Short Stories
Title Author Review Rating Reviewer
Adjustment (1957) Ward Moore Spineless tale in which a dull middle-of-the-roader assumes a free-spirited psychotic’s male-chauvinist fantasy then proceeds to domesticate it. Cop-out conclusion. 3 Brian Martin
The American’s Tale (1880) Arthur Conan Doyle Fanciful tale of 19th century Arizona, where grass grows over a man’s head and Venus Flytraps are like trees with eight-foot leaves. Trouble erupts in a British-American settlement when an ornery American disappears in Flytrap Gulch and a quiet British man is suspected of killing him. Quaint, at best. 3 Brian Martin
Aepyornis Island (1894) H. G. Wells The Aepyornis was a 10-foot tall flightless bird that roamed the island of Madagascar and became extinct in the 17th century. In this enjoyable adventure, a fossil collector finds himself stranded on a deserted atoll with an unfriendly representative of the species. 5 Brian Martin
Answer (1954) Fredric Brown Short short about throwing the connection on the galaxy's first supercomputer suffers for the fact that it isn't 1954 anymore. Predictable and naive. 2 Brian Martin
The Argonauts of the Air (1895) H. G. Wells Rich inventor Monson builds an elaborate iron framework in which he can safely test his new flying machine, but after years of limited success and with his money running out, he decides to leave the nest for the open air. Grand, realistically told tale of the price of technological advancement. 4 Brian Martin
The Artushof (1819) E. T. A. Hoffmann A young bookkeeper-turned-painter finds his Muse in the inaccessible daughter of an old master, but is she his true love? Unconventional love story that begins and ends in an amicable vein, but turns more darkly psychological as the painter’s obsession grows. 4 Brian Martin
The Assignation (1834) Edgar Allan Poe Well-executed misdirection as a man talks fervently and incessantly about his collection of antiquities, seemingly to avoid keeping an appointment with a beautiful woman. 4 Brian Martin
The Available Data on the Worp Reaction (1953) Lion Miller Amusing tongue-in-cheek reportorial yarn about Aldous Worp, an idiot boy who confounds everyone by building an inexplicable machine from junkyard parts. 4 Brian Martin
Baby Is Three (1952) Theodore Sturgeon Powerful, expertly crafted novella about a 15-year-old boy who confesses murder to a psychiatrist, then spins out a fantastic tale of his relationship to a kindly spinster, a telekinetic, two teleporting twins, and a three-year-old idiot savant in an effort to find out why he did it. A horror story with an intriguing science fiction twist. Selected by the Science Fiction Writers of America as one of the greatest science fiction novellas of all time. 6 Brian Martin
The Balloon-Hoax (1844) Edgar Allan Poe Originally written as a news story and published as such in the New York Sun, Poe’s hoax about a group of men using a hitherto unknown propeller-driven balloon to traverse the Atlantic Ocean in three days caused quite a sensation. In Poe’s own words: "On the morning (Saturday) of its announcement, the whole square surrounding the 'Sun' building was literally besieged, blocked up—ingress and egress being alike impossible, from a period soon after sunrise until about two o'clock P.M….I never witnessed more intense excitement to get possession of a newspaper. As soon as the few first copies made their way into the streets, they were bought up, at almost any price, from the news-boys, who made a profitable speculation beyond doubt. I saw a half-dollar given, in one instance, for a single paper, and a shilling was a frequent price. I tried, in vain, during the whole day, to get possession of a copy." Today, this bit of ephemera is of mainly historical interest, especially since the narrative, lacking the wonder and excitement of then-contemporary scientific achievement, is remarkably uneventful. 3 Brian Martin
Battleground (1972) Stephen King Almost three decades before Toy Soldiers, tiny Vietnam military forces attack the hit man who killed the head of the toy company that created them. Uneven odds sabotage an otherwise gripping battle. 3 Brian Martin
Behind the Curtain (1918) Francis Stevens (Gertrude Bennett) Sad tale of a man who loves his collection of Egyptian artifacts more than his wife and best friend — so much so that he would rather commit murder and suicide than part with it. Sad, that is, if you can get past the it-was-all-a-dream ending. 2 Brian Martin
Beyond the Wall of Sleep (1919) H. P. Lovecraft Lovecraft’s aims — awe and a sense of cosmic mystery — are undercut by vague and mundane imagery in this tale of a young psychiatric intern whose studies of a hillbilly patient given to violent nightmares prove his theory of an independent and resplendent life lived in dreams. 2 Brian Martin
The Birds (1952) Daphne du Maurier Birds of every feather flock together in this tense, frightening tale of one man's attempt to protect himself and his family from winged destruction. Nat Hocken makes an appealing, believable hero. The basis for Alfred Hitchcock's film. 6 Brian Martin
The Biter Bit (1858) Wilkie Collins Very funny mystery in which a pompous, irrepressible young police officer bungles his first case, a simple household burglary. Collins wittily lets the policeman hang himself, telling the tale primarily in the form of the cop’s field reports to his superior officer. 6 Brian Martin
The Black Cat (1843) Edgar Allan Poe Alcoholic man becomes increasingly abusive until he hangs the family cat. When another, nearly identical, cat follows him home not long after, it sets in motion an even greater crime. Strong horror tale, with an appropriately poetic ending. In spite of being billed on the poster as "Edgar Allan Poe's The Black Cat," Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1934 film, starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, has, in fact, nothing whatever to do with this story. 5 Brian Martin
Blood Music (1983) Greg Bear Doctor tries to help his scientist friend who has injected himself with tiny biocomputers that first modify his physiology then attempt to usurp his mind. Medical jargon and subtle references to a not-too-distant future keep this realistic SF tale from slipping into fantasy. Bleak, however. 4 Brian Martin
“Blow Up With the Brig!” (1859) Wilkie Collins Tense race against time for an Englishman on a brig loaded with gunpowder during the Spanish-American war. 4 Brian Martin
The Boogeyman (1973) Stephen King Disciplinarian father blames himself for the unusual deaths of his three young children. Potentially interesting character study is cheapened by its poetically just, Tales From the Crypt-like ending. 3 Brian Martin
Bottle Party (1939) John Collier Delightful tale of a man who buys a jinn in a bottle and receives women, wealth — and a wicked comeuppance. 5 Brian Martin
Brains on the Dump (1991) Nicholas Emmett The title is literal in this short anti-war allegory that supports the notion that original anthologies are a bad idea. 1 Brian Martin
The Brown Hand (1899) Arthur Conan Doyle Routine, but well-written ghost story about a famous Indian surgeon returned to his home in England, and bringing with him the ghost that has haunted his nights for four years. 4 Brian Martin
Burial of the Rats (1928) Bram Stoker During a forced separation from his beloved, a bored Englishman ventures into one of the rubbish dumps near 1850 Paris, finding it peopled with poor, aging survivors of the Napoleonic Wars who become rather less than friendly after dark. (Title refers to the swiftness and completeness with which the dead are devoured by the dump-dwelling rats.) Hunter-prey story with all of the urgency and none of the irony of a "Most Dangerous Game." 3 Brian Martin
Canal (1944) Carl Jacobi A human colonist and petty thief braves the dangers of the great canal dividing Mars and the mysterious Void at its center in order to help himself to a precious drug that will make him rich. Implausible, self-serving science fiction that races along too quickly to effectively develop its ideas, including the one good one it has (sound echoes that return as semi-living creatures). 2 Brian Martin
The Cane (1934) Carl Jacobi Forced nonsense about a man and his cane, each possessed by a wealthy man’s angry and vengeful spirit. The cane, it seems, was made from the branch of a sacred tree obtained from a witch-doctor in Borneo. 2 Brian Martin
The Captain of the Polestar (1883) Arthur Conan Doyle Shallow supernaturalism aboard an Arctic whaler, told in diary form by the ship’s young doctor. The captain’s passionate reaction to ghostly manifestations on the ice soon has the doctor questioning the former’s sanity. 3 Brian Martin
Carnaby’s Fish (1945) Carl Jacobi Pulp horror grafted onto a maritime legend: real-estate agent Jason Carnaby encounters a mythical creature living in the water by one of his lakefront properties, finding it a most unfriendly beast. Arbitrary nonsense. 2 Brian Martin
The Cask of Amontillado (1846) Edgar Allan Poe A man insulted exacts his revenge in the wine cellars of his Spanish mansion. Simple and to the point, even if the “point” is not particularly interesting. 3 Brian Martin
The Certificate (1959) Avram Davidson Fifty years after the arrival of aliens, one of the small percentage of men left alive enters the alien bureaucracy dreaming of a new overcoat — or, better yet, escape. SF chestnut (mankind forced into subservience by more powerful alien beings) gets brief, but remarkably evocative, treatment. 4 Brian Martin
The Chaser (1940) John Collier Wicked, masterful Collier tale about a naive young man purchasing a love potion. 6 Brian Martin
Children of the Corn (1977) Stephen King Thoroughly gripping story of a man and his wife stumbling into a tiny Nebraska town populated by children who worship a malevolent deity in the cornfields. The basis for the 1984 movie starring Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton. 4 Brian Martin
The Choice (1952) W. Hilton-Young Classic short short about a man who returns from a trip to the future remembering just one thing about his adventure. Amusing and provocative. 4 Brian Martin
A Classic Affair (1955) Charles Beaumont Thwarted lover sees his chance when the woman he loves tells him her husband is having an affair. To say more would diminish the fun to be had from this delightfully offbeat tale. 5 Brian Martin
The Coach on the Ring (1932) Carl Jacobi A tourist tracing the Prussian branch of his family learns of the two-hundred-year-old curse connected with his unusual ring from an old man intimately familiar with the legend. Routine, but suspenseful. Originally (and inaccurately) published as “The Haunted Ring.” 3 Brian Martin
The Colloquy of Monos and Una (1841) Edgar Allan Poe Interesting meditations on the fall of mankind and the nature of life after death. 4 Brian Martin
The Coming of the Ice (1926) G. Peyton Wertenbaker Fine tale of man giving up his emotions and the woman he loves for immortality. Some intriguing twists en route to the year 200,000 A.D. 5 Brian Martin
Compassion Circuit (1954) John Wyndham Wyndham’s tale of robots designed only to do those things they deem beneficial for mankind requires the assistance of an exceptionally stupid character, the husband of a frail woman whose declining health necessitates drastic action. 2 Brian Martin
