Since launching in 2008, Tor.com’s short fiction program has been producing touching, funny, and thought-provoking stories, and this year was no different. In 2019, we published 14 original novelettes and 22 short stories that ran the gamut from hard science fiction to epic fantasy, from horror to steampunk, from fairy tales to space opera. We’ve rounded them all up below, and you can also find Tor.com Publishing’s impressive output of novellas and novels here.
We are tremendously proud of our authors, illustrators, and editors for creating such wonderful short fiction this year. We hope that you will nominate your favorites for the Hugos, Nebulas, and other upcoming awards which honor outstanding works of science fiction, fantasy, and horror—but most of all, we hope that you have enjoyed reading these stories as much as we have!
“The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir” by Karin Tidbeck
Life on the transdimensional ship Skidbladnir is a strange one. The new janitor, Saga, finds herself in the company of an officious steward-bird, a surly and mysterious engineer, and the shadowy Captain. Who the odd passengers are, and according to what plan the ship travels, is unclear. Just when Saga has begun to understand the inner workings of Skidbladnir, she discovers that something is wrong. Skidbladnir is sick. And it’s up to her and the engineer to fix it.
“Beyond the El” by John Chu
Connor is a food crafter just getting back into the business after his mother’s death. To cope with his grief, Connor spends day after day recreating her potstickers, but they are never quite what he remembers. To move on with his life, he will have to confront his past.
“Articulated Restraint” by Mary Robinette Kowal
Being a Lady Astronaut means being twice as dedicated, and twice as good as everyone else. And sometimes, handling a test run that has turned deadly serious. Mary Robinette Kowal visits an off-stage incident in her The Calculating Stars series.
“The Song” by Erinn L. Kemper
A powerful near future story about two people on a whale-processing rig: one a researcher, the other a worker—and the discovery they make by listening to whale song.
“Old Media” by Annalee Newitz
The story of a freed slave and a robot professor, trying to figure out what it means to be in love while they watch old anime from the 21st century. “Old Media” is a companion story to the Lambda Literary Award-winning novel Autonomous.
“Knowledgeable Creatures” by Christopher Rowe
A dog detective is hired by a female human to investigate a murder that she committed. But of course, all is not as it seems.
“Blue Morphos in the Garden” by Lis Mitchell
When Vivian and her daughter witness the family matriarch die without leaving a corpse, Vivian can no longer ignore the family “gift” or the choice that lies before her.
“Painless” by Rich Larson
A man who can’t feel pain has been bioengineered to be a killing machine, but he refuses to give in to his fate.
“Mama Bruise” by Jonathan Carroll
A couple is concerned when their dog behaves increasingly bizarrely: first to their chagrin, and, eventually, to their alarm.
“Murder in the Spook House” by Michael Swanwick
A murder has been committed. Or has it? The eighth story in Michael Swanwick’s “Mongolian Wizard” series.
“Any Way the Wind Blows” by Seanan McGuire
As Tor.com departs from its longtime home, the iconic Flatiron building, we present this sweet farewell from Seanan McGuire.
“The New Prometheus” by Michael Swanwick
A being of monstrous origins tells his story. The ninth story in Michael Swanwick’s “Mongolian Wizard” series.
“Blood Is Another Word for Hunger” by Rivers Solomon
Anger is an energy. A young girl, a slave in the South, is presented with a moment where she can grasp for freedom, for change, for life. She grabs it with both hands, fiercely and intensely, and the spirit world is shaken.
“More Real Than Him” by Silvia Park
The beginnings of a tentative friendship between two roboticists complicate over career envy, female beauty, and a stolen robot designed to resemble a famous Korean actor.
“The Hundredth House Had No Walls” by Laurie Penny
A brand-new fairytale by Laurie Penny that delves into the inherent messiness of living our own stories, particularly when the people in our lives have stories of their own.
“The Vetting” by Michael Cassutt
A suspenseful near-future story about what happens during the vetting process of a researcher from the Middle East, who is trying to enter the US to continue his studies, and the immigration lawyer assigned to his case, who is dying of cancer.
“Water: A History” by KJ Kabza
The planet of Quányuán is arid to the point of being uninhabitable. Wetness is a concept left back on Earth. That doesn’t stop one elderly woman from stepping outside the safety of the colony whenever she can for the brief opportunity to fully experience the outside world.
“As the Last I May Know” by S. L. Huang
An alternate history short story looking at decisions and consequences, and what it takes to pull the trigger.
