Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Stories by Barbara Paul
short SF

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"All the Dogs of Europe"
"Answer 'Affirmative' or 'Negative'"
"Comfort of Walls, The"
"Earth Surrenders"
"Fatal Error 1000"
"I Have To Wait for Ben Jonson"
"Never Moon a Werewolf"
"Play Nice"
"Scarecrow Duty"
"Secret, The"
"Seven Deadly Sessions, The"
"Slow and Gentle Progress of
Trainee Bell-Ringers, The"

"Shakespeare Minus One"
"Swimming the Moat"
"Totally Tallulah"
"Untameable Part, The"
Answer "Answer 'Affirmative' or 'Negative'"

This is the first piece of fiction I ever wrote, and it was bought by the great science fiction editor John Campbell only a few months before he died. It's a computer story, written on a typewriter (the PC hadn't hit the market yet). While the technology is dated now, I think the story itself is still kind of fun.


  • Analog, April 1972
  • Analog 9, edited by Ben Bova, Doubleday, 1973, ISBN 0-385-07190-6
  • Computers, Computers, Computers: In Fiction and in Verse, edited by Dennie L. Van Tassel, Nelson, 1977, ISBN 0-525-66542-0

"The Untameable Part"

A novella-length story about human contact with a mimetic race that has a streak of innocent cruelty the humans are helpless to contend with. This story is almost impossible to find; the magazine that published it is now defunct.


  • Fiction (May 1973)

Bell-Ringers "The Slow and Gentle Progress of Trainee Bell-Ringers"

I took the title of this story from a clue in one of the wordplay-anagram type crossword puzzles the Brits do so well (the answer is "gradual changes"). It's a time-travel story, and I later expanded it into Pillars of Salt, the only one of my short stories ever to become a novel. The story has to do with the discovery that recorded history can be wrong in a way that no one ever envisaged, that certain prominent figures of the past died before the chronicles say they did.


  • Cassandra Rising, edited by Alice Laurance, Doubleday, 1978, ISBN 0-385-12857-6

7 Deadly "The Seven Deadly Sessions"

This is an early Virtual Reality story, in which I have fun with that old bugaboo of all right-thinking Christians everywhere, the Seven Deadly Sins. A young woman is projected into various scenarios designed to rid her of all those nasty impulses such as pride and gluttony and lust...but not one of the sessions goes exactly as planned.


  • Fantasy & Science Fiction (January 1981)

Scarecrow "Scarecrow Duty"

A war in space in which the first rule is that nobody gets hurt. Two races, feinting and faking, ducking and dodging, unwilling to engage -- until one commander can't stand it any longer and blasts an enemy ship out of the sky. The game obviously has to change, but how it changes will determine the fate of both races.


  • Fantasy & Science Fiction (March 1983)

Dogs "All the Dogs of Europe"

A woman is walking in a European town she has never seen before, wondering where she is and how she got there. No amnesia; she knows who she is, where she lives, what she does for a living. She just doesn't know what she's doing there. She talks briefly to a stranger, learning nothing of value. And then it dawns on her that the conversation was in German -- which she doesn't speak.


  • Fantasy & Science Fiction (September 1983)
  • Tales from the Dark Side [as "Dream Girl"], first telecast April 1988

Ben Jonson "I Have To Wait for Ben Jonson"

This is my "academic" story. It's set at a university in the near future, when scholarship has been regimented to the point that it's little more than a joke. But it's a sad joke, in a drab world, where the pure joy of learning has all but disappeared. An impatient Jonson scholar forces the issue and ends up with an intolerable situation on his hands.


  • Great Stream Review (May 1990)

Secret "The Secret"

When the phone rang and a familiar voice asked me to write a vampire story, my first impulse was to say no. The world was already overflowing with vampire stories; why should I add to the flood? Not really my kind of thing anyway. But as often happens when it's Ed Gorman on the other end of the line, I ended up saying yes.

Right away there's a problem. How do you build suspense in a vampire story that's going to be only one of fifteen or so vampire stories all published in the same book? The readers already know every story they start will have a vampire in it. No surprise element at all.

So I decided to skip the thrills-and-chills aspect altogether. I wrote a story about a small American desert town that unexpectedly finds itself playing host to a vampire. No henbane, no stake through the heart, no Dr. Van Helsing stuff. Just a small group of practical people dealing with the problem of a displaced vampire.


  • Vampire Detectives, edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, 1993, ISBN 0-88677-626-0

Walls "The Comfort of Walls"

A Frankenstein story. I've no patience with the argument that Mary Shelley's novel preaches "There are things man was not meant to know!" Her book is not anti-science; it's anti-irresponsibility. The young student (not "Dr." Frankenstein; that's a Hollywood invention) runs away from the mess he created, leaving it for others to deal with. Only toward the end of the book does he develop the maturity to face what he has done.

