These short stories feature advanced sci-fi technology and other fantastical things not possible in our world. There are a variety of stories here. If you’re looking for something more specific, the following sub-genres and subjects have their own pages:
- Alien Invasions
- Far Future
- Freezing/Suspended Animation
- Genetic Engineering
- Hugo Award Winners
- Mad Scientists
- Magical Realism
- Parallel Universes
- SciFi/Fantasy Horror
- SciFi/Fantasy Mystery
- Space Opera
- Star Trek
- Star Wars
- Time Travel
- Twilight Zone
- Virtual Reality
Sci-Fi and Fantasy Short Stories
In the Upper Room | Terry Bisson
A man prepares to experience a demo version of a virtual vacation. Last year he went on the Amazon Adventure. This year he notices one called Victoria’s Palace. In the demo, there’s a beautiful woman. Her clothing changes when he enters different rooms, but it’s always skimpy. The program isn’t complete, so he can get a deal on a partial version.
“In the Upper Room” is the first story in the Amazon preview of In the Upper Room and Other Likely Stories.
“Willa” by Stephen King
David is at a train station along with several other stranded people. There’s been a wreck, and they’re waiting for the rescue train to pick them up. David can’t find Willa, his fiancé. She might have headed for the town in the confusion. He’s warned against going after her because there are coyotes and wolves around. He has to do something, so he sets out.
This story can be read in the preview of Just After Sunset. (20% in)
“I CAN SPEAK!™” by George Saunders
Mrs. Faniglia receives a letter from KidLuv, makers of the I CAN SPEAK™ device for babies. She returned the one she purchased, so an associate addresses her concerns. The device doesn’t read the babies mind. It recognizes aural patterns and then makes it seem like the baby is speaking. The mask doesn’t look like your baby, but the upgraded version does, which they are pleased to offer her at no extra charge.
This story can be read in the preview of In Persuasion Nation. (30% in)
“The Knowers” by Helen Phillips
The narrator is one of those who wish to know. This upsets Tem, her partner, who says it affects him too. The technology has been mastered and it’s not very expensive. She decides she’s going to do it. When she returns two hours later, Tem is anxious to find out what happened.
This story can be read in the Amazon preview of Some Possible Solutions: Stories.
“Heartburn” by E. M. Lacey
Nine-year-old Anala has broken her grandmother’s rules: don’t answer the door; don’t even look out the peephole. The popular girl, Summer, started talking to her, which led to her breaking the household rules and ending up in the back of a van. She doesn’t know why they want her. She’s not pretty like Summer. She has features she doesn’t like.
“Heartburn” can be read in the preview of Girls of Might and Magic: An Anthology by Diverse Books.
The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles | Margaret St. Clair
Mortensen, a rope salesman, prepares to call on the gnoles. They have a bad reputation, but he figures they must have need of rope, and a big sale would help him reach his quota. He reviews his sales manual and then sets out for the house of the gnoles.
This is the seventh story in the preview of The Big Book of Modern Fantasy.
“A Martian Odyssey” by Stanley G. Weinbaum
The Ares is the first ship to land on Mars. The chemist, Jarvis, set out in an auxiliary rocket on a mission, but crashed. As he was walking back to the Ares, he came upon a sentient bird who was being attacked by tentacled creature. He assisted. It identified itself as Tweel. They traveled together.
This is the first story in the preview of The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Vol 1.
“Seven Birthdays” by Ken Liu
Mia and her dad are at the park on her seventh birthday. They’ve been waiting, but her mother hasn’t arrived yet. She’s away a lot. Mia flies her kite. Her mother arrives. She was delayed with important work, bringing an ambassador up to speed on a solar management plan. There’s tension between Mia’s parents. She tries to smooth things over. The narrative continues with Mia’s relationship with her mother—and the future of humanity.
This story can be read in the preview of The Year’s Top Hard Science Fiction Stories.
Summer Frost | Blake Crouch
Riley watches a woman steal a Maserati from in front of a hotel. He follows her through traffic, while in audio contact with his associate, Brian. She heads north to an estate, as they anticipated. Riley believes his target has gone into the house. He’s going to follow. Brian warns him to be careful.
