All of Tor.com’s Original Short Fiction Published in 2020

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 2020, we published 20 original novelettes and 26 short stories, plus 8 flash fiction stories in collaboration with FIYAH Literary Magazine, that ran the gamut from hard science fiction to epic fantasy, from horror to dystopia, from fairy tales to space opera. We’ve rounded them all up below, and you can also find Tordotcom 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!

 


Flash Fiction

Breathe FIYAH is a flash fiction anthology created in collaboration between Tor.com and FIYAH Literary Magazine, co-edited by Brent Lambert and DaVaun Sanders.

These stories stand in testament to the power and vitality of Black voices in the face of centuries of institutionalized oppression. This flash fiction anthology features fantastical and science fictional imaginings of Black characters honoring forebearers and memories of the past, fighting the legacies that underpin the brutalities of the present, and demanding a future that’s freer than today.

In the words of co-editors Brent and DaVaun, “We must always give voice to that rage while refusing to let it destroy us.”

 

Sela, Thief” by Zabe Bent

Edited by Brent Lambert and DaVaun Sanders
Illustrated by Eli Minaya
Published on October 19th, 2020

Sela held her power tight, cranked up her headset, and sauntered into the corner market. She needed fixins for a relaxing night in her new apartment.

 

Conjurer’s Rites” by Jen Brown

Edited by Brent Lambert and DaVaun Sanders
Illustrated by Eli Minaya
Published on October 19th, 2020

I should know how to spell a Graves family gathering by now.

 

The Front Line” by WC Dunlap

Edited by Brent Lambert and DaVaun Sanders
Illustrated by Eli Minaya
Published on October 19th, 2020

My ass sticks to the thick, hot plastic seat of a waiting room chair that is unable to accommodate the spread of my hips. […] I glance around nervously, but no one’s looking. I’m just another big girl whose body has become armor.

 

The Friendship Bench” by Yvette Lisa Ndlovu

Edited by Brent Lambert and DaVaun Sanders
Illustrated by Eli Minaya
Published on October 19th, 2020

The young woman is driven to my Healing Hut by a question. She doesn’t need to ask it. Everyone who seeks out my services comes here as a last resort.

 

Here Sits His Ignominy” by Tobi Ogundiran

Edited by Brent Lambert and DaVaun Sanders
Illustrated by Eli Minaya
Published on October 19th, 2020

To the king across the Blue Sea, in his Hall of Stone.

Your Insufferable Majesty,

I know this letter did not find you well—it being in the excavated abdomen of your emissary.

 

We Come as Gods” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Edited by Brent Lambert and DaVaun Sanders
Illustrated by Eli Minaya
Published on October 19th, 2020

First, we come as servants. Who we were before this is not important: not the wars we may have fought in or ran from; not the academies we may have attended or not; not if we were once master or slave. All that matters, in the beginning, is that we are a people’s people…

 

teatime” by Zin E. Rocklyn

Edited by Brent Lambert and DaVaun Sanders
Illustrated by Eli Minaya
Published on October 19th, 2020

“A boy followed me home today. Crawled on his hands and knees. He was bloody and torn by the time I got the key in the lock. Poor thing.”

 

The Mystical Art of Codeswitching” by Sydnee Thompson

Edited by Brent Lambert and DaVaun Sanders
Illustrated by Eli Minaya
Published on October 19th, 2020

Omar lounged on his sectional, his face and body lit only by the blue glow of his phone’s screen, and pressed the Home icon in the app. […] He shifted to the What’s Trending tab and absorbed the chaos.

 


Short Stories

Something Fishy” by Harry Turtledove

Edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Illustrated by Red Nose Studio
Published on January 8th, 2020

A brand-new story from the legendary Harry Turtledove about Governor Bill Williamson, a yeti with a plan.

 

The Girlfriend’s Guide to Gods” by Maria Dahvana Headley

Edited by Ruoxi Chen
Illustrated by Wesley Allsbrook
Published on January 23rd, 2020

Gods won’t save you. Gods will break you. Nevertheless, you will persist. And become anew

 

The Case of the Somewhat Mythic Sword” by Garth Nix

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by Micah Epstein
Published on January 29th, 2020

Sir Magnus Holmes, cousin to the more famous Sherlock, is asked to investigate the appearance of an otherworldly knight carrying a legendary sword in the cellar of a Victorian London pub.

 

St. Valentine, St. Abigail, St. Brigid” by C. L. Polk

Edited by Ruoxi Chen
Illustrated by Alyssa Winans
Published on February 5th, 2020

All magical requests come with a price. A girl with witchcraft, no friends, and only her mother’s bees to confide in will pay whatever’s necessary to keep the girl she loves safe.

