These days I do a lot of my reading via audiobooks downloaded from the library. It’s great; it lets me read while walking the dog, or doing housework. Lately I’ve been listening to a collection by master SF storyteller Larry Niven called, The Draco Tavern. I say master storyteller, but the pieces in this collection are largely not complete stories but brief vignettes, in which Niven tosses off ideas and visions of alien creatures like sparks from a sparkler. The Draco Tavern is a pub in Siberia, built to accommodate alien tourists from throughout the galaxy. Rick, the tavern owner, has myriad tales to tell of aliens he’s served, starting with the Chirpsithra, who opened the galactic trade route.
I’d recommend this book to any aspiring SF writer—not as an example of great story structure (emphatically not; since they’re mostly not complete stories), but as an example of how to imagine possibilities, and how to convey remarkable visions in remarkably few words. One of the hardest things for many new writers to master is how to get across futuristic or otherworldly or alien settings and characters, without getting bogged down in tedious detail. It’s a skill that requires a lot of practice, and it’s useful to study how others do it. Niven can toss off in a sentence a crystal picture that would take others a paragraph to tell, or a page. In his introduction to the collection, Niven remarks that one reason he wrote all these vignettes was for the practice, because he wanted to get better at it.
If writing is your thing, I’d take a look at this collection. I just bought an ebook copy myself. Here are just a few places you can pick it up for your collection: