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For obvious reasons, the short story "If Eve Had Failed to Conceive" by mystery/sci fi author Edward Wellen is considered (in the world of sci fi fandom at least) the shortest short story ever publish. The story is zero words long. It first appeared in a sci fi anthology series called Orbit 15, published in 1974 by Harper & Row.

Many people erroneously cite Frederic Brown's short story "Knock" as the shortest short sci fi story ever published. Frequently his short story is reproduced as two sentences. "The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was knock at the door..." (The end.) This, however, is merely the two opening lines of a short story by Brown. And it goes on for considerably more than two sentences. The confusion lies in that Brown's short story begins by claiming these two sentences belong to one of the shortest short stories ever written. Brown's actual story goes on from there and endeavors to clear up this seeming paradox introduced by his opening two lines. Brown's short story "Knock" was first published in a sci fi anthology called Space on My Hands (1953) and later aired as a story on an early NBC radio series (yes, radio) called Dimension X. You can actually listen to Brown's story here: http://www.scifi.com/set/playhouse/knock2000/

Brown's "Knock" and its premise about a super short short sci fi story may well have thrown down a gauntlet of sorts and inspired sci fi authors ever since the early '50s to write works of "micro science fiction". In the 1978, Isaac Asimov, along with fellow editors Martin Greenburg and Joseph D. Olander, collected many of these works of micro science fiction, and published the highly popular 100 Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories.

Two years later Asimov, Greenberg, and Olander released a follow on anthology called Microcosmic Tales. This anthology included Wellen's "If Eve Had Failed to Conceive".

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