Short Stories About Morality & Ethics

These stories feature characters who face moral quandaries or ethical dilemmas.

“The Shadow of the Thing” by Tyler W. Kurt

Dakota goes to Maeve and Jason’s place. Maeve is a travel blogger. Jason is an extreme-sports enthusiast and computer programmer. Dakota knows that Maeve has something important to say. She’s decided to do something and she wants Dakota to be with her during the experience.

“The Shadow of the Thing” is the first story in the Amazon preview of After Dinner Conversation: Season One.

“Button, Button” by Richard Matheson

A hand addressed package is left at the door of Arthur and Norma Lewis. Inside is a contraption with a button on it, and a note saying that Mr. Steward will call on them at 8 PM. He arrives at the appointed time and makes them a startling proposition.

This is the first story in the preview of The Box: Uncanny Stories.

“Abrama’s End Game” by David Shultz

Abrama is summoned to the Grand Temple by Sir Gödel. Abrama is a native, but she understands the language of the outsiders who can appear and disappear suddenly. Sir Gödel has bad news about Abrama’s world. She doesn’t accept that there’s nothing to be done to prevent what’s coming.

“Abrama’s End Game” is the second story in the Amazon preview of After Dinner Conversation: Season One.

“The Coup de Grace” by Ambrose Bierce

In a regiment are two brothers, Caffal and Creede Halcrow. Caffal is a sergeant under Captain Madwell, and they are long-time friends. Creede is a major and has a hostile relationship with Madwell. Madwell’s company is ordered to hold the head of a ravine, but they are driven from their position with heavy losses.

This story can be read in the preview of The Devil’s Dictionary, Tales, & Memoirs.

“Boule de Suif” by Guy de Maupassant

The Prussian army advances while the French army retreats. Ten passengers are given clearance to board a carriage and leave the city, with the possibility of crossing into England. Among the passengers is Boule de Suif, a prostitute who has to make a moral decision that will affect the whole group.

This is the second story in the preview of Classic Short Stories.

“The Lady, or the Tiger?” by Frank Stockton

A long time ago, a barbaric king had a peculiar method of putting criminals on trial. They’re placed in an arena and the public is allowed to attend the proceedings. The accused is brought out before the king. Opposite him are two doors. Behind one is a beautiful woman; behind the other, a hungry tiger. The accuser must choose.

This is the first story in the preview of The Lady, or the Tiger? and Other Stories(Select Paperback preview first, then Kindle)

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

The citizens of Omelas are happy, but the narrator is vague as to what exactly they have which makes them so. However, the people’s happiness depends on one thing, which all the citizens are aware of.

“The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” is the third story in the Amazon preview of The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story.

“Barn Burning” by William Faulkner

Abner Snopes is being tried in a small-town court for allegedly burning down his landlord’s barn. He’s kicked out of town, and finds a new job working as a sharecropper.

This story can be read in the preview of Collected Stories.

“The Photograph” by Will Weaver

Bobby Johnson tells some teammates that his father happened to see the phys ed teacher, Ms. Jenson, skinny-dipping in the lake by her home. Lance, the quarterback, tells Bobby and the narrator, who’s a photographer, to stay and talk about it. He has a plan.

Some of “The Photograph” can be read in the Amazon preview of No Easy Answers: Short Stories About Teenagers Making Tough Choices.

“Bright Moment” by Daniel Marcus

Arun floats on an ammonia ocean on his powersled for a little relaxation. His e-field protects him from the elements and allows him to live in this foreign environment. A monstrous wave is approaching and he prepares to ride it. He notices something below the surface—a large squid-like creature. He loses control and awakens back on Athena Station. They’re going to terraform the moon he just came from. A wormhole allows travel between the sites.

This is the first story in the preview of Bright Moment and Others(22% into preview)

“Conspiracy on Callisto” by Frederik Pohl

Duane and Stevens are in a ship’s corridor ready to draw their guns. Duane found out his payout from this job won’t be what he was expecting. Stevens has a private arrangement with their employer, Andrias, and won’t give up any of his share. An alarm bell sounds throughout the ship, indicating a change of course in one minute. Everyone needs to get to their cabins and strap in.

This story can be read in the preview of The 15th Science Fiction MEGAPACK. (4% into preview)

“The Cold Calculations” by Michael A. Burstein

A non-human is dying in the vacuum of space. Before his mental pathways deteriorate completely, he wants to leave a record of what happened. Lieutenant Jason Sawyer was leading the Zecca on a rescue mission to Titan base. They were down to their last backup generator and the lives of the fifteen crew members were at risk. Jason’s only crewman was Zec, a robotic AI that could run the ship.

This story can be read in the preview of Fantastic Stories Presents: Science Fiction Super Pack #1(10% into preview)

“The Epsilon Directive” by David Bruns

The war with the Scythians is essentially over; their fleet’s been destroyed and they’ve scattered. Epsilon Units are hunting down the last Scythians and killing them. Noog finds himself in one of these squads, even though he was against the war. He succumbed to family pressure and joined anyway. When they scan Talos 5 for Scythian life signs, they get a hit.

This story can be read in Best of Beyond the Stars(17% into preview)

“The Extra” by Greg Egan

Keeping a stock of Extras—clones of oneself with minimal cortex—is legal, but most are discreet about it. Not so with Daniel Gray, who houses his Extras near his own home. He goes so far as to parade them in front of his guests at a garden party. He has five batches of them, each batch ten years apart. Daniel has already had several transplants from Extras to keep himself in great shape. Eventually, he plans to have his brain moved into one of the clones.

This story is in the anthology Clones.

“The No-Guitar Blues” by Gary Soto

Fausto wants a guitar more than anything. When he finds a lost dog, he is sure there will be reward money that he can use for a guitar, especially if he embellishes the story.

Read “The No-Guitar Blues”

“Four O’Clock” by 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.

Read “Four O’Clock”

“Pelt” by 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.

Read “Pelt”

“The Doctor’s Heroism” by Villiers De L’isle Adam

Doctor Hallidonhill is a renowned lung specialist with a steady stream of patients. One day a man in terrible condition comes to see him. He is tall, has enlarged pupils, is emaciated, and he’s looking for help.

“A Retrieved Reformation” by O. Henry

A safe cracker who’s going straight is faced with a dilemma which could expose his culpability for several unsolved crimes.

Read “A Retrieved Reformation”

“The Howling Man” by Charles Beaumont

The narrator recounts his experiences traveling through Europe before he commenced his professional life. He ended up falling sick with pneumonia in Germany. He woke up in the Abbey of St. Wulfran’s, under the care of a monk, Brother Christophorus.

Read “The Howling Man”

“The Enemy” by Pearl Buck

Dr. Sadao Hoki, who’s a surgeon, and his wife, Hana, live on the coast of Japan. Japan and America are at war. On a foggy night, the Hoki’s are out on the verandah. Through the mist, they see someone stagger out of the sea. Thinking he might be a lost fisherman, they run to him. To their surprise, and consternation, he’s a wounded white man—an escaped American prisoner of war. They don’t know what to do with him.

Read “The Enemy”