Steampunk and Cyberpunk Short Stories

Cyberpunk is a branch of science fiction usually set in a dystopian future with high technology and some less-than-reputable citizens. This is often referred to as “high tech, low life.” Listed first are cyberpunk short stories. There’s a separate section at the bottom for clockpunk and steampunk short stories. See also:

Cyberpunk Short Stories

“Johnny Mnemonic” by William Gibson

Johnny preps his shotgun and heads for the Drome bar. His last client, Ralfi, has put out a contract on him. Johnny has to settle it. It seems the information stored in his head was stolen from dangerous people. They want it gone. The presence of Ralfi’s bodyguard complicates things.

“Johnny Mnemonic” can be read in the preview of Cyberpunk: Stories of Hardware, Software, Wetware, Revolution and Evolution.

“Vice Grip” by Matthew A. Goodwin

Vinnie “Rust” Ruzicano reminisces about his rise to power. As a skinny, weak kid, he used to hang out with his friend Gian outside a convenience store. One day, a big man with a metallic hand caused a commotion. Vinnie was fascinated by him, especially with what turned out to be his cybernetic arm. Vinnie managed to get himself a job.

“Vice Grip” can be read in the preview of Neo Cyberpunk: The Anthology.

“Mozart in Mirrorshades” by Bruce Sterling and Lewis Shiner

Rice took a time trip to eighteenth-century Salzburg. He’s spent two years working on an oil refinery and pipeline to Realtime, the timeline he’s from. He meets a teenaged Mozart. They go to a concert and talk about Marie Antoinette. Mozart suggests Rice meet her.

This is the second story in the preview of Cyberpunk: Stories of Hardware, Software, Wetware, Revolution and Evolution.

Cyberpunk Short Stories
Cyberpunk Short Stories

“Blood Music” by Greg Bear

Edward sees his old friend Virgil Ulam after about two years. He looks better. Genetron Corp., where he worked, had a breakthrough with Medically Applicable Biochips, microscopic circuits that can troubleshoot inside the human body. Virgil was fired over his own side project in that area. He wants Edward to give him a thorough examination.

This novelette can be read in the preview of The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year’s Best Science Fiction(20% into preview)

“The Dog Said Bow-Wow” by Michael Swanwick

A highly enhanced and modified dog, Surplus, arrives in England. He’s met by Darger, a man who has a business proposition for him. Over drinks, Darger lays out his plan, which involves an intricately carved box. After coming to an agreement, they set out for Buckingham Labyrinth.

This story can be read in the preview of the anthology Future Crimes(20% into preview)

“The Gernsback Continuum” by William Gibson

A photographer is hired to take pictures of 1930s American architecture. His employers provide a list of buildings to capture that will represent an alternate America. During the course of his work, he starts seeing unusual things.

This story, which is sometimes viewed as cyberpunk or steampunk, can be read in the preview of Steampunk II: Reloaded.

“Snake-Eyes” by Tom Maddox

George Jordan is sick on the kitchen floor after eating cat food. The Air Force made a cybernetic alteration to his brain for a war that ended up being called off. They won’t take any responsibility for him now. Desperate for some relief, he calls SenTrax, a company that had expressed some interest in his case.

“Rock On” by Pat Cadigan

The narrator, Gina, wakes up in the rain on the street. She’s a rock ‘n’ roll sinner, a person who electronically carries the memories of classic rock in her brain.

“Fragments of a Hologram Rose” by William Gibson

Parker is having trouble sleeping. Power failures are shutting off his delta inducer. His girlfriend has left him. He finds one of her ASP tapes, which record a person’s sensory perceptions.

“400 Boys” by Mark Laidlaw

Fun City is dying. The Brothers, a team of twelve, are in their basement hideout. Above them, at ground level, there’s pounding and shouting. The narrator, Croak, has no tongue—a punishment from a Controller cognibot for mouthing off. The building is rocked. Natural light can be seen in the basement; the building has been split open.

Read “400 Boys”

“Red Star, Winter Orbit” by Bruce Sterling & William Gibson

Colonel Korolev is the caretaker of the Soviet space station Kosmograd. It has a military and civilian population. Korolev has been in space for twenty years and has grown old and weak. The station picks up a news report from earth, announcing the closure of Kosmograd; the United States is no longer a threat. Korolev plans on resisting the shutdown.

“Yeyuka” by Greg Egan

The narrator spends his last day in Sydney at Bondi Beach. Many of the other patrons are getting solar tattoos—melanoma has been virtually eliminated. He wears a HealthGuard, a ring that constantly monitors his blood, then produces and dispenses whatever medication is needed. They’re expensive, though. He’s a doctor, headed for Africa as a volunteer to assist with the Yeyuka epidemic.

Read “Yeyuka”

Steampunk Short Stories
Steampunk Short Stories

Clockpunk or Steampunk Short Stories

This subgenre of science fiction often includes steam or clockwork powered technology—dirigibles, robots, animals, and anything else the authors imagine. Their design is inspired by the 19th Century steam age.

