This six-part series is intended to guide new science fiction readers toward books that they may enjoy. Here's what's on tap:

Part 4: Short Stories

Admit it, sometimes you like to snack between meals. There's something satisfying about sneaking a small treat separate from larger feasts. Guess what? The same holds true for reading. In the mood for a quick fix? Take a bite of short fiction!

Science fiction and fantasy readers could easily subsist on short fiction alone if they so desired. With so many sources of good short fiction available, it's hard not to snack between meals.

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Short Fiction Anthologies

Just like snacks, SF/F anthologies—collections of stories by a variety of authors—come in an assortment of flavors. 

Some great anthologies for folks starting down the road of science fiction include Science Fiction 101 edited by Robert Silverberg; The Science Fiction Hall of Fame series, edited by various editors; The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction edited by Arthur B. Evans, et. al.; and The Secret History of Science Fiction edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel—all these offer fantastic, well-rounded selections of stories.

A handful of retrospective anthologies offer editors' picks for best stories. Popular ones include Gardner Dozois' Year's Best Science Fiction series, the longest-running retrospective series in print will soon see its 28th edition; The Year's Best SF and Years Best Fantasy series edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer; The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year series edited by Jonathan Strahan; The Year's Best Science Fiction & Year's Best Fantasy series edited by Rich Horton; and Digital Domains: A Decade of Science Fiction & Fantasy edited by Ellen Datlow, who is the undisputed editing queen of Horror short fiction, I might add.

Sometimes anthologies are centered on a common theme. Notable themed anthologies include The New Space Opera series edited by Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan; the Steampunk series edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer; Masked by Lou Anders; The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF edited by Mike Ashley; Is Anybody Out There? edited by Nick Gevers and Marty Halpern; Shine edited by Jetse de Vries (Optimistic science fiction); Gordon Van Gelder's Welcome to the Greenhouse; Darrell Schweitzer's Cthulhu's Reign; Dark Faith edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon; Allan Kaster's We, Robots (an audio anthology); Editor John Joseph Adams has several well received themed anthologies including Brave New Worlds (Dystopian fiction), The Living Dead and its sequel (zombie fiction), and Wastelands (post-apocalyptic fiction).

Anthologies don't necessarily need a theme to be good. Some notable unthemed anthologies include Lou Anders' Fast Forward series; George Mann's The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction series; Sharyn November's Firebirds series; and Jonathan Strahan offers Engineering Infinity, Life on Mars, as well as the Eclipse series of sf/f. Top-notch fiction abounds!

Short Fiction Collections

Short fiction collections, books of stories written by the same author, are another vehicle for short fiction. Notable sf collections include Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Others; Paolo Bacigalupi's Pump Six; Nano Comes to Clifford Falls by Nancy Kress; Recovering Apollo 8 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch; Deep Navigation by Alastair Reynolds; The Best of Gene Wolfe; Fritz Leiber: Selected Stories; The Best of Michael Moorcock; The Birthday of the World by Ursula K. Le Guin; The Collected Stories of Jack Williamson; The Collected Stories of Edmond Hamilton; Michael A. Burstein's I Remember the Future; Mike Resnick's New Dreams for Old; and Robert Reed's The Cuckoo's Boys. 

Short Fiction Magazines & Websites

Historically speaking, the pulpy magazines of decades past are the birthplace of the written science fiction short story. Several short fiction magazines are in print today and even more are popping up online, sometimes offering audio stories as well. If you are so inclined, do check out these venues for your sf/f short fiction fix:

John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. He also like bagels.