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SF For Nothing, Stories For Free

Hello strange people: by way of introduction, I am Dan Ritter, occasionally seen in the comments section as -dsr-. I live outside of Boston and work in Cambridge, doing various bits of computer work just off of the MIT campus for a small financial software firm -- if you don't work for a bank or brokerage, you probably haven't heard of it.

I once suggested to Charlie that since the Indian Navy was having budget problems, they might agree to sell a de-militarized Krivak-class frigate, which would make an excellent evil billionaire's yacht.

Today my subject is "free SF", by which I mean stories that you don't have to pay money to read. That doesn't necessarily mean that they are in the public domain, or that the author has given up copyright; it just means free of required monetary cost. Some authors do that as a sort of advertisement for their work; some do it because it makes them happy, some do it because they don't want to put it up for sale (or can't -- that's a whole class), and some are doing it for the exposure so that they can build an audience. All of this is only viable because the Internet has such a low marginal cost. For me, the best thing about free SF is that I have a zero-risk opportunity to read new authors, and the second best thing is that I have more money to buy books.

There are some free stories by Charlie over on the sidebar, of course. I like TOAST quite a lot, but I recommend you stay away from Scratch Monkey. (The title derives from the sad tale of Mabel the swimming monkey -- you may gurgle that at your own emotional risk.) Tor.com has published some of his short stories and novellae, too -- Equoid, Overtime, and Down on the Farm, among others.

The tradition of magazines publishing stories, reviews and discussion is still alive, and some of them are freely available.

Strange Horizons publishes online for free, and is run exclusively on donations. They occasionally run fundraisers where content is unlocked progressively as donations come in. You may have heard of some of their authors -- Saladin Ahmed, Eleanor Arnason, Mishell Baker, Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, among many others.

Clarkesworld is an SF magazine published online for free, and you can buy epub copies for reasonable fees, subscribe directly for automatic delivery, and buy an annual collection in print or epub. They've run stories by Kij Johnson, Tobias Buckell, Aliette De Bodard, Ken MacLeod, Elizabeth Bear.

Uncanny Magazine is also online for free -- you can read the first half immediately on the publication date, as an inducement to buy the epub or PDF version, and the second half becomes free a month later. Naomi Novik, Nalo Hopkinson, Zen Cho and overachiever Elizabeth Bear have all been in there in the recent past.

Once upon a time, SF novels were shorter. Slaughterhouse Five is actually just under the 50K word threshold that the Hugos use for novels. The reasons for the growth has been adequately covered here in the past. The tradition of serializing novels in magazines obviously works better when the novels are shorter, but authors can now put things online without limit. Here are some that I've particularly enjoyed:

Over at qntm.org, Sam Hughes has a bunch of short stories and two excellent novels, which he released in serial fashion: Fine Structure and Ra. What I'd really like to direct your attention to is Ra.

In 1970 or so, magic is discovered. This makes a lot of people very unhappy. Most are unhappy because their world-view is based on science, and they now need to fit non-supernatural explanations to these events. Naturally, research leads to academics, and academics means degree programs. Ra starts off as the story of Laura Ferno, Ph.D candidate in Applied Thaumic Engineering with an eye towards harnessing magic to build spacecraft, and her sister Natalie who is an academic on the theoretical side of magic. One night Laura is mugged, she defends herself with magic spells, and before you know it ten chapters have gone by and the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

If you have a couple of weeks available to read a compelling story about the problems of superheroes and supervillains and the nearly nonexistent line dividing them, let me recommend Worm. It in turn has inspired remarkably good fanfiction: Taylor Varga is nearly as long (1.5 million words) which is not yet finished.

One final bit of fan fiction: Honor Among Thieves. If you've read through David Weber's Honor Harrington series and wished that he would finally wrap it all up, you're doubly lucky. First, it looks like his latest entry is the beginning of the end. Second, in 2015 an author with the pen name of Bracketyjack wrote a wholly satisfying series conclusion in a style almost but not quite exactly like Weber -- it's less annoying, on the whole -- taking about two books worth of words to do it.

What have you read for free lately? And where did you get it?

103 Comments

1:

I've had fun rereading Watts' short fiction, especially "Malak" which I somehow missed for years:

http://www.rifters.com/real/shorts.htm


(All but his latest novel are also available there.)

2:

I've subscribed for a while to the monthly http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/ - they have epub/pdf subscriptions, but release most of the content for free, online reading during the course of the month after release.

3:

And as long as we're discussing Canadians, Karl Schroeder has made Ventus available:

http://www.kschroeder.com/contactdetails

and Cory Doctorow makes everything or nearly everything he writes downloadable at https://craphounds.com/ -- but it's not as obvious as it used to be. Click on the little menu, then books/stories, then an individual title. "Download for Free" and "Donate a Copy" are options, as well as buying them outright.

4:

Well for some reason I've recently read Jack London's dystopian political thriller The Iron Heel. Since it's from 1909-ish it's in the public domain. Slightly unsatisfying in structure, it does a fair job of predicting fascism. Worse news is that the Oligarchs aka The Iron Heel control the world for about three hundred years before being overthrown.

Apex magazine posts it's content throughout the month; Only today I was reading Jacqueline Carey's story Suzie Q, which was good though [lowers voice] Fantasy. Also sexually explicit for those who like to know before reading.

