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Pings and Pongs:
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges

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These are my 30 favorite published stories out of the hundreds I've written. I'm told I write with a light, humorous touch, so please laugh at the appropriate times or I will be highly insulted. (Yes, I'm watching and listening, right from the pages of this book.) The last twelve stories are short-shorts, i.e. under 1000 words long. I'm a member of Science Fiction Writers of America with over 60 short story sales.

You may be wondering about the title, "Pings and Pongs." In the real world, I make my living as a professional table tennis writer and coach. Really! Ping-pong, or its more proper name table tennis, does make its way into a few of these stories, in particular in "Ping-Pong Ambition." You can read about my table tennis (including my daily table tennis blog) at my table tennis page,, or see my science fiction & fantasy page.

Story Descriptions
Here are descriptions of all 30 stories, in the order they appear in the book.

Ghosts of Cretaceous Park
This is possibly the world's first dinosaur ghost story. Billionaire brothers fight for control of a ghostly dinosaur park, the scene of murder mysteries in the present and 70 million years ago. The reviewer in The Fix wrote, "...pretty much a shaggy dog story (or perhaps a shaggy dino story), but it does its job assuredly." (Originally published in Abyss & Apex Magazine, 2008)

First Cat
What happens when Earth is attacked by interdimensional beings, and the only one who can save the planet is the befuddled U.S. president's temporarily super-intelligent cat? (Originally published in Twisted Cat Tales Anthology, 2006)

Falling Apart
A sorcerer's apprentice goes where he's not supposed to go, and literally falls apart. How will he put himself back together again? Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote of this, "This story is indescribable - anything I said would have the words, but not the music. We all laughed until we thought our heads would fall off. Read it and see if you agree." (Originally published in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, 1989)

Time to Diet
A dieting story about a flying carpet pilot with an impossible problem. Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote of this, "We lost a good production assistant over this story, she thought it was insulting to every fat person in the audience. What do you think? As a diabetic, I'm a perpetual dieter, so I loved this." (Originally published in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, 1990)

The story of a man whose skeleton came alive when he was a boy. At first they are great friends. Problems arise when the skeleton goes crazy . . . and wants out. (Originally published in New Myths Magazine, 2009)

Mummy at the Bat
A tongue in cheek yet poignant tale of a non-speaking, baseball-loving mummy with supernatural skills, and the difficulties he faces in trying to make it to the major leagues. (Originally published in Beyond Centauri Magazine, 2010)

Defeating Death
The story of Paulie, a sorcerer's owl, a species of owl that lives out its life in the robes of unwilling sorcerers. Paulie makes his home in the robes of the most powerful sorcerer in the world, where they battle each other, the postal service, and Death himself, all while trying to figure out why the rooms in their house keep disappearing. Oh, and there's a zombie in the guest room. (Originally published in Weird Tales Magazine, 2009)

Gremlin Gambits
The life of a writer when his computer is infected with practical-joking gremlins. Hint: You'll need peanut butter. (Some of the humor in this story is dated.) (Originally published in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, 1989)

Raiders of the Ballot Box
A satire on the fixing of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election using self-aware computer viruses. About one-third of the story is from the point of view of one of the viruses. (Originally published in Atomjack Magazine, 2009)

A Tale of Two Wizards
It's the story of the two greatest wizards of the ancient world, Zuku and Death himself, and their battles 5000 years ago and in the present. No other story includes immortality, life insurance, coke bottle recycling plants, Neanderthals, giant white sharks, argumentative swords, fatherly sea turtles, Trump Tower, and the space shuttle. (Originally published in Arkham Tales, 2009)

Forever Underfoot
For billions of years, two tiny gnome-like creatures have run the devices that keep the universe running - time, gravity, light, entropy, etc. A terrible accident and a clumsy human cop lead to disaster. Can Gavv save the universe from eternal limbo while learning the truth about himself and the universe? (Originally published in Afterburn Science Fiction, 2007)

Counting Sheep
An autistic man constantly counts sheep and never sleeps - but is he more than he seems? (Originally published in Beyond Centauri Magazine, 2008)

Dragon Cuisine
A young dragon prince rebels against an arranged marriage, as there is another he wishes to marry. He leaves and starts up his own kingdom in the far north. He battles spiders, bears and food (humans, the cuisine in the title), and falls victim to a wizard's spell that slowly turns the giant dragon into a giant frog. Can he find a suitable human princess to kiss to himself back, all while hopping about and smacking warriors with his tongue? The review in Expressions wrote, "Dragon Cuisine . . . will tug at your heartstrings and leave you rolling with laughter in the aisles." (Originally published in Aoife's Kiss Magazine, 2009)