Some of “Summer Frost” can be read in the Amazon preview.
Even Hand | Jim Butcher
John Marcone eliminates some criminal rivals with the help of his staff. Back at the office, there’s a problem—an Accords matter. A young woman with a child is shown in. She’s looking for sanctuary. Her pursuer is Mag, a cantrev lord of the fomor.
“Even Hand” can be read in the Amazon preview of Urban Enemies.
“Tower of Babylon” by Ted Chiang
The Babylonians are building a tower to heaven. Hillalum arrives from Elam as part of the mining crew who will dig through at the top into the vault of heaven. On the ascent, Hillalum learns how the construction of the tower takes place, and what the plans are when the top is reached. There are many workers as well as people who live at various points on the tower.
A lot of this story can be read in the preview of Stories of Your Life and Others.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Mrs. Button goes to the hospital for the birth of her first child. Mr. Button soon follows to see how everything went. Doctor Keene is upset and cuts ties with the Button family. The nurses are startled and unhelpful. He is finally led to his newborn and discovers the reason for everyone’s shock.
This story can be read in the preview of F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Stories.
The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories | Gene Wolfe
Tackie, a boy, likes to walk the beach. One day he gets a book, which he starts reading before bed. In it, Captain Ransom has been adrift for nine days. He manages to get his craft to the beach. The next morning, while standing on the veranda, Tackie sees a life raft in the water. He runs down to the beach and welcomes the man—Captain Ransom.
“The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories” is the first story in the Amazon preview of The Best of Gene Wolfe.
“How the Pooka Came to New York City” by Delia Sherman
Liam O’Casey arrives in New York from Dublin with a great black hound named Madra. Liam is a horse trainer and he plays a tin whistle. He’s come to improve his life. Right now, he has nowhere to go. Madra is indebted to Liam. He offers a suggestion to get them started.
This story can be read in the preview of New York Fantastic: Fantasy Stories From the City that Never Sleeps. (12% in)
“Cookie Cutter Superhero” | Tansy Rayner Roberts
Joey has a newfound celebrity status at school. She’s reminded of her first day when everyone was interested in her left arm. It’s her last day for at least six months. She’ll be going to live at Sky Tower with the team. Her friends speculate about who she’ll become and who she’ll be replacing. There’s a lot of uncertainty and excitement about Joey’s new path.
This story appears in the anthology Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories. It’s the first story in the free Amazon preview in the link above.
The Fun They Had | Isaac Asimov
In the year 2157 Tommy finds a real book. It is about how school was in the old days. He and Margie talk about how different school used to be with human teachers.
This story can be read in the preview of 50 Short Science Fiction Tales. (Pg. 25)
To Serve Man | Damon Knight
Earth is visited by the Kanamit, a hairy pig-like alien race. They bring gifts—technology for increasing food production, power generation, and other helpful things. They sit in on a session of the U. N., where some of its members question the Kanamit’s motives. A criminologist has a bunch of equipment brought in to demonstrate the results of a lie-detector test.
This story can be read in the preview of The Best of Damon Knight. (35% into preview)
“The Era” | 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.
“The Era” can be read in the Amazon preview of The Best American Short Stories 2019. (39% into preview)
Tobermory | Saki
At a party at a country house, a guest announces that he can teach animals to speak. As proof he produces the host’s cat, Tobermory, who proceeds to embarrass the guests by revealing details of private conversations.
This is the third story in the preview of The Chronicles of Clovis.
“The Sentinel” by Arthur C. Clarke
Wilson relates his experiences from a lunar expedition. They were well prepared for any emergency. Everything was as expected until Wilson saw a glint on a far away mountain. He and his assistant, Garnett, decided to check it out.
