While some of you are vigorously burning belly fat in preparation for summer and getting your beach body ready, I’ll be running across the state (several times). Between juggling work, playing stepdad to the world’s most wonderful little scientist (Neil DeGrasse Tyson knows kids are natural scientists), and doing my best to be a great partner to the love of my life, I still have to make an effort to get in my SF reads (well in most cases listen(s?)). I want to share 10 SF short stories that I enjoyed reading and/or listening to. They’re not in any particular order but they’re all entertaining. It’s worth noting the majority of these stories come from ClarkesWorld podcasts because they’re convenient when I’m on the run. I definitely recommend you check them out!
- Conglomerate by Robert Brice
Sometime in the future where humans are looking for habitable planets, technology has allowed a group of travelers to form a collective consciousness with which to best serve humanity. The group consists of a physicist, mathematician, linguist, critic, judge, soldier, negotiator, in addition to another member named Redondo who seems to be the initial cause of some conflict. This story poses some interesting moral and ethical dilemmas while painting beautiful cosmic visuals and the technology imagined is fun to think about.
- Waiting Out the End of the World in Patty’s Place Cafe by Naomi Kritzer
Kritzer creates a world much like our own except there is a large asteroid heading to earth and there’s nothing that can be done about it. Kritzer expertly plays with our value system and sentimentally explores how some people might want to spend their last moments.
- Assassins by Jack Skillingstead and Burt Courtier
“Assassins” is set in a future where the majority of people immerse themselves in a virtual world where they can interact with one another much like a modern day MMO except in this world, there are celebrities. Our main character is somewhat of a reclusive person who expertly finds these celebrities inside the virtual world in order to assassinate them. Of course players respond but when a celebrity is killed it does something to them that they never recover from (maybe their ego is brought down). Skillingstead and Courtier bring an interesting point that by killing many celebrities the Assassin becomes somewhat of celebrity as well. This short is to “die for.”
- A Series of Steaks by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
In what is possibly one of my favorite short stories, Prasad sets the stage in the near future where underground black markets print meats for restaurants struggling to provide an “authentic” meat experience. Of course printing meats and passing it off as the real thing is a form of forgery which is illegal. Our main character Helena normally keeps a low profile, only accepting small jobs she’s cautious not to get too ambitious since she has a somewhat “ambiguous” past. When a wealthy mystery client uses Helena’s past to blackmail her into fulfilling her largest order yet, she is forced to recruit some help.
- Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
After asking my girlfriend why there was a pile of used tissues so tall Mt. Everest would be jealous, she responded by telling me I had to read this story. “Paper Menagerie” is not just heart-wrenching and sweet, it gives Toy Story 3 a run for its money—Liu’s masterful short story sits at that delicate edge of speculative and literary fiction. It’s a good thing I buy tissues in bulk, you may need to as well.
- Wanting by Jenny Fan Raj
Raj takes a simple story and transforms it to make a great surprise ending. It starts with an intriguing meeting between a wealthy investor and a hungry entrepreneur promising to deliver people nirvana and only becomes more complex from there. I can’t say much more without giving away key plot elements. Read at your own risk.
- The Weight of an Artificial Soul by Malakhai Jonezs
Jonezs’ story is an exploration about human interactions and relationships with artificial intelligence. This thought-provoking read asks about emotions specifically “what is love?” Our main character, Solomon, has his own personal “female” AI named Elise who acts more like his lover. Through his interactions with Elise you see Solomon struggle with how he feels for a machine and how that is even possible? Will he come to terms with his “human” emotions?
- Checkerboard Planet by Eleanor Arnason
In the universe of “Checkerboard Planet,” Artificial intelligence travels around the universe observing intelligent life with minimal intervention, opting to be a benevolent force. Arnason’s AI love to study and help intelligent life, for example they gave humans FTL drives. Since they are so draw to the study of intelligent life, when they find a malicious company illegally harvesting genetic information from life on a new and unique planet they decide to ask for Lydia’s (our main character) help.
- Take Your Child to work day report by Maya Beck
Experimental in format, focuses on a world where time travel is possible and how its access is determined by socio-economic status. Like most time traveling stories, this one leaves you with more questions than answers.
- Interchange by Gary Kloster
In a future where companies can enter a “timeless limbo” to complete projects that would take months in literally seconds, they discover there might be risks associated with entering the timeless purgatory. Interchange is a suspense driven thriller that keeps you hooked until the very end.
Note: Wanting and Take your child to work day report are both from Obra Artifact issue 2 and now costs $1 to purchase. When they first release an issue it’s normally free to access until the next issue comes out. I make no money from the sales of Obra Artifact issues.
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