Some of the best science fiction is, and has always been, told in short form. Magazines in the early 20th century brought science fiction into mainstream consciousness, and collections like I, Robot and The Martian Chronicles defined the genre. Today’s short fiction writers are no less revolutionary and take advantage of this format to explore a wide range of voices in their protagonists, playing with the possibilities of story-telling. We’ve collected some of the our favorite stunning sci-fi collections here. Let us know what you would add in the comments.
By Julia Bergen
To Hold Up the Sky by Cixin Liu
From the author of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past series (if you haven’t read it, get on that before the Netflix series comes out), this collection spans his writing career. It’s a great range of work, playing with form, space, and time. Cixin Liu is truly a master story teller, and even readers who aren’t hardcore SF readers will be enthralled. I dare you not to cry while reading The Village Teacher. I dare you.
How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin
This doesn’t just have one of the best names in science fiction and fantasy collections, it also has some of the best stories. Featuring both fantasy and science fiction, this collection delves into a wide range of subgenres including Afrofuturism, alternate history, and climate fiction. There’s a reason why N. K. Jemisin is the first author to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel three times in a row, and her short fiction is just as strong as her novels.
Radicalized by Cory Doctorow
Cory Doctorow is a master at imagining the horrifying implications of things like technology, security, and privacy, and his chilling imagination is on full display in this collection of four novellas taking place in eerily possible futures. Come for the speculative romp, stay because you literally cannot look away.
Exhalation by Ted Chiang
Ted Chiang’s 1998 short story, Story of Your Life, was the basis of the 2016 Academy Award-nominated film Arrival, and his 21st century short fiction continues to question the role and future of humanity. He uses beloved science fiction concepts, like time travel and artificial intelligence, but approaches them from a deeply humanistic viewpoint and with a skill level in story-telling that few can match.
Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson
Now this is a SF collection that’s just plain fun. Brandon Sanderson is known for fantasy novels you need two hands to lift, but he’s just as good at shorter science fiction. In this collection he takes advantage of his world-building and character creation abilities to constantly surprise the reader and draw us in to a world like our own, but different in ways that only Sanderson could imagine.