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The Greatest Science Fiction

Greatest Works | Greatest Short Stories

While the longer forms of writing, especially novels, tend to dominate the speculative fiction field, the shorter forms have played an enormous role in its development. For a long period during the so-called Golden Age of science fiction, the short story ruled, feeding the numerous periodicals established for the burgeoning market of science fiction readers. Many of those magazines are long gone now but a good number of writers in the field continue to hone their crafts in the shorter form for publication in periodicals, anthologies and their own story collections.

This list was split off from the main list of the Greatest Science Fiction Works to focus on the most acclaimed short stories in the field, past and present.

For our purposes we define short stories as generally having fewer than 17,500 words. A prose work longer than that is usually called a novella or a novel. Some literary awards also recognize a "novelette" category for stories with at least 7,500 words. But that's too complicated for us. If you can read it in about an hour, it's a short story.

Today the writing of great science fiction stories continues and assessments of the genre's past continue to evolve, meaning this list is always developing.

Latest update: August 139, 2022

The 77 greatest science fiction stories of all time

Click linked titles and authors for details, critiques and comments.

1816
The Sandman
E.T.A. Hoffmann
France
Story
1835
The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall
United States
Story
1839
The Man That Was Used Up
United States
Story
1934
Twilight
John W. Campbell
United States
Story
 
A Martian Odyssey
Stanley G. Weinbaum
United States
Story
1937
Call Me Joe
Poul Anderson
United States
Story
1938
Helen O'Loy
Lester del Rey
United States
Story
1940
Robbie
United States
Story
 
The Roads Must Roll
United States
Story
1941
United States
Story
 
Microcosmic God
Theodore Sturgeon
United States
Story
1942
The Weapon Shop
A.E. Van Vogt
United States
Story
1943
Mimsy Were the Borogroves
C.L. Moore, Henry Kuttner
(as Lewis Padgett)
United States
Story
1944
Arena
Fredric Brown
United States
Story
 
City
Clifford D. Simak
United States
Story
 
Huddling Place
Clifford D. Simak
United States
Story
1945
First Contact
Murray Leinster
United States
Story
1947
With Folded Hands...
Jack Williamson
United States
Story
1948
Mars Is Heaven!
Ray Bradbury
United States
Story
 
That Only a Mother
Judith Merrill
United States
Story
 
Scanners Live in Vain
Cordwainer Smith
United States
Story
1949
Dark they Were, And Golden-Eyed
United States
Story
1950
Little Black Bag of Magic
C.M. Kornbluth
United States
Story
 
Coming Attraction
Fritz Leiber
United States
Story
 
Born of Man and Woman
Richard Matheson
United States
Story
1951
The Quest for St. Aquin
Anthony Boucher
United States
Story
1952
Surface Tension
James Blish
United States
Story
 
A Sound of Thunder
United States
Story
1953
It's a Good Life
Jerome Bixby
United States
Story
 
A Work of Art
James Blish
United States
Story
 
The Nine Billion Names of God
Arthur C. Clarke
England
Story
1954
United States
Story
 
The Cold Equations
Tom Godwin
United States
Story
1956
The Country of the Kind
Damon Knight
United States
Story
1957
Tunesmith
Lloyd Biggle, Jr.
United States
Story
1958
Who Can Replace a Man?
Brian W. Aldiss
England
Story
1959
Flowers for Algernon
Daniel Keyes
United States
Story
 
...All You Zombies
Robert A. Heinlein
United States
Story
1961
Harrison Bergeron
Kurt Vonnegut
United States
Story
1963
A Rose for Ecclesiastes
Roger Zelazny
United States
Story
1965
'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman
Harlan Ellison
United States
Story
 
The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth
Roger Zelazny
United States
Story
1966
Larry Niven
United States
Story
1967
Gonna Roll the Bones
Fritz Leiber
United States
Story
 
Riders of the Purple Wage
Philip José Farmer
United States
Story
1968
Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones
Samuel R. Delaney
United States
Story
 
Passengers
Robert Silverberg
United States
Story
1969
Super-Toys Last All Summer Long
Brian W. Aldiss
England
Story
1970
Slow Sculpture
Theodore Sturgeon
United States
Story
1971
Inconstant Moon
Larry Niven
United States
Story
1972
Eurema's Dam
R.A. Lafferty
Russia
Story
 
Roadside Picnic
Arkady and Boris Strugatski
Russia
Story
1973
The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas
Ursula K. Le Guin
Russia
Story
1975
Jeffty Is Five
Harlan Ellison
United States
Story
 
Home Is the Hangman
Roger Zelazny
United States
Novel
1976
The Bicentennial Man
Isaac Asimov
United States
Story
1979
Sandkings
Barry B. Longyear
United States
Story
1980
Grotto of the Dancing Bear
Clifford D. Simak
United States
Story
1982
Fire Watch
Connie Willis
United States
Story
1984
Bloodchild
Octavia E. Butler
United States
Story
1985
Pots
C.J. Cherryh
United States
Story
 
Snow
John Crowley
United States
Story
 
Out of All Them Bright Stars
Nancy Kress
United States
Story
1986
Tangents
Greg Bear
United States
Story
 
Face Value
Karen Joy Fowler
United States
Story
1988
Shrödinger's Kitten
George Alec Effinger
United States
Story
1990
Bears Discover Fire
Terry Bisson
United States
Story
1992
Even the Queen
Connie Willis
United States
Story
1993
Georgia on My Mind
Charles Sheffield
United States
Story
1994
The Martian Child
David Gerrold
United States
Story
1995
One
George Alec Effinger
United States
Story
2001
Hell Is the Absence of God
Ted Chiang
United States
Story
2007
The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate
Ted Chiang
United States
Story
2011
The Man Who Bridged the Mist
Kij Johnson
United States
Story
2016
Seasons of Glass and Iron
Amal El-Motar
Canada
Story
2017
Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience
Rebecca Roanhorse
Canada
Story
2020
Two Truths and a Lie
Sarah Pinsker
United States
Story

 
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