“In Xanadu” by Lavie Tidhar
How do immortal artificial intelligences defend themselves? With an air gap. With a security force that has no connection to anything that can harm them. With a young woman, trained to fight and to die who, along with her cohort must keep them safe. But In Xanadu things don’t always go as planned…
“The Touches” by Brenda Peynado
Salipa and Telo have perfect lives in the virtual reality world that humanity has retreated to after bacteria and viruses resistant to all medications take over the outside world. But when the robots that take care of their necessities in the dirty outside world start glitching, Salipa must figure out what it means to truly live if they can never return to the outside world.
“Precious Little Things” by Adrian Tchaikovsky
A prequel to the magical novella Made Things, out now from Tor.com Publishing.
“The Time Invariance of Snow” by E. Lily Yu
The Devil made a mirror. A physicist broke it and shards fell through reality and changed everything forever.
“His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light” by Mimi Mondal
An act of compassion puts a trapeze master in India on a collision course with a terrifying supernatural power.
“Circus Girl, The Hunter, and Mirror Boy” by JY Yang
As an orphaned sixteen-year-old, Lynette was haunted by the ghost of Mirror Boy, the drowned child who replaced her reflection. Ten years later, she’s built herself a new life, but all that is threatened when Mirror Boy returns, warning of danger. A hunter has come for both of them, and unless Lynette can figure out what’s going on, they will both perish.
“Deriving Life” by Elizabeth Bear
Love has no time limits, but life does. Elizabeth Bear gives us a future where life and love and identity have so many more options than they do today.
“How to Move Spheres and Influence People” by Marko Kloos
A brand-new Wild Cards story.
T. K. hates a lot of things, but at the moment, it’s how she becomes the #1 target during dodgeball at gym. Everything changes, however, when she discovers that she has the ace ability to direct spherical objects — and she makes her classmates pay! But her powers are made for more than petty revenge, as she soon discovers while on a family vacation.
“One/Zero” by Kathleen Ann Goonan
In war-torn Kurdistan, a group of traumatized orphans is given a gift that could change their lives and the lives of everyone in the world, while in Washington, DC, an elderly woman undergoes medical procedures that radically change her life.
“Long is the Way” by Carrie Vaughn and Sage Walker
A Wild Cards story.
Zoe Harris is a marked woman: in hiding for decades because of her connection to a terrorist attack on Jerusalem almost twenty years ago. One determined reporter, Jonathan Hive, stumbles upon a lead that takes him to the south of France to discover the truth. What he finds out is a lesson in how life can bring about the most unexpected miracles.
“Skinner Box” by Carole Johnstone
A disturbing science fiction story about a seemingly routine scientific mission to Jupiter that is threatened by the interpersonal relationships of its crew.
Content warning for fictional depictions of sexual content, including abuse and assault.
“A Forest, or a Tree” by Tegan Moore
Four young women go on a camping trip. Things slowly begin to go wrong.
“For He Can Creep” by Siobhan Carroll
A dark fantasy about Jeoffry, a cat who fights demons, a poet, who is Jeoffry’s human confined to an insane asylum, and Satan, who schemes to end the world.
“Seonag and the Seawolves” by M. Evan MacGriogair
A clan storyteller unfolds the tale of Seonag and the wolves, and the wolves and the waves.
“The City That Never Sleeps” by Walton Simons
A Wild Cards story.
All a hit man wants can be as simple as a bottle of bourbon and a time to dream, but when you’re Spector, the work never ends.
“Zeitgeber” by Greg Egan
For millions of years, life on Earth has taken its cues from the rising and setting of the sun, and for most of human history we’ve followed the same rhythm. But if that shared connection was broken, and we each fell under the sway of our own private clock, could we still hold our lives together? One family is about to find out.
“Naked, Stoned, and Stabbed” by Bradley Denton
A Wild Cards story.
Freddie’s looking for answers. Freddie’s also a bit unconventional: in his looks, in his music tastes, and oh yeah, he’s also a nascent ace who can manipulate sound. But he’s got a gig as a roadie for The Who and the opportunity of a lifetime in New York City. See, the only thing Freddie wants is the opportunity to meet his older half-sister — and not even a suspicious fire at the Bowery Ballroom can stop him.
“Dislocation Space” by Garth Nix
A Soviet political prisoner is ordered to use her unique talents to explore a strange scientific phenomenon. It could be a trap…or a way out.