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  • Writer's pictureSteve Haywood

From a Hangman to Alien Rescuers… more short story recommendations

Continuing on from my last post, I’ve got more great short story recommendations, most of which you can read and/or listen to online.  I’ve been reading mostly science fiction short stories, but have picked one or two non sci-fi stories that I’ve enjoyed recently too.

Light of Other Days‘ by Bob Shaw. This was written in the 1960s, and I’d not heard of the story before and only barely heard of the author however I came across a Youtube video suggesting this was the best SF short story ever. I don’t know I’d agree with that, but it is a really great story. It’s only short, so you can easily read in about fifteen minutes. It’s got a great science fiction concept (slow glass), but it is a story about people with the concept just part of the backdrop. Definitely worth a read.

New Folks Home‘ by Clifford D Simak. This is my first short story by Simak, and I’ve previously only read one novel of his (Way Station – you can read my review here), but I really like this author. He had a long career, with his first story being published in 1931, and his last in the 1980s shortly before his death. He wrote what has been described as ‘Pastoral SF’, linking galaxy spanning science fiction concepts with a simple, rural backdrop. The link to this story is to an audio version of the story, from the great folks at Escape Pod. I’m not always a fan of audio stories over reading them on the page (or screen), but I thought the narration on this really good and fit well with the story.

Item Not as Described‘ by J.W. Alden. While I’ve been reading a lot of older ‘golden age’ science fiction, I’ve also been reading quite a few new short stories. There’s lots of places to read new stuff online, including quite a few ‘pro’ websites which publish short stories by some of the best modern SF writers (websites/e-zines like Clarkesworld, Lightspeed Magazine, Strange Horizons etc) but there’s also a lot of semi-pro and small press websites and e-zines and there’s some really good stuff on these too. This one was published in Kasma Magazine and is quite an amusing story, taking the form of a thread of email exchanges between someone who has bought an item on an online auction site which wasn’t as described, the seller of said item and the customer service department of the auction site. However the auction site is something of a darker alternative to eBay! It’s only short, but is a fun and amusing read.

‘Rescue Party’ by Arthur C Clarke. This is a true golden age SF story, from one of the masters of science fiction. An alien starship comes to the rescue of Earth when it is discovered that Earth’s sun is about to explode, destroying all of the solar system. But where are all the people?

Anyway the first of these is ‘The Three Strangers‘ by Thomas Hardy. For anyone who doesn’t know, Hardy was a classic English author of the Victorian era (19th century) who wrote rural English stories such as ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ and ‘Jude the Obscure’. I’ve not read any of his books, but his short stories were recommended to me, in particular an anthology called ‘Wessex Tales’. I’ve read several of these so far, and particularly enjoyed The Three Strangers, which is a country tale about a hangman. It is the sort you could imagine an old man telling his grandchildren while sat round the fire of a thatched cottage, deep in the woods.

The second of these is ‘The Blue Girl‘ by Alex Grecian. This is a short story set in late 19th century London, a crime-mystery featuring Constable Colin Pringle. By his own frank admission, Pringle isn’t a very hard working or dedicated policeman – he only joined the police force because he thought the uniform might attract pretty young girls. He isn’t even a detective, however the sight of the blue girl floating in the canal makes him feel compelled  to do some investigating, because if he doesn’t, no one else will. This short story is based on the author’s Murder Squad books of Victorian detective fiction. I haven’t read any of them, and only read this story as it was recommended to me by my lovely wife who is a fan of Grecian’s books. I really enjoyed it however, and it is doing a good job of making me want to read his books. This isn’t available free online as far as I can see, but is only 49 pence in the UK Kindle store.

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