The best science fiction short story collections

Who am I?

Hi! My name is Ben Berman Ghan, and I’m the author of the short story collection What We See in the Smoke and the novella Visitation Seeds. I’ve spent pretty much every day of my life since 2015 thinking about short fiction, writing it, or editing it. In many ways, the traditions and strengths of the genre of SF are owed to the short fiction writers and the magazines that have published them over the years — magazines that I keep on reading to this day. There is something electric to me about the short story, the concentrated fervor of an SF writer having to concentrate all that imagination and emotion into something tight and sharp. 

I wrote...

What We See in the Smoke

By Ben Berman Ghan,

Book cover of What We See in the Smoke

What is my book about?

What We See in the Smoke twists the genres of realism and science fiction to tell the future history of Toronto, a story that stretches from this millennium to the next.

A musician is caught in an endless time loop unable to reach those he loves, two broke and desperate men plan a heist of a cannibal auction, a detective with sinister proclivities hunts for a criminal who is stealing dreams, and a college student searches for his brother in the hours before a nuclear war. All of these and more lead to a world where only rich cyborgs or the homeless remain, where teleportation has made crime impossible, and where city-sized spaceships are maintained by strange creatures while planet Earth itself is left behind.

The books I picked & why

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The Hidden Girl and Other Stories

By Ken Liu,

Book cover of The Hidden Girl and Other Stories

Why this book?

There’s something beautiful, and often something sad, waiting for us in Ken Liu’s The Hidden Girl. An incredible tapestry of narratives. While there’s no weak point to be found within the eighteen selections made available to readers inside its pages, what keeps bringing me back to it over and over are the handful of stories that, when put together, create a timeline of the end of humanity, as human beings slowly transcend into galaxy-spanning digital consciousness. And yet throughout these narratives, which a lesser writer might have made vast and cold, there is a warmth and love on display in every word.

Why do I cry when reading the story Altogether Elsewhere, Vast Herds of Reindeer? In this book, through narratives spanning millennia, Liu says something about the relationships between parents and children that has forever changed the way I feel about such relations in the world.

Stories of Your Life and Others

By Ted Chiang,

Book cover of Stories of Your Life and Others

Why this book?

Honestly, if you haven’t read this book, I might ask where you’ve been for the last 20 years. Story of Your Life is a beautiful piece, warping time and space to ask questions about destiny, loss, and with some good aliens. Even if you have seen its film adaptation Arrival, you should still come back here and read what Chiang put down. And that’s not even all that this book has to offer! Such stories as Towers of Babylon, or Like What you See: A Documentary have always become such instant classics for me, that it feels like I’ve always read them, and can’t imagine a time when I didn’t know them.

The Martian Chronicles

By Ray Bradbury,

Book cover of The Martian Chronicles

Why this book?

The original “Fix Up novel”, short stories rewritten to all serve a single overarching narrative. Let me tell you a secret — this was the book of short stories that made me fall in love with the form. The concepts of connected stories found here were the template for how I approached continuity within my book What We See in the Smoke. When I want to teach someone what a good short story can do, I pick up my dogeared copy of this book, and I read There Will Come Soft Rains to them. I have done this several times. I’m sure people find it annoying by now.

Radicalized: Four Tales of Our Present Moment

By Cory Doctorow,

Book cover of Radicalized: Four Tales of Our Present Moment

Why this book?

What shall we do, when at last the intricate oppressions, we have built for ourselves are pushed plainly into view? Cory Doctorow’s collection of novellas bills itself not fictions of tomorrow, but stories of our present moment. Immigration, police brutality, tech monopoly, online radicalization, all bubble sharply and brilliantly to the surface here, in a world that, frankly, doesn’t seem that far from ours. What will you do, when your toaster tells you that the bread you bought is not a compatible product? Cory Doctorow might tell you. You might not like the answer very much. Either way, with stellar writing and keen insight, Radicalized is the best kind of political fiction, unapologetic, and empathic.

Alias Space and Other Stories

By Kelly Robson,

Book cover of Alias Space and Other Stories

Why this book?

There’s a story in here about a former hockey player from the moon that had to move to Earth to try to avoid retribution after killing another player, and he gets stashed at an artist’s retreat. A big part of this list has been beautiful, but often very sad stories. Think, then, of Alias Space as a kind of antidote. If you have any familiarity with Robson from her published short fiction, this is a great collection to help you fill in the gaps in your collection. If you’ve never heard of Robson? Then this is a great dive into one of the best writers working in my hometown of Toronto! 

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