127 votes
Accepted

Short story read ~25 year ago where changing person's name prevents a war

This is probably Isaac Asimov's "Spell My Name with an "S"". The story concerns Marshall Zebatinsky, a Polish-American nuclear physicist. He is concerned that his career has ...
FuzzyBoots's user avatar
  • 225k
61 votes

Sci-fi book I read years ago: sterile, lab-grown woman who smuggles things in a surgically-created “pouch” behind her navel

You are, in fact, thinking of Friday, by Robert A. Heinlein. Plot summary, from Wikipedia: The book's narrator is Friday Jones (often going under cover name Marjorie Baldwin and using both surnames ...
Jeff Zeitlin's user avatar
  • 7,860
44 votes
Accepted

80's sci fi book, players picked random game elements to compete

This definitely reminds me of "The Game" in the Apprentice Adept series by Piers Anthony. Quoting the series Wikipedia page about The Game: The main pastime of Proton inhabitants is The ...
DavidW's user avatar
  • 129k
40 votes
Accepted

Short story about future where living space is at a premium

"Billenium" by J. G. Ballard (ISFDB), published first in New Worlds Science Fiction (#112 November 1961): The story is set in the future ... where the world is becoming increasingly ...
FuzzyBoots's user avatar
  • 225k
39 votes

Book about a woman named Lessa

Look for Anne McCaffrey's "DragonRiders of Pern" Trilogy, "Dragon Drums Trilogy" and a few others (25 books are listed on Amazon). Lessa, in particular, shows up in about half of ...
Nathan's user avatar
  • 391
39 votes
Accepted

Story about reaction with water that must proceed, ending with hurricane

This is likely one of Isaac Asimov's Thiotimoline stories. They describe a chemical that dissolves slightly before it is added to water, with the consequences you describe if it ends up not getting ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
38 votes
Accepted

80s sci fi film with quest to replace lost female droid companion

This sounds like Cherry 2000 (1987), which in spite of the title takes place in 2017. Per Wikipedia: In the year 2017, the United States has fragmented into post-apocalyptic wastelands and limited ...
Buzz's user avatar
  • 97.4k
38 votes
Accepted

Man playing computer in chess. Uses a book-opening with known typo to win one, uses deep lookahead for #2

Might this be The 64-Square Madhouse by Fritz Leiber, first published in the May 1962 issue of If...? Here're a couple of relevant excerpts from the story. At the beginning of today's session Sandra ...
LogicDictates's user avatar
37 votes
Accepted

Animation movie (80's-90's) with brain-sucking insects

Using the web site What is my Movie? and using the keywords animation+movie+insect+brains I scrolled down and look at something that could resemble that movie. This is Time Masters (1982) (French: Les ...
lois6b's user avatar
  • 497
31 votes
Accepted

Late 1980's era film about thick white paste controlling people

This is The Stuff (1985) Several railroad workers discover a yogurt-like white substance bubbling out of the ground. These workers find it to be sweet and addictive. Later, the substance, marketed ...
Valorum's user avatar
  • 691k
30 votes
Accepted

Short story about teaching a brontosaurus to fly

This is Trouble with Emily, one of the Sector General short stories. Conway is ordered to assist with a project involving a large dinosaur-like alien, dubbed Emily for its supposed resemblance to ...
Valorum's user avatar
  • 691k
27 votes

Book about training for and surviving on a deadly planet

Harry Harrison’s Deathworld trilogy. It features deadly plants and "forearm mounted automatic holsters". The planet was called Pyrrus...a strange place where all the beasts, plants and natural ...
Gaius's user avatar
  • 1,225
26 votes
Accepted

Novel or short story about glass so thick a widower can see his late wife walking around outside

That is part of Bob Shaw's "Other Days, other eyes" (e.g. mentioned in this review on tor.com). For the most part, however, Other Days, Other Eyes is serious and even sad. The most ...
Eike Pierstorff's user avatar
25 votes
Accepted

Story identification - Childrens' Sci-Fi circa 1980s

Douglas Hill - Huntsman, Warriors of the Wasteland, and Alien Citadel. The Alien race is the slavers; they capture the protagonist (Finn) family, and in the course of trying to rescue them ends up ...
Michael's user avatar
  • 20.3k
24 votes

Book with male protagonist struggling against giant (possibly alien) bugs

With appropriate credit to @Merc Measley for suggesting Starship Troopers first... Reading the OP's description of the cover (mostly yellow, man with laser gun, flying bugs), I immediately thought of ...
Kryten's user avatar
  • 793
23 votes
Accepted

Scifi short story about a device that removes dust, is replicated for profit, and the original owners reverse the flow of dust removal?