Been reading a few other "classics" that are out of copyright - The Portrait of Dorian Grey (spends a lot of time talking about Dorian's love of jewels and religious vestements), The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (not much there that the popular idea of the story doesn't already have), and Jules Verne's Robur The Conquerer, a poor aerial version of the much superior 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, though Robur's flying machine, The Albatross is quite entertaining.

Also (apologies for self promotion, please delete if inapropriate) I have seven parts of a space opera serial I've written, Chronicles of the Deep Patrol online for free. Basically the concept is what if the characters in a Star Trek type universe realised how deeply weird things were. The main protagonist is Tommy "Ray" Gunn, which is probably the worst joke of the series, and says something about the flavour.

6:

The Campbell nominees anthology is free every year. It's hit or miss; for every Ken Liu, you get a large handful of lesser talents. But you might like them better. Who knows? Different strokes, as they say!

You can obtain a copy of this year's anthology here:
https://claims.instafreebie.com/free/UNNL6DzH

And, of course, there are the classic sources for the classics:
Bartleby: http://www.bartleby.com/
Gutenberg: https://www.gutenberg.org/

7:

Shadow Unit is (was) one of my favorites. And a prominent author in there is... Elizabeth Bear. Just how many times will I end up mentioning her?

For those who haven't had the pleasure: Shadow Unit is organized as a fictional television show about the tiny FBI group tasked with handling a certain kind of problem. Each episode is a complete short story and plot arcs converging to a finale at the end of the four seasons.

Great characters. Remarkably consistently good.

8:

Oh my god, Worm. One nice morning on Match 6th I opened the website and then it was suddenly evening of March 22th and I was reading Interlude:End on my e-ink reader. I think that every Marvell fan should read this book - for the emotional impact, if not for "superheroes done right" set of ideas.

"Pact" - urban fantasy by the same author (nicknamed Wildbow) - was a bit less catching (admittedly, he had to deal with just too many things - including a wedding - while producing a chapter every Tuesday and Thursday) but still very engaging, keeping me on my toes until the very end. There's also Ward (another book set in Worm-verse; in progress) but I'm personally not as interested in it (as if some fuse was blown by the ending of Worm) and Twig (which is about bio-technologies indistinguishable from magic) which looks interesting but I know I don't have enough free time to start reading it.

I had actually taken up Worm to survive the wait while the last chapters of Harry Potter and Methods of Rationality were being published. HPMoR is a great book, both in size and content. 11-year-old Harry is a science fiction fan, a self-made rationalist / trans-humanist and wannabe scientist, but, apparently, magic also exists (yes, Eliezer Yudkowsky has read Ra) and doesn't make much sense from the outside (and what Harry gets to know about his own story makes even less sense). Of course, Harry embarks on a journey to scientifically optimize magical Britain. What could possibly go wrong? The book is full of references to "boy science fiction", science fiction for grown-ups, works of science and philosophy (e.g. I read GEB because it was referenced in HPMoR), just like Anathem by Neal Stephenson. I think that it should be interesting even for people who are not fans of original series, but are aware of the setting.

9:

Harry potter and the methods of rationality
http://www.hpmor.com is a good take on the harry potter universe

10:

Seconding "oh my god, Worm". I pretty much read it non-stop for two weeks, almost everywhere, and it was worth every minute and hour of it.

"Pact" is somewhat less polished and not that fun to read, but "Twig" is as gripping as "Worm" (and a lot more insane, gets you to think at the end of every chapter "and how the hell is he going to top that", then he does).

I can't get myself to start "Ward" before it's finished, I don't think I'll survive the suspense.

11:

Free literature by our generous host Charlie was one of the reasons I turned up on this blog recently (the other being my arrogance, of course). I did read Accelerando and Glasshouse, as well as Eschaton cycle some years back, but this time I was out for free and easy-accessed stories specifically. I found out about Laundry Files cycle and whole bunch of stories by other authors I never seen before. It doesn't mean I never read books in English earlier, it only means new horizons for me.

I did also rediscover Peter Watts and his backlist. I found several instances of modern online sci-fi magazines I never thought would be available for free. Several month back I was convinced they all perished to digitalization process similar to what my country went through recently, which killed nearly all of the printed journals I enjoyed in the years of University and school (So yes, I live in Russia and this is nothing of a secret, but books is not my profession so I can't give you nearly enough clues about current situation with them). Digitalization, I rationalized, makes "slow" printed word outdated, and the only reason for people to print anything would be a form of luxury available to anyone. Doesn't mean the book stores and libraries are thing of the past now - they are here, but the prices for new issues are so ridiculously high I can only allow myself to buy them occasionally or as a gift. This is waaaayyy different situation compared to 90-s pre-digital age, when books were pretty much a vendor trash and there's still tons of them in our houses.

I feel like I grew up with "free" SF literature, since before around year 2014 I never had to buy a single book I read - and I read a lot. Having tons of printed books in the house was a social norm for people with education in my country, the school library I went to did have several subscriptions for technology, gaming and occasional fiction editions. I did read and reread several times the full 9 volume collection of Strugatsky brothers anthology, as well as some other adventure cycles by other authors. There's also two digital libraries on my PC (in Russian language, a ton of native and translated SF in them) since back then - one of them compiled in 2000 and it has a gigabyte of archived texts, and the other one is compiled in 2007 and much more extensive. Well, with some modern copyright measures in effect I do not expect any new collections of that sort to appear, so my search for new impressions brings me back online again.