Confessions of the First Number (1963) Cliff Owsley Trivial satire of the first man to give up his name for a number in the interests of security. 2 Brian Martin
The Conquest By the Moon (1809) Washington Irving Irving’s uncomplimentary assessment of the Europeans’ conquest of North America at the expense of Native Americans finds voice in this sardonic tale of men from the moon who use the same logic to take over Earth. Science fiction only by the loosest of definitions, this delightful piece does boast “aliens” who are “armed with concentrated sunbeams.” Not bad for 1809. 6 Brian Martin
The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion (1839) Edgar Allan Poe Historically interesting account of a comet colliding with Earth. No longer scientifically valid, though it’s worth noting that some in the story predict such calamities as geological disturbances, climate and vegetation changes. 4 Brian Martin
The Corpse and the Kid (1934) Cornell Woolrich Loyal son acts quickly to shift the blame for his father's crime to his dead mother's paramour. Suspenseful race against time ends surprisingly. 3 Brian Martin
Cosmic Teletype (1938) Carl Jacobi Truly silly, nonsensical science fantasy about a self-taught scientist and inventor whose “cosmic teletype” picks up messages from two warring planets. 2 Brian Martin
The Counter Charm (1949) Margaret St. Clair Art director of a pulp horror magazine is forced to hire an arrogant artist whose work he despises and who just may have occult powers. When the editor unwisely attempts to counteract the artist’s powers, he finds himself in an even worse predicament. Old-fashioned resolution and otherwise unremarkable except for reports of the artist’s leering attention to the office women. 3 Brian Martin
Daemon (1946) C. L. Moore Greek mythology and the idea that everyone with a soul is accompanied through life by a demon mingle in this interesting and well-told tale, told from the perspective of a simple man with no demon of his own who runs afoul of the terrible scarlet creature accompanying the sadistic captain of the ship to which he has been shanghaied. Unusual mixture of fantasy elements may be because this story was written to accompany a Virgil Finlay drawing for Famous Fantastic Mysteries. 5 Brian Martin
The Daemon Lover (1949) Shirley Jackson Jackson adds a Satanic twist to this story of a woman caught in one of life’s most painfully embarrassing and emotionally shattering situations, being abandoned by her lover on her wedding day. Mature, perceptive horror of an everyday sort. One of a series of stories featuring James Harris, the daemon lover. 6 Brian Martin
Dagon (1917) H. P. Lovecraft A man discovers a terrible undersea civilization when his boat is swamped on an island spewed upward from the ocean floor. Naturally, the experience drives him mad. Played for effect, but rather naïve by today’s standards. 3 Brian Martin
The Dancing Partner (1893) Jerome K. Jerome Overhearing the jaded remarks of a group of young ladies, a toymaker creates a mechanical man to serve them as a more suitable dancing partner. One young woman gets rather more than she bargained for when she can’t turn the robot off. Jerome sacrifices suspense for humor, succeeding only marginally. 3 Brian Martin
The Day of the Deepies (1947) Murray Leinster “Deepies” are displaced persons, some of whom spy for a government that has outlawed science and scientists. To a self-absorbed 13-year-old girl, it is all very exciting when a deepie and her sister’s scientist boyfriend seem about to bring destruction on their little agrarian community. Its unique perspective on the timeless conflict inherent in science itself (even benign science can be turned deadly) keeps this story fresh after more than a half century. 5 Brian Martin
The Dead Past (1956) Isaac Asimov In the future, science research is directed by the government, including work on the chronoscope, or time-viewing machine. But when historian Arnold Potterly is refused permission to use the device to study ancient Carthage, he enlists the aid of young and dangerously curious physics instructor Jonas Foster to build a machine of his own. Dramatic, thought-provoking examination of the implications of time-viewing. 5 Brian Martin
Death Is a White Rabbit (1942) Fredric Brown Three people who know too much must fight for their lives against a mad scientist and his experiments in a different sort of mind control. Intriguing supernaturalism given longer treatment in Brown’s novel The Mind Thing. 5 Brian Martin
Death of a Vampire (1943) Fredric Brown Jilted playwright is the prime suspect in the murder of an influential horror actor. Straight mystery meant to be solved by the hero not the reader, but lightly written and enjoyable. 4 Brian Martin
The Death of Me (1934) Cornell Woolrich Disturbing tale of financially desperate man switching identities with a corpse to escape his debt and finding himself in even hotter water. Sympathetic beginning leads to cold-hearted conclusion. 3 Brian Martin
Death Sits in the Dentist's Chair (1934) Cornell Woolrich Taut suspense and vivid local color — New York City during the Depression — compensate for transparent mystery when a man investigates the death of a patient in his dentist friend's chair. Woolrich's first published suspense story. 3 Brian Martin
Death Waters (1924) Frank Belknap Long An old man tells the story of how his cocksure companion, determined to bottle the water from a black lake in Honduras, meets instead his death when he forces a cup of the stuff on their black guide. Straight-ahead supernaturalism, but this tale holds no surprises. 3 Brian Martin
December 28th (1959) Theodore L. Thomas When a people and a government cannot really bear the thought of execution, the alternative might be something like what happens to John Stapleton, imprisoned for killing his adulterous wife and her lover. The editors of Playboy, in which this story first appeared, found it horrifying. Evidently they missed the humor. 3 Brian Martin
A Descent into the Maelstrom (1841) Edgar Allan Poe Overly long (or insufficiently complicated) tale of a fisherman’s brush with death in a Nordic whirlpool more than a mile wide. 3 Brian Martin
Dial "F" for Frankenstein (1965) Arthur C. Clarke A Clarke entry in the field of sentient machines. When a new satellite telephone service goes into operation, strange things begin happening. Mainly of historical interest as the idea itself is paramount here — and we are all all too familiar with that by now. 2 Brian Martin
The Diamond Maker (1894) H. G. Wells Conservative businessman is tempted by the huge diamond a self-taught scientist claims to have created—but is he telling the truth? 4 Brian Martin
Dickon the Devil (1872) J. Sheridan Le Fanu Man thinks to occupy an old country house, but thinks twice after seeing the ghost of its former owner. Prototypical ghost story and, as such, the elements are all quite familiar. Very little action, leisurely told, but well written. 3 Brian Martin
The Digging at Pistol Key (1947) Carl Jacobi Jamaican voodoo and pirate treasure combine in this story about a disdainful Brit in Trinidad who kills his young black house-servant in a fit of temper and lives to regret it. And the treasure? Jacobi horns that in, too, but not quite cleverly enough to make this tale convincing. 3 Brian Martin
Doctor Diagoras (1964) Stanislaw Lem Ijon Tichy visits cyberneticist Dr. Diagoras, who shows him the evolution of his quest to create a self-organizing substance capable of spontaneous behavior. A scientific "tour" de force, both provocative and spooky. Gothic elements contribute. 5 Brian Martin
Doomsday Deferred (1949) Will F. Jenkins (Murray Leinster) Jenkins’ sense of humor keeps this enjoyable horror thriller about voracious, self-aware army ants in South America bouncing along to a satisfying conclusion. 4 Brian Martin
Double Take (1965) Jack Finney Sweet story with surprising resolution of a beautiful young actress shooting a location scene for a period movie in New York. 5 Brian Martin
A Drama in Mexico: The First Ships of the Mexican Navy (1851) Jules Verne A couple of Spanish mutineers embark on a cross-country trip to Mexico City in order to hand over their ships to the Mexicans, pursued by guilt and Spanish loyalists. Unsurprising adventure yarn. 2 Brian Martin
The Dream-Woman (1874) Wilkie Collins Interesting tale of a man who dreams of a woman attempting to kill him; years later he meets his dream-woman in the flesh and unwisely falls in love with her. 4 Brian Martin
Dr. Heidegger's Experiment (1837) Nathaniel Hawthorne Old Dr. Heidegger tests the effects of water from the fabled Fountain of Youth on four aged friends. Intriguing tale up until Heidegger's (necessarily?) banal friends take center stage; well-written throughout. 4 Brian Martin
Dr. Ox (1872) Jules Verne The phlegmatic populace of a small Flemish town suddenly find themselves at the mercy of passions they are quite unable to control, and only Dr. Ox, who has undertaken at his own expense to light the town with a new gas, knows why. Interesting, but overly broad in its depiction of the townspeople, whose sluggishness in all things tends to weigh down the progress of the plot. 4 Brian Martin
Dust Rag (1956) Hal Clement Two lunar astronauts are blinded when their faceplates begin collecting dust. The problem: how to get the dust off again so they can find their way back to base. Though time is against the astronauts (their air is running out) suspense is largely sacrificed in favor of explaining and solving this scientific puzzle. A sustained sense of fun keeps the basically dry storyline involving. 4 Brian Martin
Eight O’Clock in the Morning (1963) Ray Nelson Nelson imagines alien masters hypnotizing humanity with television and billboards. One man, who accidentally “wakes up,” must figure out how to defeat them. Twenty-five years later, this story made it to the movies in John Carpenter’s They Live. Solid science-fiction. 4 Brian Martin
Emissary From a Green and Yellow World (1998) Robert Sheckley Said emissary visits the President of the United States to impart the certain knowledge that the Sun will soon go nova and to offer help in the evacuation of Earth. Insulting pessimism masquerading as a celebration of Man’s glorious irrationality. 2 Brian Martin
Expendable (1987) Philip K. Dick It’s bug against bug with Mankind — and one man, in particular — caught in the middle in this nutty fantasy from the genre’s nuttiest practitioner. Silly, but harmless. 2 Brian Martin
The Face in the Abyss (1923) A. Merritt Lost-race novella about a man and his three treasure-hunting companions who stumble upon an ancient civilization in the Andes. The man falls for a beautiful native of that race, while the others are more interested in its gold and jewels. An exciting hodgepodge of fantasy elements (and very little science), but with some good ideas, including the terrible face that each of the men must confront at the climax. 5 Brian Martin
The Face in the Wind (1936) Carl Jacobi Meaningless title for a story about a man whose repairs to an ancient retaining wall unleash harpies, great flying creatures with women’s heads, from the marsh beyond. Mythological nonsense, which, in typical Jacobi fashion, is full of internal contradictions. 2 Brian Martin
