world of shorter fiction
Short stories and novellas have different rhythms and artistic flavor than a novel. Many of mine are already collected in OTHERNESS and THE RIVER OF TIME (see below). Later ones will be gathered in a future collection, and some are available for download to ebook readers or reading directly on the web.
THE CRYSTAL SPHERES
In a universe filled with habitable worlds, why have we had no contact with extra-terrestrial intelligence? "The Crystal Spheres" (available for purchase on Amazon's kindle, Smashwords, and Mysterious Galaxy bookstore) offers a fantastic explanation for the Great Silence. Instead of being late-comers -- might humanity have come upon the scene too early? This haunting tale was voted one of the "most beautiful of the eighties." Winner of the 1985 Hugo Award.
In "Piecework," (available for purchase on Amazon's kindle, Smashwords, and Mysterious Galaxy bookstore)the most sophisticated "engineering" process on Earth is pregnancy among mammals -- especially among humans. There is already talk of using goats and cattle to produce industrial products instead of milk, and possibly bringing to term organic machines, programmed in eggs to develop in the womb. What if this happens... and continues? Might poor women earn a living by renting out their wombs for industrial "piecework" production of high-end organic machinery? In this chilling, award-nominated tale, a master of modern science fiction lets us glimpse an all-too possible near future when science, economics and individual dignity clash across the most intimate battlefield of all.
THE SMARTEST MOB
A complete novella, "The Smartest Mob" offers a full adventure-excerpt from Existence. A news reporter finds herself aboard a passenger Zeppelin that might -- perhaps -- have been turned into a weapon of terror. No one will listen -- not the government or the Zep company. No one, that is, except a semi-random band of amateurs, scattered around the globe.
Completists eager for more in the Uplift Universe may be interested in reading the novella "Temptation," which appeared in Robert Silverberg's anthology Far Horizons: All New Tales from the Greatest Worlds of Science Fiction. This work features the adventures of a female dolphin on the faraway world, Jijo, who must escape from two of her own kind and then penetrate a deeply dangerous ancient secret. This novella will be a core element of the next Uplift novel... when I get around to it (!)... and answers several unresolved riddles left over from Heaven's Reach.
Temptation is also available as an audio podcast.
SIX WORD STORIES
In 2006, Wired Magazine asked a group of authors to write a six-word story for an article. I sent a batch, and they chose: "Vacuum collision. Orbits diverge. Farewell, love." The rest?
- "Dinosaurs return. Want their oil back."
- "Bang postponed. Not Big enough. Reboot."
- "Temporal recursion. I'm dad and mom?"
- "Time Avenger's mistaken! It wasn't me..."
- "Democracy postponed. Whence franchise? Ask Diebold..."
- "Cyborg seeks egg donor, object ___."
- "Deadline postponed. Five words enough...?"
- "Metrosexuals notwithstanding, quiche still lacks something."
- "Brevity's virtue? Wired saves adspace. Subscribe!"
- "Death postponed. Metastasized cells got organized."
- "Microsoft gave us Word. Fiat lux?"
- "Mind of its own. Damn lawnmower."
- "Singularity postponed. Datum missing. Query Godoogle?"
"Toujours Voir" is a specialty micro-story exactly 250 words long -- which has been written in the logical artificial language "lojban" (then translated into English). It's an experiment in how complex an idea can be conveyed in the smallest number of words.
THE RIVER OF TIME
The River of Time, my first story collection, brings together eleven short stories, including "The Crystal Spheres" (WINNER: Hugo Award Best SF Short Story 1985) and four other stories available here. These powerful tales of heroism and humanity offer playful excursions into realms of fancy and profound meditations on time, memory, and our place in the universe.
TANK FARM DYNAMO
Can a science fiction story alter the course of something ponderous, like the space program? Perhaps. "Tank Farm Dynamo" (now available for purchase for Amazon's kindle, Smashwords, and Mysterious Galaxy bookstore) sure tried! What if we found the nerve, the spirit and daring to use every resource -- including those that NASA simply threw away? An unabashedly old-fashioned hard SF story with science and technology as central, problem-solving players... plus a real twist.
