A few years ago, I did a list of fifteen science fiction short stories available for free online. The post has been fairly popular, so I figured I might as well create one for fantasy short stories!
All of the short stories I list here are available free and legally in online magazines such as Uncanny, Lightspeed, and Clarkesworld. There’s so much great short fiction out there that these stories really only scratch the surface!
“The Witch of Duva: A Ravkan Folk Tale” by Leigh Bardugo
Nadya and her brother live with their father, a carpenter, in a small village in the woods. Then their mother dies, local girls begin to go missing, Nadya’s brother leaves, and her father remarries. Loosely based on “Hansel and Gretel,” this fairy tale is filled with a creeping sense of unease.
“Probably Still the Chosen One”by Kelly Barnhill
The heroine of the story is a girl who went through a kitchen cupboard and into a fantasy realm where she was proclaimed the Chosen One. In the midst of the kingdom’s great struggle, she is sent back to her own world for a week’s worth of safety. Only, time passes differently between worlds, and growing up and becoming a mother gives her a different perspective on her childhood adventures.
“Weep for Day” by Indrapramit Das
Humanity lives in the twilight zone between Day and Night, between the deathly heat of Day and the deadly chill of Night. But they aren’t alone; in Night live the Nightmares, and as humans push further into their territory, conflict ensues.
“Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar
A princess waits at the top of a glass hill for one of her unwanted suitors to climb it and claim her hand in marriage… but instead she meets a young woman limping through the world in a pair of iron shoes.
“A Kiss with Teeth” by Max Gladstone
A vampire settles down with a former vampire hunter and has a son. Now he’s trying to be a father to his child while dealing with his inner monstrosity.
“The Saint of the Sidewalks” by Kat Howard
Saints are created through belief, and miracles follow. Joan’s life is a mess, and with no other hope, she prays to the Saint of the Sidewalks for a miracle. Well, she gets her miracle, but it’s not at all what she intended. Suddenly, Joan finds that she herself has become a saint
“Midnight Hour” by Mary Robinette Kowal
To save their country from a plague, the king and queen make a deal with a witch. In return for her aid, they have to pay a price. The queen becomes nameless, and the king loses all lucidity except for at the hour of midnight.
“Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu
This heartbreaking story won the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award. The narrator is the son of a catalog bride from China. When he’s a boy, she folds him origami animals which come to life once she breaths air into them. But he grows distant from her as he seeks to belong to mainstream American culture.
“A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” by Scott Lynch
This story is set in the same world as Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series but is entirely separate. It’s a female-led fantasy heist of the kind I’ve been longing for.
“The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado
The unnamed protagonist won’t allow her husband to touch the green ribbon around her neck, but he keeps reaching for it, despite how she gives everything else she has to him. Nothing is left for her alone.
“Between Dragons and Their Wrath” by An Owomoyela and Rachel Swirsky
Every part of a dragon is dangerous. Their scales will cut through anything. Their droppings will prevent you from ever feeling full again. Their blood will drive you mad. Yet everyday, Domei ventures into the forest to collect their scales.
“Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time” by K.M. Szpara
Andreas didn’t ask Finley before he bit him, and now Finley has a choice: turn or die. If he turns, he’ll be an unauthorized vampire, since he’s never applied for a permit and trans people are never granted one anyway… but even being a vampire is better than death.
“Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon
At night the jackalope wives dance around the bonfire, leaving their rabbit skins behind. A young man sees them dancing and decides to take one for his own, throwing her rabbit skin into the fire so she’ll be trapped in human form. It is up to his grandmother to deal with the catastrophic results of his action.
“Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong
The main character lives by devouring the thoughts of others, the darker and more twisted the better. When she gets a taste of a killer, she can’t be satisfied with the usual petty criminals she preys off of.
“The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu
A nest of wasps conquers a hive of bees, and the epic tale of these insects comes to involve colonialism and differences in political systems.
Have you read any of these stories? What do you think? Something else you would recommend? Let me know in the comments!