 

Manuscript Tradition” by Harry Turtledove

Edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Illustrated by Scott Bakal
Published on February 19th, 2020

Dr. Feyrouz Hanafusa is a curator at Yale in the 23rd century. Space exploration is still ongoing, and signs of life have been discovered on a planet near TRAPPIST-1. Signs, Dr. Hanafusa realizes, that suspiciously resemble drawings in the Voynich manuscript, which no one has been able to decipher for over eight hundred years.

 

Sinew and Steel and What They Told” by Carrie Vaughn

Edited by Ann VanderMeer
Illustrated by Eli Minaya
Published on February 26th, 2020

Graff has been keeping a big secret from his closest friends, the captain and crew of a pirate-hunting starship. He expected to die before they ever discovered what he really is. But he’s not dead, and now he has to explain.

 

Cosmic Crust” by Alex Sherman

Edited by Ann VanderMeer
Illustrated by Samuel Araya
Published on April 1st, 2020

In an apocalyptic, depopulated city, a young man named Bhu struggles to feed his ailing dog Lucy. Phan, the local pizza parlor owner, takes pity on Bhu and provides the meat Lucy needs so she can survive. But what exactly is in the meat? And how far is Bhu willing to go to save his dog?

 

Little Free Library” by Naomi Kritzer

Edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Illustrated by Chris Buzelli
Published on April 8th, 2020

Upon setting up her Little Free Library, Meigan develops an unexpected friendship with a mysterious book borrower.

 

An Explorer’s Cartography of Already Settled Lands” by Fran Wilde

Edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Illustrated by Cinyee Chiu
Published on April 22nd, 2020

One can’t set a course without a map. A ship’s navigator seeks to map a world already inhabited in order to find a space for their ship’s passengers to settle. In doing so, they find their course altered as the world and their place in it changes.

 

Anything Resembling Love” by S. Qiouyi Lu

Edited by Jonathan Strahan
Illustrated by Reiko Murakami
Published on April 29th, 2020

All her life Sylvia has made sure to never let anyone see the centipedes that emerge from her body. It’s gross and impolite. Until finally she reaches her breaking point. This is a speculative exploration of rape culture and hiding pain in favor of others’ pleasure.

Content warning for fictional depictions of sexual assault.

 

Benjamin 2073” by Rjurik Davidson

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by Scott Bakal
Published on May 13th, 2020

In the year 2073, humanity is making progress toward restoring the environment and fixing the mistakes of the past. Ellie has spent the last ten years going even further by working to resurrect the thylacine, extinct since 1936. But with no results and increasingly impatient bureaucrats threatening to pull their funding, the thylacine’s future—and Ellie’s—is in danger of reaching the point of no return.

 

Beyond the Dragon’s Gate” by Yoon Ha Lee

Edited by Jonathan Strahan
Illustrated by Max Loeffler
Published on May 20th, 2020

Former Academician Anna Kim’s research into AI cost her everything. Now, years later, the military has need of her expertise in order to prevent the destruction of their AI-powered fleet.

 

The Tourist” by Alex Sherman

Edited by Ann VanderMeer
Illustrated by Jun Cen
Published on May 27th, 2020

A young academic has been granted permission to travel to a mining outpost on a small planetoid far from the sun to study the culture of a small squatter population that lives in total darkness.

 

We’re Here, We’re Here” by K. M. Szpara

Edited by Carl Engle-Laird
Illustrated by Goñi Montes
Published on June 10th, 2020

Joining a boyband gave Tyler everything he ever dreamed of. A close-knit group of friends, the chance to model a beautiful masculinity, and a vocal implant that lets him sing even better than he did before transitioning. But deep on tour, Tyler realizes he wants more from one of his bandmates, yearns for a love that would never fit the image that has been carefully crafted for him. His manager wants him to be the heartthrob: available, wholesome, and pure. And since his manager gave Tyler his voice, he can always take it away again.

 

The Night Soil Salvagers” by Gregory Norman Bossert

Edited by Ann VanderMeer
Illustrated by Red Nose Studio
Published on June 24th, 2020

The Night Soil Salvagers no longer need to perform the service they have provided for longer than memory can account for. Instead, they pass the nights in playful and profound acts of artistry, music, trickery, gardening, and honoring the city they know and belong to more so than anyone. Uncover the heart of this mysterious community through the tales they tell each other, the tales that others tell of them, and the scores of their Dadaesque nocturnes, as they strive to lessen the burden of the city on the Earth.

