Dystopian Short Stories: Dystopian Short Story Examples for Middle School, High School: Free Online

Dystopian Short Stories Dystopian Short Story Examples for Middle School High School Free Online
Dystopian Short Stories

Here are some dystopian short stories, both modern and classic. In a dystopian story world, society is usually regimented in an extreme way, sometimes with the intent of creating a utopia, and citizens are often monitored for compliance. “Harrison Bergeron” is probably one of the most recognizable dystopian short stories, and is often read by middle or high school students. Other dystopian short stories here could also be suitable for students, but you’ll have to use your judgment on which ones are appropriate for certain ages.

I hope you find some new dystopian short stories to enjoy. Many of them can be read free online, either in an Amazon preview or elsewhere. For stories with a somewhat similar feel to dystopian short stories, see also:

Dystopian Short Stories

“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

On a summer morning, citizens of a small village are anticipating their annual lottery, a local tradition that is believed to bring a good harvest. The children gather first, making their usual preparations. The women and men arrive and make sure their whole family is present. Mr. Summers arrives with the black wooden box.

This story can be read in the preview of Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories(10% in)

“The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin

The citizens of Omelas are happy, but it’s unclear as to what exactly they have which makes them so. Their happiness depends on one thing, which all the citizens are aware of. This story can also be read in the above preview. (66% in)

“Escape from Spiderhead” by George Saunders

Jeff is an inmate at Spiderhead, a research facility. Along with others, he tests drugs that affect his speech, perception, and feelings for people. He’s there because of a fateful day from his past. (Summary)

“2 B R 0 2 B” by Kurt Vonnegut

Life is almost perfect—no prisons, poverty, wars, disease or death. The US population is maintained at 40 million. Edward Wehling is at the hospital, and is in despair. His wife is going to give birth to triplets. Due to population control, this is a major problem.

This is the first story in the preview of Worlds of If Superpack #2(11% in)

“Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn

Marie is the captain of Amaryllis, a fishing vessel. Their catches are limited to a government mandated quota, as is the population in general and everything else. Marie was an illegal birth; her mother hid the pregnancy, causing the breakup of the family.

This story can be read in the preview of Lightspeed: Year One(66% in)

“The Perfect Match” by Ken Liu

People’s preferences are monitored and their phones tell them about things that should appeal to them. Sai doesn’t mind but his neighbor, Jenny, resents the lack of privacy and doesn’t like the recording devices. She thinks the phones are telling people what to do. Sai starts wondering if she’s right. (Summary)

“The Perfect Match”

“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut

All Americans are equal—no one is allowed to be better than anyone else in any way. An exceptional fourteen-year-old, Harrison, is taken away from his parents by the government.

This is the first story in the preview of Welcome to the Monkey House: Stories.

Dystopian Short Stories examples middle high school
Dystopian Short Stories, Cont’d

“The Era” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenya

Ben is in school learning about the Long Big War and the Big Quick War. Ben isn’t optimized; he’s a clear-born. His sister, Marlene, is a rarity; her optiselection made her a para-one. She’s highly ambitious. Everyone receives regular helpings of Good at breakfast to function normally. Ben goes to the nurse for more.

This story can be read in the Amazon preview of The Best American Short Stories 2019. (39% into preview)

“Red Card” by S. L. Gilbow

Linda Jackson shoots her husband. The general reaction of the public is favorable. She reports her “enforcement” to the authorities and prepares to follow proper procedure as the holder of a red card.

This story can be read in the preview of Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories(24% in) The following two stories can also be read in this sample.

“Ten With a Flag” by Joseph Paul Haines

In the future when advanced testing is available for pregnant women, a mother finds out that her unborn child will be gifted—the government believes the child will benefit society. The father believes the child is dangerous. (48% in)

“Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment” by M. Rickert

Certain women are executed every night on television for a crime that isn’t immediately clear. The woman’s name is given and her face is shown, but there are many women who seem to vanish without ever appearing on the show. (77% in)

“The Prize of Peril” by Robert Sheckley

Raeder is holed up in a dingy apartment. A bullet smashes through the widow. Gunmen have the exits covered, and he knows he’s dead this time. Raeder is a contestant on a television show. He can hear the live commentary on his pocket television set. If he can survive for the agreed upon time, he will win two hundred thousand dollars.

This story can be read in the preview of Dangerous Games(22% in)

“Love Letter” by George Saunders

A grandfather advises his grandson, Robbies, on a delicate matter regarding J, who was arrested for withholding information about two of her friends. The prevailing political forces make it risky to get involved. He tries to explain how things got this way. (Summary)

“Inspecting the Vaults” by Eric McCormack

The narrator is the inspector for six vaults or basements. Each vault houses one person placed there by the administration. In the house above each vault there are two housekeepers. The inspector has the files on the vault-dwellers, which gives their history and how they came to be there. At times, the vault-dwellers engage in a terrible wailing.

The beginning of this story can be read in the preview of Inspecting the Vaults.

“The Pedestrian” by Ray Bradbury

Leonard enjoys taking long evening walks. The streets are deserted as everyone is inside watching their view screens. In all his years of walking he’s never crossed paths with another person. As he nears home, he hears a voice.

