There is no shortage of websites publishing fiction online, but which are worth reading? Here’s a recommendation: Lightspeed Magazine. Lightspeed is focused on science fiction and fantasy short fiction, author interviews, and story podcasts. Their published stories have been nominated for Hugos and Nebulas. Each story has a short “Author Spotlight” interview that accompanies it which is cool.
Lightspeed’s podcasts are mainly readings of their published stories with short introductions. The first one I listened to was The Cristobal Effect by Simon McCaffery. Simon has been publishing stories since the nineties. This story is basically a time travel for fun and profit tale. It puts a neat scifi wrapping around what is essentially a “what if James Dean had lived” fantasy. McCaffery’s writing is strong, reminding me a bit of Robert Silverberg for its terse yet artful prose and Harlan Ellison for its emphasis on nostalgia. Conceptually the story does not offer any mind-bending new sci-fi concepts but it feels original in its delivery and the portrayal of James Dean feels genuinely human. Well done.
The second story I listened to was called My Teacher, My Enemy by Kelsey Ann Barrett and was it ever a doozy! This tale resides in the fantasy category but I consider it more sci-fi. The story takes the reader inside the mind of a young woman through which we experience a strange future society. I was both repulsed and drawn into the precise and methodical descriptions of killing and subsequent evisceration her enemies. I began to find the gruesomeness a bit gratuitous for a few fleeting moments, but it soon all made sense; the horrifyingly realistic descriptions elucidate what this woman’s life entails. Without spoiling it, the main character is part of a sort of warrior class that fights naked and skins her victims in a completely ritualistic existence. The woman hears the voice of her teacher in her head, guiding her through each kill and subsequent flaying. A sense of foreboding pervades the tale as one anticipates the confrontation of teacher and student foretold by the story’s title. And even though you knew their meeting was coming, Barrett still managed to shock me. This is Barrett’s first published tale and hopefully the first of many of similar quality. Awesome.
Lightspeed Magazine is certainly worth a look. The site is a trove of free science fiction and fantasy in print and audio. I’ve sampled it, now I plan to dive deeper into it. You can also subscribe to their ebook for additional material not on the website.