The digital age has it's own flip sides, though. Even though most of the stuff I read 10-15 years ago is pretty much dead nowadays or barely resembles the glory of the past, a large chunk of this legacy is now scanned and archived on the net, available to torrent and read at any moment. Too bad I don't have too much time to return to that. How I see it, buying modern digital stuff or having it for free has become a matter of convenience for people like me - if it has really easy access like cheap Steam games, and there's little risk to spend too much money or losing your time, people will dig it. But even if it is free, but hidden behind registration and verification (with polite cellphone numbers requests) or some virus-infested torrent site backyards, it is better to avoid it entirely.

12:

A Practical Guide to Evil is a pretty well crafted fantasy story.
Can be found here: https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com

13:

Thirding Worm- and unlike the other two, for the writing quality. It's absurd how, for a story shoved out the door at 2/3 chapters a week for 2 years, just how deep everything goes- background characters that show up for a paragraph get just enough oblique description to paint a picture of an individual, character arcs continue to happen in the spaces between chapters even when the main character isn't actively noticing them... it's not a surprise that Wildbow is one of the few authors out there making a full-time living on nothing but serial fiction. Pitching it as a "superhero story" is really underselling it- it's an excellent (if long) science fiction story.

On the flip side, your recommendation of Taylor Varga is jarring- Worm has produced some pretty amazing fanfiction; Taylor Varga is not one of them. It's 1.5 million words of endless backpatting drivel.

14:

Don't forget your public libraries.

15:

"Free" content or previews are great as long as one really understands what they're signing up for. That use of the term 'overachiever' is however... Ummm? I don't know

16:

HPMOR loses a lot of its rationalist appeal once you realize that it's basically an Author Tract preaching the gospel of transhumanism, and for that reason the author (or his avatar Harry) never once applies scientific scrutiny or rationality to his own belief system.

17:

Personally, I thought Honor Among Thieves was very poor - though probably no worse than the level Weber had descended to, but in different ways. I thought that The Last Ringbearer was very good, and got extremely angry that the legal system was being so badly abused by the Tolkein estate - it was absolutely clearly NOT a breach of copyright in the UK.

18:

All of the stories and novels we've been mentioning are free-as-in-beer. What do you think we're "signing up for"?

Elizabeth Bear is an occasional contributor to Charlie's blog, an award-winning author, and a nice person. It's either coincidence or a great result of her marketing plan that her work is being repeatedly mentioned here. I think she'll accept "overachiever" in the spirit of fun that I intended.

19:

I agree, Worm was something else. The superhero story I realized I always wanted.

Pact fell flat, I think, because he was trying to get away from the almost mechanical aspects of the system in Worm and was trying for something a bit more vague and holistic.

but the result was characters who seemed to win purely by *trying harder* and rarely by really using their heads.

If we're recommending little-known authors then The Wandering Inn should get a mention

https://wanderinginn.com/

The author is a bit of a machine, managing to put out a couple of long and well written chapters per week.

Also throwing ThreadBare out there https://www.royalroadl.com/fiction/15130/threadbare

I've started reading quite a few of these free stories and, while it's sometimes frustrating to get into something only for the author to go into permanent hiatus, I've picked up a few new authors who's work I now watch out for on amazon kindle to replace some of my old favorites who have unfortunately contracted death.

Another is Mother of Learning

https://www.fictionpress.com/s/2961893/1/Mother-of-Learning

20:

Also, forgot one.

http://unsongbook.com/

"So for two minutes on Christmas Eve, while a billion people listened, three astronauts read the Book of Genesis from a tiny metal can a hundred miles above the surface of the moon.

Then, mid-sentence, they crashed into the crystal sphere surrounding the world, because it turned out there were far fewer things in Heaven and Earth than were dreamt of in almost anyone’s philosophy."

Now there's a crack in the sky and angels and demons have stopped being metaphors because the celestial machine has been screwed up.

21:

Taylor Varga is not good and I feel obliged to give it an anti-recommendation. It does some things well, but handling of conflict/escalation/resolution isn't one of them. Pacing isn't either. Both these are in stark contrast to Worm itself, which varies between solid and excellent in those regards. (Also in contrast to much other worm fanfic, honestly.)

For good free fiction on the web...

The Deathworlders was pretty good. What starts as a gag about sci fi worldbuilding (what if humans are actually amazingly awesome relative to aliens?) slowly turns into a long and well crafted space opera thing with entertaining military sci fi segments and the massive disruption of the galactic social order. It's a bit weird to read, as people started writing 'fanfic' of it while it was in progress and that fed back into the worldbuilding in turn. I think that the original series is the best work in that cluster, though. http://deathworlders.com/books/deathworlders/

Worth the Candle is excellent. A guy finds himself literally dropped into a world that quickly turns out to be based on the D&D and other tabletop game campaigns he's run as DM, and uses it as a distraction from his close friend's recent death. Yes, it's an isekai self-insert litRPG, but it's amazingly well written and I don't know how to describe it in a way that does it justice. Lots of actually-good reflection on the nature of stories and how they're told, characters that feel sentient, intelligent, and independent.
https://archiveofourown.org/works/11478249/chapters/25740126

Both are still in production and updating fairly regularly.

