April 15, 2024

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Olivia Rehberger reviews seven exciting Sci-Fi short stories

Maybe you’ve just finished school, maybe you had a bad break up with a partner, or maybe you have just been staring into the night sky for a little too long. At one time or another everyone has to take a step back and freak out just a little. The world is big and scary and space is even bigger and scarier. The beauty of science-fiction short stories comes from their ability to handle mind-melding philosophical queries in easy to digest doses. You don’t have to read Dune or speak Klingon to appreciate the genre. 

The following stories are all freely available online. So get in your comfiest chair, pull up your laptop, and get ready to dive into some of these most mind blowing stories out there. 

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omealas by Ursula K. Le Guin 

Set in the Utopia of Omealas where there is no law, no war, and no suffering, some struggle with the price of heaven. Winning the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1974, The Ones Who Walk Away is an excellent opener to the author’s larger work.  

The Last Question by Isaac Asimov  

This story focuses on the conversations between people and their supercomputers spanning trillions of years and all asking one question. A study in how humanity may change and yet always stay the same.  

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison 

Brutal and horrifying, this story chronicles the torture of the last five people left on the planet after a computer intended to serve humans takes over. A warning: This story contains sexual themes and explicit bodily horror.  

Exhibit Piece by Philip K. Dick 

Set 200 years in the future, George Miller is a researcher obsessed with the 20th century. As the story progresses, history and reality begin to blur when he steps into his museum exhibit. Another amuse bouche to an absolutely brilliant science-fiction writer.  

They’re Made Out of Meat by Terry Bisson 

The shortest of these short stories, They’re Made out of Meat illustrates one conversation between two unknown characters, startled by the human condition.  

Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut 

What does it take to make all people truly equal? Set in 2081 where everyone has their best qualities handicapped, this is the story of the strongest, smartest man in the world.  

Zima Blue by Alastair Reynolds 

This story, which was subsequently adapted into my personal favorite episode of “Love, Death + Robots”, explores the evolution of humanity through the lens of a thousand-year-old reporter with memory technology and one artist obsessed with a specific shade of blue.  

I hope the above stories help you dip a toe into the absolutely fantastic genre that is science fiction. There is something for everyone here and the deeper you dive the more wonderful worlds you will find. Have fun and happy reading!