The best SF for free

Good science fiction is not expensive to buy, but the freedom from payment (and freedom from vexing paying platforms and credit cards) means more appetite for trying new authors, new genres. Buying a book feels like commitment: jumping headlong into a free story online is a carefree fling. And reading for free doesn’t need to involve illegal downloading. There’s a rather staggering amount of freely available reading material out there, so get your eyes to the screen and start browsing!

Short stories

Periodical magazines and anthologies


Short stories

One excellent compilation is It’s a platform that brings together links to professional magazines and anthologies that offer short stories to read online for free. Most of the time, it’s reading on the screen (in a few cases, you can download). The search function is practical, you can search by author, by Hugo or Nebula awards, or by their recommendations.

It’s a great selection, and it includes some of my all-time favourite SF short stories, such as Isaac Asimov’ “Nightfall”, Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations”, Linda Nagata’s “The Martian Obelisk” and Katherine Maclean’s “The Snowball Effect”.

Authors range from big name SF classics (Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Brian W. Aldiss) to more recent classics (Stephen Baxter, David Brin, Kim Stanley Robinson, Connie Willis) to 21st century authors (Mary Robinette Kowal, Cixin Liu, Jeff VanderMeer, R. F. Kuang, Becky Chambers). Altogether, with than 2000 authors and more than 10,000 stories available, it’s a great start, and a whole more than that as it may take you years to read through all of it.

Another compilation, is a mix of all kinds of short stories, not only SF, with the chief aim of helping English language learners. It’s not very professional, you cannot search by author and has much fewer entries than the previous site, but I added it here because by coincidence, it contains two of my best-loved SF short stories: “Dog Star” from Arthur C. Clarke and “The Machine That Won the War” from Isaac Asimov. It also posts several good Ray Bradbury stories.

To close this section with three miscellaneous mentions: the best science fiction short story ever written (not surprisingly, by the same author as the best SF novel ever written) can be found on this website [link]. Two other strong contenders for the top-10 list of best SF short stories of all times are also available to read online for free: John Wyndham’s “Dumb Martian” and Stephen Baxter’s “Last Contact”.

Periodical magazines and anthologies

Some of the top-listed SF magazines are only available for subscribers (the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog and Asimov’s among them). Mind, none of this is horribly expensive: for instance, you can get a one-year subscription to Analog from USD 50.

Other magazines provide a hybrid solution: if you subscribe, you will get the publications in reader-friendly formats. Or, if you prefer to explore and experiment, you can read practically all their content online. Magazines with free online content include:

1.Uncanny magazine:

      Fiction is released to non-subscribers for online reading after a waiting time. The site is well-organised and you can search by “awards honoured fiction”, by author and by magazine issue.

      2. Strange Horizons magazine:

      It’s a non-profit publication and all content is (only) for free. You can browse by date, contributor or special yearly issue, or by “winners of readers’ polls.”

      3. Apex magazine:

      Non-subscribers can read for free online. Browsing is not so convenient, as it’s arranged by back issues only (not by author), though if you like an author, you can find a short bio and linked publications from other issues of the magazine.

      A few other publications with very similar approach and profile:

      4. Lightspeed magazine:

      5. Clarkesworld magazine:

      6. Beneath Ceaseless Skies:

      With all three magazines, non-subscribers can read for free online. Conveniently, you can search by issue or by author. 


      This is not a periodical, more a platform for publishing, among other things, up to date 600 original SF short stories. All fiction is for free for online reading. There is a handy overview of the short stories published in 2023, with one-liner summaries. You cannot search the site, but you can click on authors and see their other stories.


      Depending on their vintage, copyrights may have expired and great classic books may be legally available for free. One great portal to check out is Project Gutenberg:

      They base themselves on US copyright rules, i.e. maximum 95 years of copyright protection form first publication. As of 2023, works published in 1928 or earlier do not have protection anymore and can be freely downloaded. For anything created in 1978 and after, the waiting time will be shorter – a delightful fact, but you’ll still need to wait until at least 2049.

      So what good SF books were published before 1928? Jules Verne, of course; H. G. Wells; Lovecraft. If you fancy reading The War of the Worlds or At the Mountains of Madness, you can download them in many reader-friendly forms.

      Another interesting initiative is based on the concept of library lending, but with e-books. On

      Here you can also find more modern books, for example by Orson Scott Card, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke or Margaret Atwood. It takes more effort, as you need to sign up. Books that are available can be read in the browser. If you want a more reader-friendly format, you may need to wait – “borrowing” is only by one patron at a time from anywhere in the world. You can search specifically for Hugo ad Nebula Award winner books.

      Though, unfortunately, a great part of  them are only for preview.

      Too much to read, and you don’t know where to start? Check out my SF book reviews [link] or the 10 best SF books of all time [link]!


      One response to “The best SF for free”

      1. […] If you want to sample the authors in smaller portions first, try their short stories, quite a number of them available for free […]

      Leave a Reply

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *