All of’s Original Short Fiction Published in 2021 |

All of’s Original Short Fiction Published in 2021

Since launching in 2008,’s short fiction program has been producing touching, funny, and thought-provoking stories, and this year was no different! In 2021, we published 15 original short stories, another 15 novelettes, plus one novella. These 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!


Short Stories


Let All the Children Boogie” by Sam J. Miller

Edited by Jonathan Strahan
Illustrated by J Yang
Published January 6, 2021

As the Cold War stalls and the threat of nuclear warfare dominates the news, small-town misfits Laurie and Fell bond over a shared love of music and the mystery of the erratic radio messages that hint at the existence of a future worth reaching out for.


#Selfcare” by Annalee Newitz

Edited by Lindsey Hall
Illustrated by Rebekka Dunlap
Published January 19, 2021

In a near-future San Francisco where the gig economy has made work more precarious than ever, Edwina is an average twenty-something scrambling to hold down her job with a major skin care brand. Until her awful boss does something you should never do—angers the fae on social media—and the struggles of her job take on an even nastier shade.


The Tyger” by Tegan Moore

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by Dion MBD
Published February 24, 2021

“The Path Through Time” is Jules’s favorite part of the museum, a marvelous exhibit that brings the past to life, from the present all the way back to the prehistoric. Tonight at his aunt’s wedding reception as Jules walks along the path, it comes alive like never before.


Masquerade Season” by ‘Pemi Aguda

Edited by Ann VanderMeer
Illustrated by Akem
Published March 24, 2021

Pauly is a good son. When he brings home three beautiful Masquerades, he’s expecting that his mother will be proud of him. But when his mother begins asking favors of his Masquerades, he realizes that being a good son sometimes means disobeying.


Annie Without Crow” by Michael Swanwick

Edited by Johnathan Strahan
Illustrated by Wylie Beckert
Published April 7, 2021

An act of indiscretion from her immortal trickster companion sends Annie and her league of ladies-in-waiting on a time-defying adventure that becomes the inspiration for William Shakespeare.


Blood in the Thread” by Cheri Kamei

Edited by Ruoxi Chen
Illustrated by Reiko Murakami
Published May 12, 2021

Nothing tears two women apart like the men who want and take indiscriminately. In this retelling of “The Crane Wife”, a makeup artist and her actress lover struggle to stay together as the glitz and glamour of old Hollywood transforms into a cruel and manipulative beast that threatens to pluck them apart.

Content warning: This story contains fictional depictions of domestic violence.


An Easy Job” by Carrie Vaughn

Edited by Ann VanderMeer
Illustrated by Eli Minaya
Published June 9, 2021

Graff’s official role is muscle for the Visigoth – but his personal mission is internally cataloguing all of his experiences to relay to the other beings from his home planet when they cross paths. His professional life rarely clashes with his identity, but when he realizes his newest job is to take down one of his kind, everything becomes a bit less simple.


The Far Side of the Universe” by noc

Edited by Ruoxi Chen, Lindsey Hall
Illustrated by Scott Bakal
Published June 16, 2021

When young Ira arrives for her appointment, she is prepared to be transported to The Gateway to Heaven, 6,070 light years away. But the technicians shepherding her through the process fear there’s more to it than what’s advertised.

“The Far Side of the Universe” was translated from Chinese by Michelle Deeter.


Black Leg” by Glen Hirshberg

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by Robert Hunt
Published July 14, 2021

Haunted by stories he hears while on jury duty, a documentary filmmaker finds himself in an abandoned mall at the dead of night.


The Wonderful Stag, or The Courtship of Red Elsie” by Kathleen Jennings

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by John Jude Palencar
Published September 1st, 2021

In a fairy tale equal parts gorgeous and gruesome, village couples seek approval for marriage from a stag with golden rings adorning its horns. That is until one suitor, determined to convince a woman to fall in love with him, makes a rash decision.


The Station of the Twelfth” by Chaz Brenchley

Edited by Johnathan Strahan
Illustrated by Gregory Manchess
Published September 8, 2021

In this Martian city, each stop along the monorail has a purpose behind its namesake. However, none are quite like the Station of the Twelfth, and if you decide to visit, you’ll be sure to learn why.


Sand” by Jasmine Kirkbride

Edited by Lee Harris
Illustrated by Juan Bernabeu
Published October 13, 2021

When Suzy was born, her parents filled her mouth with sand. But this is normal and natural and the way things are always done.

And if she finds it uncomfortable to keep it there, to eat with it there, to talk with it there, she’s just going to have to learn to live with it.

“Sand” is a heart-wrenching tale about generational trauma and healing.


A Better Way of Saying” by Sarah Pinsker

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by Ashley Mackenzie
Published November 10, 2021

The year is 1915, and a young man hired to shout the words on title cards for silent films experiences the magic of movies. This spurs him to edit some of the worst dialog, leading him in a weird direction that utterly changes his life.


The Tinder Box” by Kate Elliot

Edited by Emily Goldman
Illustrated by Katie Ponder
Published December 1st, 2021

“One spark. Two sparks. Three. This is what it takes to ignite a revolution.”

A reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairytale, “The Tinder Box” tells the story of a witch at the heart of an incipient rebellion—and all of those to come.




Shards” by Ian Rodgers

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by Greg Ruth
Published January 27, 2021

A group of five friends rent a cabin in the woods—the next day only four are alive. What happened and why is something the survivors are desperate to unravel.


Across the Dark Water” by Richard Kadrey

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by
Published February 3, 2021

An uncontrollable plague has left the city in ruins and trapped in perpetual quarantine. A thief hires a guide to lead him safely through the city’s many dangers to the one person who can give him the travel papers he needs to escape.