I'll also tentatively second HPMoR and Unsong.... both are very, very weird though, and designed to appeal to certain kinds of people. If you bounce off them hard, and people very much have, then that's fine.

---------------------------

The real trick with all the free content on the web is how to filter it. If you're looking at free editions of digital magazines, then there's editors and a publication etc. For self-published works, , checking in on topwebfiction.com and the webfictionguide once a year or so is probably a good idea. And then there's creative writing / fanfic communities, where there are upvotes, comments, likes, reviews, or other ways to gauge popularity... I'll name the SB/SV/QQ forums as being a place where some good works are hosted. There's also royalroad, fanfic havens ff.net and ao3, weirder places that translate east asian web novels, and a bunch of people who just put things up on a wordpress blog (Worm style). But even finding good communities and recommendation lists is a skill in itself! The fact is that there's more content and more direct access than ever before, yet that also means that you can wade right into the 'slush pile' of first-writer abominations and other absolute trash.

Although if you've got a popular blog, a good technique is to ask your readers to help you fill in your reading list.

22:

I'm going to go with the consensus on "Worm" — if you're willing to look at superhero fic at all, then this is good stuff. (Only caveat: there's too much of it. I'd be happy to see a truncated, edited version of, say, only a million words or so.)

I confess I'm waiting to read the sequel in due course.

23:

Not for free, but it looks like Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country will become a series on HBO. It also looks like they're gender-swapping the villain and rearranging the plot from the book substantially, which should be interesting.

24:

To be fair, he's fairly open about it being an author tract. That was basically the point of writing it and the story was substantially improved when he revised some of the early sections to make it more clear that the protagonist is screwing up big-time and gets kicked about for arrogance that becomes the root of ongoing problems for him.

Though I got into an argument with the author re: the HEVP's refusal to become less skeptical about souls and afterlives upon encountering ghosts.... that bit really couldn't be justified.

25:

I listen to a lot of free specfic on various podcasts. The Escape Artists podcasts especially (Escape Pod for SF, PseudoPod for Horror, PodCastle for fantasy, and Cast of Wonders for mostly specfic YA). All SFWA qualified short fiction markets (donation supported.)

(bias disclaimer — I've worked in the slush pits for PseudoPod for a couple of years now… but was a happy listener to 'em all for many years before that :–)

26:

Bloody hell! I’ve never heard of Sam Hughes’ Ra before, so I took a look. Already at chapter 5 and I can see my evening going up in smoke already. Really compelling writing, love it. Thanks for the pointer.

27:
One final bit of fan fiction: Honor Among Thieves.

The finest piece of Weberian-inspired fanfiction is and always will be In Ovens Baked.

I would like to second Worm, join with those who are scratching their heads over the Taylor Varga recommendation and anti-recommend it myself, and say that HPMOR has aged VERY badly, has enormous pacing and characterization problems, and very clearly falls down at the end.

On the subject of fanfiction: trivia! Did you know that Steven Brust, of Dragaera fame, wrote a novel-length Firefly fanfic? It's true!

This is the only example I'm aware of of a professional author producing significant volume of fanfiction during, as opposed to prior to, becoming a professional author. Although I'm not that well-informed, so maybe there are others?

28:

For more free short fiction online, some other excellent magazines include:

I've read some excellent stories in all of these.

29:

Far and away the best part of HPMOR was the ongoing discussion of it while it was happening - So many hilarious theories being analyzed in a lively debate - just reading it without being part of that collective lunacy is no-where near as fun. I mean, still amusing, but.. not the same. No the other hand, you do get to binge it.

Things that are ongoing: Worth the candle - Portal fantasy / lit rpg at half a million words and counting, high update pace and well executed indeed. https://archiveofourown.org/works/11478249?view_full_work=true


Fantasy webcomic with gorgeous art and worldbuilding:
http://www.daughterofthelilies.com/dotl/part-1-a-girl-with-no-face

30:

Well, I'm sort-of willing - but the attractiveness of superhero fiction for me is only slightly greater than that of rereading Pilgrim's Progress. The reason that I dislike it is exactly the reason that I dislike a great deal of modern thrillers and science fiction:

They rarely think the premises through (Worm sounds like an exception), and I start getting irritated with inconsistencies very, very early.

They push the belief 'our' tribe is selected by the laws of the universe (or God) to dominate the world, and any opponents of it are totally evil and despicable.

Does the latter apply to Worm?

31:

No, Worm is full of supervillains who are doing what they perceive of as the right thing and superheroes who are sadistic bullies with good PR. Dead people remain deceased, abused people remain damaged, and horrendously nasty people do not suddenly redeem themselves once they've been reminded that they have been naughty.

32:

Thanks. I will take a look if it comes out in an Ereader format. I don't read online if I can help it, and 300 pages is too many to collate by hand. Yes, I could do it (and even automate it), but I need quite an incentive.

33:

This is what I used to read Worm as an e-book: worm-scraper (Github).

34:

Thanks very much. Ugh. Given its warnings and that my Ereaders are a bit kittenish with large books, I may script something similar myself. I have had to do that before.