I found a place in the novel where the creature's activities are simply summarized for a period of a few months; I set my story during that time so as not to contradict the flow of the original. And I told the story from the creature's point of view...which is that of a hideously deformed child who has been abandoned by his father.


  • Frankenstein: The Monster Wakes, edited by Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, 1993, ISBN 0-88677-584-1

Werewolf "Never Moon a Werewolf"

Well, I'd written a vampire story and a Frankenstein story -- so why not a werewolf story? Might as well round things out.

But not just one werewolf, oh no. The story is about an entire community of werewolves, fellow lycanthropes with their own problems, their own rituals, and their own way of dealing with belligerent mundanes who've never known the sheer exhilaration of running free in the night.

The anthology that "Never Moon a Werewolf" appears in has acquired its own fan-maintained web page, with brief comments about all twenty-three stories in the book.


  • Werewolves, edited by Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, 1995, ISBN 0-88677-654-6

Tallulah "Totally Tallulah"

Marty Greenberg, king of the anthologists, is constantly looking for new anthology themes, putting old ideas together in a new way that will pique readers' curiosity. I don't have a clue as to how he arrived at the notion of a collection of stories about celebrities from the past...who also just happened to be vampires. But why not? Makes perfect sense to me.

The Tallulah of the title is, of course, the formidable Tallulah Bankhead, at the time of the story appearing on Broadway with co-star/playwright Noël Coward in Private Lives. The story recounts what happens when a handsome young vampire nuzzles her neck a bit sharply.


  • Celebrity Vampires, edited by Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, 1995, ISBN 0-88677-667-8

swimming "Swimming the Moat"

Castle Fantastic is an anthology edited by John DeChancie in which each story is set in a castle, and each one contains some element of fantasy or the supernatural. "Swimming the Moat" is about a group of characters who are trying to get out of a castle.

The lord of the castle has been stabbed in the back with a Swiss Army knife. His ghost appears and commands his five reluctant guests to find out which one of them is the knife-wielding culprit. To prevent their leaving, he burns the drawbridge, cuts the telephone wires, etc. So they're stuck. The only way out is to do as their ghostly host wishes and find his killer.


  • Castle Fantastic, edited by John DeChancie and Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, 1996, ISBN

Error "Fatal Error 1000"

Future Net is an anthology of science fiction stories set in the imaginary cyberspace of the future. "Fatal Error 1000" posits a Virtual Reality environment that reproduces an idealized world (food tastes better, nobody ever gets sick, etc.).

Human memories and experiences are recorded daily, so that when someone dies in Real Time, that person can be brought back as a revenant on the Net -- but only on the Net. But consciousness need not cease because the body fails. These ghosts interact with both the quick and the dead on the Net, living their lives posthumously in cyberspace.

And then someone murders a dead man.


  • Future Net, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Larry Segriff, DAW, 1996, ISBN 0-88677-723-2

Surrender "Earth Surrenders"

A difficult story to write, because the subject matter is such a cliché -- first contact between human and alien. Every possible variation on this theme has already been written, so I took the oldest plot of them all: Big Baddies from outer space with superior technology descend upon the defenseless human race. Since the humans can't outfight the invaders, they can only try to outsmart them.

A word about the title. A house in Massachusetts my son and daughter-in-law once owned had an upstairs bathroom that was wallpapered with reproductions of old-timey newspaper headlines proclaiming history-making events. One such headline announced the end of World War I:

Peace  on  Earth
Germany Surrenders
But one panel of the wallpaper had to be cut right down the middle to fit around a window, with this result:
I just knew that had to be a story title. I had to wait a few years before I could use it, but it finally did come in handy.


  • First Contact, edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Larry Segriff, DAW, 1997,
    ISBN 0-88677-737-7
  • The Young Oxford Book of Aliens, edited by Dennis Pepper, Oxford University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-19-278155-3
  • Alien Stories 2, edited by Dennis Pepper, Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-19-275189-1

Payback "Payback"

It was bound to happen: an anthology of short stories based on urban legends -- alligators in the sewer, the poodle in the microwave, spiders in a beehive hairdo, etc. I chose the Neiman Marcus cookie story.

The anthology aims at illustrating one dark side of our natures that prompts us to cherish and repeat these stories. But I found it impossible to write a "dark" story about a cookie. The editors very generously allowed me to supply some midbook comic relief.

And one of them put up a web page for the book.


  • Urban Nightmares, edited by Josepha Sherman & Keith DeCandido, Baen Books, 1997, ISBN 0-671-87851-4

Shakespeare "Shakespeare Minus One"

Future entertainment: holographic productions of plays from which one or more parts can be dialed out so amateur thespians can perform the roles themselves. A Midsummer Night's Dream in your living room, and you can play any part you like.

The story concerns a young man who invites five people to his house to participate in a holographic production of Hamlet. His purpose: to learn more about his father's death.


  • Future Crimes, edited by Ed Gorman & Martin H. Greenberg; DAW, 1999, ISBN 0-886-77854-9

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Last updated October 22, 2000.