. Hoch was known for his mysteries, so it’s no surprise that this science fiction story is also a mystery. Barnabus Rex, a detective of scientific riddles, is called to a research farm to figure out why one of the farms genetically modified chickens pecked its way out of the farm, crossed a belt highway, and was found pecking in an empty field. Yes, it’s a futuristic version of why did the chicken cross the road with the added element of crime.
The Band from the Planet Zoom by Andrew Weiner
A rock band of three young men and a young women approach a British rock critic to be their manager. They claim to be from America. They cover songs from the 60’s in any style you can name. He becomes their manager, and the music business goes wild over these clever copyists. The manager learns they aren’t really from America but from a planet where the citizens loves this kind of music. When he falls for the young woman, he learns the Band from the Planet Zoom copies more than just hit songs.
The Hob by Judith Moffett
While on a vacation in Yorkshire, Jenny Shepherd meets Elphi, a member of an alien race who assumed the role of hobs in the countryside. Hobs are like fairies or brownies, who do good deeds, but if humans break certain rules, they will leave or turn against them.
Elphi explains how his people arrived on earth and how they’re dying off. He also tells Jenny she’ll forget this whole story in twenty-four hours. Elphi is right, but Jenny is always curious about the twenty-four hours she lost on her vacation and is always drawn to Yorkshire.
I love this story because I enjoy stories that try to explain the reality behind superstitions or legends. This story also has one of the best endings of any short story I’ve read.
What speculative fiction short stories do you recommend?