35:

For those who enjoy very short fiction, I maintain a list of Twitter microfiction accounts (all free to follow or browse) here:
twitter.com/MicroSFF/lists/microfiction
(This list does not include my own account, which has around three thousand stories to date.)

36:

If we're including fantasy and webcomics, then Gunnerkrigg Court is excellent. My elevator pitch: Harry Potter with a female protagonist and better plotting.

http://www.gunnerkrigg.com

I like it enough that I've been buying the hardcover collections as they come out.


I'd also recommend Delilah Dirk:

http://www.delilahdirk.com

The first third of the first book is free, so you can decide if you like it before you buy. The second is being serialized (although I had it preordered as soon as I knew Tony Cliff was publishing it).


No one's mentioned Alice Grove yet:

http://www.alicegrove.com/page/220

(That links to the first page as the main page is the last one, with spoilers.) Without spoilers, just note that it's dedicated to the memory of Iain Banks.


And Stand Still, Stay Silent is a lighthearted post-apocalyptic webcomic with a distinct Nordic flavour.

http://www.sssscomic.com/

I'm keeping up with the webcomics, bought the first collection in hardcover, and backed the second on Kickstarter.

37:

As I just happen to have a virtual machine with recent nodejs running at the moment, grabbed.

Elderly Cynic: If you use Calibre there's a handy plugin for splitting large epubs into smaller chunks. I've used it a number of times to turn compilations back into individual volumes when my Nook barfs at the big omnibus file.

38:

Interestingly, the Kindle platform doesn't barf on long .mobi or .azw3 files — they got that right. (Might be something to do with selling omnibus editions of stuff like the entire Wheel of Time or Outlander series, never mind the Bible.)

39:

Seconding Shadow Unit. The characters also have livejournals.

Tor.com has a lot of free fiction. I went looking there for something I read recently, but it was on baen.com, which usually publishes one fiction and one nonfiction piece per month - the fiction is in support of a novel they'll sell you. Recommended: "Does a Bear Shoot in the Woods?" by Wen Spencer: https://www.baen.com/bearwoods . Baen also has free novels up, where the authors have chosen to make them available, often the first in a series: https://www.baen.com/categories/free-library.html

If you like the Ring of Fire series started by Eric Flint with the book 1632 (available for free at the Baen's Free Library), you can read the slush pile for ongoing stories for free if you make an account at bar.baen.com (Baen's Bar) and look for the 1632 Slush forum.

I am a fan of Ursula Vernon, who also writes for adults as T. Kingfisher. She has a lot of her stuff up for free - starting with the Hugo award-winning webcomic, Digger at diggercomic.com (starts here: http://diggercomic.com/blog/2007/02/01/wombat1-gnorf/). Website: http://www.redwombatstudio.com/, T. Kingfisher works at tkingfisher.com

40:

I suspect it's mostly old hardware running old software. The reader is a rooted Nook Simple Touch that I got for about 35 quid when B&N decided to get out of the hardware business. I'm vaguely on the look out for a replacement but I'd like something that's either vendor neutral from the start or that can be persuaded to be so after a mild kicking.

41:

AOL :-)

Mine is an original 7" Kobo, bought to see if they had finally become usable, and it's a bit unreliable (including doing spontaneous factor resets). But, every time I update it, Kobo makes the user interface worse, so I use an ancient copy of the file system to reset it. And, whenever I look for replacements, they are all horribly proprietary and gimmicky. What I want is something I can configure to be SIMPLE, and manage as a Linux machine from my desktop.

42:

Most of the free fiction available from Baen isn't great, especially the novels - the annual collections of short stories are among the better, and I have bought some fiction when I liked a story by an author (obviously the purpose!)

43:

"Micro-fiction"? Do you mean, like, what comes from a certain set of tiny-fingered hands every morning?

Or are we talking, like, The Shortest Horror Story In The World, or The Shortest Horror Story In The World, Shorter By One Letter Than The Shortest Horror Story In The World?

44:

Personally, I read a lot of stuff off RoyalRoad. It's a free site, so most of it's awful, but the best-rated stuff is really good. Mostly fantasy, but some sci-fi.

Amazon also has a lot of Kindle stuff at "nearly-free" price points (about $.99 to $3.99 for me) that's goodish. I mean- there are lots of bad ones, but there are lots of bad hardbacks, and I'm far more forgiving at a 99-cent price point.

45:

Once upon a time, SF novels were shorter. Slaughterhouse Five is actually just under the 50K word threshold that the Hugos use for novels. The reasons for the growth has been adequately covered here in the past.

That discussion of SF novel length that occurred on this blog back in 2008 is now looking decidedly dated - though it is a fascinating read regards the history (eg, Pournelle's comments).

I think free online SF works are seeing that most, as they are least constrained by fitting formats that sales channels permit. But it seem like both free and paid electronic consumption can favor some kind of "now click here for the next installment" approach, and at the same time physical size of books is becoming less important.

So we're also seeing commercial works serialized online as series of novellas - eg Well's "Murderbot Diaries", Bujold's "Pendric" Novellas, McGuire's "Wayward Children" novellas, all of which are sellingly nicely.