Judge Dee and the Three Deaths of Count Werdenfels” by Lavie Tidhar

Edited by Johnathan Strahan
Illustrated by Red Nose Studio
Published February 10, 2021

Judge Dee is back to solve a brand-new case involving the mysterious death of the vampire Count Werdenfels. The mystery? Who killed him. The twist? Three different people are proudly proclaiming to have committed the crime.


#Spring Love, #Pichal Pairi” by Usman T. Malik

Edited by Johnathan Strahan
Illustrated by Hazem Asif
Published March 3, 2021

A series of interviews between a young, clean-cut journalist and an alternative, independent pichal pairi turns into an unexpected romance. But their relationship is tested when the entire world around them shuts down.


The Lay of Lilyfinger” by G.V Anderson

Edited by Emily Goldman
Illustrated by Sija Hong
Published May 5, 2021

An acclaimed musician and her apprentice travel to the newly freed country of Skinnere to play a complex and culturally fraught song that will lay bare the wounds of empire, occupation, and sacrifice of its players and listeners.


The Red Mother” by Elizabeth Bear

Edited by Johnathan Strahan
Illustrated by Gregory Manchess
Published June 23, 2021

Auga, a wandering sorcerer, follows his brother’s fate-thread into the village of Ormsfjoll, where he expects to deliver good news and continue his travels. What he doesn’t anticipate is that to meet his brother he must first contend with the truth at the heart of the volcano that wreaks havoc on Ormsfjoll.


Now We Paint Worlds” by Matthew Kressel

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by Scott Bakal
Published July 27, 2021

Orna, a representative of a universe-wide trade union, undergoes a drastic change in perspective while investigating the disappearance of three planets and their inhabitants on a newly terraformed world.


Skin Deep” by Alan Brennert

Edited by George R.R. Martin
Illustrated by Micah Epstein
Published July 21st, 2021

In Alan Brennert’s “Skin Deep,” we see for the first time the events of September 15, 1946 from the viewpoint of someone living on the West Coast of the United States. Trina Nelson is a pretty, popular sixteen-year-old high school student whose idyllic life took a turn for the tragic because of the Wild Cards virus. Now, she wants nothing more than to live out her days in the shadowy anonymity of the Jokertown on the Santa Monica Pier. But life, it turns out, has still another wild card to deal Trina…


Aptitude” by Cooper Shrivastava

Edited by Ann VanderMeer
Illustrated by Kellan Jett
Published August 4, 2021

Alena has momentarily escaped her world and its imminent gravitational collapse by cheating her way into the selection process of the Board of Cosmogamy. By passing this stringent exam, she may finally learn the secrets of building a universe from first principles. But the competition is smarter and better prepared, and even Alena’s cunning and mathematical talents may not be enough to uncover the answers she has been looking for. The appearance of a strange competitor reveals that Alena may not be the only candidate with hidden motives.


The Future Library” by Peng Shepard

Edited by Ann VanderMeer
Illustrated by Mark Smith
Published August 18, 2021

More than a hundred years from now, an arborist fighting to save the last remaining forest on Earth discovers a secret about the trees—one that changes not only her life, but also the fate of our world. Inspired by the real-life “Future Library,” a long-term environmental and literary public art project currently underway in the Norwegian wilderness.


L’Esprit de L’Escalier” by Catherynne M. Valente

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Illustrated by Carissa Susilo
Published August 25, 2021

In this provocative and rich retelling of the Greek myth, Orpheus, the musician son of Apollo and Calliope, successfully rescues his wife Eurydice from Hades after her untimely death.


Judge Dee and the Poisoner of Montmartre” by Lavie Tidhar

Edited by Jonathan Strahan
Illustrated by Red Nose Studio
Published September 15th , 2021

Judge Dee returns to solve a new case involving a Parisian party gone wrong. But this time? Everyone in attendance is a suspect, including the judge himself.


Questions Asked in the Belly of the World” by A. T. Greenblatt

Edited by Jonathan Strahan
Illustrated by Rebekka Dunlap
Published September 29, 2021

For the residents of this mycological ecosystem, creating art feeds the World around you and requires working in harmony with your inner voice. When one artist’s voice begins screaming, he’s forced to travel farther than he ever has before to reconcile with the noise in his head and find his true place in society before it’s too late.


Small Monsters” by E. Lily Yu

Edited by Johnathan Strahan
Illustrated by Armando Veve
Published October 20, 2021

All its life, a small monster with emerald scales has been a source of never-ending food to larger and more powerful creatures who feast on the small monster’s limbs each time one regrows. This is the story of how the small monster meets an industrious artist and re-forms into someone new—someone who can’t be eaten.Content warning for fictional depictions of physical and emotional abuse.


Baby Teeth” by Daniel Polansky

Edited by Carl Engle-Laird
Illustrated by
Published October 27, 2021

A forlorn teenager’s monotonous life is interrupted when a stranger draws him into the hunt for a vampiric serial killer. He will learn that while monsters are much more real than he thought, there is no such thing as heroes.



Ripple Effects” by Laura J. Mixon

Edited by George R. R. Martin
Illustrated by Micah Epstein
Published May 19, 2021

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

Nine years after the ace John “The Candle” Montaño first wielded his fire powers as a teenager on the reality TV show “American Hero”, he’s landed a job as the lead investigator for a prestigious arts insurer. His latest assignment, providing security for a traveling art show featuring Satchmo’s golden trumpet, threatens to be a disaster when some of John’s long-buried secrets come calling with a vengeance.



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