Pruning for Gold
What happens if a greedy person can cut off parts of himself and the parts turn to gold? How far will he go? (Originally published in New Myths Magazine, 2010)

When the world's computers are run by sorcery, and the corporations are run by sorcerers, a hostile takeover takes on a new meaning. (Originally published in Afterburn Science Fiction Magazine, 2010)

Eternity and the Devil
A twist on the "Deal with the Devil" story. A physicist sells his soul so he can make discoveries that will benefit mankind. When the Devil shows up to take him to Hell, the scientist flees into the distant future in a time machine. Can he escape the pursuing Devil and rescue his long-suffering girlfriend? (Originally published in Dark Portals Anthology, 2009)

Jackpot World
What happens if, on one hundred million alternate universes, an interdimensional traveling alien is mugged by Wayne, an armed and unhappy criminal, and all of these aliens in all of these universes transport the attacking Wayne to the same Earth in one universe - ours? Yes, it's the dreaded Multi Accedo Scenario! The SF Reader reviewer wrote, "...the 'whammy' is so mind-blowingly delicious I would never dream of ruining it here or in any of the hundreds of millions of alternate realities where I am also typing this review." (Originally published in Space and Time Magazine, 2009)

Dead Mass
When your ship is out of power, and you absolutely have to get going in a hurry or everyone's going to die, what do you do? Ma to the rescue!!! (Originally published in Space Westerns Magazine, 2009)

The Meteor Always Strikes Once
The story starts with the main character's fortune from a Chinese fortune cookie saying, "A meteor will kill you in five minutes." Much negotiations ensue between the prospective victim and the wristwatch-wanting meteor. It's possibly the only talking meteor story ever written. (Originally published in Beyond Centauri Magazine, 2010) I've sold this story five times now. Its now titled "A Meteor Will Kill You in Five Minutes."

Happily and Righteously
If you believed assassins and deadly green aliens were trying to kill you, and you were right, wouldn't you die happily and righteously? A reader wrote of this story, "Do not read this story while under the influence of any mind altering drugs . . . Scratch that. Only read this story while under the influence of mind altering drugs." (Originally published in Blood, Blade, and Thruster Magazine, 2007.)

An Earlier Inconvenient Truth
A satire on global warming and spoof of the documentaries "An Inconvenient Truth," "Super Size Me," "Sicko," "Bowling for Columbine," and "Fahrenheit 9/11," all told from a dinosaur's point of view, 65 million years ago. (Originally published in Hypersonic Tales, 2009)

Out Came Death in an Explosion of Saliva and Curses
A giant snake apparently swallows a little boy, attracting Death, who turns out to be rather careless. (Originally published in Beyond Centauri Magazine, 2010)

At the Snake Show
This story has the exact same first two paragraphs as the previous story ("Out Came Death...") However, it goes in a completely new direction as they go to . . . The Snake Show! Cat lovers, stay away. (Originally published in Beyond Centauri Magazine, 2010)

Ping-Pong Ambition
A table tennis player gets stuck in a ping-pong ball for 10,000 years, where he studies to be a genie - only to discover a surprising truth. (Originally published in Sporty Spec: Games of the Fantastic Anthology, 2007)

Memory of a Mindfield
A woman tries to save her child. To do so, she not only has to live and relive her life, but the entire life of the universe over and over again. (Originally published in Hypersonic Tales, 2007)

Omen of the Oven
A psychic immortal witch cooks a child for her upcoming dinner date. She keeps seeing images through the oven's window. What are those images, and what do they mean? (Originally published in Necrography Magazine, 2009)

Rude Awakening
After you die, if you want to be frozen and revived by future generations, better think things through! (Originally published in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, 1990)

Pens and Pain
What happens when an alien gourmet came to Earth to live off our pain, with the aid of a rather sophisticated pen? (Originally published in Alienskin Magazin, 2009)

Reality Pills
What if that psychedelic vision - say, of a charging Tyrannosaur - isn't a vision? (Originally published in Alienskin Magazine, 2009)

The Haunts of Albert Einstein
Poor Albert Einstein is destined to haunt his old offices in Princeton for eternity, surrounded by the ghosts of bickering physicists who simply will not shut up. What can he do to save himself from this fate? I read this at the 2007 World Fantasy Convention's late-night Ghost Story Reading. (Originally published in On the Brighter Side Magazine, 2009)