“The Machine Stops” by E. M. Forster

Most humans live below the surface of the Earth, communicating with each other through video screens and rarely going anywhere. A machine takes care of everything for them. Vashti and Kuno, mother and son, live apart and have different views of their society–she is content while he is dissatisfied. He once visited the surface without permission. Soon, some new rules are instituted.

Read “The Machine Stops” (Novelette)

“‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison

The Ones Who Keep The Machine Functioning Smoothly become aware of a disruption, the Harlequin, a man who pulls pranks that throw off their carefully planned schedule. This rebel is becoming a hero to some; they need to find out who he is. Being on time is of the utmost importance—it can even affect how long someone lives.

Read “Repent, Harlequin”

Dystopian Short Stories
Dystopian Short Stories, Cont’d

“Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick

John Anderton is head of the pre-crime division. The operation centers around three precogs who get visions of the future. Future criminals are identified when their names are generated on a card. Anderton is shocked one day by the name that comes up.

“Billennium” by J. G. Ballard

People are allowed a maximum of 4 square meters of living space due to overpopulation. Ward finds a place that is a bit larger than this, which he shares with a friend. One day, they discover there’s more to their home than meets the eye.

“The Funeral” by Kate Wilhelm

Madam Westfall has died at over a hundred and twenty. The girls who attended to their old Teacher are at her funeral. Carla, in particular, is unsettled. Soon after, Madam Trudeau calls all the girls who attended to Madam Westfall to her office. Carla finds out about her new role.

“Welcome to the Monkey House” by Kurt Vonnegut

Sheriff Crocker is at the Federal Ethical Suicide Parlor in Hyannis. He warns the Hostesses, Nancy and Mary, that a Nothinghead, Billy the Poet, is believed to be in the area. Billy doesn’t take the state-mandated ethical birth-control pills that numb a person from the waist down. The birth-control is one method of keeping the population from expanding; the other is the Suicide Parlor, where people can volunteer to die. Billy has been targeting the beautiful Hostesses, who are also highly educated and trained in hand-to-hand combat.

“Examination Day” by Henry Slesar

Dickie Jordan has just turned twelve, so it’s time for him to take a Government mandated intelligence test. His parents don’t say much about it. His mother seems to be worried about Dickie’s performance, but his father says he’ll do fine.

Read “Examination Day” (PDF)

“Peter Skilling” by Alex Irvine

Peter Skilling wakes in a hospital with a robot attendant. He had fallen into a crevasse while mountain climbing. A few coincidences contributed to preserving his body and now he’s been revived through a new rejuvenation process. Peter tries to understand his situation, but it’s even more complicated than he first thought.

“Sacre du Printemps” by Ludwig Bemelmans

Emil kratzig lives in a society heavily regimented by the government, with many class distinctions in place for the citizens.

“The New Utopia” by Jerome K. Jerome

The narrator dines with his friends at the National Socialist Club where they discuss their goal of equality for all. He goes home thinking about how delightful a completely fair society would be. After going to sleep, he wakes up a thousand years later in this ideal socialist state.

“Resistance” by Tobias S. Bucknell

Stanuel helps Pepper, a mercenary, gain entry to a secure building. It’s closely monitored by the leader, Pan. They have about an hour to get to their target site before they’re discovered.

“Disappearing Act” by Alfred Bester

General Carpenter is a public relations general, representing the army to the American public. He’s dubbed this conflict The War for the American Dream. He gets everything he asks for—soldiers, U-bombs, engineers and experts of all kinds. He decrees that America must become a nation of experts to win the war.

Read “Disappearing Act” (PDF)

“April 2005: Usher II” by Ray Bradbury

William takes possession of his newly-built house on Mars. It’s a thoroughly hideous and bleak domicile; exactly as William wanted it. Thirty years ago on Earth, all books of fantasy, science fiction and horror were burned. William was outraged at the purge. Now, with his new house, he has a plan.

“Usher II”

Dystopian Short Stories example school
Dystopian Short Stories

“Machinations” by Shira Hereld

Mr. Grubb gets his wife another android for her birthday. It’s one of the newest models. It’s a necessary gift, as their neighbors just bought two more androids last week. They call it Andi 3, and get it trained in its duties. Mr. Grubb continues to progress at work, opening the possibility for more androids and a bigger house.

Read “Machinations” (scroll down slightly)

“The Cull” by Robert Reed

Orlando, a boy, is in trouble again and this time it’s more serious—he hit his sister. The station’s residents are happy, but Orlando obviously isn’t. His parents are worried about how he will be punished.

“The Cull”

The following short stories are sometimes included on lists of dystopian short stories, but I don’t think they really fit that category:

  • All Summer in a Day: Kids on Venus anxiously await a break in the constant rain.
  • There Will Come Soft Rains: An automated house carries out its daily functions.
  • The Veldt: A state-of-the-art house with a virtual nursery/playground.
  • A Sound of Thunder: Time-travelling dinosaur hunters.
  • Frost and Fire: Very short-lived humans stranded on another planet.
  • Zero Hour: Children play a game of “Invasion”.
  • Speech Sounds: A pandemic disrupts humanity’s ability to communicate.

I hope you found a great dystopian short story. I’ll keep adding dystopian short stories as I find more.