The Faces Outside (1963) Bruce McAllister A pair of mutated humans, kept as zoo specimens on an alien planet, finally rebel against their captivity. Nothing but simple revenge lies beneath the surface of this unpleasant tale, which also features the following sort of silly alien dialogue: “Continue, but negatively hesitate frequently or it will be necessary to discuss this subject post-present.” Oh, well, in that case… 2 Brian Martin
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar (1845) Edgar Allan Poe As in “Mesmeric Revelation” a man hypnotizes a dying man, this time with the hope of arresting death itself. Though partially successful, Poe’s interest lies in the hypnotist’s partial failure, as the gruesome conclusion attests. 4 Brian Martin
The Fall of the House of Usher (1839) Edgar Allan Poe Effective, atmospheric chiller of a man who entombs his twin sister in the family crypt and later discovers to his horror that she is still alive. Filmed in 1960 by Roger Corman as House of Usher, starring Vincent Price, and again in 1988, under the same name, starring Oliver Reed and Donald Pleasance. 4 Brian Martin
Father, Dear Father (1956) Charles Beaumont Beaumont goes a long way for his two-line ending, which is the whole point of this tale of a man determined to resolve the paradox of what happens if a man goes back in time and kills his own father before he is conceived. Amusing, but not particularly satisfying. This story originally appeared in Venture Science Fiction as "Oh Father of Mine." 3 Brian Martin
Fermi and Frost (1985) Frederik Pohl A solid entry on the rebuilding side of end-of-the-world fiction, as a SETI engineer finds himself in Iceland during the nuclear winter. 4 Brian Martin
Field of Vision (1973) Ursula K. LeGuin Two astronauts greet the heightened perception given them on a trip to Mars with very different reactions, one of ecstasy, the other fear. Finely evoked sense of mystery leads to satisfying revelation. 4 Brian Martin
Finis (1906) Frank L. Pollack Seminal end-of-the-world tale in which the light — and the heat — from the one great star in the center of the universe finally reaches Earth. But for its scientific premise, this story could have been written yesterday, which says a great deal about how little this kind of fiction has changed in the last 100 years. 3 Brian Martin
Fishhead (1913) Irvin S. Cobb Grim tale of the fate of a deformed half-Negro half-Indian man whose head is shaped like a fish’s when two bigoted Southern rednecks set out to kill him. Ugly and violent, even by today’s standards, but all of a piece. One of H. P. Lovecraft’s favorite stories. 3 Brian Martin
The Fly (1957) George Langelaan Well-known story has researcher experimenting with matter transference machine on himself — not realizing a fly has entered the disintegration chamber with him where its atoms will be mixed with his own on reintegration. Entertaining tale with, for those only familiar with the films based on it, an additional horrifying twist. The first adaptation, in 1958, starring Vincent Price and Al (David) Hedison, was written by novelist James Clavell and directed by Kurt Neumann. The second, directed by David Cronenberg and starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, was released in 1986. The story won Playboy's "Best Fiction Award" for 1957. 4 Brian Martin
The Flying Machine (1953) Ray Bradbury With the protective shield of the Great Wall nearby, a Chinese Emperor in the year 400 reacts as might be expected to the wondrous sight of a man flying through the sky on wings of his own design. No surprises here. 3 Brian Martin
Four Beasts in One: The Homo-Cameleopard (1836) Edgar Allan Poe Poe’s narrator guides his reader-tourists through the ancient Syrian city of Antioch where baboons are worshipped, animals run free in the streets, and the mad King of Syria cavorts in the costume of a cameleopard. Unusual, to say the least, with a pleasantly satirical tone. 4 Brian Martin
Frustration (1991) Isaac Asimov Essentially a one-line story of why computers, unlike men, couldn't ever sanction war. Another of Asimov's jokes masquerading as a short story. Amusing, though. 2 Brian Martin
Fungus Isle (1923) Philip M. Fisher Humorless account of shipwrecked treasure hunters fighting for their lives against overgrown mushrooms. What they do to a man is something similar to the “meteor shit” in Stephen King’s segment of Creepshow. Overdramatic and grim to a fault. 2 Brian Martin
Game Preserve (1957) Rog Phillips This tale, told mostly from the perspective of a proto-intelligent boy who innocently yearns to be among the group of strange and advanced men he discovers one day near his tribe’s resting place, evokes both pathos and horror, but it would have been better if the men’s dialogue weren’t so awkwardly expository. 4 Brian Martin
The Ghost Breakers (1944) Fredric Brown Brown once again uses the supernatural as a starting point for a much more prosaic mystery, in this case involving an investigator who must save his own reputation by proving that the dead man he saw was not a ghost. As usual, he does so with a light heart and a lighter touch. 3 Brian Martin
The Ghosts (1908) Lord Dunsany Grimly amusing story of a disbeliever who encounters a predictable collection of ghosts and their unpredictable, horrifying companions. 4 Brian Martin
The Ghost Ship (1912) Richard Middleton In the small English village of Fairfield, ghosts and the living coexist peacefully — until a black ship sails into a local turnip patch and weighs anchor. Genteel, easygoing narrative; old-fashioned but pleasant. 4 Brian Martin
The Golden Man (1954) Philip K. Dick Exciting, if off-handedly sexist, post-nuclear war story about the attempts of a special government task force to first study and then kill a new type of mutant that seems to threaten humanity’s continued existence. “Loosely adapted” (a tremendous understatement) for the screen as Next (2007), starring Nicolas Cage. 4 Brian Martin
The Golem (1955) Avram Davidson Humorous tale of an android whose plans to destroy humanity are met with utter unconcern by an elderly Jewish couple. 4 Brian Martin
The Gostak and the Doshes (1930) Miles J. Breuer, M.D. Fascinating tale of a physicist who travels into the fourth, or “t-dimension,” and discovers a world very much like our own that is brought to war over an apparently meaningless slogan. Hard science fiction on a soft-science theme: the power of words to influence and shape our thinking. 5 Brian Martin
Got a Letter From Jimmy (1949) Shirley Jackson Savagely funny story about a woman dying to know what’s in the letter her husband refuses to open. 5 Brian Martin
Graveyard Shift (1970) Stephen King Test of wills between college-boy Hall and the Man (the foreman of an industrial Maine mill) as they descend into a basement ruled by huge rats. In King's hands, when social commentary meets pulp, horror wins the day. The basis for the 1990 film, directed by Ralph S. Singleton. 3 Brian Martin
Gray Matter (1973) Stephen King Three old men find out to their horror what a bad case of beer can do to a man. Reasonably effective gross-out chiller. 3 Brian Martin
The Great God Pan (1890) Arthur Machen An experiment to reveal the mysteries that lie beyond the veil of our material world goes terribly awry in this imaginative, superbly structured horror novella. Top-notch. 6 Brian Martin
The Great Keinplatz Experiment (1885) Arthur Conan Doyle Amusing nonsense detailing the chaos that results when a German scientist and his loutish student, who has just secured the old man’s blessing to marry his daughter, switch minds and bodies without realizing it. See also “The Swap” by H. F. Heard. 4 Brian Martin
The Guests of Chance (1956) Chad Oliver and Charles Beaumont Lightweight, though amusing nonsense has the Aesthetic Party in control of the government — and willing to take any sufficiently outlandish opportunity to fail on such a grand scale as to be swept out of office and back to their more artistic pursuits. An inventor claiming to have designed a space ship powered by the human mind fits the bill exactly. 3 Brian Martin
The Handler (1947) Ray Bradbury A mortician’s inferiority complex leads him to defile his charges in various unpleasant ways. Can you guess who finally puts a stop to him? Unsurprising horror yarn, but thankfully not terribly explicit either. Cheapens the crime it exploits. 2 Brian Martin
Hardshell (1974) Dean R. Koontz Poorly imagined, deceptively plotted tale of an L.A. cop playing cat-and-mouse with a serial killer who is something other than what he appears to be. Disgraceful and insulting, the epitome of all that is wrong with original anthologies. 1 Brian Martin
Having a Woman at Lunch (1988) Paul Hazel Darkly comic, yet unfunny, tale of four old executives whose complacency — and daily lunch routine — is disturbed by the company’s new hire, a young woman. Ludicrous. 2 Brian Martin
The Highwayman (1908) Lord Dunsany Short, wonderful tale of what happens to a criminal’s soul trapped with his swinging bones on the gallows when his three confederates try to bury him. 6 Brian Martin
Hop-Frog (1849) Edgar Allan Poe Pushed to his limit when his lady friend is insulted, Hop-Frog, the dwarf jester in a cruel king’s court, exacts his revenge in a singularly appropriate manner. Dramatically superior to Poe’s earlier revenge tale, “The Cask of Amontillado.” 5 Brian Martin
The Horror of the Heights (1913) Arthur Conan Doyle British aviator puts his own theory of monsters in the stratosphere to the test. Good story from a time when the upper atmosphere was uncharted territory; Doyle’s description of the pilot’s long, slow, spiraling ascent is a highlight. 4 Brian Martin
The Howling Man (1959) Charles Beaumont While touring Europe, a young man falls ill and wakes to find himself in a Belgium abbey where none of the monks care to acknowledge the nightly screams from a nearby room. Beaumont's knack of making the fantastic seem real turns a touchy premise into gripping fantasy. Adapted for The Twilight Zone. 4 Brian Martin
How to Write a Blackwood Article (1838) Edgar Allan Poe Poe’s satirical jibe at the perceived pomposity and ill-informed style of writing in the contemporary Blackwood’s Magazine is saved from obscurity both for being funny in itself but primarily for Poe’s demonstration of this outrageous style in the connected tale, “A Predicament.” (See the latter story for rating.) - Brian Martin
The Human Angle (1948) William Tenn Engagingly written, but unsurprising vampire tale of a newsman charged with finding the human angle in an unfolding drama of serial murder in a rural town. 3 Brian Martin
The Hypnoglyph (1953) John Anthony (John Ciardi) Interstellar treasure hunter tells his captive audience of one how he acquired the prize of his collection, a small object with a strangely hypnotic quality. Surprising turn of events in this intriguing tale. 4 Brian Martin
I Am the Doorway (1971) Stephen King Silly sci-fi/horror hybrid of astronaut returning from an orbit of Venus with a malevolent alien presence in his body. 2 Brian Martin
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (1967) Harlan Ellison The last five people on Earth are held eternally captive and tortured by the machine that destroyed humankind. Intense and horrifying. 5 Brian Martin
