Ancient Rome had its famed Five Good Emperors--Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius, for those keeping track. And while science fiction might not have Edward Gibbons around to dole out similar, agreed-upon honors, everyone pretty much accepts the canonization of a few founding fathers: Asimov, Heinlein, Wells, and Bradbury all make the short list, as does--always--the venerable and venerated Sir Arthur C. Clarke, a Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master and the winner of just about every SF award you care to mention.|
So whether you're already familiar with his works or not (most notably Childhood's End and the Rama series), you certainly can't go wrong picking up this veritable brick of a collection--912 pages in all--as either primer or essential reference. Within you'll find virtually every short piece of fiction that Clarke has ever published, from 1937's endearingly twee (in retrospect) "Travel by Wire" to 1999's "Improving the Neighbourhood," the first sci-fi Nature ever published.
The Collected Stories is all short works (as short as 31 words in one case) and includes some of Clarke's best stories, including the lighthearted "Tales of the White Hart" and the momentous "The Star" and "The Nine Billion Names of God."