Mark R. Kelly has come out with a new ranked list of well remembered science fiction short stories. You can view it here. I like to use the word remembered because some people get bent out of shape when seeing list titles with words like classics, great, best, in them. All of us who are in the business of creating lists try to come up with quantitative ways of recognizing which stories are remembered most, and that kind of implies the results are among the best or classics. Ultimately, it’s tracking reader memory. Kelly has an interesting system.

I love all these lists because I love reading old science fiction short stories. I thought I’d compare several just for the fun of it, and help remind people there are lists out there that help find old science fiction short stories to read. By the way, January is Vintage Science Fiction Not-a-Challenge month accord to the Little Red Reviewer blog, and reading short stories count. If you read and review old SF you might post links to their site.

Kelly has a nice feature for his list, a photo of a recent anthology and a link to Amazon where you can buy that anthology. See our “The SF Anthology Problem — Solved” essay for which anthologies have the most remembered stories.

Click on the heading link to see each site’s full list of stories.

Mark R. Kelly’s 10 Top SF Stories:

  1. “Bears Discover Fire” by Terry Bisson
  2. “Day Million” by Frederik Pohl
  3. “The Game of Rat and Dragon” by Cordwainer Smith
  4. “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison
  5. “The Star” by Arthur C. Clarke
  6. “The Nine Billion Names of God” by Arthur C. Clarke
  7. “Jeffty Is Five” by Harlan Ellison
  8. “Light of Other Days” by Bob Shaw
  9. “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ
  10. “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison

ISFDB Top 10 SF Stories:

  1. “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang
  2. “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes
  3. “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” by H. P. Lovecraft
  4. “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury
  5. “Dear Devil” by Eric Frank Russell
  6. “The Screwfly Solution” by James Tiptree, Jr.
  7. “Sandkings” by George R. R. Martin
  8. “Enemy Mind” by Barry B. Longyear
  9. “Jeffty Is Five” by Harlan Ellison
  10. “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe

Sci-Fi Lists Top 10 SF Stories:

  1. “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes
  2. “Nightfall” by Isaac Asimov
  3. “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang
  4. “The Nine Billion Names of God” by Arthur C. Clarke
  5. “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin
  6. “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang
  7. “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison
  8. “Hell is the Absence of God” by Ted Chiang
  9. “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” by Roger Zelazny
  10. “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison

The Classics of Science Fiction Short Stories Top 13 Stories (our list):

  1. “Bloodchild” by Octavia E Butler
  2. “The Star” by Arthur C. Clarke and “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ
  3. “Blood Music” by Greg Bear and “The Game of Rat and Dragon” by Cordwainer Smith

4th place ties made our list run longer than 10:

  • “Bears Discover Fire” by Terry Bisson
  • “Day Million” by Frederik Pohl
  • “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes
  • “Fondly Fahrenheit” by Alfred Bester
  • “Light of Other Days” by Bob Shaw
  • “A Martian Odyssey” by Stanley G. Weinbaum
  • “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison
  • “The Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang

Here is a list of all the lists we used to calculate our list, which include the ISFDB and Sci-Fi Top 100 lists.

So, consider reading some vintage SF short stories this month.

James Wallace Harris, 1/2/21

8 thoughts on “Vintage SF Short Stories

  1. But Mark’s list is for short stories only, so it’s not directly comparable to the other lists. He has yet to tabulate the rankings for novellas and novelettes.

    If you visit the SFADB website and go to the timeline, you’ll see that he has already listed the top 1,000 (!) in each category, with their provisional ratings. It should be possible to pick out the top 10 stories across categories by sifting through the provisional ratings.

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    1. I knew that but didn’t worry about it because I mostly created this post to get people to go see his new site. I guess I should have annotated the problem. I might try to fix it with the timeline method you suggested, but that sounds like a lot of work. Still, I’d love to have a list of those 3,000 stories. Have you created such a list Piet?

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  2. Glad you included ‘Fondly Fahrenheit’. I recounted that one to the troops around that campfire at Boy Scout camp once.

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    1. It’s funny you should mention “Fondly Fahrenheit” since I read it for the 4th or 5th-time last night. I’m reading The Great SF Stories 16 (1954). It also features The Cold Equations. Evidently, 1954 was an exceptional year for SF.

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