I Know What You Need (1976) Stephen King Coed learns the horrible secret of how her new boyfriend seems to be able to fulfill her every wish. Bland payoff. 2 Brian Martin
I’m in Marsport Without Hilda (1957) Isaac Asimov Humorous, fast-paced tale of a randy security agent with but three hours to finger the drug-running liar from a group of three VIPs. 4 Brian Martin
The Imp of the Perverse (1845) Edgar Allan Poe Darkly humorous account of a murderer who, like the rest of us, is not immune from that perverseness of nature that would have us do harm to ourselves simply for the sake of doing it. 4 Brian Martin
The Incredible Bomber (1942) Fredric Brown Straight mystery about a sheriff and an insurance agent out to find out why, or even if, an agoraphobic ex-playwright is the target of a crazed pilot in a bomber. Bland payoff (with an ancillary puzzle that could only be solved by contemporary readers), but breezily written. 2 Brian Martin
Interview With a Lemming (1941) James Thurber Terrific, darkly comic, short fantasy in which a professor and a lemming attempt to come to grips with the one thing about each other’s species they have never understood. First-rate. 6 Brian Martin
In the Bag (1964) Laurence M. Janifer Short-short in which aliens planning a coup on their home world are found out when one of their laundry bags falls into the wrong hands. So-so timewaster. 3 Brian Martin
Iphigenia (1991) Nancy A. Collins Excellent, terrifying story told by a child empathically connected to the President of the United States. A real knockout. 6 Brian Martin
The Island of the Fay (1841) Edgar Allan Poe Short, evocative fantasy of a man coming upon a seemingly magical island and witnessing the melancholy transit of the last fairy into ever deepening shadows. 4 Brian Martin
It (1940) Theodore Sturgeon Imaginative wrap-up to this overlong, gruesome tale of a moldy, putrescent, man-like thing rising from the forest floor and attacking a small farming family. 3 Brian Martin
J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement (1884) Arthur Conan Doyle Conan Doyle’s imaginative solution to the mystery of the Mary Celeste (here named the Marie Celeste), which sailed from New York on November 7, 1872, bound for Genoa, and was discovered abandoned by the Dei Gratia on December 5. Nothing supernatural here, though Doyle invents some African superstition to account for the survival of the fictional Jephson. Originally published anonymously, this story was taken as a fact by some and hotly refuted by others. 4 Brian Martin
John Barrington Cowles (1884) Arthur Conan Doyle Suspenseful tale about a remarkably cruel and mysterious girl whose suitors all seem to meet untimely deaths. The friend of her latest conquest fears that history will repeat itself. 5 Brian Martin
John Charrington's Wedding (1891) E. Nesbit Ghost story told by the best man about his persistent friend's engagement and wedding. At its core, this is a sad and horrifying tale — yet it's also bouncy, pleasant, and quite pleasing. 5 Brian Martin
Killdozer! (1944) Theodore Sturgeon Classic tale of eight men, one small, isolated island, and a sentient bulldozer with a thirst for human blood. Horror with a science fiction twist: the cloudform which takes possession of the dozer is the lone survivor of an ancient Earth civilization. Sturgeon's experience as a Seabee in WWII lends the story valuable verisimilitude. The basis for the 1974 TV-film "Killdozer." 6 Brian Martin
The King and the Knave (1938) Carl Jacobi Famous gambler and ladies’ man is introduced to an ancient and unusual deck of cards by the husband of one of his conquests. Interesting premise for this revenge fantasy never pays off and features an ending that renders it all quite pointless anyway. 2 Brian Martin
Kiss of the Cobra (1935) Cornell Woolrich Det. Charlie Lawon's father-in-law returns from India with a creepy new bride who wreaks havoc on the Lawson home almost from the moment she steps through the door. Woolrich flirts with the supernatural here, but ultimately remains faithful to pure suspense. Typically gruesome Woolrich murders. 3 Brian Martin
The Kite (1937) Carl Jacobi Jacobi returns to Borneo with this tale, but tosses in a Tibetan curse to explain the strange effect a kite flying high over the jungle has on the wife and daughter of a thieving collector of native artifacts. Fast-paced, but cluttered and illogical. Originally published as “Satan’s Kite.” 2 Brian Martin
The Last Answer (1980) Isaac Asimov Asimovian atheism as physicist dies, meets the eternal being, and can think of nothing but how to end its (and his own) existence. Depressing. 2 Brian Martin
The Last Drive (1933) Carl Jacobi Conventional ghost story in which a man transports the body of a local racecar driver for burial in his hometown and gets stranded during a snowstorm at the top of a hill. Distinctly old-fashioned, even for 1933. 2 Brian Martin
The Last Question (1956) Isaac Asimov As humankind progresses and expands his reach across the universe, he is haunted by a single question: can entropy be reversed or are he and the cosmos doomed to extinction? Depending on your point of view, Asimov’s response is at the least intriguing, perhaps uplifting. One of Asimov’s personal favorites. 5 Brian Martin
The Last Rung on the Ladder (1978) Stephen King Fine, whispery soft tale of a man trying to come to grips with lost boyhood idealism. 5 Brian Martin
The Late Shift (1980) Dennis Etchison Rather silly tale of what happens to dead bodies between the time they are put in cold storage and released to their loved ones for burial. Late shift workers might even find it insulting. At best, the plot hinges on an observation that was never meant as anything more than a joke. 2 Brian Martin
Laura (1914) Saki Delightfully supernatural tale of a woman whose unrepentant disdain for her friend’s husband causes her to think she will be reincarnated as some lower form of life, perhaps an otter. 5 Brian Martin
The Lawnmower Man (1975) Stephen King King's distinctive style begins to assert itself in this bizarre tale of a fat man who eats grass and the unfortunate homeowner who hires him. Sound anything like the movie of the same name? King sued to have his name removed from that sad waste of celluloid. 3 Brian Martin
The Ledge (1976) Stephen King Gripping thriller of tennis-pro forced to accept an "Organization" kingpin's wager after being nailed for having an affair with the latter's wife. The bet? To circumnavigate the kingpin's 40th floor penthouse apartment on the 5-inch ledge outside the building. 4 Brian Martin
Legal Rites (1950) Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl A ghost sues the obnoxious heir to his grandfather’s house for the right to continue haunting the latter’s inherited property in this simplistic and unbelievable supernatural tale, written by two science-fiction writers. 3 Brian Martin
Ligeia (1838) Edgar Allan Poe A more intensely romantic version of Poe’s earlier “Morella.” After her untimely death, a man witnesses his adored wife’s gruesome struggle to return to life. 4 Brian Martin
The Light (1957) Poul Anderson Interesting idea will please some more than others in this tale of the men of the first moon landing discovering that they are not the first to walk the lunar surface, after all. Anderson plays fair, but few will guess the twist ending ahead of time. 4 Brian Martin
Like Mother Used to Make (1949) Shirley Jackson Funny James Harris story about a fastidious man, his sloppy would-be girlfriend, and Harris himself, who arrives just in time to spoil the man’s plans for the evening. The ending is priceless. 5 Brian Martin
A Lock of Satan’s Hair (1943) Fredric Brown Historically intriguing mystery of an American sculptor who agrees to help a wealthy foreigner fashion a Voodoo doll with which to kill his enemy, Adolf Hitler. Though relying more on superstition than the supernatural, this mystery has a little something for everyone: mystery, horror, and a glimpse into the past for history buffs. 5 Brian Martin
The Lodger (1911) Marie Belloc Lowndes A fixture in the ever-expanding list of Jack the Ripper suspects, the “lodger,” as definitively described here by Ms. Lowndes, is a gentlemanly, if eccentric, man whose hatred of women is fueled by religious mania. Taken on its own merits, this story about a husband and wife who each come to the conclusion that their new lodger is the perpetrator of several horrible murders in and around Whitechapel is long on suspense, short on action, and senselessly anticlimactic. Though the dates and murders have been altered and the Jack the Ripper moniker is never used, due to the fact that the cottage industry that is Jack the Ripper is still going strong after more than a century, this otherwise ordinary tale retains a certain undeniable curiosity value. 3 Brian Martin
The Lonesome Place (1948) August Derleth Surprising conclusion gives this otherwise ordinary tale of a couple of kids and the monster they imagine inhabiting a lonely stretch of woods near their homes just the wicked twist it needs to lift it above the average. 4 Brian Martin
The Lord of the Dynamos (1894) H. G. Wells Superstitious Asian man becomes enthralled by the dynamos powering London’s subways, adopting the largest as his God. And wouldn’t God want to punish those who mistreat His faithful servant? Witty and fun. 4 Brian Martin
The Los Amigos Fiasco (1892) Arthur Conan Doyle The first electrocution in the town of Los Amigos doesn’t go quite as anticipated in this deft comedy. 5 Brian Martin
Loss of Breath (1832) Edgar Allan Poe Intermittently amusing misadventures of a man whose “loss of breath” (his inability to breathe) leads him to be mistaken for dead, operated upon, and hung for his resemblance to a condemned mail-robber. And the story doesn’t end there, either. Worthwhile for those who enjoy this sort of thing. 3 Brian Martin
Lot No. 249 (1892) Arthur Conan Doyle Oxford student and Egyptologist sends a four thousand year old mummy after his enemies, but meets his match in the person of the medical student who lives upstairs. Satisfying supernaturalism, with a cozy opening and some creepy atmosphere. The basis for one-third of the anthology film Tales From the Darkside: The Movie (1990). 4 Brian Martin
The Lottery (1948) Shirley Jackson Shirley Jackson’s most famous short story, a perennial favorite of high school literature teachers, is a highly regarded fantasy about a small rural village clinging to an ancient and cruel tradition to ensure the quality of the year’s crop. Well-written and horrific, if not as satisfying as some of the author’s subtler contemporary horror tales. 5 Brian Martin
The Love Letter (1959) Jack Finney Another of Finney’s sweet, nostalgic yarns, this time about a young man in 1959 Brooklyn who buys an antique desk and finds inside a love letter written by a young lady in 1882. No one is as deft with this sort of fantasy as Finney and this story is no exception. 5 Brian Martin
The Love-Master (1956) Charles Beaumont A master of lovemaking sells his infallible techniques to all comers, but meets his match when a young man seeks help with his frigid wife. Funny sex tale without any graphic content. 4 Brian Martin
Lukundoo (1925) Edward Lucas White Powerful tale of African explorers helplessly witnessing the bizarre death of a cursed compatriot. Fascinating curse has elements of both black magic and, in this post-Exorcist age, demonic possession. 6 Brian Martin
