Short Story Recommendations

Short stories I’ve enjoyed over the years.

Currently 46 entries. Last updated on 2023/12/23.


For me, Saunders is at his best when writing dysfunctional workplaces, and this short story is no exception, involving a company that disposes of raccoons (???) and a pathetic (if pitiable) narrator.

A story about exorcists at a magic school. The minor twist here is that Shinju was born a boy, though the academy believes all witches are women here.

A nation hides the codes to its trump weapons in the heart of a ten year old girl. To use them, the president must be willing to sacrifice her with his own hands.

The look in my boss’s eyes dimmed a little. “I don’t have kids, and I don’t ever plan on having any. Over the years I’ve asked myself whether my life has meaning. Whether lives without purpose should exist at all. For someone who doubts the value of his own life to then create a life—it would be very irresponsible behavior.”

Ready to have children? Why not try raising a virtual one first?

There’s a reason why she only sells nightmares, not dreams.

After her murder, a girl stays by the roadside and lures others to their death.

Industrial revolution x witches x the devil. Irina signed a contract with the devil to work as an indentured servant in a factory straight from hell, full of accidents and injuries, with a witch on payroll to patch people up.

An apocalypse story based on the simulation hypothesis.

A horror/sci-fi story about aliens who invade by forcing people to give birth to horrifying mutants.

A frankly very polarizing story that to me reads as a satire, though it may not land. At the very least, read it all the way through before making up your mind. To me, this story skewers an “incel”-adjacent victim mentality of “I’m doing everything right, so why don’t women like me still?” In the end, even if you do everything “right” (emphasis on the quotes), relationships (romantic or otherwise) aren’t about checking off boxes, and this is true whether you put your partner up on a pedestal or down in the gutter. It’s rather…blunt…in how it goes about this, and I can’t decide whether this is to its benefit or detriment.

A look at Chinese history—and what it means to be an emperor—through the lens of anachronistic video games.

High-frequency trading runs amok in this AI apocalypse story.

A horrifying window into what life as a werewolf might actually look like—with an abusive lover to boot. (In particular: she ages at the wolf/dog rate, seven years to one.)

Good Spells features a kind of cyberpunk witch, with a lot of focus on contemporary developments in AI/ML (particularly generative AI). A witch, in this story, is a rogue technologist, one who can not only fix hardware and tweak the ever-present software around her customers but also understand the relationship between said customers and their gizmos.

I do feel stories like this tend to age badly, beacuse they’re so tied to a specific view of technology at that exact moment in time. But I feel like the sentiments here are more universal, even if the actual technology quickly becomes archaic.

To program the machine, one needed to place trust in more machines. I couldn’t live like that.

One man must capture a dragon to satisfy an idle prince’s fancy and get back his father’s land.

A painful story of a sailor who comes home to find everything taken from him.

A sci-fi tale of faith in love and missed connections unfolding over hundreds of years.

Adoptive parents are informed that there’s more than meets the eye to their daughter.

A man comes to a witch complaining of a hollow in his back and carrying a blank journal that seems to eat all his words. Over the days of his cure, she helps him remember what actually happened.

A fictional Wikipedia article about the first person to be uploaded to a computer.

A bizzare comedy about what “normal” really is, through the lens of strange foods.

A (loose) retelling of The Little Mermaid, except our mermaid goes to space.

Futuristic technology melds with Buddhist tradition in a story about revenge.

A story about a rebellious teenager and her single mother the witch, that slowly transitions into the teenager seeing things from her mother’s perspective as she grows older.

Spoilers The mother, of course, was never really a witch, just a mother adopting a mysterious persona as a way to protect and shield her daughter. Or was she really? What is a witch after all?

Trigger warning/spoilers Rape

A sleep doctor tells the story of a patient sent to him many years ago, supposedly because she was possessed at night.

A fantastical sci-fi story about exploring the true nature of space.

A female knight does what no man ever could.

An excruciatingly awkward story of a date in a tiny New York omakase shop. And also, a story of what it means to be Asian-American in America.

A strangely haunting story-within-a-story about missed connections.

Also see “The Right Town” below, which has a strangely similar vibe.

On the outside, a tale of (pseudo-)time travel; on the inside, a tale about soulmates through multiple lives.

A sci-fi memory simulation experience rendered through a dialogue between a desperate customer and a stymied customer service attendant.

A horror/supernatural story about a cop who can see others’ evils in the form of eyes on their cars.

A “silkpunk” story that reinterprets an actual historical event with something quite different.

A prophetic story of America (and the rest of the world) slowly falling to armed religious insurrections seeking to eliminate women from the world.

Is it a sacrifice for humanity’s future, or just running away from home?

A witch gets more, much more, than what she bargained for when she kidnaps a young girl.

You get on a train going the wrong direction, and for the first time in your life, you understand what love is and what you could have been.

Recommended to read this alongside “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning” above.

A time travel story about the rebellion of two early women in science.

A tale of true love that only people who truly embody living at work could enjoy.

A dystopian tale of redemption in a future where the government offers money to those willing to artificially shorten their lives. See also: “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” (Kurt Vonnegut), and Three Days of Happiness (Sugaru Miaki).

A story about a trans man, whose family is reluctant to acknowledge him as a witch, despite having his powers still.

An amnesiac man finds employment as a…fixer…for a local real estate mogul, but he really only feels at home in the pool.

A tale of true love that only people who truly embody living at work could enjoy.

A modern-day take on witch burnings: Ron Morgan and his mob, driving around a propane-powered portable crematorium.

Above all—and please understand that I am trying to be kind here, and spare you wasted effort and crushing disappointment—you must not underestimate how many strangers can be persuaded to hate you, and how many friends will say nothing while you burn. It is so much easier to mobilize outrage against a single woman than, well, anything or anyone else

A sci-fi/speculative fiction story about a prison using technology to turn inmates into robotic slaves.

A retired mercenary flees his enemies while his teenage son and his friends play out a Dungeons and Dragons scenario to hunt a dragon.