 

Juice Like Wounds” by Seanan McGuire

Edited by Lee Harris
Illustrated by Rovina Cai
Published on July 13th, 2020

In the course of every great adventure, there are multiple side-quests.

All too often these go unreported—perhaps because the adventurers in question fail to return to the main narrative due to death or other distractions, and sometimes because the chronicler of the events decide to edit out that part of that particular history for reasons of their own (historians are never infallible)—but occasionally we get another window into our heroes’ world. In “Juice Like Wounds” we once again get to meet Lundy, and some of her companions. Lundy’s main adventure is detailed in In an Absent Dream (which is nominated for a Hugo Award, this year!) and you should definitely read that. Before or after this tale is up to you.

Remember: side quests are fun.

For the reader, at least…

 

Everything’s Fine” by Matthew Pridham

Edited by Ann VanderMeer
Illustrated by Samuel Araya
Published on July 15th, 2020

Eric’s day is off to a rough start: his regional managers are in town, he’s running late to work, the moon seems to be falling apart, and he just can’t seem to get his tie right. At least he has his priorities straight: it’s the little things that matter. The world may be plunging into chaos, the neighborhood children might be mutating into abominations, but that doesn’t mean he can let his standards slip. If he and his co-workers can survive their nightmare walk to the office, then Eric has a plan for success…

 

Flight” by Claire Wrenwood

Edited by Ann VanderMeer
Illustrated by Reiko Murakami
Published on August 19th, 2020

As a girl, Maggie dreamed of joining the Sisters, a group of women who enjoy the status and attention afforded by their beautiful wings. Now, years later, she has wings of her own. But an encounter in the woods forces her to reckon with her past—and the painful price her wings demanded.

Content warning for fictional depictions of sexual violence.

 

For Every Jack” by R. K. Duncan

Edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Illustrated by John Anthony Di Giovanni
Published on August 26th, 2020

Humanity has settled space and left Earth to its destruction. Connor and Ines have traveled back to Earth on a preservation project to find the human “jacks” that sacrificed their bodies to prop up the United States’s failing infrastructure. But the jacks hold a secret, one Connor would rather keep hidden than risk the truth being made public.

 

Wait for Night” by Stephen Graham Jones

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by Rebekka Dunlap
Published on September 2nd, 2020

A day laborer hired to clean up a flooded creek outside of Boulder, Colorado uncovers what could be a valuable find—if it doesn’t kill him first.

 

Hearts in the Hard Ground” by G. V. Anderson

Edited by Emily Goldman
Illustrated by Audrey Benjaminsen
Published on September 9th, 2020

Following the death of her mother, Fiona buys a new house in order to start a new chapter of her life, one with fewer reminders of painful memories. Unbeknownst to Fiona, this house has a melancholy history, and slightly more ghosts than she anticipated. In learning to live with her unexpected companions and their losses, Fiona might find a way to make peace with her own.

 

Solution” by Brian Evenson

Edited by Ann VanderMeer
Illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love
Published on September 16th, 2020

As climate change wreaks havoc on the earth and the fate of humanity grows dire, a scientist makes a plan to save humanity that would shame the devil.

 

The Ashes of Around Twenty-Three Strangers” by Jeremy Packert Burke

Edited by Ann VanderMeer
Illustrated by Sara Wong
Published on September 30th, 2020

The world doesn’t make sense. All rain has moved indoors, wrecking houses from the inside out while the skies remain cloudless. With ever greater devotion, people worship giant, inert, humanoid bodies as gods as civilization falls apart. Lucy, who has never been religious, has no way to properly mourn her brother after his untimely death. Now, a year later, she will travel south on a makeshift pilgrimage with the help of her best friend Carve, who was once himself a believer, trying to find peace and some better means of understanding the world.

 

Placed into Abyss (Mise en Abyse)” by Rachel Swirsky

Edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Illustrated by Keith Negley
Published on October 14th, 2020

Chris would rather be anywhere but here, cleaning out his deceased, hateful grandparents’ house with his relatives. Each room he visits takes him back in time to another traumatic memory. To escape this house and his grandparents and his past, he’ll need to take time travel into his own hands.

Content warning for fictional depictions of verbal, physical, and sexual child abuse.

 

Judge Dee and the Limits of the Law” by Lavie Tidhar

Edited by Jonathan Strahan
Illustrated by Red Nose Studio
Published on November 11th, 2020

No vampire is ever innocent…

The wandering Judge Dee serves as judge, jury, and executioner for any vampire who breaks the laws designed to safeguard their kind’s survival. This new case in particular puts his mandate to the test.

