Do you like reading free stories? A lot of people, surprisingly, don’t know that many online magazines and journals provide free access to their content. And that’s why I’m here today. I’m about to open up a world of free story nuggets — and you will never be short of reading material again.
Since I’m a predominantly literary and speculative fiction writer, that’s what I tend to read. Literary journals typically require a subscription, but many will showcase one or two pieces from their latest or past issues. They are worth reading, especially if you’re thinking about sending a piece of your own.
Speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, and horror) magazines tend to have more content available for public consumption. Below I’ve taken the time to amass a list of a few of my favorite magazines that offer free and easily accessible fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.
Speculative fiction (horror, sci-fi, fantasy):
Daily Science Fiction: This online journal publishes science fiction and fantasy (and everything speculative in between) flash fiction. If you subscribe, you get a free story emailed to your inbox each weekday. That means a daily dose of 500-1500 words. But the entirety of their selection is available on their website.
Fantasy Scroll Magazine: This is a newer magazine (it only has three issues out), but I was delighted by one of the stories I read and have continued to read it since.
Strange Horizons: This magazine has a huge database of stories they’ve published, all accessible free of charge. From their site: “Strange Horizons is a magazine of and about speculative fiction and related nonfiction, and has been shortlisted for or won Hugo, Nebula, Rhysling, Theodore Sturgeon, James Tiptree Jr., and World Fantasy Awards.”
Tor.com: Tor.com is the short story version of Tor the publisher of novels and has a ton of quality fiction. One of their short stories won a Hugo this year, actually.
Clarkesworld Magazine: Clarkesworld publishes a new issue each month. The magazine itself has won the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine three times, and the fiction they’ve published has also seen a fair share of recognition. You can read stories freely on their website or pay the subscription fee and help support the magazine.
Abyss & Apex: You can find fiction, non-fiction, and poetry here. All of the spec-fic variety. They have a yearly subscription of only $5.00, but you can access stories and poetry online for free.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies: This magazine appeals to my personal taste as it distinctly publishes literary speculative fiction. My two favorite genres combined into one perfect package! If you’re like me, in that aspect, this magazine comes highly recommended.
(Note: All of the above-listed magazines, except for Fantasy Scroll Magazine, are publications counting toward membership with the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Also called the SFWA.)
Other Online Magazines/Journals
Narrative Magazine: This is not a speculative fiction magazine. But it’s one of my favorite literary magazines. They have a story and poem of the week, which you can get via their mailing list (or by accessing their website). As a normal (free) subscriber, you can read a huge amount of content. If you feel like paying the fee, you get what’s called a backstage pass, and you have free reign. But even if you opt not to pay, you won’t be disappointed with the stories available to you.
Flash Fiction Online: If you’re short on time — on break, reading something with your morning coffee, on the bus — this is the place to go. FFO is accepted by the SFWA, but I am putting it here because they actually publish more than speculative fiction. In fact, they pretty much publish any and every genre imaginable. No matter what you like to read, you’re sure to find something here that interests you.
In Conclusion . . .
I highly, highly suggest paying subscription fees to the magazines you love reading. It helps them fund their writers (and maybe eventually you, should you attempt to publish) and in turn allows them to continue providing you with great stories. But if you can’t afford to pay, then simply giving a shout out to the authors and magazines you love can help them a ton.