And then there's the crossover of freely serialized works going on to commercial published success once they're done, like "The Martian" or like pretty much any successful webcomic you can name.

46:

For a more specific location on project Gutenberg, here's their SF "bookshelf" (which admittedly be leaving some stuff out depending on how you define "science fiction."

http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Science_Fiction_(Bookshelf)

47:

Don't
Cameras have done this.
I used Olympus reflex's for years ..
Now I have a modern "Pen" digital - wonderful camera, superb optics ... but the digital whizz-kiddery means sometimes, I've touched a virtual control without realising it & it's bloody re-set itself.
It took me 2 days to stop it taking 3 or 4 pictures every time I pressed the shutter-button - I had to wait until I got home & read the manual off "this" screen to stop it.
Too clever by half

48:

Hmm, there have been a few "on-going serial fiction" recommendations so far, so might as well throw a couple more (really long ones...) in the ring that aren't on fiction collation sites:

A Practical Guide to Evil - Follow the rise of Catherine Foundling, an orphan on a Hero's Journey- as a capital-V Villain, in a world where the narrative fight between capital-G Good and capital-E Evil is baked into the structure of things, and winning a battle is as much arranging your narrative to counter the enemy's as it is tactics. Updates 3 times a week; is 175 chapters in.

The Gods are Bastards - The Age of Adventurers is dead, and socioeconomics killed it. A fantasy/western/hidden sci-fi serial following a group of pivotal students at essentially the world's only "adventurers university", in a fantasy world that has managed to sort itself out and accelerate into the late 1800s equivalent, both technologically and socially. Updates 3 times a week; is ~500 chapters and... somewhere towards the end of the end of act 2 of 3?

49:

Black Gate Magazine serialized the complete novel, The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells. It was a finalist for the Nebula award. It is a fantasy with unconventional characters, imaginative world-building, and a fast-paced plot with many unexpected twists.

The Death of the Necromancer, Part One
The Death of the Necromancer, Part Two
The Death of the Necromancer, Part Three
The Death of the Necromancer, Part Four
The Death of the Necromancer, Part Five

If you like it, please support the author and buy a copy, and maybe a few more for your friends and family, and their friends, and so on. There are ebook editions, audiobook, and translations. Information is on the author's web site: The Death of the Necromancer.

50:

If we're including fantasy and webcomics...

Definitely agreed about both Gunnerkrigg Court (ongoing) and Alice Grove (finished). So a few more suggestions for SF webcomics:

Alice Grove's setting is said to have no connection to that of Questionable Content by the same creator, which can look like a quiet slice-of-life comic for months until we're reminded of the robots, and the space industry, and the transhuman AIs...

Freefall is probably the best hard-SF webcomic on the net, and very good about putting people's issues ahead of gadgetry. (Few of the characters are human and many of them are gadgets.) There are pithy asides but they don't get in the way of the ongoing story.

I expect everyone is at least aware of Schlock Mercenary, a one stop source for your Mil-SF comic needs.

The above are still ongoing; for a complete story, try A Miracle of Science, truthfully advertised as "mad science, space battles, robots, and true love." I enjoyed it a lot; this will either be your thing or it won't.

51:

I gave up on Kobo devices when my Touch started playing silly b's with my Mac. I now have an Icarus - an Android device that's vendor-neutral. It can be a bit flaky (make sure you keep the original USB cable), but now I've configured Calibre to do a heirachical export (so I get a sensible file structure Genre/Author (or Lead Author)/series & Index/(subseries & index)/title) it's much easier.

As I use a multiplicity of sources for ebooks, I have to use Calibre as a consolidator, otherwise I'd be messing around with different devices all the time (where did I get that book in the series from?)

52:

Thanks. I will look at that. I convert everything to Epub and use a script of my own, but it's not ideal. I use Airdroid on my tablet, which is much better.

53:

Webcomics: I like Out Of Placers

http://www.valsalia.com/comic/prologue/01/

It's a somewhat-crapsack fantasy-type world with humans and non-humans (and well-imagined non-humans at that) and no magic. Well, no magic until... It's an ongoing series but with quite slow production (about a page a month depending).

54:

How did I miss mentioning The Fall of Doc Future at http://docfuture.tumblr.com/post/62787551366/stories

and Seanan McGuire's Incryptid stories at http://seananmcguire.com/icshorts.php (a few others from other streams can be found around her site).

55:

Thirding Worth the Candle. The author writes under a few pseudonyms, including “Alexander Wales,” and cthulhuraejepsen, and he's published a number of other interesting works. His writing has improved significantly, and Worth the Candle is his best work.

He also has stuff on fanfiction.net

I generally find his Reddit comments interesting. He also posts there as cthulhuraejepsen.

56:

On Twitter, "microfiction" commonly means stories that fit into a single tweet (originally 140, currently 280 characters). An example by @ASmallFiction:

"Dad, could you turn a light on?" she asked.
"Monsters?"
"Yes."
"OK."
"Still scared?" she whispered.
"No, thank you," the monster said.

57:

Reddit writingprompts can occasionally have some surprisingly good short stories and is often worth a browse.

https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/top/?t=all

58:

Every week Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a short at http://kriswrites.com/ .