 

No Period” by Harry Turtledove

Edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Illustrated by Scott Bakal
Published on November 30th, 2020

A man sets out to tell a story of his ex, which in turns becomes a story of the world. If only he could change that story—find the moment where it all began and change the past. But what if he can’t find the beginning—or even the end?

 


Novelettes

Always Something New” by Harry Turtledove

Edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Illustrated by Red Nose Studio
Published on January 8th, 2020

A brand-new story from the legendary Harry Turtledove about Governor Bill Williamson, a yeti with a plan.

 

Tie A Yellow Ribbon” by Harry Turtledove

Edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Illustrated by Red Nose Studio
Published on January 8th, 2020

A brand-new story from the legendary Harry Turtledove about Governor Bill Williamson, a yeti with a plan.

 

How Quini the Squid Misplaced His Klobučar” by Rich Larson

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by John Anthony Di Giovanni
Published on January 15th, 2020

A dark, fast-moving novelette about a high-tech heist in future Spain, planned by a professional thief interested in revenge more than money. The object in question is in the hands of a dangerous crime lord.

 

If You Take My Meaning” by Charlie Jane Anders

Edited by Miriam Weinberg
Illustrated by Robert Hunt
Published on February 11th, 2020

As an ex-smuggler and two-time reluctant revolutionary, Alyssa is used to staring into the razor-sharp jaws of death. But now she’s embarking on the most terrifying adventure of her life—journeying into the darkness to become a new type of being, one who can help humanity to survive. And deep at the heart of the city in the middle of the night, the price of transformation could be higher, and more terrible, than Alyssa ever expected.

 

The Night Sun” by Zin E. Rocklyn

Edited by Diana Pho
Illustrated by Xia Gordon
Published on March 11th, 2020

Zin E. Rocklyn’s “The Night Sun” speaks to the darkness that manifests around us and in ourselves — but moreover, how justice can be found through the blood.

Content warning for fictional depictions of intimate partner violence, including physical assault.

 

The Visitor: Kill or Cure” by Mark Lawrence

Edited by George R. R. Martin
Illustrated by John Picacio
Published on March 18th, 2020

For over 25 years, the Wild Cards universe has been entertaining readers with stories of superpowered people in an alternate history.The visitor comes… but she needs to be invited in. Ever since she woke up in the hospital with the ability to generate heat,  Ruby Johnson, a.k.a the Dragon, has built a reputation as an unstoppable force of nature. She makes her living as an assassin for hire, but one day she comes across a benevolent ace whose powers she vastly underestimates.

 

Go Fish” by Ian Rogers

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by Goñi Montes
Published on April 15th, 2020

A team of psychic investigators are assigned to examine the grisly death of a night watchman in an abandoned fish processing plant.

 

Of Roses and Kings” by Melissa Marr

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by Ashley Mackenzie
Published on April 27th, 2020

In this dark, skewed take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice is now the Red Queen, and her maid must tread the fine line between favor and blame in this strange world.

 

Berlin Is Never Berlin” by Marko Kloos

Edited by George R. R. Martin
Illustrated by Micah Epstein
Published on May 6th, 2020

For over 25 years, the Wild Cards universe has been entertaining readers with stories of superpowered people in an alternate history.

“Berlin Is Never Berlin” by Marko Kloos draws upon the seedier side of the city, beyond the dance club lights and all-night parties, as one bodyguard with a certain feline distinction goes on the prowl….Khan only had one job: chauffeur and guard an American wealthy socialite and her friends. When his client Natalie Scuderi gets nabbed by the Georgian mafia, this joker-ace has no choice but to go underground and rescue her. “Losing the man’s daughter on the job would be a fatal black mark on his professional resume. Khan had never lost a client, and he wasn’t about to start a habit.

 

Two Truths and a Lie” by Sarah Pinsker

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by Chris Buzelli
Published on June 17th, 2020

Stella thought she’d made up a lie on the spot, asking her childhood friend if he remembered the strange public broadcast TV show with the unsettling host she and all the neighborhood kids appeared on years ago. But he does remember. And so does her mom. Why doesn’t Stella? The more she investigates the show and the grip it has on her hometown, the eerier the mystery grows.

 

The Ones Who Look” by Katharine Duckett

Edited by Carl Engle-Laird
Illustrated by Esther Goh
Published on July 1st, 2020

Ethical Empire built the gate to heaven, and their employees hold the keys. By offering custom-built afterlives through full-brain uploads, they answered the needs of a society pushed to the brink by climate change and cascading antibiotic failure. But for Zoe, who works daily to assess the sins of users and decide who’s worthy of salvation, heaven is not so simple. Despite the urging of the angels on her shoulder, she is determined to uncover heaven’s secrets, no matter the cost.

