Recs: Diverse SFF Short Stories

Diverse SFF Short Stories

If you’ve been on Twitter this past week, you’ll notice that the community is abuzz with discussions on representation in fantasy. I can barely believe that it’s still up for debate. I am continually disappointed that while white and heteronormative narrative continues to dominate the genre, we still get people leaping to its defense when someone questions about the absence of diversity.

Somehow, there’s an idea that diverse fiction is a genre unto itself, that we should not demand to see ourselves reflected in popular fiction. In my mind, good fiction should be relatable and to some extent, it should accurately reflect the real world – even if it’s a fantasy.

To soothe my anger at the twitter debate, I went on Tor’s website to read through several of the SFF short stories they publish. I love the fiction published on this site because i) it’s free! and ii) it’s always quality and pushes to be inclusive. At the end of the day, the best way to support inclusive stories is to read them and shout your love to the world about them. So here’s a list of great SFF stories you can enjoy by just clicking on the link!


THE WEIGHT OF MEMORIES by Cixin Liu / translated by Ken Liu

We made a terrible mistake in thinking that replicating memories was sufficient to replicate a person.

Cixin Liu took the world by storm with The Three-Body Problem, one of the first Chinese science fiction to be translated into English. I love how he uses daring ideas on science, and reapplies it to answer questions about humanity. This short story about engineered and inherited memories between a mother and her unborn child captures his style perfectly. Ken Liu delivers a smooth and technically impressive translation, as always.


IN THE SIGHT OF AKRESA by Ray Wood

Your lips opened like a flower. My finger slipped between them, softly, until it was submerged up to the knuckle in the warm wetness of your mouth. Your damp, empty mouth.

Follows a noblewoman, Claire, and her obssession with former slave Aya. Tragic romance or spine-chilling tale about human selfishness and infatuation? You decide (and be sure to tell me your thoughts!). This story also features beautiful usage of the second-person narrative.


A CUP OF SALT TEARS by Isabel Yap

She looked down at the tea she was whisking and thought, this tastes like earth, like the bone marrow of beautiful spirits, like the first love I’ve yet to have. It is green like the color of spring leaves and my mother’s favorite skirt and the skin of a kappa.

Makino is grieving, her husband is dying, when a kappa comes calling with dark promises and proclamation of love. Atmospheric and haunting, this dark fantasy is at once contemplative and disquieting. I love the usage of the traditional kappa myth in a modern Japan.


SEVENTH DAY OF THE SEVENTH MOON by Ken Liu

Like a dancer and her shadow, the two girls swayed, each separately, to a harmony as young as themselves and as old as the land beneath.

Modern day version of the Cowherd and Weaver Girl tale, featuring girls in love. Need I say more? As usual, Ken Liu deftly meshes contemporary China with traditional myth and tales. With his work, there’s a sense of rediscovery and new interpretations of timeless stories.

If you enjoyed this story, you should 100% check out Ken Liu’s wonderful short stories collection The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. Filled with China, speculative fiction, and beautiful proses.


THE WAYS OF THE WALLS AND WORDS by Sabrina Vorvoulias

I want to tell her it’s all right. That magic, like poetry, is a gift from the gods. But then I remember where I’m standing. Neither gods nor gifts abide between these walls.

Anica and Bienvenida trade poems and comforting words through the prison walls of the Inquisition. A quiet and melancholic story on friendship and faith. Gives us a glimpse into the Nahuas and their religion.


THE PAUPER PRINCE AND THE EUCALYPTUS JINN by Usman Malik

The description of the eucalyptus jinn varied seasonally. In summertime, his cheeks were scorched, his eyes red rimmed like the midday sun. Come winter, his lips were blue and his eyes misty, his touch cold like damp roots. On one thing everyone agreed: if he laid eyes on you, you were a goner.

A disillusioned Pakistani professor reminisces about the tales his grandfather once told him: of a fallen Mughal princess and the jinn who protects her. This story is so beautifully written, and I have a weakness for stories that focus on clashes of culture and forgotten lores.


Have you read any of these? Do you have some recommendations for me? Let me know below ❤

13 thoughts on “Recs: Diverse SFF Short Stories

  1. Oooh, I haven’t read any of these but I’m currently in love with short fiction so I’m definitely gonna check them out.

    I really liked these:
    You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong
    Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (not free)
    The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster (not free)

    not 100% sure if this had diverse MCs but it’s likely:
    A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong

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  2. AH, this is a flawless list! Thank you so much for sharing A Cup of Salt Tears with me – now I am craving SFF short stories, all thanks to you!! *sends love* You and Glaiza always know the best book recs when it comes to SFF. :3

    I don’t usually read short stories, and one of my favourite short stories of all time isn’t diverse SFF per se, but I really loved Asimov’s The Last Question. Ugh, it was just brilliant. BUT, I’m going to push myself to read more SFF with a variety of voices and perspectives, and one day I shall share my finds with you.

    I still need to read the Three-Body Problem — and thank you for including a link to your review, I shall read your review now!!

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  3. I AM EXCITED. these all sound so unique and exciting and they are also FREE. I will start reading ASAP.( sorry for writing in caps. #notreally) also Aentee, I am so jealous of your designs! They are so GORGEOUS!! OMG ❤ the best I can make is changing fonts. 😲 so not proud of myself. Great post, as always!!

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  4. Oh wow the descriptions of these stories are making me excited to read them! This is a great post Aentee, I dont usually read short stories but I am definitely going to3 change that now. Bookmarking this post!

    And YES completely agree with you about the diversity debate. Books should be inclusive for all readers, and diversity should not be considered a seperate genre because of this.

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  5. I had NO IDEA these were free. Wow. So thank you for bringing that to my attention haha! I’m a sucker for anything that’s related to China/Chinese anything (go figure), and I have yet to read anything that has been translated from Chinese, so definitely interested in The Weight of Memories!

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  6. Thank you for the recommendations! I’ll have to check out more short scifi stories. For some reason, I tend not to read sort stories unless they are in an anthology or collection. I should look into changing that… the words ‘free’ and ‘diverse’ are making me want to frequent TORs site.

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  7. I haven’t read any of these books yet but I’m still eager to check out that Paper Menagerie since you pointed it out at the bookstore! My diverse recommendation would definitely be Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine, I absolutely loved it and thought it was the best diverse SFF I’ve read.

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  8. I really liked the Pauper Prince one! And I definitely need to read some Cixin Liu ASAP. One of my favorite SFF short story writers is Alyssa Wong. She writes really weird, off the wall and creepy short stories. I really liked the Fisher Queen and Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers! Ken Liu is awesome as well. I haven’t read the Seventh Day yet but I adored The Paper Menagerie.

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