This story can be read in the preview of Explorers: SF Adventures to Far Horizons. (12% into preview)
“The Jaguar Hunter” by Lucius Shepard
Esteban heads into town to visit Onofrio, an appliance dealer. Esteban enjoys the simple pleasures of the countryside, while his wife, Incarnación, enjoys other diversions. Without her husband’s knowledge, she bought a television set from Onofrio and now payment is due. Esteban might have to give up his cows, which would put them in a difficult position. Onofrio offers a solution—Esteban can pay the debt by killing the jaguar of Barrio Carolina.
This story can be read in the preview of The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Third Annual Collection. (30% in)
“Life Sentence” by Matthew Baker
A man, Washington, is brought home by the police to his wife, son and daughter. He doesn’t remember them. He’s still a bit groggy from the procedure. His wife has prepared his favorite meal, but he doesn’t remember that either. He wants to know what he did, but his wife doesn’t want to talk about it. The next day, he gets his first visit from his reintroduction supervisor, who will help him adjust to the change.
This story can be read in the preview of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020. (38% in)
“In the House of the Seven Librarians” by Ellen Klages
The Carnegie Library was a staple of its town for decades. A new, more conveniently placed library was eventually opened. The Carnegie Library was closed, but the seven librarians remained. They continued with their work. The unkept grounds grown until the forest closes in around the building. They live in the same comfortable routine until one day there’s a change.
This story can be read in the preview of Ex Libris: Stories of Librarians, Libraries and Lore. (33% in)
“I’m Alive, I Love You, I’ll See You In Reno” by Vylar Kaftan
A woman narrates her history of missed connections with her first love. They met as children and were friends as teenagers, although she loved him. She continues their relationship history, which included near-lightspeed travel that caused them to age at different rates.
This story can be read in the preview of Lightspeed: Year One. (7% in)
“Gubbinal” by Lavie Tidhar
Sahar is in a frozen valley on Titan, listening for Boppers and pirates. Her suit protects her from the environment and augments her abilities. She enjoys the solitude of her work on Titan, collecting the specimens produced by the Boppers. She picks up a sound and sees a shadow.
This story can be read in the preview of Clarkesworld Year Twelve: Volume Two. (5% in)
“She Unnames Them” by Ursula K. Le Guin
Someone has been persuading all the animals to give up their names. Most accept it without much resistance. It makes them feel closer. (Summary & Analysis)
“The Semplica Girl Diaries” by George Saunders
A forty-year-old father of three starts a diary to inform future readers how life is in the present. He chronicles the events leading up to the thirteenth birthday party of his oldest daughter, Lilly. The family is middle-class, but they live beyond their means. The father wants to buy his daughter an expensive present, and also wants a status symbol to show off to the neighbors. (Summary)
“Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” by Kurt Vonnegut
In future New York, the extended Schwartz family live together in an apartment suite. A tonic that stops aging, anti-gerasone, has stopped death from old age leading to overpopulation. The family patriarch, Gramps, is 172 years old. He’s the only one with his own room, and he gets the best food and chair. He maintains control by threatening to disinherit anyone who bothers him. He keeps saying he will stop taking anti-gerasone to make way for the younger ones, but he always puts it off. One day, his grandson, Lou, makes a smart remark, which Gramps can’t let go unpunished.
The Cold Equations | Tom Godwin
An emergency space ship is on course to deliver desperately needed medical supplies. The pilot discovers a stowaway, which is a major problem: emergency ships only have enough fuel to transport a predetermined amount of weight—the vessel, the supplies, and the pilot—to its destination.
Sandkings | George R. R. Martin
Simon Kress lives alone outside the city. He likes unusual and exotic pets. After his last trip his animals died. He finds a new shop, Wo and Shade Importers, where he is shown sandkings, an insect-sized life-form with a hivemind that fights wars with other colonies.
This is novelette length.
Day Million | Frederik Pohl
In the far future, a man and woman carry on a romantic relationship. The narrative highlights the differences between how things are done now and how they’re done in this advanced society.
The Nine Billion Names of God | Arthur C. Clarke
A group of Tibetan monks believe that the universe will end when all the possible names of God are written down. By hand it will take another 15,000 years to finish the job, so they get a computer that can print all the possible letter combinations in three months.
Barney | Will Stanton
A scientist on an island conducts experiments to increase the intelligence of a rat, Barney. He documents his progress in a journal.
Gabriel-Ernest | Saki
There’s a wild, feral boy in the woods. He infiltrates a man’s home.
The Kugelmass Episode | Woody Allen
An unhappily married humanities professor, making no progress with his analyst, seeks help from a magician/entertainer. The magician says he can send the man into the world of any book he wants.
William and Mary | Roald Dahl
Mary Pearl receives a letter from her lawyer following her husband’s death. Her husband had been approached by a doctor with an unusual plan for extending his life. He went ahead with it, even though Mary was against the idea.
Royal Jelly | Roald Dahl
A baby has been losing weight since birth, worrying the mother. Her husband, a bee expert, adds royal jelly to their baby’s formula.
Soft | F. Paul Wilson
A man is watching the news and exercising what is left of his legs when the newscaster’s jaw goes soft. He has contracted the disease—the softness—that has devastated the population. The man and his daughter are holed up in their apartment, trying to survive.
Reunion | Arthur C. Clarke
An alien craft sends a transmission to earth, explaining that a disease split earth’s population a long time ago, but now the returning people have a cure for any who are still infected.
The Voice in the Night | William Hope Hodgson
A schooner is approached by a small rowboat. The passenger doesn’t want any lanterns out or any direct contact with the crew. He only asks for some food to be floated out to him. He leaves after getting it, but returns soon after.
The Answer | H. Beam Piper
Years after a nuclear war devastated half the earth, two nuclear scientists work together to create an antimatter bomb and test it.
Rain, Rain, Go Away | Isaac Asimov
The Wrights and the Sakkaros are neighbors. The Sakkaros like to be out in the sun but they rush inside at the possibility of rain. The Wrights are curious about them, so they invite the Sakkaros’s out to a carnival.
The Machine that Won the War | Isaac Asimov
Earth has just won a war against the Denebians. Major decisions in the war effort were made by a computer called Multivac. Earth’s citizens celebrate the machine, but three scientists reveal that Multivac’s role might not have been as impressive as is believed.
They’re Made Out of Meat | Terry Bisson
Someone is trying to explain to someone else that they have found a planet populated by beings made entirely of meat. The second speaker finds this very hard to believe; they have never encountered this situation before.
Read “They’re Made Out of Meat”
Flowers for Algernon | Daniel Keyes
A mentally retarded man undergoes a procedure to vastly increase his intelligence. He keeps a diary of his progress and personal interactions.
All Summer in a Day | Ray Bradbury
Humans are living on Venus. The children are eagerly awaiting an event that scientists have confirmed: it will stop raining for two hours, the only break from rain in seven years. The kids speculate about what the sun is like.
The Star | Arthur C. Clarke
The narrator, a Jesuit astrophysicist, didn’t believe that anything in space could affect his faith. He is part of a crew returning to Earth after a mission that has yielded data—soon to be revealed to everyone—that caused his faith to be shaken.
The Vegetable Man | Luigi Ugolini
The narrator recounts a story told him by a green man. He had a degree in Natural Sciences and explored the Amazon and Mato Grosso. He found many wonders, including a new plant beyond classification—tall as a person, with thick and fleshy leaves, reddish branches, and long white hair.
Mimic | Donald A. Wollheim
The narrator tells the story of a man he knew from childhood. He always wore a black cloak and a wide brimmed hat pulled down over his face. He kept to himself and never caused any trouble. One day there was an incident.
The Toxic Donut | Terry Bisson
In the future, all the world’s environmental problems have been solved. Ron, an assistant for an annual awards show, walks the special guest, Kim, through a rehearsal. Kim has been chosen to represent all of humanity and nature on the show.
Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment | Nathaniel Hawthorne
Dr. Heidegger invites four old acquaintances over to take part in an experiment. He claims that a friend of his discovered the famed Fountain of Youth and has given him a bottle. The guests are invited to partake of the liquid.
The Colomber | Dino Buzzati
When Stefano turns twelve his father takes him aboard his ship. While they’re out sailing, Stefano spots something mysterious. His father turns pale when he sees what it is—a colomber, which is bad news for Stefano.
Disappearing Act | Richard Matheson
A man records the events of the last ten days. He and his wife Mary had been arguing about money. His writing isn’t bringing in anything, and his part-time job doesn’t bring in much. He goes out one evening with his married friend and two women they’ve met. Shortly after things start getting strange.
It’s A Good Life | Jerome Bixby
Aunt Amy is on her front porch while little Anthony is tormenting a rat he caught. Bill Soames drops off a box of groceries. Bill is terrified of Anthony as is everyone else in town. He has powerful mental abilities that make everyone subject to his whims. Aunt Amy is preparing for a party that evening.
Brothers Beyond the Void | Paul W. Fairman
Marcusson is preparing for a space voyage to Mars. He and his friend Conrad talk about who he will meet. Conrad explains that people are the same everywhere. Marcusson takes comfort from this and also feels some fear over his upcoming trip.
Read “Brothers Beyond the Void”
Four O’Clock | Price Day
Mr. Crangle is at home at 3:47 in the afternoon. Three weeks ago he realized he had the power to mark all evil people in some way. He would be the judge, and he had no moral qualms about using his ability. He sets 4:00 in the afternoon as the time when he will execute his judgment.
A Saucer of Loneliness | Theodore Sturgeon
A man rushes into the sea to help a woman. It’s hard to find her in the tumult, and a panicked search ensues. Years earlier, she had a remarkable experience in a park that affected her deeply.
Pelt | Carol Emshwiller
A hunter and his dog are on the frozen planet Jaxa. The dog senses they are being watched, but she doesn’t know how to signal this to her master. The hunter is looking for trophies to add to his collection, and furs to sell.
A Lovely and Terrible Thing | Chris Womersley
The narrator works for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. While on his way to check out a possible entry for the next volume, his car breaks down. A stranger invites him to stay the night at his place. He says he has a daughter who does a special trick that might get her into the new book.
The Belonging Kind | John Shirley & William Gibson
Coretti meets a captivating woman in a bar. They have a stilted but successful interaction before she leaves. Coretti follows her from bar to bar. Her appearance seems to change after each visit.
The Red One | Jack London
Bassett is a scientist on a jungle expedition. He gets distracted by an indescribable sound emanating from a mountain gorge. His assistant, Sagawa, warns him against investigating it. They set out and soon encounter resistance from some bushmen.
Germelshausen | Friedrich Gerstäcker
A young artist, Arnold, is out walking, when he meets a beautiful girl, Gertrud. She’s waiting for Heinrich, her love. She doesn’t expect him until their day comes again. Arnold isn’t sure what to make of this. He accompanies her to her village.
I, Cthulhu | Neil Gaiman
Cthulhu narrates his memoirs to his human servant, Whateley. He starts with his birth on his home planet thousands of years ago, and tells how his father and mother came to their end. A visit from his uncle, Hastur, leads to an exploration of other worlds. They eventually decide to head for Earth.
The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository | John Connolly
Mr. Berger leads a dull life. He does his job, has a few interactions with coworkers, and reads. He spends his time enjoying the many books he has. There is a shakeup at work which coincides with the death of his mother. Mr. Berger uses the changes to pursue his desire to write.
Jon | George Saunders
Jon lives in a research facility with other young people. They test the marketability of products. Jon has a relationship with Carolyn that makes them think about their futures with the company.
Evil Robot Monkey | Mary Robinette Kowal
Sly, a monkey, is working clay at a potter’s wheel. He is startled by a group of children outside his Plexiglass window. He makes his displeasure known to the group.
The Ocean and All Its Devices | William Browning Spencer
The Franklins have arrived at the Hume’s hotel as they have for eight straight years. It’s late fall. The Franklins are aloof and don’t seem to get any enjoyment from their yearly stay. When they come back from a beach walk agitated and disheveled, George Hume follows their footprints and finds something strange.