THE LOOM OF THESSALY
Who guides our fate? And can we ever hope to wrest control for ourselves? In this novella, "The Loom of Thessaly" (available for purchase on Amazon's kindle, Smashwords, and Mysterious Galaxy bookstore), classical mythology merges with impudent modern spirit into a science fiction legend that speculates upon the nature of reality.
THE GIVING PLAGUE
"The Giving Plague," (which appeared in Otherness and is available to read on this website), came in second for a Hugo. It plunges into our modern fear -- even deeper than nuclear war -- of a virus that might wreak ruin on us all... or else change us immeasurably... and the moral quandaries facing a brilliant researcher.
Smashwords has optioned this story for free downloading on all available ebook formats, or you can listen to the reading-podcast audiobook version (republished by Interzone Online). It's also for sale on Amazon's kindle.
Another novella-excerpt from Existence tells the story of a brave Chinese man trying to make a life in the flooded boundaries of Shanghai, who stumbles upon a great and terrible discovery, in "Shoresteading."
THE BLACKJACK GENERATION
GORILLA MY DREAMS
In this humorous story set in the Uplift Universe, chimpanzees and dolphins are helping humans choose the next species for uplift when powerful alien starships arrive to wipe out all life on Earth. This comedy is available for purchase on Amazon's kindle, Smashwords, and Mysterious Galaxy bookstore.
A number of audio versions of stories have appeared via Starship Sofa:
Interzone Online has republished a reading-podcast audiobook of my Hugo-nominated story "The Giving Plague." Clear and dramatic and fun. You'll like it. It's all about disease!
When did America lose its knack for making things? Manufacturing is the root that all other projects sprout from... even the arts! The story "The Tinkerers" illuminates one community's response to that question. Thanks to the Metals Service Center Institute, it became a graphic novel that combines graphic art with a guided tour of history and tech, exploring how to win back the knack!
DR. PAK'S PRESCHOOL
What if education could be extended into the womb? Will we get brilliant, well-balanced babies? Monsters? Or a frightening/hopeful combination of both? Chilling and plausible and under option to be made into a feature film, "Dr. Pak's Preschool" (now available for purchase on Amazon's kindle, Smashwords, and Mysterious Galaxy bookstore) explores the bright and very dark possibilities when science meddles in the most intimate human act -- bearing and delivering a child.
THOR MEETS CAPTAIN AMERICA
Nominated for a Hugo Award in 1987, the novella "Thor Meets Captain America" (now available for purchase on Amazon's kindle, Smashwords, and Mysterious Galaxy bookstore) offers an alternate history exploring a chilling scenario behind the Holocaust. In this parallel world, the Nazis narrowly avoid defeat in World War II when they are championed by the gods of the Norse Pantheon. At a dramatic turn, Loki joins the Allies and they prepare a last-ditch raid to blow up Valhalla. With an afterword by the author.
This story was later expanded into an award winning graphic novel The Life Eaters, with artwork by Scott Hampton.
"Aficionado" (also a part of Existence and available to read on this website) takes you on a wild rocket ride -- the new sport of the super-rich in 2050. Hacker Sander is spoiled, temperamental and a champion rock-jock, expert at the game of Space War... till a crash landing throws him into lethal peril. His sole hope? A tribe of strangely savvy sea creatures, with a secret need of their own.
A different take on a similar subject, "Reality Check" appeared in the March 16, 2000, issue of the science journal Nature and was selected for the Year's Best SF 6 Anthology, edited by David G. Hartwell.
"Those Eyes," (which appeared in Otherness and is available to read for free here), takes you on a ride through the notion of UFOs following the tough gaze of a radio talk show host who challengess the nasty, skulking 'visitors' to come into the open and face us, eye to eye!
"Those Eyes" goes directly to one of my longstanding interests, spanning both fiction and my other life as a scientist -- the deep question of whether alien life may exist, and if so how it could manifest in both strange and familiar ways. For some of my more scientific and technical approaches to this issue, look elsewhere in this site under world of ideas.
STONES OF SIGNIFICANCE
The Singularity -- when our skill & knowledge & immense computing power transform us into... well... godlike beings. From a writer's perspective, it presents a problem. One can write stories leading up to the Singularity, about problems like rebellious AI. But how do you write a tale set AFTER the singularity has happened? That's the topic of Stones of Significance (now available for purchase on Amazon's kindle, Smashwords, and Mysterious Galaxy bookstore).
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