The Machine in Ward Eleven (1961) Charles Willeford Hollywood director attempts suicide and ends up in a mental institution where electro-shock therapy is accepted practice. Well-told and chilling. 5 Brian Martin
Mademoiselle de Scudery (1819) E. T. A. Hoffman Long, intricately plotted mystery-thriller set in Paris during the reign of Louis XIV. As a suspected band of murderous jewel thieves terrorize the city, a respected and kindly old woman finds herself caught between the police and the criminals when she receives, under suspicious circumstances, a gift of beautiful jewelry, evidently from the leader of the band himself. This well-told and involving tale is considerably violent (if not explicitly so) and features a Jekyll and Hyde murderer who is, psychologically, a direct antecedent of modern serial killers. 5 Brian Martin
Mad Monkton (1855) Wilkie Collins Superb tale of a man tortured by his belief in a family prophecy that seems to be coming true, aided in his quest to prevent this from happening by an enlightened friend who pities him as insane. Involving, intricately plotted, with believable and realistic characters. 6 Brian Martin
The Magic Man (1960) Charles Beaumont Aging traveling magician returns to his favorite Midwestern town and decides to repay the townsfolk for all the love they've shown him in the past — failing miserably to understand his audience. Story is best when the focus is on the colorful magician rather than the melancholy man behind the cape. 4 Brian Martin
Make a Prison (1959) Lawrence Block Funny tale of what happens when a mysterious stranger enters an escape-proof prison. 4 Brian Martin
The Mangler (1972) Stephen King A Hadley-Watson Model-6 Speed Ironer and Folder runs amok after being possessed by a demon. Naturally. Wheels off nonsense. 2 Brian Martin
The Man Who Collected Poe (1951) Robert Bloch Man shares his secret obsession with Edgar Allan Poe and the terrible lengths to which it has driven his family for three generations. First a horror story, Bloch’s homage to Poe is creepy enough even for non-fans. 4 Brian Martin
The Man Who Loved Flowers (1977) Stephen King A young man in love bumbles along the streets of New York to meet his beloved. Shirley Jackson-esque fantasy loses much in the translation to (brutal) horror. 3 Brian Martin
The Man Who Saw the Future (1930) Edmond Hamilton Tale of French apothecary's assistant transported 500 years into the future to the year 1944. Pure nostalgia, nothing more. Not surprisingly, Hamilton didn't predict World War II. 2 Brian Martin
A Martian Odyssey (1934) Stanley G. Weinbaum Amusing story of a scientist-explorer's adventures with Martian flora and fauna. Finished #2 on an SFWA ballot of the best sf short stories written before 1964. 4 Brian Martin
The Martian Shop (1959) Howard Fast Excellent, satirical look at what happens when three shops in three different countries, claiming to be run and stocked by Martians, open and close in the space of a week. 5 Brian Martin
The Masque of the Red Death (1842) Edgar Allan Poe An evil prince abandons his people to a hideous disease while he and chosen followers hide out in a well-provisioned abbey. Months later, their complacent gaiety is shattered with the appearance of a stranger in their midst. One of Poe’s most cohesive and effective horror tales. The basis for two Roger Corman films (1964 and the 1989 remake, respectively directed and produced by Corman). 5 Brian Martin
Master Zacharius, or The Clockmaker Who Lost His Soul (1854) Jules Verne Intriguing fantasy of an old master clockmaker, whose skill is equaled only by his pride, who becomes unhinged when all of his masterpieces but one grind slowly to a stop. The one is kept by a hellish dwarf whose promises of immortality come at the price of the clockmaker’s daughter. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that this tale, which has as much to do with Rumplestiltskin as Faust, with a large dose of godlike science thrown in for good measure, is occasionally puzzling in its characterizations and narrative, yet the mix certainly makes for an interesting read. The last clock, which, under the dwarf’s unholy influence, no longer reveals the good Christian epigrams it was designed to do at each chiming of the hour is a highlight. 4 Brian Martin
Meeting of Relations (1941) John Collier Wandering stranger takes refreshment with a group of peaceful herdsmen, and talks of conquest. This short short is all ending — but it's a good ending. 4 Brian Martin
Mellonta Tauta (1849) Edgar Allan Poe In the year 2848, a man crossing the Atlantic in a dirigible reflects upon the follies of 19th century philosophy, fashion, and science — with a pointed attack on American republicanism thrown in for good measure. Poe at his most contentious. Manifestly not science fiction, which is just as well, as otherwise it would be severely dated. Compare with Rudyard Kipling’s later “With the Night Mail.” 3 Brian Martin
Mesmeric Revelation (1844) Edgar Allan Poe Interesting philosophical discussion on the nature of matter, spirit, and God results when a hypnotist mesmerizes a dying man. Poe’s science is dated, but the central philosophy remains intriguing. 4 Brian Martin
Metzengerstein (1832) Edgar Allan Poe Young baron reaps the vengeance of his hated neighbors in the form of a fabulous horse with which he becomes fascinated. An uneasy mix of atmosphere and narrative, neither of which amount to much in the end. One of three Poe stories freely adapted for the screen in Spirits of the Dead. 2 Brian Martin
The Mezzotint (1904) M. R. James A mezzotint is an engraving on copper or steel, and the one that comes into the possession of Mr. Williams — a seemingly unremarkable engraving of a manor house — has the odd habit of changing at intervals. This is an excellent example of a rare breed of fiction — the delightful horror story. 6 Brian Martin
Microcosmic God (1941) Theodore Sturgeon Initially fascinating tale of brilliant biochemist creating and evolving a tiny race of beings so that they might surpass man's knowledge and thereby add to his own flags somewhat during its pedestrian climax. Still a fine story. Finished 4th in an SFWA poll of the best sf short stories prior to 1965. 5 Brian Martin
Mimic (1942) Donald A. Wollheim In nature, survival sometimes depends upon how well an organism can conceal its true identity from predators by mimicking the benign appearance of something else. As one man finds out, Man, the greatest predator of them all, is not exempt from nature’s trickery. Nifty idea, established with skillful precision. 4 Brian Martin
Miss Bertha and the Yankee (1877) Wilkie Collins The mystery surrounding a deadly love triangle is revealed through a series of depositions. 4 Brian Martin
The Mist (1980) Stephen King Well-turned horror novella of small-towners trapped in a grocery store when an unnatural mist concealing terrible creatures engulfs their town. King successfully maintains an atmosphere of menace throughout, with characters who are sharply, if broadly, drawn. (One character looks at a woman’s chest and he’s scum; another commits adultery and he’s a hero.) King, who rewrote the last few paragraphs for the story’s inclusion in his own Skeleton Crew, calls the story the literary equivalent of a B-picture. 5 Brian Martin
Mive (1928) Carl Jacobi Jacobi largely eschews plot for Lovecraftian effect in this atmospheric tale of a man wandering into a swamp called Mive and finding it populated by strange creatures. Not terribly interesting, but all of a piece, which, for Jacobi, is quite an accomplishment. 3 Brian Martin
The Monkey's Paw (1902) W. W. Jacobs Classic three-wish story. Primarily a humorist, Jacobs knows the value of sympathetic, human characters, and he uses them here to enduring effect — both humorous and horrifying. 6 Brian Martin
Morella (1835) Edgar Allan Poe Unloved in life, a man’s fiercely devoted wife vows to return after death in the form of their newborn child. 3 Brian Martin
Moss Island (1930) Carl Jacobi Unlikely horror story about a university student making a geological survey of the title island, miraculously discovering in the process a solution, “rarer than radium,” which causes vastly accelerated growth in moss. Slow-developer that ends confusingly. 2 Brian Martin
Mr. Lepel and the Housekeeper (1884) Wilkie Collins There’s nothing banal in this tale of two friends and the girl who comes between them after one of the men becomes mysteriously ill. Believable characters, imaginative construction—a pure delight from start to finish. 6 Brian Martin
Mr. Policeman and the Cook (1881) Wilkie Collins A young policeman hoping to impress his superiors continues an officially inactive murder investigation and doesn’t like what he discovers in this rather routine mystery tale. 4 Brian Martin
Mr. Waterman (1961) Peter Redgrove Twenty-eight years before the water tentacle in James Cameron’s film The Abyss, Peter Redgrove imagined shape-changing water in this amusing tale of a pond that takes on human shape to the consternation of the husband on whose property it resides. 5 Brian Martin
MS. Found in a Bottle (1833) Edgar Allan Poe Poe won a short story contest with this atmospheric tale of a man tossed aboard a mysterious ship during a hurricane; a ship on which he can be neither seen nor heard by the ancient crew. Poe has proudly pointed out that his description of the Polar region was made before he saw Gerardus Mercator’s maps, which depict something similar (though in reference to the North rather than the South Pole of Poe’s story). 4 Brian Martin
Murder in Wax (1935) Cornell Woolrich Hard-driving, first-person, suspense of beautiful woman trying to rescue her husband from death row. Not the simple tale of fearless devotion it at first appears, with a beautifully crafted ending. 5 Brian Martin
The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841) Edgar Allan Poe Seminal tale of ratiocination, as C. Auguste Dupin solves the mystery of an inhumanly horrible double-homicide in Paris. For Poe, the reasoning is the thing, with dramatic effect largely sacrificed in its favor. Still, an unusual crime, one which Clive Barker would, almost a century and a half later, pay tribute to in his story, “New Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Poe himself wrote a sequel the following year, “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt.” 4 Brian Martin
The Mystery of Marie Rogêt, A Sequel to the Murders in the Rue Morgue (1842) Edgar Allan Poe Fascinating, if occasionally somewhat condescending, examination of the facts in the case of a young woman murdered and found floating in a river outside Paris. The more interesting for being intentionally and scrupulously modeled after a real-life unsolved murder in New York that Poe attempts to solve with nothing more to go on than newspaper articles about the crime. The second, and superior, appearance of Poe’s brilliant detective C. Auguste Dupin. Dupin makes his third and final appearance in “The Purloined Letter.” 5 Brian Martin
