"Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut. If there is a single story that will make you stand up and punch an Obama supporter dead in the fucking mouth, this is it. That's not to say I really have anything against the man himself, but his vocal supporters are a pack of jackasses who seem to think that we are all equal in every way, no man is above another, and everyone's life should suck equally. Fuck all that. Socialism is an intellectually bankrupt philosophy predicated upon the patently offensive idea that all men are created equal, and I'm not fucking having any of that. Here's a story of a man who knows he's better than everyone else, and despite the state's best efforts to prevent him from doing so, he proves it.
In Harrison Bergeron, everyone who's strong or attractive must wear a mask or weights to prevent them from looking better or out-performing anyone else, and the intelligent must wear hearing aids that emit loud screeches to inhibit deep thought and prevent them from out-thinking their dull-witted peers.
"The Subliminal Man" by JG Ballard. This story's fairly prophetic, and I mentioned it numerous times in marketing classes an an example of what advertising should not become. I, of course, was ridiculed for making that claim, as this is what advertisers see as heaven, apparently. A pox on their children. Essentially, the story's about a man who, try as he might, cannot evade the constant one-upsmanship between neighbors, and essentially lives in a world where everyone worlds three jobs they hate, just so they can buy a bunch of shit they don't need. Throw on top of that a dystopic nightmare of planned obsolescence and a massive plot to brainwash the populace and you've got a vision of what the future could someday be- a giant bag of bullshit.
Much of Ballard's dystopic nightmare has already begun to take place."Sales Pitch" by Philip K. Dick. I first read this story in homeroom in 7th grade, in an anthology with Harrison Bergeron, and both have stuck with me over the years. I've reread each, inadvertantly, at different times and both have remained just as poignant to me as they were when I first read them. In any event, this story points to the evil that lawyers and corporations have wrought and will continue to visit upon humanity until the end of time. Terribly elucidative, right? Essentially, the protagonist of the story is confronted by a robot salesman who will never leave him alone, as he's the product that he's tasked to sell. It's a crazy fucking story, and I'm surprised no one's devised a way to make this happen in real life yet.
"Pump Six" by Paolo Bacigulpi. Bacigulpi's got an interesting take on what will come after the collapse of the petroleum reserves, but this story's actually got nothing to do with that. Instead, Pump Six details the gradual erosion of society and devolution of humanity into a weird, hypersexual, hermaphroditic simian creature as humanity becomes pointedly dumber. I'm not sure if it's necessarily prophetic, but it definitely increased my desire to punch out the bitches buying OK magazine in line at the grocery store. Many of you will draw a parallel between this story and Idiocracy, which is apt, though Pump Six is far more intelligently constructed.
"Do any of you even know what electrolytes are?"
"Chronopolis" by JG Ballard. For those of you out there who claim you're OCD, here's a take on what horrors your kind could visit upon the rest of us if left to run the world. In this post-apocalyptic story, Londoners in the future live in a nation wherein possessing any kind of timekeeping device is a capital crime, and chronicles a violator of their laws' efforts to track time as he awaits execution. This story is usually bundled in with a number of other awesome Ballard stories, and is definitely worth checking out in an anthology.
I figure this pic's appropriate, because any time is a good time to check out Jaime Koeppe's ass.
"Quitters, Inc" (from Night Shift), and "Survivor Type", "The Mist", "The Raft" (from Skeleton Crew) by Stephen King. Frankly, I think Stephen King is highly overrated, but those stories are some that have really stuck with me over the years. Frankly, I've never read too much into them, though I'm certain high school English teachers have made great claims about the social allegories provided therein. It's probably all bullshit though- they teach the stories because they're fucking amazing. If you only own one short story horror anthology, you really could do no better than Skeleton Crew, which is one of my all time faves, and boasts the short story "The Mist" that was the inspiration for the movie of the same name. Darabont definitely did that story justice, but nothing will top the original.
There are, of course, dozens of other stories I'd recommend, but those are the best of the bunch and serve as a decent jumping off point for those of you who've asked for recommendations. This weekend I'll get back to the business of lifting the "heavy ass weights" of which Ronnie Coleman loves to yell incoherently and ungrammatically.