Free Short Fiction

These short stories and novellas are available to read for free online. Please leave your recommendations in the comments, and do let us know if you encounter any broken links!

Short fiction recommendations - free stories and novellas

Susan Jane Bigelow — Sarah’s Child
A trans woman dreams of a child, born of the womb she was born without, but is he more than a figment of her imagination?

Brooke Bolander — And You Shall Know Her By The Trail Of Dead
Inside a computer security system, experienced as metaphor, Rhye must fight herself if she’s to finish the job and get her partner out alive. Written with serious quantities of swearing and graphic violence, which won’t be to everyone’s taste, but very well done.

Octavia Cade — The Mussel Eater
A man is drawn to a Pania, a sea-dwelling woman, but everything that fascinates him also disturbs him, and he keeps trying to change her.

Gwendolyn Clare — Brass Canaries
A clockwork canary’s observations on the Christmas shopping season.

Rachel Cotterill — The Falconer
After witnessing an unusual death, Roan wakes at the bottom of a mine shaft with the nagging suspicion that someone didn’t intend him to wake up at all.

Aliette de Bodard — The Breath of War
Heavily pregnant, Rechan heads into the mountains for the second time, searching for the breath-sibling she carved as an angry youth: the only one capable of giving life to her baby.

Marianne de Pierres — Sword Play
Things get dangerous at the Christmas party when someone asks Tera to read their future.

Diane Duane — Parting Gifts
An excellent example of an older female protagonist. Sirronde is a grandmother, asked to take on one final task for the Goddess who has been her lifelong sponsor.

Amal El-Mohtar — A Hollow Play
Emily feels out of place everywhere: her Middle Eastern family can’t quite accept that she’s queer, but although she lives in Glasgow, she doesn’t want to give up her roots to become less herself. A chance meeting with Persian spirits shows her she isn’t the only one feeling displaced.

Amal El-Mohtar — The Truth About Owls
Anisa is a young woman with powers she doesn’t understand. This is a tale of identity and language (and owls) that I found devastating & uplifting by turns. Beautiful writing.

Angelica Gorodischer — The End of a Dynasty or The Natural History of Ferrets
A short story from Kalpa Imperial, a collection of eleven stories of an invented empire, taking in a dazzling array of emperors and empresses, cities and wars, golden ages and almost total destruction.

Kate Hall — The Astronomer Who Met The North Wind
A girl plans to become an astronomer like her father, despite encountering doubts and discouragement from everyone she tells of her dreams.

Maria Dahvana Headley — And The Winners Will Be Swept Out To Sea
An extremely unusual tale, this rather dark piece sees the narrator mourning and coming to terms with the loss of her lover. An intriguing fusion of mythical elements and the relentless nature of the modern world.

Maria Dahvana Headley — Ivory Darts, Golden Arrows
A pun-filled surrealist comedy on the topic of love. To say much more would be to spoil the surprise, but it’s divine.

Kat Howard — Translatio Corporis
Through some arcane magic, Lena starts to build herself a city, or Lena’s city builds itself. A fascinating piece.

S.L. Huang — Hunting Monsters
What happens after the fairytale ending? Huang examines the possible aftermath of a number of popular fairytales, rolled up into one compelling story. (Reviewed in depth by Joanna as part of her season of fairytale retellings).

S.L. Huang — Fighting Demons
The sequel to Hunting Monsters.

S.L. Huang — By Degrees and Dilatory Time
A young man loses both eyes to cancer, and has to come to terms with the implants that will allow him to see again.

N.K. Jemisin — Valedictorian
Zinhle is the top student in her class, and insists on doing her best, to the bemusement of all around her.

Kelly Jennings — Dream Cakes
Ella works magic through the medium of cake.

Intisar Khanani — The Bone Knife
Rae’s family has always hidden her sister Niya’s magic, hoping to avoid discovery. But when a fairy Lord turns up to buy horses from their father, everything gets suddenly more complicated.

Catherine F. King — The Ninety-Ninth Bride
A charming retelling of One Thousand and One Nights, and a young woman who comes to rule a nation.

Nancy Kress — First Principle
Gina is Martian, her body adapted from the form of her human ancestors, the better to live on the red planet. It’s been five generations since the last influx of immigrants from Earth, but David is dying, and when his parents bring him to Mars, Gina is asked to keep him company.

Ann Leckie — She Commands Me and I Obey
In a world where political leadership is determined by the gods, through the medium of a ball game, Her-Breath-Contains-The-Universe is a novice monk who is slowly learning that divine providence doesn’t exclude human politics.

Seanan McGuire — InCryptid Prequels
A series of historical fantasy prequels that accompany McGuire’s InCryptid series. Many are available for free from the author’s website; a couple of others have been published in anthologies and are not available online. Starting with One Hell of a Ride, in which a train tears through the very fabric of reality, the first set of stories follow Frances and Jonathan, and their colony of talking mice, as their relationship grows.

Kuzhali Manickavel — Six Things We Found During the Autopsy
A brief and surreal description of, as the title suggests, the findings in a fantastical autopsy.

Yukimi Ogawa — Rib
A skeleton woman forges a surprising connection with a young orphan who’s recently lost his mother.

Carol Otte — Small Wishes
A flash fiction piece on the power of a wish, featuring dragons.

Tammy Salyer — Conviction
This novella takes place ahead of Salyer’s Contract series, illuminating the backstory of how Aly and her brother David became deserters from the Corps.

Sofia Samatar — Those
A lyrical piece which alternates between a young woman’s actions and her father’s rambling reflections, prompted by the death of his one-time friend.

Kelly Sandoval — The Right Sort of Monsters
A young woman, grieving after a series of miscarriages, goes in search of a tree that can grow a baby from her blood. But what she finds in the forest is not quite what she anticipated.

Iona Sharma — Nine Thousand Hours
An over-ambitious magical working erases all writing, and Amal must face the consequences of her decisions.

Benjanun Sriduangkaew — The Insurrectionist and the Empress Who Reigns Over Time
A time-travelling empress takes captive a rebel leader known for her oratory, hoping to make use of her powers.

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam — Everything Beneath You
Narrated by a woman who wishes, in some ways, that she could live as a man — and her journey across the sea and beyond the wall in search of her dreams.

James Tiptree Jr. — The Man Who Walked Home
A man is accidentally flung into the far future, and tries to walk home. (Full review here.)

Marie Vibbert — Keep Talking
An autistic girl tries to understand an alien communication, while her father considers the implications of moving their family halfway across the world.

Xia Jia — Spring Festival: Happiness, Anger, Love, Sorrow, Joy
A collection of five short vignettes, each offering a different vision of a possible future China, and spanning stages of life from birth to old age.

Xia Jia — Valentine’s Day
A young couple brave their first date in a futuristic and hyper-connected world.

JY Yang — A Sister’s Weight in Stone
Jade is snatched by a dragon and held captive beneath the sea, and despite the seeming impossibility of such a thing, her sister sets out to rescue her.

Caroline M. Yoachim — Red Planet
A blind woman must decide whether the opportunity to study on Mars is worth the pain of acquiring a sense she’s never had and never missed.

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