Speculative fiction, the greatest one at least, has always concerned itself with tackling current day issues. Science fiction explores concerns about race, gender, and other social, economical, and environmental issues, in addition to the implications of technology to humanity. A short story about humans used as batteries or incorporated into the cloud and hosting services? Sci-fi filmmakers can do it for us.
Here are some free online stories about technology that will get you thinking about the present and the future:
We Are the Cloud
What if your brain is used for cloud and hosting services? We Are the Cloud by Sam J. Miller runs with this technological premise. The Nebula nominee partially explores the concept of using people for data processing—human nodes that host data for the cloud. Wireless Internet everywhere, only for the cost of possibly renting too much of a poor person’s brain and turning them into living cloud ports.
On the non-technological aspect of the story, We Are the Cloud is a coming of age tale with various LGBT identities and a strong commentary on the foster care system. The protagonist, Sauro, finds himself within the cloud and in the real world.
Wings of Earth
Clarkesworld Magazine published Wings of Earth by Jiang Bo on their website in 2018, giving more people a way to glimpse the Chinese author’s brilliance. Translated by Andy Dudak, the story follows aspiring astronaut Xiaoyu as he trains alongside Max at the world’s biggest space station. Training turns out to be the least of Xiaoyu’s worries when a large alien ship appears near the station out of nowhere.
The Paper Menagerie
Part fantasy, part magical realism, The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu swept the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award—science fiction’s big three award-giving bodies.
Connecticut boy Jack leads the short story with his origami animals, which his mother breathes life into. Like other kids of color, Jack sheds his Chinese identity as he struggles to fit in with his American friends—and so does his mother, for his sake. A tragedy leads Jack to learn about his mother’s past.
Into mechs and science fiction? Nomad by Karin Lowachee got you. The short story available on Lightspeed Magazine follows Mad, a sentient mech who struggles to process the death of their pilot, Tommy, and what it means to be a nomad bereft of their person. Mad’s decision to leave his gang and process their human’s death while finding his reason for existence form the human core of the sci-fi story.
‘Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience’
‘Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience by Rebecca Roanhorse is as striking as its title. The title refers to an eponymous virtual reality tour in the story. Virtual tourists go through “authentic” Native American experiences—in truth, simulations of tired cliches the Native American tour guide is forced to sell as true to meet his customer’s expectations.
The struggles of Jesse Turnblatt, the protagonist, is recorded in second-person to help the reader experience the tour and the hero’s struggles. Issues centered around the loss of identity and culture are explored alongside the blurring of real and virtual worlds.
A wealth of short stories of various genres are hosted for free, legally, online. If you can’t get enough of them, it’s time to go out there and save some freely-shared short stories on your device or favorite cloud services.