Mrs. Fox | Sarah Hall
A husband and wife are close and live comfortably. One morning the wife, Sophia, is vomiting in the toilet. She looks a bit feverish, but says she’s fine and goes to work as usual. That night, she’s well again. The next morning, she’s not quite herself.
“Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman | 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.
Black Box | Jennifer Egan
A spy relates information about her mission and some of the tricks and techniques of a spy, in general. She is with her designated target for a short time, to gather what information she can. She’s been outfitted with advanced technology—recording and communication devices—to update her handlers on her progress.
Cool Air | H. P. Lovecraft
The narrator explains why he’s afraid of cool air. He lived in a New York boardinghouse. Above him lived Dr. Muñoz, a recluse. One day while writing, the narrator had a heart attack. He struggled to make it to the doctor’s door. When it opened, he was hit by a rush of cool air.
Fat Farm | Orson Scott Card
Mr. Barth, an immensely fat man, enters Anderson’s Fitness Center. The receptionist is surprised to see him back so soon—it’s only been three years since his last visit. Mr. Barth is a man of pleasure. Food is a major one, but his weight is now interfering with some of his other enjoyments. He’s back for his usual procedure, which is illegal, expensive and secretive.
A Rose for Ecclesiastes | Roger Zelazny
The narrator, Gallinger, is busy translating one of his own works into Martian when he gets the news that the Martians will receive him. He’s a particularly talented linguist, the first human to learn classical Martian, and now the first to learn their “high language”. He’s going to be allowed into the Temple to read the sacred texts.
Read “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” (PDF Pg. 5)
Mars is Heaven! | Ray Bradbury
A space ship with a crew of seventeen lands on Mars. To everyone’s surprise, Mars looks like small-town America in the 1920’s. Captain John Black is hesitant to leave the ship, but after confirming the atmosphere is breathable, he allows a small party to disembark. The ship’s navigator and the archaeologist offer theories to explain what they see. They approach a house.
Adjustment Team | Philip K. Dick
The Clerk enters a backyard in the early morning. He tells the dog about the adjustment planned for Sector T137 at 9AM. There’s overlap that must be aligned—the homeowner, Ed, works in that sector. The dog has to get Ed to work early, before the adjustment starts. It assures the Clerk that it will take care of it. Inside, Ed finishes up breakfast with lots of time to spare.
Read “Adjustment Team”
The Return of the Thin White Duke | Neil Gaiman
The Duke rules the worlds. He had tried to be a good ruler but doesn’t care anymore. His life is without challenge and he’s unhappy. An opportunity for adventure arises. A messenger from Beyond arrives, asking him to assist her mistress, a Queen.
Read “The Return . . .”
Hands Off | Edward Everett Hale
The narrator exists outside the limits of space and time. While watching one of Earth’s epochs, he observed an injustice. Before he could help, his mentor forbade him from interfering. He took the narrator to another system where he could see the results of helping.
The Ultimate Experiment | Thorton DeKy
The Masters are gone, extinguished by a comet. Only Kiron, and the others of his kind, remain. They work tirelessly on the last task the Masters set for them.
Read “The Ultimate Experiment”
Second Sight | Alan E. Nourse
Lambertson gets back from Boston after meeting with a man named Aarons. The narrator, Amy, can tell something happened but not what. She remembers Aarons, a psychiatrist, from before she came to the Study Center. He has plans for her that Lambertson doesn’t agree with.
Read “Second Sight”
Collector’s Item | Robert F. Young
The Galactic Historian is finishing up an unprecedented undertaking—the complete history of 10,000 races in a single volume. After he extracts the important events from the source materials, they get destroyed, making the new document the definitive guide to galactic history.
Read “Collector’s Item”
The Wall of Darkness | Arthur C. Clarke
Shervane’s planet has extremes of heat and cold on each side. The people live in the narrow belt between. He’s at the age to travel East and visit his other countrymen for a year of learning. Before he went, his father took him deep into the cold part of the planet, the Shadow Land, to show him something. They climbed a small hill. His father pointed to the horizon, to something difficult to see. Shervane became obsessed with what he saw.