Some of the greatest science fiction writers have been intrigued by the possibilities of the short short story. Condensing the mystery and awe, the terror and humor of good science fiction into three or four pages can be a mighty challenge. And when the challenge is taken up by such masters as Anthony Boucher, Fritz Leiber, Frederik Pohl, Alfred Bester, Larry Niven, Roger Zelazny, C.M. Kornbluth, Damon Knight, Robert Sheckley, and Isaac Asimov the results can be delightful.
Here is an anthology of one hundred classic science fiction short short stories, each one packed with unusual twists and each prefaced with the sly and witty remarks of Isaac Asimov himself. So dip into this collection of marvelous miniatures and discover for yourself that good things do indeed come in small packages!
This one is personally my favorite. For one thing, there are three-and-a-half stories in it by the Good Doctor himself. One is “A Loint of Paw,” which is among my favorites of his short-shorts. The second is “Eyes Do More Than See,“ which is barely tolerable, and the third is “Exile to Hell,” which stinks (to put it nicely), but the third is a strange little collaboration that deserves some explanation. In 1974, an unpublished amateur, Jeff Hudson, wrote up a short-short poking fun at the friendly rivalry between Asimov and Robert Silverberg and sent it in to Galaxy. The story was, on the whole, more than worth publishing, but the ending wasn’t quite satisfactory, so editor Jim Baen asked Asimov himself to rewrite the ending, which he did. The resulting tale is funny enough for the dedicated Asimov fan to make the price of the book worthwhile. (One wishes that an Asimov satire published in Analog a couple of years later—“The Amazing Azimuth” I think was the title—is not also included.)
So what else is there? Well, some ninety-seven stories by various authors none of whom are Isaac Asimov, but some of whom are almost as good. It’s a delightful hodge podge and a lot of fun, a wonderful way to spend an afternoon—definitely a worthwhile volume.
One more note. This is Asimov’s first collaboration with one Martin Harry Greenberg. The collaboration would continue most fruitfully for the rest of Asimov’s life. Greenberg is more responsible than anybody —just possibly excepting the Good Doctor himself—for Asimov’s extremely productive last fifteen years. Between the publication of this book in 1978 and Asimov’s death in 1992, Asimov and Greenberg co-edited over one hundred anthologies. Greenberg also edited The Asimov Chronicles and spurred Asimov’s work for Gareth-Stevens: “Isaac Asimov’s Library of the Universe” and the “Ask Isaac Asimov” series between them contain some sixty titles. Without Marty Greenberg, Asimov’s book count would have been some one-third less than it was (which means I would have been finished collecting a long, long time ago, alas).