"Dusty Zebra" by Clifford D. Simak. First published in Galaxy Science Fiction, September 1954, which is available at the Internet Archive; reprinted a number of times. Any of these covers ...
user14111's user avatar
  • 163k
23 votes
Accepted

Short story about a man getting the wrong phone number (with old-style exchange) and being 'disappeared'

Mugwump 4 by Robert Silverberg. The story starts: Al Miller was only trying to phone the Friendly Finance Corpo­ration to ask about an extension on his loan. It was a Murray Hill number, and he had ...
John Rennie's user avatar
23 votes
Accepted

Early 2000s movie about robot that invades the world

Possibly Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) It's got giant robots with a diesel punk look to them, and the end has a rocket full of animals.
Happy Robot's user avatar
  • 3,149
23 votes
Accepted

Scholastic sci-fi anthology book containing a short story about a planet with crystal monsters

The first story you mentioned might be The Music of Minox by Howard Goldsmith. It was published within the More Science Fiction Tales: Crystal Creatures, Bird-Things & Other Weirdies anthology in ...
LogicDictates's user avatar
22 votes
Accepted

Story about a world of magic where science has been forbidden

It might be Forging the Darksword, the first book of the Darksword Trilogy by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. In that world, magic is called "Life." The main character, Joram, is a baby ...
AlchemicAutoma's user avatar
22 votes
Accepted

Story with a 3-layered world

This looks like Triplet by Timothy Zahn. As described, there are three worlds (versions of the planet), ours, another level centered around hexes (the theory, towards the end, was that 6 was important ...
AlanT's user avatar
  • 1,523
22 votes
Accepted

TV sci-fi show with strong female lead who looks after artifacts and also had Nikola Tesla in it

Sanctuary Features Nikola Tesla in seasons 2-4 and the talkative geek and lycanthrope Henry Foss (Ryan Robbins) This page shows a poster for the program showing Amanda Tapping looking like Lucy ...
Andrew's user avatar
  • 45.8k
21 votes

Name of late 70’s or 80s B grade sci fi - aliens disguised as police

There are few details given on IMDB, but I think this could well be "Everything happens to me" (also known by the alternative title "Why did you pick on me"), a 1980 comedy film ...
Clara Diaz Sanchez's user avatar
21 votes
Accepted

Sci-fi Show with Tech Magic/Psychic Powers

Possibly Crusade, a Babylon 5 spin-off? One of the characters is a techno-mage named Galen, large ship, adventures, 1999.
Dosco Jones's user avatar
20 votes

Novel about a man waking to a world without life after hibernating, then hibernating while re-evolving life?

Second Ending by James White. The robots propagate the grass from seeds found in his trouser turn-ups (why he was put to sleep wearing ordinary clothes, I don't know). The people at the end have ...
sueelleker's user avatar
  • 12.1k
19 votes
Accepted

Story identification - Desert planet with "Makers"

The book is Hammerfall by C. J. Cherryh. The book was published in 2002 so it does match your time frame. I recall very little of the book, but luckily as straycat points out in a comment there is a ...
John Rennie's user avatar
19 votes
Accepted

Series of books/novellas, involving a depopulated Earth, mass infertility, a religious cult, time travel, and Amazon warriors

The Douglas Convolution series by Edward Llewellyn...? The series is comprised of three books, The Douglas Convolution (1979), The Bright Companion (1980), and Prelude to Chaos (1983). The Goodreads ...
LogicDictates's user avatar
17 votes
Accepted

Novel: Sentient lifeform enslaves all life on planet — colonises other planets by making copies of itself?

This sounds a bit like the Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton, which are two books where the main threat to humans is a colony organism that behaves much like your description. There are ...
HorusKol's user avatar
  • 45.8k
17 votes

Old radio show or book about a group of marooned men on a planet with only one creature which they eat and then cocoon and change into that creature

I'm pretty sure that the story in question is "Drop Dead" by Clifford Simak. The title comes from the fact that that's what the "critter" would. They just walk into the explorer ...
Emsley Wyatt's user avatar
  • 9,285

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