They are generally alternate history, with many set in Victorian England or the American West. Society has often deteriorated due to war or other large scale disaster. Here are some clockpunk and steampunk short stories.

“Some Fortunate Future Day” by Cassandra Clare

Rose lives with her mechanical dolls, Ellen and Cordelia, and some robot servants. Her father is away in the war. One day when she is in the garden gathering ingredients for the day’s meals, she sees a man, a friendly soldier, the first human she has seen in a while. He is on the ground with blood soaking his shoulder.

This story can be read in the preview of Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories.

“Harry and Marlowe and the Talisman of the Cult of Egil” by Carrie Vaughn 

Harry has been looking for an Aetherian artefact for a year. She finally finds it in a cave guarded by the Cult of Egil. This object proves that the Aetherians had come to earth a thousand years before. She hears an angry group approaching quickly. She picks up the item and disappears into a tunnel, headed for the surface, but not before the mob catches sight of her.

This story can be read in the preview of Steampunk III: Revolution.

“Addison Howell and the Clockroach” by Cherie Priest

Addison appeared in town around 1875. He was wealthy, and built a big house outside of town. His wife died there; everyone thought it was murder. He draws further suspicion when he brings someone else into his home. There are also reports of loud noises from his property.

This story can be read in the preview of Steampunk III: Revolution.

“Hellfire on the High Frontier” by David Farland

Morgan Gray sits alone at a campfire. He’s been trailing a skinwalker, but lost it when it took on bear form and went into the high rocks. The Stranger suddenly appears at the campfire. They met seven years ago, and The Stranger did Morgan a favor. He knew there’d be a price, and now The Stranger wants Morgan’s help. There’s a clockwork gambler who’s on a killing spree. He’s due to strike again soon. He’s good with a gun and very hard to kill.

This story can be read in the preview of Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West(53% in)

“Seventy-Two Letters” by Ted Chiang

Robert Stratton is a nomenclator who’s research lead him to fashion golem for various tasks. He’s interested in mass-producing them, which would allow them to take over some of the more difficult and tedious jobs. He experiments with more graceful designs which could perform more delicate work. This upsets the sculptors who fear their livelihoods are at risk. When he hits this roadblock, he’s approached by Lord Fieldhurst, who’s working on a secret project.

“Tanglefoot” by Cherie Priest 

Edwin is a young orphan at the Waverly Hills Sanitarium, living in the basement as an assistant to Dr Smeeks. Smeeks is responsible for many inventions used at the sanitarium, which make the work easier. He is old now and his mind is failing. Edwin has been using spare parts and materials to build a robot, a friend, as he doesn’t fit in with the boys who live upstairs. He is putting the finishing touches on it before showing it to Dr Smeeks.

Read “Tanglefoot” (Novella)

“Smoke City” by Christopher Barzak 

A woman realizes it is time to attend to her obligations. She leaves her husband and travels down the Fourth River to the tunnel that leads to Smoke City. She is met by her other husband who travels the rest of the way with her. She sees her children, then begins her life of working for Eliza, the furnace that fills this place with smoke.

Read “Smoke City”

“Edison’s Frankenstein” by Chris Roberson

Chabane works for Sol Bloom, owner of one of the minor concessions at the 1893 World’s Fair. There is some tension among the groups as it relates to intermingling and trying to watch the shows for free. One day there is a commotion when a man is found unconscious and bleeding. Some of the people attending to him say he looks like Salla, an important man from their past.

Read “Edison’s Frankenstein”

“Memories in Bronze, Feathers, and Blood” by Aliette de Bodard

Nezahual is an old man sweeping in front of his workshop. A well dressed man with a military look approaches him. He wants Nezahual to give a speech about war to the new recruits. He refuses. Mention of some former comrades makes him more emotional. Some of his creations – mechanical birds – are watching from a perch. They swoop down to offer some support.

Read “Memories in Bronze, Feathers, and Blood”

“The Governess and the Lobster” by Margaret Ronald

Rosalie Syme and Matron Jenkins correspond by mail. Rosalie writes from her new post where she has been hired to educate the Cromwell children. She says the mechanical lobster wasn’t her fault. The house has a confusing layout, the children don’t seem to have been educated at all, previous staff members haven’t remained long, and her first meeting with the master is unsettling.

Read “The Governess and the Lobster”

“Beside Calais” by Samantha Henderson 

Ian is walking with Claire near the Ecole Aeronautique, looking at the eoles, bull-sized flying creatures. General Adair has said they need to go. A new breeding program is being instituted to help with the war. Claire was injured falling off another beast, a bleriot. She has been training new recruits to fly the creatures.

Read “Beside Calais”

“On the Lot and In the Air” by Lisa L. Hannett

A crow is the star player in Robin Marx’s carnival show. Marx makes a slick pitch to the crowd, offering the first shot free. Anyone who can shoot the crow gets a big prize.

Read “On the Lot and In the Air”

I’ll keep adding steampunk and cyberpunk short stories as I find more.