Short Story Month is over, but to cap a fantastic month when I’ve discovered a lot of fantastic new writers through their short stories, and also re-discovered some classics in the genre, I want to recommend two more short story collections. Both are favourites if mine, both are classics, and both are science fiction.

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I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

These nine short stories were originally published in the magazines Super Science Stories and Astounding Science Fiction between 1940 and 1950. In 1950, they were published as a book, and were then connected by a framing narrative: in her old age, robotics pioneer Dr Susan Calvin is telling each of the stories to a reporter, reflecting on the problems and challenges of designing robots that can perform difficult and dangerous tasks, and also safely interact with humans.

So many defining science fiction concepts concerning humans and machines (and the good and the bad that can come from that interaction), are captured in these nine short stories, including (of course) the influential “Three Laws of Robotics”:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

I, Robot is a hugely influential collection of science fiction short stories. It’s also an entertaining and well-written work, and well worth re-visiting in this day and age of countless movies, games, and TV-shows featuring androids, robots, cyborgs, and other forms of robots and/or artificial intelligence.

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The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

As other posts on this site will show, this short story collection is one of my favourite books. It was also one of the books that really made me fall in love with science fiction as a genre. It was published in 1950 – just like I, Robot – and just like that book, the individual stories were first published in various magazines, and later gathered together in a book, and also given a framing narrative; this one recounting the history of humanity’s exploration and colonization of Mars.

There is so much I love about this book: the beauty of Bradbury’s prose, the creeping terrors that often lurk beneath the surface of the seemingly everyday places and situations in his stories, and the blending of science fiction, horror, and poetry that permeates the whole work. This is not hard science fiction, but then Bradbury was never that – he is more interested in people than the details of technology.

The short stories in The Martian Chronicles touch on the civil rights movement, racism, the destruction of native culture, dystopic visions of a future Earth ravaged by atomic war, and many other common science fiction themes. I’ve already mentioned some of my favourite short stories from this book in my post My 10 favourite Ray Bradbury short stories, so I’ll just add this:

This is a short story collection that I highly recommend to anyone, both fans of science fiction who might not have checked it out yet, and those who are new to the genre.

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