I'd like to get in my nominations for the International Blogosphere "Three Best SF Shorts Ever" awards:
The Stars, My Destination, by Alfred Bester,
The Cold Equations, by Tom Godwin, and
The Enemy Stars, by Poul Anderson.
Golden Age SF at its most golden (bonus props to The Enemy Stars for making a Kipling fan out of me.) Put in your nominations. I know for a fact that Marko at the munchkin wrangler, Dr. StrangeGun, Jeff at Alphecca, and Food Court Six Actual are all SF geeks, and it'd be interesting to know what they think. (...and hopefully a good way to get new reading material selections from the LazyWeb.)
My vote for the Number One slot? Well, Bester's and Anderson's offerings were great, managing to transcend the boundaries of genre fiction into true Literature, but The Cold Equations is more than just a story to me; reading it was a life-changing event.
I was raised in a Baptist Concentration Camp, and the big bogieman I was taught to fear was the Demon of Secular Humanism, with its harbinger, Situational Ethics. "How could ethics be situational," I wondered, "when some things are Always Wrong and other things are Always Right?"
Then I stumbled across a yellowed volume of 1950s Science Fiction stories in the church library, containing an unprepossessing little tale by Godwin that asked the question "When is it Right to kill an innocent teenage girl?" The resultant hand grenade lobbed into my heretofore smugly self-assured thought processes triggered seismic tremors that still ripple in me today. How could I have ever seen the world so simply? What made me think I had all the answers? It's a rare piece of fiction that can trigger this reaction in only twenty-five pages. If you've read it, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, then go ahead and read it. I dare you.