The Mysterious Smile of the Mona Lisa (1948) Gerald Kersh Amusing tale of Leonardo da Vinci revealing the secret of the Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile. In what must rank as one of the most bizarre choices in the history of anthologies, Betty Owen selected this tale for inclusion in 11 Great Horror Stories, despite the fact that it is not a horror story and contains not a single element of the horror story. As if in belated acknowledgment of this fact, the title was changed to the painfully awkward “The Ape and the Mystery.” 4 Brian Martin
Mystification (1837) Edgar Allan Poe Amusing tale of a professor who matches wits with a pompous student for whom the practice of dueling is a sacred matter of honor. 4 Brian Martin
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1837) Edgar Allan Poe Episodic novella about a young man’s perilous adventures aboard a whaler, a sealing schooner, and a large canoe headed for the South Pole. Rather like Poe’s earlier “The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall,” which dealt with a trip to the moon but stopped short almost at the moment of arrival, in that this tale also ends abruptly, as our hero penetrates the ghostly veil around the Pole. Worthwhile primarily for the hero’s horrific and unpredictable adventures aboard the whaler. 4 Brian Martin
Near Miss (1957) Henry Kuttner A successful American businessman matches wits with a Mexican witchdoctor in this amusing tale of prawns and black magic. Ends well. 4 Brian Martin
Never Bet the Devil your Head: A Tale with a Moral (1841) Edgar Allan Poe Deftly humorous tale in which a young man whose inveterate use of a particular gambling phrase ultimately gets him into serious trouble. 5 Brian Martin
The New Father Christmas (1958) Brian W. Aldiss Quirky tale of Christmas morning 2388, set in a large automated factory where five people fear rumors of a new Father Christmas. 50s paranoia, effectively told. 4 Brian Martin
The New People (1958) Charles Beaumont Good suburban nightmare as a man and wife, new to the neighborhood, discover the weird doings of their neighbors. One of Beaumont's funnier jokes is the heart of this story. 4 Brian Martin
The Nine Billion Names of God (1953) Arthur C. Clarke Cautionary tale of the dangers of technological advancement. Clarke neatly avoids the obvious by playing out his tale in, of all places, a Tibetan monastery. 5 Brian Martin
The Night Flier (1988) Stephen King Tough tabloid reporter Richard Dees stalks his latest story, a vampire who flies from one airport to another, leaving behind increasing numbers of dead bodies. The basis for the 1999 film of the same name — a basically faithful adaptation until the final few minutes. 4 Brian Martin
Night Ride (1957) Charles Beaumont Trumpet player learns the truth about the leader of his bluesy jazz band after they rocket to fame on the sad fingers of their new box man. Good jazz story, even if the plot lies elsewhere. 4 Brian Martin
Night Surf (1974) Stephen King King's dress rehearsal for The Stand. A small, pathetic group of youths may be the last survivors of Captain Trips, a superflu originating not from a government lab, but from Southeast Asia — and this time, there is no immunity. Story generates little sympathy for these kids, even the one with sense enough to mourn the world they've lost. 3 Brian Martin
Not With a Bang (1973) Howard Fast A man meets the end of the world with mild curiosity. Thoughtful, but rather depressing. 4 Brian Martin
Now Let Us Sleep (1957) Avram Davidson An intelligent alien species is systematically wiped out by humans who see its value as purely recreational. Bleak commentary on mankind’s cruelty, unrelieved by its weak and ineffective “hero.” Davidson’s unique and unpleasant twist on the tale involves the use to which the females of the species are put. 2 Brian Martin
The Oblong Box (1844) Edgar Allan Poe On a ship voyage to New York, a man becomes increasingly curious about the large oblong box to which his uncommunicative friend has such an unusual attachment. Routine mystery. 2 Brian Martin
Of Course (1949) Shirley Jackson James Harris appears here in name only, but his evil influence pervades this tale of a woman getting to know the eccentricities of her new neighbors. Domestic horror, with a humorous touch. 5 Brian Martin
Omega (1932) Amelia Reynolds Long Bizarre science fantasy of the last days of Earth. Countless millennia in the future, the skyscrapers of Manhattan remain standing. Man contacts Martians in the year 2,952! A nostalgic hoot. 1 Brian Martin
One for the Road (1977) Stephen King Good vampire story that begins when a New Jersey man stumbles into a bar during a snowstorm asking for help: his wife and daughter are snowbound on the road leading to Jerusalem's Lot. 4 Brian Martin
One Ordinary Day, With Peanuts (1955) Shirley Jackson Random acts of kindness fill the days of an exuberant urban couple. Part of the time anyway. Fine, happy-go-lucky tale, with a twist. 6 Brian Martin
The Open Window (1911) Saki Terrific tale of a nervy man and his unlucky encounter with a young girl whose ghost story seems to be coming true. 6 Brian Martin
The Oval Portrait (1842) Edgar Allan Poe Man discovers an exceptionally lifelike painting of a beautiful young woman, then learns what happened to her as a result of its creation. Hackneyed and predictable for modern readers. 2 Brian Martin
A Pair of Swords (1933) Carl Jacobi Touring a museum weapons room, a modern man is enlisted as second for two French musketeers who wish to duel over a lady’s love. Jacobi seems to want us to question whether or not the Frenchmen are real or products of the man’s imagination, though how this matter could be in doubt is nearly impossible to imagine. 1 Brian Martin
Pardon My Ghoulish Laughter (1942) Fredric Brown Newspaper writer whose stories run to the ghoulish finds himself the pawn in a mystery involving the paper’s editor and its retired psychoanalyst owner. As usual, Brown doesn’t take things too seriously. Easygoing and enjoyable. 4 Brian Martin
Parthen (1973) R. A. Lafferty Aliens infiltrate Earth with the stated intention of eliminating half the population and reducing the rest to servitude. Nobody wins, but the men, at least, have a good time. It’s unclear what Lafferty was going for here. Editor Wollheim reads the story as a statement on women’s lib, but if so, it’s a highly uncomplimentary one. 2 Brian Martin
Pegasus (1940) Henry Kuttner Terrific fantasy of a boy who climbs a mountain to find Pegasus, and does so, only to encounter the greed of his abusive father when he brings the winged horse home. Strong conclusion. 5 Brian Martin
Perchance to Dream (1958) Charles Beaumont A very tired, worried man relates to a psychiatrist how he is afraid to sleep for fear of continuing a dream he is sure will end in his death. If only the dream were more intriguing the surprise ending might pack some punch. 3 Brian Martin
Phantom Brass (1934) Carl Jacobi Nothing out of the ordinary in this straightforward fantasy about a train switch operator who receives a ghostly warning of impending disaster tapped out on his telegraph machine. Inherently predictable, but with some evocative imagery of a distant forest fire. 3 Brian Martin
The Pit and the Pendulum (1843) Edgar Allan Poe Imprisoned in a dungeon, a man condemned to torture by the Inquisition must rely on luck and his wits to remain alive. Tense tale that demonstrates the hero’s ingenuity before the deus-ex-machina ending. Loosely adapted for the screen by Roger Corman in 1961. Stuart Gordon’s 1991 film of the same name has even less to do with this story. 4 Brian Martin
Playing With Fire (1900) Arthur Conan Doyle Exciting spiritualist yarn about a séance that gets out of control when a mythical beast is brought to life. 5 Brian Martin
Polaris (1918) H. P. Lovecraft Is it madness or cruel reincarnation that accounts for a man’s vision of an ancient civilization on the brink of destruction? Is his vision merely dull or actually racist? Who cares? 2 Brian Martin
The Pool (1988) Whitley Strieber Dark and moody reflections on the loss of vitality and death as a father struggles to understand his young son’s suicidal behavior. Strieber would no doubt tell us that this story, his first after the publication of Communion, accurately reflects his state of mind after his initial experience with his “visitors.” Certainly it is full of the same sort of imagery and sense of powerlessness as informed that work. 4 Brian Martin
Poppa Needs Shorts (1964) Walt & Leigh Richmond Humorously told story of a four-year-old’s very fortunate misunderstanding of shorts, electrical and otherwise. May amuse parents more than others. 3 Brian Martin
The Portable Phonograph (1941) Walter Van Tilburg Clark Psychologically telling story in which a group of post-apocalyptic survivors gather in an old man’s cave to hear music from the past. Good fiction, well observed. 5 Brian Martin
Potential (1983) Isaac Asimov A couple of researchers find a possible genetic match for their theory of telepathy: a 15-year-old boy with a green thumb. Strong ending to an otherwise unremarkable tale. 3 Brian Martin
The Power of Words (1845) Edgar Allan Poe Dialogue between two angels on the nature of creation. Well-constructed and poignant. 4 Brian Martin
A Predicament (1838) Edgar Allan Poe Published with “How to Write a Blackwood Article,” this goofy tale of a woman trapped in a clock tower by the giant minute hand of the clock itself derives much of its humor from references to the ridiculous writing lessons in the preceding tale. Taken together, the two stories are a hoot. Originally, the stories were published under the titles "The Psyche Zenobia" and "The Scythe of Time." 5 Brian Martin
The Premature Burial (1844) Edgar Allan Poe Poe’s evidently true-life accounts of people unintentionally buried alive are the principal attraction of this otherwise simple tale of a man given to frequent seizures who fears this very thing happening to him. Notable also in that this tale ends in a most un-Poe-like manner; that is to say, with a life-affirming denouement. 4 Brian Martin
Preview of Death (1934) Cornell Woolrich When a popular young actress burns to death on the set of her latest film, it's up to the detective assigned to protect her to unravel the mystery. Another of Woolrich's intensely gruesome crimes, this time alleviated by a lighter tone and a terrific centerpiece scene of detection. (In this case, though, the manner of death was based on the real life death of silent film actress Martha Mansfield in 1923, who burned to death when her hoop skirt caught on fire during the filming of The Warrens of Virginia.) 5 Brian Martin
The Primate of the Rose (1928) M. P. Shiel Writer and ladies' man dabbles with editor's sister, taking lightly the latter's involvement with a secret society. Let's face it: we all know how this one ends; the difference here is in the characters, who keep this enjoyable tale bouncing along, and the plot, which wisely relegates the horror to the climax. 4 Brian Martin
Proof of the Pudding (1999) Nelson Bond Aptly titled joke masquerading as a short short science fiction story in which a crazy rich man sets out to prove that the Earth is a hollow sphere. 2 Brian Martin
Proof Positive (1947) Graham Greene A group of men are witness to "proof positive" of life after death. Realistic and well told: Greene's irony should please believers. 5 Brian Martin