59:

If you like the idea of a fictional TV show there is skirmish set on miniature rules 7TV (http://www.crooked-dice.co.uk/wp/) designed to simulate British action /adventure / sf shows from the 60's 70's


for example


Danger 5 Set in a bizarre, 1960s inspired version of World War Two, Australian action comedy TV series DANGER 5 follows a team of five spies on a mission to kill Adolf Hitler!


Or Department X Led by super spy Hugo Solomon, Department X operates in secret to deal with alien and unexplained threats to Great Britain.


Its worth buying the rules for the spot on fake radio times listing pages which for those of us old enough :-)

I now want to do a Landry files faction ;-)

60:

Ra.
Thanks.

The ending has been abandoned and a new one is being constructed.
I'll go back and read that, didn't read the original which I gather is still around.

61:

How did I miss mentioning The Fall of Doc Future at http://docfuture.tumblr.com/post/62787551366/stories

Thanks for reminding me of that. I was looking for something to read last night and re-reading Doc Future's tales was just what I needed.

For more nonstandard superhero fare (and also free on the net), have you seen the Super Powered series by Drew Hayes? The tale covers the college careers of aspirant superheroes - and some complications. It's complete and at http://www.drewhayesnovels.com/superpowereds/

62:

qntm also has an excellent series of short stories on the SCP Foundation wiki about antimemes, or self-censoring information ( http://www.scp-wiki.net/we-need-to-talk-about-fifty-five ).

The SCP Foundation more broadly is a huge collaborative CC-BY-SA horror/sci-fi writing project about a fictional paranormal containment organization. It has almost almost 4,000 short stories structured as bureaucratic reports about paranormal objects, and has many other traditional or untraditional stories to boot. The writing is generally higher quality than some fan projects due to robust critique/feedback and voting systems.

63:

Not free free, but accessible via the big river and others. A few years ago an expat Ukrainian friend recommended the novels of another expat Ukrainian from Odessa who lives in St Petersburg and writes (in Russian) as Max Frei. There are good English translations, however, and it's a sort of cross between Fritz Lieber, Henning Mankell and JK Rowling.

64:

Michael Shreeves @62

Looking at your post I see that you did warn there were 4000 short stories at the site. That didn't hit me until I read the sample story you linked to.

Now it's too late. I've read that story. I known that there are more stories on the site.

There are some thoughts that once thought cannot be unthought.

I am lost. HA!

65:

Viktor Pelevin's work is available at his site. Scroll down for a handful of English translations. I recommend you start with this. It's an excellent book about heroism, as experienced by unwilling everyday heroes. My Russian is too weak to enjoyably read in original form but if yours is better definitely prefer that.

66:

There's a community around high-quality short horror fiction, mostly on reddit, spawned from the need to provide new stories to be adapted to radio play for the horror fiction podcasts that started as creepypasta dramatic-readings. (The oldest and biggest is NoSleep, iirc.) I've contributed one of my stories to The Signal (a smaller one of these along the same model, trying and mostly failing to get off the ground). There's a lot of content there, and while it's generally of better quality than the stuff on the creepypasta wiki, it's not exactly Unsong-tier most of the time.

(I contributed to The Signal for size reasons. My stories are too long for the flash-fiction subreddits but too short for NoSleep & its peers, and also violates NoSleep rules intended for suspension of belief.)

67:

There seem to be a series of "short" - usually 10-15 mins films on You Tube
Some are quite good:
https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=SF+short+film

68:

Don't forget the Baen CDs, zip files are still available here: http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/. (There are other places, but they are less legitimate as they include CDs no longer available.)

69:

To expand on that.

CGBros

DUST

Oats Studios

Then there is my favorite short:

The Leviathan -- Teaser

Then for fun, there is the free software Blender and the various films they have, plus their lessons.

Blender

And for the classic, you have hours of watching Bob Ross paint. He was amazing.

Bob Ross

70:

Given today's sad news here are some freebies from Harlan Ellison RIP.

https://www.freesfonline.de/authors/Harlan_Ellison.html

71:

Two sites I use regularly and haven't spotted in the above:

Free Speculative Fiction Online: mainly short stories, some novels, written word & audio. Not sure why it's a German site, all the titles are English language.

https://www.freesfonline.de/Authors.html

fadedpage: free ebooks that are out of copyright under Canadian law (life +50). Overall a mix of fiction, non-fiction and drama, total number of titles approx. 4,000, of which fantasy 100, SF roughly 220

https://www.fadedpage.com/index.php

72:

This is the best thing I've read recently. It's multi-media and apparently about the future of American (gridiron) football. But not really.

https://www.sbnation.com/a/17776-football

73:

Where would you start with that list? Thus far I've only read Blindsight (loved it) and Echopraxia (thought it failed to live up to its potential).

74:

I'd start with his short fiction. Malak, The Things, A Word for Heathens…

75:

Depends on what you are into really as there is quite a range. Personally I think "A word for heathens" is well worth a read, and I have a soft spot for old horror movies so I always have time for "The Things".

There are a few fleshing out the blindsight/echopraxia universe as well. "The Colonel" and ZeroS both feature someone you may recognise.

And I really want to see how the Sunflowers sequence comes together. I haven't read the freeze frame revolution yet but it's near the top of my list.

76:

>I'm going to go with the consensus on "Worm" — if you're willing to look at superhero fic at all, then this is good stuff.

