By Casey Lynn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
One of the things that I love about science fiction and fantasy is that the genre is one where short fiction is still alive and kicking. Not only are the “big four” magazines still in print – Analog Science Fiction & Fact, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Realms of Fantasy (which recently rose from the ashes with a new publisher) – but there are countless small-press zines, many of which are ezines available for free online. And not only is this great news for short story writers, but also for science fiction readers. As an avid writer/reader myself, here are some of my favorite places to get free science fiction online (and I should note that there are many more).
Futurismic focuses on near-future science fiction. You won’t see any space operas here; as noted in their guidelines, it’s more about “characters confronting or embracing imminent cultural, social, technological, and scientific changes.” The site also features blogs and essays on science and technology. Like Analog, the offerings here are pure science fiction as opposed to bringing fantasy into the mix. RECOMMENDATION: A Programmatic Approach to Happiness, by Tim Pratt.
4. Apex Magazine
Apex began as a print publication, and still is available in print, but many of the stories are available online as well. This one also focuses on a specific time of science fiction – where it intersects with horror. To be honest, horror isn’t really my cup of tea, but I can appreciate that this fills a real niche in the genre. RECOMMENDATION: Only Springtime When She’s Gone, by Eugie Foster. (And like I said, horror isn’t my specialty so this one’s pretty light on that despite being a fantastic story – but if you browse the website you’ll find a lot more!)
3. Clarkesworld Magazine
Clarkesworld has the distinction of offering some of the biggest names in short fiction writers on a regular basis. This is largely because it took off where Sci Fiction (which, by the way, seems to have been tragically 404ed since the switch to SyFy) left off in offering the best payment for stories. The magazine also features audio fiction and articles (including a recent thoughtful editorial on the state of the short fiction market). RECOMMENDATION: The Sky that Wraps the World Round, Past the Blue and into the Black, by Jay Lake; and The Clockwork Chickadee, by Mary Robinette Kowal.
2. Strange Horizons
Strange Horizons is one of the oldest online magazines, founded in 2000. It has a good mix of science fiction and fantasy, and is one of my favorites just because it seems to publish stuff I like. They also tend to get some of the more eccentric stuff. And they also publish speculative poetry. RECOMMENDATION(S): Snow Day, by Jennifer Pelland; and Fourteen Experiments in Postal Delivery, by John Schoffstall. Also in the “non-fiction” category: How to Install Linux on a Dead Badger, by Lucy A. Snyder.
1. Escape Pod
I saved this one for last as it’s one of my very favorite things that exists on the web. It’s a podcast for science fiction short stories, and they have a lot of great material since they do audio versions of previously-published stories. The stories usually run between half an hour and an hour, which is perfect for a long commute. And the voice talent is pretty darn good, too. Plus, if you prefer fantasy or horror, there’s PodCastle and Pseudopod. RECOMMENDATION(S): Robots and Falling Hearts, by Tim Pratt and Greg van Eeekhout; Edward Bear and the Very Long Walk, by Ken Scholes; End Game, by Nancy Kress; and Save Me Plz, by David Barr Kirtley.
In closing, let me add that though these are all free access, the more people who support them with donations, the better – after all, they do pay their authors, which is how they get such high quality stuff. While you’re at it, subscribe to a print magazine as well, because like most print media, they’re starting to struggle. Also, if you’re a writer and are wondering how to get your work published in places like this, Ralan’s is the place to go to find a list of publications and guidelines.
Like I said, there is a lot more where these came from – so try getting your nose out of a novel and into a short story instead.