The Purloined Letter (1845) Edgar Allan Poe Poe’s third and final tale featuring the great detective C. Auguste Dupin hinges on the recovery of a compromising letter a French Minister has stolen for the purposes of blackmail. First, of course, he must figure out where it is hidden. Dupin’s simplest case, but also his most accessible, as Poe rounds out the detective’s character with a bit of humor. 5 Brian Martin
Quarantine (1973) Doris Piserchia Whole neighborhoods seal their houses against a plague, leaving the less well-to-do to fend for themselves. Years later, one woman emerges and discovers how the survivors have reacted to this cruelty. Final twist highlights this gripping psychological story. 4 Brian Martin
Quitters, Inc. (1978) Stephen King Well-crafted tale of man who enters an unusual — and horrifying — treatment to quit smoking. 4 Brian Martin
Red Liberty (1935) Cornell Woolrich On instructions from his wife to "improve" himself, Detective Denton of New York Homicide reluctantly takes the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. On the weary climb to the top, he meets a fat man taking a breather. The fat man later disappears, and it's up to Denton to unravel the mystery. Thrilling air of mystery leads to satisfying conclusion. 5 Brian Martin
The Remarkable Case of Davidson’s Eyes (1895) H. G. Wells Remote viewing made dull, as scientist Davidson suddenly finds himself blind to his surroundings but able to see a beach on the other side of the world. Such action as there is occurs as Davidson is moved about the city by his friends, precipitating his similar movement about the island. 3 Brian Martin
The Renegade (1949) Shirley Jackson A harried wife and mother, recently transplanted to the country, discovers the ruthless price of unconventionality when her dog is identified as a killer of chickens. Straight fiction, but not without its gruesome, horrific aspects. 4 Brian Martin
Revelations in Black (1933) Carl Jacobi Jacobi arbitrarily imbues his vampires with a new power then conveniently introduces a corresponding weakness in this gothic-style tale that follows a man’s strange obsession with the mysterious story of a madman. Melodramatic and superficial. 2 Brian Martin
The Ring of Thoth (1890) Arthur Conan Doyle Like Doyle’s earlier “The Captain of the Polestar,” this tale goes a long way for what is essentially a prosaic love story. In this case, an ancient Egyptian discovers the elixir of life and lives to regret it. 3 Brian Martin
The Roaches (1965) Thomas M. Disch Psychological horror story about a woman with a pathological fear of roaches and the strange power she has over them. If the combination of hundreds of roaches, dirty apartments, unclean neighbors, and deep psychological need appeals to you, then this is your story. 3 Brian Martin
Roads (1938) Seabury Quinn Well-imagined, sometimes amusing, and frequently bloody Christmas story that takes place in the time of Christ. Gentle sword and sorcery — if there is such a thing. 5 Brian Martin
Sagasta's Last (1939) Carl Jacobi Clumsy characterizations weaken what is already an unremarkable ghost story about a man who discovers the truth of his sister's death. 2 Brian Martin
The Sanatorium of Dr. Vliperdius Stanislaw Lem Ijon Tichy visits a sanatorium for mentally unbalanced robots in this enjoyable satirical tale in which science, philosophy, and dementia intermingle. 5 Brian Martin
The Sandman (1816) E. T. A. Hoffmann Gripping tale of a student driven to the point of madness by his obsession with what, for him, is the childhood fantasy of the Sandman incarnate. The story takes a fascinating turn as the young man returns to his studies and falls in love with a beautiful but oddly silent girl. Unusual and creepy. 5 Brian Martin
The Satanic Piano (1934) Carl Jacobi Classical musician gladly accepts an inventor’s offer to test his new machine: a tiny red piano that can directly translate a sender’s thoughts into music and play them back for later transcription. But the inventor, skilled in hypnotism and telepathy, has a more demonic plan in mind. One of Jacobi’s more coherent stories, despite an arbitrary lapse into voodoo, yet still conveniently-plotted and pulpish. 3 Brian Martin
Schalken the Painter (1839) J. Sheridan LeFanu Clever story-behind-a-painting yarn involving a young painter whose beloved is sold in marriage to a wealthy man who neither blinks nor breathes. Far superior to Edgar Allan Poe’s later effort along the same lines (see “The Oval Portrait”). 5 Brian Martin
The Secret of Macarger’s Gulch Ambrose Bierce A quail hunter discovers an old abandoned shack and, staying the night, gets rather more excitement than he bargained for. Well-executed blend of mystery, horror, and suspense. 4 Brian Martin
Seen One Human (1999) Brian Plante Lightweight fiction about a waitress on an alien planet bucking to get home to Earth. 2 Brian Martin
Selecting a Ghost (1883) Arthur Conan Doyle A self-made man buys himself a family, a coat of arms, and a feudal mansion; now all he needs is his very own ghost to make his romantic existence complete. But what kind of a ghost to choose? Amusing diversion, featuring a procession of ghosts that includes one from Edgar Allan Poe, which owes more to his reputation than his work. 4 Brian Martin
The Shadow and the Flash (1903) Jack London Tale of two brilliant, bitter rivals who each take a different approach to the problem of invisibility. Scientific nonsense all the way around, but good fun. 4 Brian Martin
Shadow — A Parable (1835) Edgar Allan Poe This short fable (originally so called) reads like a dry run for Poe’s later, and much better story, “The Masque of the Red Death,” as a group of men hope to hold out against the plague and find that Death will not be denied. 2 Brian Martin
The Shadow of a Nightmare Donald Wandrei Trite early effort by Wandrei about a man who translates an ancient text to his deep regret. Illustrates the protagonist’s easy-way-out contention that horror fiction succeeds only when the horror encountered remains, essentially, a mystery. 2 Brian Martin
The She-Wolf Saki Clovis hatches an amusing plot to expose a pompous self-proclaimed practitioner of the black arts. 5 Brian Martin
Short in the Chest (1954) Idris Seabright (Margaret St. Clair) In the future, military inter-service rivalry is eased by mandatory inter-service sexual relations, but as one female Marine tells her robot psychologist, she simply can’t perform with any man from the hated Air wing. Enjoyably racy. 5 Brian Martin
Silence — a Fable (1838) Edgar Allan Poe A demon illustrates the idea that even chaos is preferable to utter stillness. Atmospheric and chillingly on target. 4 Brian Martin
The Silver Hatchet (1883) Arthur Conan Doyle This tale of a cursed hatchet would have served the old Friday the 13th television series well. Nothing out of the ordinary except a reference to the Rosicrucians (an order supposedly formed in 1484 and reputed to possess secret and magic knowledge). 3 Brian Martin
Something in the Blood (1986) Richard L. Purtill And very little in the story. A romantic vampire fantasy wherein the romance is contrived and the fantasy bled white of all edginess. Terminally ill R.N. meets lonely vampire; sparks fail to ignite. Hokey conclusion. 1 Brian Martin
Sometimes They Come Back (1974) Stephen King High school lit. teacher's special ed class is haunted by the very real, very dangerous ghosts of his brother's murderers. Well-turned modern spook story until King unwisely dips again into the occult. The basis for the 1991 TV movie of the same name, which features a more satisfying resolution. 3 Brian Martin
Some Words with a Mummy (1845) Edgar Allan Poe Those who think of Poe as a 19th century Stephen King will find no better refutation of this view than this tale of a mummy brought back to life not for the purpose of inducing horror but for satirizing society. Indeed, the mummy so tardily restored to life is named Allamistakeo. 3 Brian Martin
Song for a Lady (1960) Charles Beaumont Newlyweds book passage on a decrepit ocean liner, finding to their bewilderment that all the other passengers are old men and women — each guarding one vast secret. Predictable. But at least the damn boat doesn't turn out to be the Titanic! 3 Brian Martin
The Spectacles (1844) Edgar Allan Poe Lightweight, but compellingly written, farce about a man too vain to wear eye-glasses and too stupid to realize a man in his position should never fall in love at first sight. 4 Brian Martin
The Spectral Pistol (1941) Carl Jacobi Neither this nor its Weird Tales title, “The Phantom Pistol,” accurately describe this story, which involves an antique, but very real, pistol and the rare old book that identifies it as a werewolf killer. Wildly unbelievable, thanks to Jacobi’s penchant, on spectacular display here, for convenience and illogicality, but entertaining nevertheless. 3 Brian Martin
The Stolen Bacillus (1894) H. G. Wells Mildly comic piece about an overly theatrical bacteriologist and the anarchist who steals from him a vial of the cholera bacillus. 3 Brian Martin
A Stolen Letter (1854) Wilkie Collins Perry Mason comes to mind in this tale of a clever, self-sufficient lawyer who helps a client out of a blackmailing jam. Good fun. 5 Brian Martin
A Study in Darkness (1939) Carl Jacobi An enormous malevolent rat wreaks havoc in a scientist’s home and it’s up to a doctor friend of his to solve the supernatural mystery of its sudden appearance and purpose. In typically disconnected Jacobi fashion, the doctor’s medical abilities are incidental so the man is, we learn, a scientist, as well. 2 Brian Martin
Srendi Vashtar (1930) Saki Satisfying psychological tale of an imaginative boy and his god — a polecat-ferret he keeps in a hutch in his hated cousin's shed. 4 Brian Martin
Strawberry Spring (1975) Stephen King Subtle little Victorian horror story of a Jack the Ripper-type killer stalking youths on a college campus. 4 Brian Martin
A Suppliant in Space (1973) Robert Sheckley Wry tale of an indomitable alien banished to deep space and the Earthmen who discover him and must ultimately decide what to do with him. Amusing, with a very neat and tidy plot. 5 Brian Martin
The Swap (1944) H. F. Heard Two men, physically and intellectually opposite, swap minds and bodies in an effort to attain “real anthropological knowledge…of another person.” Intriguing premise touches on several interesting ideas, though the hostility of the two participants detracts somewhat from the overall effect. See also Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Great Keinplatz Experiment.” 4 Brian Martin
The Tell-Tale Heart (1843) Edgar Allan Poe A madman murders and dismembers an old man, but cannot shake the sound of the man’s heartbeats. Straightforward, short, but well-observed tale of madness. A 1963 British film uses the title, but not the plot of this tale. 4 Brian Martin
A Terribly Strange Bed (1852) Wilkie Collins After breaking the bank, a gambler stays the night at a seedy gambling den where his winnings make him the target of an ingenious murder plot. Exciting and well-plotted. 5 Brian Martin
That Low (1948) Theodore Sturgeon Remarkably bitter tale of a man who fails at everything and is miserable as a result, yet unwittingly disproves a psychic’s prediction that he will live a “long and unhappy life.” Unpleasant. 2 Brian Martin