At all? But Charlie, I distinctly remember you being a fan of Empowered, a great superhero fic. Which is now available for free in webcomic form: http://www.empoweredcomic.com/

77:

I'd like to say thanks to whoever mentioned Worth The Candle.

I've been enjoying it immensely and am almost up to date. Despite that I don't really like reading on a computer (too sedentary for my health - I'm supposed to be moving around more) it's been educational as well as entertaining, offering a window into a whole world that I knew nothing about.

78:

The threats and personal attacks won't be allowed here, either.

79:

I'd definitely recommend a webcomic called "Strong Female Protagonist, which starts here:

http://strongfemaleprotagonist.com/issue-1/page-0/

And here's "A Girl and Her Fed," which has a lot to say about our surveillance state, with ghosts:

http://www.agirlandherfed.com/1.1.html

I'd heartily agree with anyone who recommends "Freefall."

I posted one of my fanfics, set in the Starfire (game) universe here. It's not so much military scifi as it is political satire:

https://archiveofourown.org/works/14172282

80:

S E F @ 1197 in "Pivot " thread
You have now shut comments down?

Pity as some of the subjects & respondents (esp sleepingroutine & davidshiply) were definitely different & interesting.

Please re-open after a suitabke interval?

81:

Sean Eric Fagan in "Pivot" thread ...
You have closed comment off, I presume...
I note that a certain seagulk didn't take the hint.

Pity, because we have (had?) some interesting viewpoints from new contributors, even if we disagree with them:
sleepingroutine & davidshipley respectively.

P.S.
JBS @ 1212 in the other thread is also of interest

82:

I agree about the first two. The multinominal one used to be interesting, and the abuse was generic and ignorable, but the effort/risk factor in decoding her was pretty awful; but, recently, she has gone badly downhill.

83:

Following comments here, I have sort-of read Worth the Candle, but I am afraid that I dissent. The magic etc. were very interesting variations, but about half way through I got pissed off at the way that it was dragging on and started skipping. Having reached the end (there was no real conclusion), I confirmed my suspicions that it didn't have a structured plot.

It had also adopted up an aspect that I dislike about 'milSF' and quite a lot of modern adventure and detective fiction - the slaughter/sadism porn sequences. Yes, I know that I am unusual in regarding sex porn as more acceptable than slaughter/sadism porn, but I have both logical and emotional reasons for that.

84:

Long time lurker
Want to recommend 365 Tomorrows
https://365tomorrows.com/

Flash fiction always good sometimes great a quick read every day.

85:

No one's mentioned Seat 14C yet, so here:

http://seat14c.com

Basic premise: a flight of the Pacific disappears and shows up years later. What happens next?

Some good, some bad. All free.

86:

Excuse me if I'm out of line, off topic or whatever, but are comments closed for The Pivot?

I went back there this afternoon to thank a couple of people for their help and there's no longer a [reply] button. So I'll just say thank you to Allen Thomson & Robert Prior here.

87:

May I repeat the polite request to re-open "Pivot" comments?
I realise Charlie has family problems ( I do hope it's not "F" ) - but some of us would like to carry on, provided the stream-of-consciousness is nit disrupted by ... well... you know.

88:

Robert Prior @ 85:

"No one's mentioned Seat 14C yet, so here:
http://seat14c.com
Basic premise: a flight of the Pacific disappears and shows up years later. What happens next?
Some good, some bad. All free."


Are they adding any new stories to that?

89:

You are part of the reason it was closed.

It's back open for now, but any personal commentary, any threats, it gets shut down again. Is this not clear?

90:

And that includes threats to [what most here consider to be] imaginary entities as well, I presume (and as Sean requested in that thread), since the last comment I saw (captured, 'cause am information junkie) was directed towards the puppetmasters of droopy-eyed meat puppets. (For those of a sci-fi bent (that should be us!), a metaphor could be politically active Archons. Definitely worth reading as free sci-fi. :-)

91:

Moi?
I THINK I see what you mean, though, I hope to get it correct - heading over to the other thread .....

92:

I realise Charlie has family problems ( I do hope it's not "F" )

My father died on July 20th last year.

There's a very good chance that my mother won't make it to July 20th this year.

So I'm kind of preoccupied elsewhere at present.

93:

NOT good.
Keep "buggering on" & good luck with it.
There actually, is't a lot anyone can say under the circumstances, so I won't ......

94:

My sympathies. Even when the emotion has drained out, it's still stressful.

95:

Oh Charlie, I am so sorry.

96:

Been there, lost those, that they no longer suffer is cold comfort. You have my condolences.

97:

I hope she will be content and if she passes that she will do so easily & without pain. Our thoughts will be with you.

98:

I was thinking that might be the case; my personal association was Orphan Year by NOFX, which is about losing both parents in the same year, though in every other regard it's totally different.

Personally, well...

"We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born." - Richard Dawkins

99:

No idea if new stories are appearing. I haven't finished everything there, but that could be lack of spare time and too much else to read.

Still, worth visiting if someone hasn't seen it yet.

100:

My deepest sorrow. Been there some years ago.

102:

A Chinese filmmaker has made a feature film from security camera footage. It's called Dragonfly Eyes. It's ... different.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0fedg-Skns

103:

Neat story. Thanks.

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