 

The Necessary Arthur” by Garth Nix

Edited by Jonathan Strahan
Illustrated by Dion MBD
Published on July 8th, 2020

Some days you find out that the world is nothing like what you think it is. An archaeologist named Tamara working near Hadrian’s Wall is approached by a very annoyed-looking, silver-haired woman with an incomprehensible message: The game is moving on, the time has come to play a hand, and Tamra is on point. Time to find the Necessary Arthur and get down to business!

 

Yellow and the Perception of Reality” by Maureen McHugh

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by Mary Haasdyk
Published on July 22nd, 2020

“Yellow and the Perception of Reality” by Maureen McHugh is a science fiction story about a woman who delves into the mystery of why and how her twin sister, a physicist, has been brain damaged in a lab accident in which two of her colleagues died.

 

The Mysterious Study of Doctor Sex” by Tamsyn Muir

Edited by Carl Engle-Laird
Illustrated by Gregory Manchess
Published on July 29th, 2020

Each of the Empire’s houses houses keeps secrets, even from themselves. For the bookish academics of the Sixth, every secret is a mystery, and every mystery is a puzzle to be solved or a paper to be published. Deep in the bowels of their house, one such secret is about to reveal itself. The study of the famed academic Donald Sex, sealed since the moment of his death, is about to open, and archivists are ready to dissect what he left behind. They are not ready for the macabre surprise that awaits. them.

Enter Palamedes Sextus and Camilla Hect, age thirteen.

 

Exile’s End” by Carolyn Ives Gilman

Edited by Jennifer Gunnels
Illustrated by Mary Haasdyk
Published on August 12th, 2020

“Exile’s End” is a complex, sometimes uncomfortable examination of artifact repatriation and cultural appropriation. An artifact of indescribable and irreplaceable beauty created by an “extinct” culture has been the basis of another culture’s origin stories. The race who created the artifact has survived on a distant world and has sent a representative to reclaim it, throwing everything into question.

Inspired by the SF camp in Danzhai, China, which is co-hosted by the Future Administration Authority (FAA) and Wanda Group.

The Perfection of Theresa Watkins” by Justin C. Key

Edited by Diana Pho
Illustrated by Eli Minaya
Published on September 23rd, 2020

Justin C. Key’s “The Perfection of Theresa Watkins” is a skillful speculative exploration of the intersection of race, mental illness, and the American prison system. Darius and Theresa Watkins confronted death once as fellow cancer survivors. Their lives are full and productive, their love a shield against Darius’s bouts of anxiety and Theresa’s occasional flare-ups. Yet when tragedy strikes, Darius will try everything to save his wife…even against his fears that she may have transformed into an entirely different person—literally.

 

City of Red Midnight: A Hikayat” by Usman T. Malik

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by Scott Bakal
Published on October 21st, 2020

In this spell-binding tale, a Pakistani storyteller captivates a group of wide-eyed tourists with a nesting doll of interlocked stories about a trickster and a hidden city ruled by the Queen of Red Midnight.

 

The Little Witch” by M. Rickert

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by Jon Foster
Published on October 28th, 2020

Every Halloween, an elderly woman hands out candy to a young trick-or-treater who’s dressed as a witch each time, looking exactly the same age. With each passing year, the woman grows more attached to the little witch and her odd nature. But she is no ordinary child, and an uncanny relationship develops between the two of them that may prove dangerous and deadly.

 

On Safari in R’lyeh and Carcosa with Gun and Camera” by Elizabeth Bear

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by Eric Nyquist
Published on November 18th, 2020

An academic’s whimsical decision to take a DNA test leads her into uncharted territory, where she discovers some extraordinary truths about herself and new possibilities for her future.

 

Hammer and Tongs and a Rusty Nail” by Ian Tregillis

Edited by George R. R. Martin
Illustrated by Micah Epstein
Published on December 2nd, 2020

For over 25 years, the Wild Cards universe has been entertaining readers with stories of superpowered people in an alternate history.

When a mysterious stranger approaches Wally Gunderson, a.k.a Rustbelt, about running for Jokertown City Council, he doesn’t think twice about it. His first move? Hiring an unlikely campaign manager – Mordecai Albert Jones, the Harlem Hammer. Together they’ll discover the ins and outs of local politics, and whether conspiracy theorist Sparkjob is actually crazy… or just on to something?

 

 

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