August is a great month for sampling science fiction and fantasy. There are several books out this month that contain short stories, any of which is a great way to stretch your imagination. Here's a brief rundown on the short fiction books hitting bookstore shelves this month alone.

ANTHOLOGIES

Anthologies are books that collect short fiction written by multiple authors. They're a great way to sample lots of unique voices, whether they old favorites or new discoveries. There are two kinds of anthologies: themed and un-themed. The stories in a themed anthology usually share some common idea between them, either collected or commissioned by its editor. The various Years Best books can be considered un-themed anthologies.

August has two notable un-themed anthologies. First is The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2013 Edition, edited by Paula Guran (Prime Books). This one collects the editor's picks for best stories first published in 2012. There are 35 stories between the covers, including ones by Peter S. Beagle, Jim Butcher, Theodora Goss, Caitlín R Kiernan, Joe R. Lansdale, Karen Tidbeck and Genevieve Valentine. Second is Heiresses of Russ 2013: The Year's Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction, edited by Tenea D. Johnson & Steve Berman, an annual anthology of the best of the prior year's published speculative fiction with lesbian themes. It includes fiction by Richard Bowes, Malinda Lo, Brit Mandelo, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Nisi Shawl and Carrie Vaughn.

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August also has several anthologies with stories featuring a common theme. Most notable perhaps is Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe, edited by Bill Fawcett and J.E. Mooney. It's a tribute anthology to the author of the well-regarded The Book of the New Sun series. Here, authors such as Neil Gaiman, David Brin, David Drake and Nancy Kress pay tribute to Wolfe by writing stories inspired by his numerous books.

Jonathan Strahan's Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron is a marvelous group of stories involving witches depicted in film and literature. The stories are written by an equally marvelous group of writers such as Holly Black, Ellen Klages, Ellen Kushner, Margo Lanagan, Tanith Lee and Garth Nix.

Claude Lalumiere has assembled a mighty anthology of stories about superheroes and supervillains in Super Stories of Heroes & Villains. His super lineup includes Cory Doctorow, Tananarive Due, Christopher Golden, Jonathan Lethem, George R.R. Martin, Mike Mignola and Tim Pratt. Under my Hat

Ross E. Lockhart's Tales of Jack the Ripper brings together various speculative takes on the infamous 19th-century killer Jack the Ripper. Included here are stories by Laird Barron, Ramsey Campbell, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Joe R. Lansdale and E. Catherine Tobler.

Beyond the Sun, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt, features 18 stories about space colonization from the likes of Jean Johnson, Nancy Kress, Cat Rambo, Mike Resnick, Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Robert Silverberg.

David Sandner and Jacob Weisman included 46 stories in their anthology The Treasury of the Fantastic, which collects genre stories from major literary figures from the 19th and 20th centuries. Inside its illustrious cover, you will find st ories by Lord Byron, John Keats, Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Edith Wharton, Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf.

COLLECTIONS

"Collections" are books of short stories written by the same author. If you are already familiar with the author, you may know a little about what to expect. If you aren't familiar with the author, a collection is not only a great introduction, but also satisfies readers looking for a quick hit from a smorgasbord of ideas.

One such collection is The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet and Other Stories by Indian science fiction author Vandana Singh. Many of the stories here have been collected or mentioned in various Year's Best anthologies. There are also two new stories to entice fans already familiar with Vandana's work. Stories include one where a woman tells her husband she is inhabited by tiny alien creatures. In another, a young girl making her way to college through the streets of Delhi discovers a mysterious tetrahedron that may be a spaceship or a secret weapon.

Another collection is Celestial Inventories by World Fantasy Award-winning author Steve Rasnic Tem, which offers 22 stories to fuel your mind with wild ideas. Among them are stories where a plague of head explosions becomes a new form of terrorism; both an office worker and his wife begin to literally fade into invisibility; a photographer shockingly discovers the unexpected in the faces of dead children; a girl fails to retuTreasury of the Fantasticrn from trick-or-treating; and an artist devotes his career to contracting diseases.

Tell My Sorrows to the Stones by New York Times best-selling author Christopher Golden is equally enjoyable and stuffed with lots of cool story ideas, like a spectral gunslinger who teaches a young boy to defend the ones he loves; a young West Virginia miner whose only hope of survival is a bedtime story; a has-been Hollywood actress who's out to deprive her ex-husband of his prize possession; a desperate circus clown willing to give anything to be funny; and a lonely widower making a farewell tour of the places that meant the world to his late wife.

The International Horror Guild Award–winning and New York Times best-selling author Michael Marshall Smith has a new collection called Everything You Need. In it you'll find stories about a neighbor who discovers disturbing things about his neighbor when he accidentally unpacks the wrong bag of groceries; a child who discovers why you should always stay in bed if you wake up in the middle of the night; and more.

Philip K. Dick is a science fiction favorite and several of his stories have been made into films. The Minority Report by Philip K. Dick is a collection of 18 stories, including "The Minority Report," the basis for the Tom Cruise film, in which a trio of mutant precogs are able to predict crimes before they happen. There's also a post-apocalyptic tale ("Autofac") in which humans share a devastated Earth with the machines they created but no longer fully control. Philip K. Dick wrote numerous short stories in his career and this collection is the fourth of a five book series (The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick) published by Subterranean Press, covering the years between 1954 and 1963.

Subterranean is also doing a retrospective short fiction collection by SFWA Grand Master Robert Silverberg, who has been writing science fiction for more than five decades. The eighth volume, Hot Times in Magma City, collects 13 stories written between 1990 and 1995. The stories in this collection include ones where time travelers hunt big game; a maker of clones is forced to work for a dictator; and immortals who have seen and done everything search for something new. Silverberg is truly a master of not only genre, but the short form as well, and this series of collections proves it.

John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a Hugo Award-winning group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. You can follow him on Twitter as @sfsignal.