Top 10 SciFi short stories for people in a hurry!

I didn’t choose the highway life, the highway life chose me. Since I spent an enormous amount of time on the road driving to and from work, being able to listen to short stories makes it simple to stay on top of my reading. Most of these SciFi shorts have an audio version from the always excellent Clarkesworld Magazine. That being said, this month’s list features stories from the good old hard copy anthology, The Big Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer. Definitely worth picking up if you love Science fiction but want it in easily digestible, expertly curated chunks. Anyway, enjoy this month’s top 10 SciFi shorts and let me know which is your favorite below.

Short Stories You Should Read This December

  1. The Significance of Significance by Robert Reed

In this short, scientists have discovered and proven something we’ve all be speculating—that we are living inside a simulated realty. This short tackles a lot of the moral conundrums facing humanity if they knew this to be true. The protagonist, Sarah, makes some interesting decisions based on this knowledge that lead her to follow a morally questionable life, but given the information humankind knows, are her actions truly despicable?

Text version here

Audio Version here

  1. Last Chance by Nicole Kornher-Stace

In this post-apocalyptic tale, much of human technology is gone and the rest is now scavenged for because of its value. Our protagonists, a young girl and her mother, get separated by raiders who enslave children and force them to scavenge small and dangerous areas. The children sometimes compete among themselves to find the best stuff so they will get preferential treatment and bigger portions of food. What happens when the child stumbles across something extremely valuable but inexplicable? Could this be her key to freedom?

Text version: here

Audio version: here

  1. Forever Bound by Joe Haldeman

Sometime in the near future, a war breaks out. The US inevitably reinstates the draft and even graduate students aren’t safe from military service. The protagonist is forced into a special infantry unit operating mechanized fighting machines called “Soldier Boys” (no, not the rapper). All operators have to learn how to be “jacked” (plugging into other team members’ and the machine’s own consciousness). The intrusive process connects you intimately with your entire team exposing all your deepest secrets, thoughts, and wishes. To complicate matters, Halderman’s protagonist falls in love with one of his fellow team members. Halderman’s story explores the dangers of overuse of technology on a deep level. Can technology actually deepen our connection to other individuals, leading to an unhealthy attachment to one person?

Text version: here

Audio version: here

  1. Travelers by Rich Larson

Think the movie Passengers if Chris Pratt was a demented cannibal and you have the short story “Travelers.” When the protagonist is awakened from “torpor,” she quickly realizes something is off about the only other awakened crew member. What is he planning and why? This is a short and suspenseful read that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Text version: here

Audio version: here

  1. The Ways Out by Sam J. Miller

In a mutant-filled world reminiscent of the X-men universe, the government has taken some very serious precautions to keep “mutants” in check. Utilizing state-of-the-art surveillance algorithms, they can predict where you’ll be and extrapolate whether you’ll be a future threat based on an individual’s special abilities. The meeting of two specific mutants with very unique abilities and a dash of cunning however, might just be enough to trick the system and allow them to wrench themselves free of their shackles.

Text version: here

Audio version: here  

  1. A Modest Genius by Vadim Shefner

Translated by Matthew J. O’Connell

Our main character, Sergei Kladesev, is a natural born genius. More often than not, he can solve his own issues and humanity’s using his own inventions. Despite his miraculous inventions he still struggles to find fulfillment in life chasing love in all the wrong places, or rather wrong people. When he finally finds someone whom he has a romantic interest in, his inventions end up ruining the opportunity. Will our uncharismatic but well intentioned genius get a second chance?

You can find this short in “The Big Book of Science Fiction” edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer

  1. Retrieval by Suzanne Walker

Retriever refers to a job class that finds tormented souls and returns them to where they belong so they can be at peace. In this short our main character works as one of these retrievers helping souls  find their way back to the afterlife. This is more easily done when a soul dies on a planet, but when a soul perishes in the void of space it undergoes the worst kind of torment. The protagonist learns that her father was executed by a tyrannical governing body called the Protectorate in this void of space. How will she find her father’s soul and more importantly will it come willingly back to planetside?

Text version: here

Audio version: here

  1. Swarm by Bruce Sterling

Sometime in the future when humanity has begun to explore space, humans encounter alien races waiting for human technology to develop sufficiently before making contact. During that time humankind has divided into different factions. The Mechanists have given up their humanity to integrate themselves more and more with machines and the Reshaped which are genetically altered to be highly intelligent and efficient. Sterling’s protagonist, Captain-Doctor Afriel, has been tasked with studying a newly discovered species called the Swarm which seem to be the first “unintelligent” life to travel space. With the ultimate goal of learning something from the swarm that could give the Reshapers an edge against the Mechanist, Afriel gets to work trying to understand these creatures but quickly finds out that he may have bitten off more than he can chew.

You can find this short in “Big book of science fiction” edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer

  1. Prasetyo Plastics by D.A. Xiaolin Spires

In the not-so-distant future a genius named Ali begins his career in the 3D printer world as a plastics engineer. Although there are many competing materials, plastics are clearly overtaking the industry because even hobbyists can purchase basic equipment to get started 3D printing at home. Imagine humanity debating over the use of plastic as it pollutes the environment while Ali is further innovating and creating plastics that can be used for space travel and protect against solar radiation. Sound familiar? What would happen when your invention starts to form a sentience of its own? A thought provoking short with clear parallels to today’s environmental struggles, “Prasetyo” is a fantastic story for anyone looking to read the latest in environmentally conscious sci-fi.

Text version: here

Audio version: here

  1. Martian Blood by Allen M. Steele

Humans have finally done it, they colonized Mars. After discovering there were already indigenous people living on the red planet, humanity builds casinos and luxury hotels, of course. Steele’s story is told from the point of view of a local guide named Jim. For the right price, Jim can take eager tourists through the deserts of Mars with the hopes of meeting its native inhabitants. Jim’s upcoming client is a professor and researcher in astrobiology who wants to collect blood samples from the natives in order to prove or disprove the panspermia theory. What conflicts might arise if the theory is proven to be true (if the inhabitants of Mars are shown to be descendants of Earthlings)?

Text version: here

Audio version: here

If you love SciFi shorts definitely pick up this little gem below.

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