Welcome to my fourth annual Best Free Short Speculative Fiction list! I saw some success in my own short story writing accomplishments this year. Dark Recesses Press published both “The Grotesque Truth” on the web in February and my flash fiction “With Teeth” in the October print edition. Paradox Ghost Press published my sci-fi horror short “One Hundred Million Mouths” in its October issue of Bleed Error and my story “His Hands May Be Dirty, But His Brain Is Freshly Washed” was published in the December issue of Cosmic Horror Monthly. As all writers should, I spent just as much time reading the past twelve months as I did crafting my own work. My tastes still dwell in the darker corners of genre fiction so with that in mind, I highly recommend the following ten best free speculative short stories of 2022. They’re all available to read at the links below.
In a future where viruses have nearly wiped out all humanity, one doctor must face the possibility that extinction is not just inevitable, but enviable. Writer Tania Fordwalker’s melancholy tale can be found in the November issue of Lightspeed.
This fun little tale tells of a kindergartener’s belief in and ultimate proof of a mischievous deity who wreaks havoc on the exclusive private school he attends. Author H.L. Fullerton’s vivid picture of religious inclusivity meeting all-powerful reality is found in the Fall issue of Underland Arcana.
This story about small town bullies being haunted by their past cuts deep. Work by author A.C. Wise can be found in most of the top genre lit mags on the market, but this one in the October issue of Nightmare might be my favorite.
Author Thomas Ha made my list last year and he’s done it again with this sci-fi tale found in the October issue of Clarkesworld. It’s got interplanetary travel, rebellious robots, monstrous siblings - rebirth has never felt so dismal.
This short story by author Jordan Taylor could be taken as a prequel to the traditional three witches in a cottage trope. I think any fan of fairy tale witches will enjoy it and it’s found in the July/August issue of Uncanny.
This tale by Gunnar De Winter grabs you with its opening sentence and refuses to let go. A necromancer spurs her crew across the icy sea toward a dark purpose only she can understand and only she is likely to survive in the May issue of The Deadlands.
Kristina Ten is another author who showed up on my 2021 list and is back with a story in the April issue of Fantasy. This sad all-too-real tale of toxic masculinity and a lack of acceptance of otherness is sweetened with just the right amount of poetic magic to make it go down like honey followed by a sting.
Fellow Atlanta-based writer Emily Rigole’s first published story landed in one of the best online markets out there and for good reason. Published in PseudoPod 801, this tale of an unusual neighbor brought down by mistrust and deceit hits hard given some of the top news stories of the day.
Lavie Tidhar’s latest tale of his vampire detective Judge Dee was published in February at Tor.com. Two of his earlier stories made my list last year. This time the Judge and his steadfast human companion Jonathan are escaping Paris with a pack of vampires who wind up murdered one by one. It’s up to the Judge to determine who is behind the deeds and why.
I try to spread the praise across a wide selection of authors in my year-end reviews, but sometimes a writer is so good he/she/they need to be mentioned twice. Thomas Ha delivers again with a tale in the February issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. This story of a mother and son who protect planets from plant-like monsters that poison everything their tentacles touch feels like Jeff VanderMeer taking a shot at writing an extended Star Wars universe episode. I loved it.
If any of these stories entertain you, you can find more like them at these 20 websites.