Thou Art the Man (1844) Edgar Allan Poe Somewhat facetious account of a gentleman’s murder and the kindly old man who can hardly bring himself, despite all indications, to implicate the nephew. Enjoyable mystery, although one which, like the author’s earlier tale “The Oblong Box,” rather undramatically divides the mystery itself from the straightforward solution presented afterward. 4 Brian Martin
The Time Machine (1894) H. G. Wells Decidedly pessimistic novella about a man traveling to the year 802,701 A.D., by which time Mankind has split into two species: the Eloi, frail and childlike, who live on the surface, and the Morlocks, pale and savage, who live in underground tunnels and caverns, tending out of habit to the needs of the helpless Eloi. Bleak as this view of the future is, Wells takes it a depressing step further, sending his Time Traveler even farther into a dismal future where Man is dead and the planet itself all but exhausted. 4 Brian Martin
The Tomb (1917) H. P. Lovecraft Jervas Dudley, another of Lovecraft’s “psychologically sensitive” young men, ends up in an asylum for the insane as a result of his obsession with the tomb of a great but extinct family. Jervas, however, is one creepy dude, and this atmospheric tale ends tidily. 4 Brian Martin
The Tomb From Beyond (1932) Carl Jacobi A kind of fourth-dimensional grave-robber haunts the tomb of an ancient civilization, raised from the seafloor by a famous explorer and into which he has placed the body of his beloved sister. Pedestrian monster story, with an unexplored science fiction premise. 3 Brian Martin
The Toys of Fate (1921) Tod Robbins Toy store owner meets Fate himself, a dirty, spiteful, mean-spirited old man, whose only delights are manipulation and destruction. The hopelessness of the toyman’s position is never in question, giving the tale a truly dark, driven, and fatalistic effect. By the author of “Spurs,” the short story that was the basis for Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks. 5 Brian Martin
The Trigger (1958) Charles Beaumont Detective uncovers the truth behind a series of apparent suicides. Beaumont wastes little time revealing the truth; all that's left is a little philosophical joke at the end, which is not at all worth the effort. 2 Brian Martin
The Trolley (1955) Ray Bradbury Evocative coming-of-age story set on the day of a trolley’s last run before being replaced by buses. Especially wistful for those who believe progress comes with a price. 4 Brian Martin
Trucks (1973) Stephen King King's dry run for his 1986 film Maximum Overdrive includes some of the same character types but packs an infinitely more effective wallop in its story of a disparate group of people trapped in a truck stop by impossibly sentient trucks. 4 Brian Martin
The Trunk Lady (1944) Ray Bradbury Bradbury lists this as one of his favorites from a time and a genre in which he was not producing great fiction, but the fact remains: this is an early mystery effort without a great deal to recommend it. It's the story of a young boy who finds the body of a woman in a trunk in the attic of his wealthy parents' house and causes great consternation and trouble by announcing the fact. The boy's internal discourse as he tries to puzzle out who killed the woman and why is amateurish and Bradbury's prose throughout is more than a little stilted. 2 Brian Martin
Twice-Killed Corpse (1942) Fredric Brown Funeral parlor worker and wannabe detective Roy Williams has to puzzle out why an insurance investigator he unwisely allowed to see one of the corpses should have stabbed it and disappeared. Straightforward mystery written in the author’s usual easygoing style. 3 Brian Martin
Twilight (1934) John W. Campbell Interesting early sci-fi as 1932 real estate salesman picks up a strange man by the side of the road who tells an even stranger story of Earth seven million years in the future, when magnificent machines run endlessly on while Man, incurious and sterile, stands by bewilderedly. Tied for 13th place in a ballot conducted by the SFWA of the top 15 science fiction short stories before 1965. Originally published under the name Don A. Stuart. 4 Brian Martin
The Ultimate Catalyst (1939) Eric Temple Bell Bell, a mathematician and better known to science fiction readers as John Taine, writes of the world’s last dictator on the eve of World War II. Politically and geographically imprisoned in jungle-choked Amazonia, where cattle and all other sources of meat are impossible to maintain, the dictator must rely on a doctor and his strange experiments to produce a fruit that tastes like meat. The doctor, however, has other plans. Stilted SF/horror hybrid sounds preachy without having anything much to preach about. 2 Brian Martin
The Villager (1944) Shirley Jackson Score another subtle victory for James Harris, Ms. Jackson’s sly demon in men’s clothing, who brings out the worst in a failed dancer living in Greenwich Village. 5 Brian Martin
Von Kempelen and His Discovery (1849) Edgar Allan Poe Another of the author’s reportorial pieces, this one about a man who discovers the fabled philosopher’s stone, allowing him to turn lead into gold. The idea is the story, and as such it won’t likely appeal to modern readers. 2 Brian Martin
The War Is Over (1957) Algis Budrys Terrific science fiction tale in which an entire people build an interstellar spacecraft without knowing how or why. Pays off in spades. 6 Brian Martin
Warm, Dark Places (1940) H. L. Gold A Jewish tailor refuses to help a man whom he thinks wants to open a rival business, so the man puts a Tibetan curse on him that he will lift only if the tailor changes his mind. A fitting curse and a wicked conclusion highlight this tale of horror, though setting and mood are purely prosaic. 4 Brian Martin
We Can Get Them for You Wholesale (1984) Neil Gaiman In a jealous pique, a nondescript department store employee takes out a contract on his fiancée and her perceived paramour — and that’s just for starters. Bolero-like narrative is not for those who find exceptionally stupid people difficult to take. 6 Brian Martin
What If… (1952) Isaac Asimov Cautionary what-might-have-been story of a married woman who wonders what would have happened if she hadn’t accidentally fallen in her husband’s lap five years ago. A strange little man named What If shows up to enlighten her. Cute. 4 Brian Martin
White Goddess (1955) Idris Seabright Wicked dark comedy of a petty thief preying on the wrong old woman, and finding himself trapped in her snow-globe paperweight. 5 Brian Martin
Wilderness (1957) Zenna Henderson Chick yarn about a woman who meets and gradually falls in love with a man who shares her supernatural powers. This shallow and occasionally ridiculous story is part of the author’s series of stories about the “People,” a group of extraterrestrials stranded on Earth. Overlong, initially obtuse, and finally melodramatic; but also “compassionate and perceptive,” according to editor Judith Merill, who included this hopelessly immature work in her book The Year’s Greatest Science-Fiction and Fantasy for 1957. 1 Brian Martin
William and Mary Roald Dahl Dahl puts a domestic spin on Donovan’s Brain in this tale of a woman forced to rethink her opposition to her domineering husband’s last request: to be preserved as a living brain after death. Dahl’s detailed account of the operation adds a welcome touch of realism to this fiendish fantasy. 4 Brian Martin
William Wilson (1839) Edgar Allan Poe Well-told tale of mystery and suspense as a dissolute man flees from city to city to escape his doppelganger, discovering too late the true nature of the other man’s existence. One of three Poe stories freely adapted for the screen in “Spirits of the Dead.” 5 Brian Martin
The Wind and the Rain (1973) Robert Silverberg Alarmist view of the Earth after Man has systematically destroyed its environment. Thoroughly depressing, though at least we learn, in one unreadable segment, that thesauri have survived intact. 3 Brian Martin
The Wines of Earth (1957) Idris Seabright Simple tale for undiscriminating wine lovers about a group of wine-making aliens who visit an old man’s vineyard in California’s Napa Valley. 2 Brian Martin
The Witch Shirley Jackson Frightening little tale about a four-year-old boy, traveling on a train with his mother and baby sister, who gobbles up a strange man’s horrifying reminiscence concerning his own little sister. Jackson seamlessly blends the ordinary and the suggestively supernatural to eye-opening, skin-prickling effect. 6 Brian Martin
With the Night Mail (1905) Rudyard Kipling May take a few pages to warm up to this "Story of 2000 A.D.," but it's well worth the effort. Fabulous tale of a man hitching a ride on a trans-Atlantic mail carrier that's something between an airplane and a zeppelin. Masterful — right up to the delightful last line kicker. Compare with Edgar Allan Poe’s earlier “Mellonta Tauta.” 6 Brian Martin
The Woman in the Room Stephen King Real-life horror as King expertly tells the tale of a son and his mother, who has terminal cancer. 5 Brian Martin
The Wonder Horse (1957) George Byram Horse-breeder and writer Byram gives this horseracing fantasy valuable verisimilitude, but in the end, it’s little more than a horse-breeder’s daydream set down on paper. A natural, if unexpected mutation produces a horse of incredible strength and speed, throwing the horseracing community into a frenzy. It’s up to the lucky owner to figure out how to make a buck off the animal. From the pages of The Atlantic Monthly. 3 Brian Martin
The Worm (1929) David H. Keller, M.D. An old miller does battle with an enormous worm that seems intent on destroying his mill from the basement up. Not a great deal of variety here, but a reasonably sound monster tale nonetheless. 4 Brian Martin
Writing on the Wall (1944) Carl Jacobi Outrageously ridiculous yarn about a psychologist’s fortuitous discovery that certain doodles have an extraterrestrial origin. It’s even dumber than it sounds. Originally published in Startling Stories as “The Cosmic Doodler.” 1 Brian Martin
The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) Charlotte Perkins Gilman Deliciously chilling psychological horror story of a woman forced to spend most of her time in a large room where she begins seeing things in the patterns of its hideous yellow wallpaper. Critically acclaimed, by feminists and horror lovers alike (though not necessarily for the same reasons), including H.P. Lovecraft, who praises the story's subtlety in his essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature." And it's just as creepy now as it was then. 5 Brian Martin
You Know Willie (1957) Theodore R. Cogswell Southern redneck gets his just desserts after murdering the son of an old black witch; his comeuppance is both arbitrary and suggestively violent. Chosen by Judith Merril as one of the best science fiction/fantasy stories of 1957, presumably for no other reason than its anti-racism theme, which may have seemed daring at the time. 2 Brian Martin
Xelucha (1896) M. P. Shiel Long-past romance returns to haunt a man one cold London night. Powerful tale of psychological assault, though perhaps a difficult read for those unfamiliar with Shiel's style here (which is similar to Lovecraft's and Poe's). 4 Brian Martin
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