Short fiction has always seemed to be the natural narrative form for SF. Ask most readers for their all-time science fiction favorites and they will usually respond with stories like Arthur Clarke’s “The Star,” Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains,” Harlan Ellison’s “’Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” Robert Heinlein’s “Requiem,” and others with similar punch. Novels occasionally make the cut, but they are inevitably selected far less often than the stories.
This may be more a comment on my age and that of the people with whom I’m most often in communication. Or it may be that science fictional subject matter simply fits the short form more effectively. When a story ends with a few human kids on Mars realizing they are all that remains of the Martians, or with the discovery that documents in possession of aliens who claim they are here “to serve man,” are actually menus, or that the Christmas star was a supernova that destroyed a living world, we have the kind of narrative that is classic. That we are inclined never to forget. And there is simply no way to stretch that kind of jolt across 100,000 words.
The point here is that a collection or anthology is almost always a safe bet to contain some science fiction with an electric charge. Night Shade Books has just released Neil Clarke’s celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo mission, The Eagle Has Landed. It’s a large anthology of lunar-based stories by Stephen Baxter, Gregory Benford, Adam-Troy Castro, John Kessel, Nancy Kress, Rich Larson, Robert Reed, Kim Stanley Robinson, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Michael Swanwick, and John Varley.
I should add that it also contains one of mine, “The Cassandra Project,” which eventually evolved into the novel of the same title co-written with Mike Resnick.
I’ve read some of the stories, but haven’t started the book yet. Will take it to bed tonight. With high expectations.