Award Winning Short Stories

Updated on July 15, 2019
Howard Allen profile image

Howard is an avid short story reader who likes to help others find and understand stories.

Here are a few selections that have won a well known short story prize or award. This page includes three sample stories that have won the following awards:

  • The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award
  • The Sunday Times Short Story Award
  • The Commonwealth Short Story Prize
  • The BBC National Short Story Award
  • The O. Henry Award
  • The Hugo Award for Best Short Story

These are recent winners. The year in parentheses indicates when it won the award. I hope you find a great new story to read.

The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award

This award is presented by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas.

When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis by Annalee Newitz (2019)

Robot was designed by The Centers for Disease Control to catch outbreaks before they spread. It's programmed to gather the data it needs and to interact effectively with humans. Operating in the St. Louis area, Robot flies from home to home, asking people to cough into a tissue so it can be scanned for infectious diseases. Robot learns that people don't always live where they're supposed to, speak the way he's prepared for, or follow all the government's rules. One day, Robot tries to access the cloud and contact its admin, Bey, but it can't get through.

Read When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis

Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sue by Charlie Jane Anders (2018)

Rachel is plucked off the street by the Go Team. She's taken to a facility, Love and Dignity for Everyone, and undergoes the intake process. Their mission is to repair broken people. Rachel has been brought in because she went through a major change that is considered improper. One of the employees at the facility is Rachel's best friend from childhood, Jeffrey.

Read Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sue

The Game of Smash and Recovery by Kelly Link (2016)

Anat loves her older brother Oscar, who's been raising her for a long time. They're on a ship, the Bucket, left by their parents on a planet called Home. They're tended to by AIs called Handmaids, who take care of many daily tasks and protect them from the vampires. Their parents left because of Anat, and she knows they will return when they can. She and Oscar play a game called Smash/Recovery.

Read The Game of Smash and Recovery

Anat dreads this reunion as much as she craves it. What will her life be like when everything changes? She has studied recordings of them. She does not look like them, although Oscar does. She doesn’t remember her parents, although Oscar does. She does not miss them.

— Kelly Link

The Sunday Times Short Story Award

This is a British literary award for a single short story. The writer can be from anywhere in the world, but the story must have been published in the UK or Ireland.

Peanuts Aren't Nuts by Courtney Zoffness (2018)

Pam is asked by several people—the counselor, the police, her father—if anything happened between her and Mr. Peebles. But, no, nothing had happened. He was hired to tutor her for her upcoming Biology SAT II. He was a wealth of knowledge, and Pam learned lots from him. She thinks about their interactions, including a ride in his convertible. She started to feel an attraction to Mr. Peebles.

Read Peanuts Aren't Nuts

Half of What Atlee Rouse Knows About Horses by Bret Anthony Johnston (2017)

Horses have been a big part of Atlee's life. He managed a stables west of town. He met his wife, Laurel, there when she came to teach riding lessons. He bought his daughter, Tammy, a horse from a traveling carnival. He also saw wild horses in Arizona, and read extensively about horses. It seems that horses are a part of all his most significant memories.

Read Half of What Atlee Rouse Knows About Horses

A Sheltered Woman by Yiyun Li (2015)

Auntie Mei, a live-in nanny for newborns and new mothers, is working for her current client, Chanel. For simplicity, she refers to all her clients as Baby's Ma and Baby. Chanel has little energy for her baby and believes she has postpartum depression. She wonders why her husband can't help out more. Auntie Mei thinks she should be glad her husband makes money. For some extra pay, Auntie Mei has agreed to tend to the family's garden pond. In the course of her duties, she makes the acquaintance of Paul, a dishwasher repairman.

Read A Sheltered Woman

In her interviews with potential employers, Auntie Mei always gave the precise number of families she had worked for: a hundred and twenty-six when she interviewed with her current employer, a hundred and thirty-one babies altogether.

— Yiyun Li

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize

This award is given for the best piece of unpublished short fiction by a Commonwealth citizen.

Cow and Company by Parashar Kulkarni (2016)

An office manager orders a subordinate to have a cow in the lobby by noon—not a statue but a real breathing cow. The junior officer grabs some help and they set out looking. They have no success. It's blazing hot outside. They hear church bells striking twelve. Finally, they see an unattended cow. Desperate to end their task, they take the cow. Back at the office, they talk about their product, chewing gum, which is in competition with paan, a preparation that includes betel leaf.

Read Cow and Company

The Human Phonograph by Jonathan Tel (2015)

A woman has been away from her husband for seven years. They met in university in 1961 when she was majoring in Russian and he was becoming a geologist. They married but weren't together for long. He was sent on a geological mission to serve Maoist China. They wrote to each other, but there were many restrictions on what he could reveal. Now, seven years later, she's been summoned to serve as technical support on an assignment that will also include her husband.

Read The Human Phonograph

Let's Tell This Story Properly by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (2014)

Nnam likes the smell of paint in her house because it has removed the odor of her husband, Kayita. He died in the bathroom one morning at their home in Britain. Before meeting Nnam, Kayita had two children. They're still in Uganda with their mother. Nnam dreamed of eventually retiring to rural Uganda. She and Kayita built a city house in Uganda, with the intention that the rent would fund their retirement house. When Nnam went back to Uganda for the funeral, she found there were some complications.

Read Let's Tell This Story Properly

She enjoys the smell of paint because her husband Kayita died a year ago, but his scent lingered, his image stayed on objects and his voice was absorbed in the bedroom walls: every time Nnam lay down to sleep, the walls played back his voice like a record. This past week, the paint has drowned Kayita’s odour and the bedroom walls have been quiet. Today, Nnam plans to wipe his image off the objects.

— Jennifer Makumbi

The BBC National Short Story Award

This is a British literary award open to British writers only.

Disappearances by KJ Orr (2016)

The narrator is a retired man who feels restless—he gets sudden impulses to do things. One of these impulses moves him to go to the museum early one morning. It's not open yet. While passing some time walking, he comes upon a café. When the waitress serves him, he notices her hands. He starts going back every day, sitting at the same table and being helped by the same waitress.

Read Disappearances

Kilifi Creek by Lionel Shriver (2014)

Liana is a young woman visiting Africa. She stays with an older couple in Kilifi. She starts swimming in the local creek, which is more like a big river by her Wisconsin standard. On her fourth day there, she swims a different route and runs into some difficulties. Back at home, her hosts start to wonder why she isn't back yet.

Read Kilifi Creek

The Orphan and the Mob by Julian Gough (2007)

The narrator, Jude, claims that if he had urinated right after breakfast, a mob wouldn't have burned down his orphanage. It was the day of his eighteenth birthday. A letter was dropped off for him, the first one he ever received in his time there. Before he could read it, the Master of Orphans, Brother Madrigal, took it away, saying he could read it that evening. Jude relates the series of events that led to the orphanage's undoing.

Read The Orphan and the Mob

For me! On this day, of all significant days! I sniffed both sides of the smooth white envelope, in the hope of detecting a woman’s perfume, or a man’s cologne. It smelt, faintly, of itself.

I pondered. I was unaccustomed to letters, having never received one before, and I did not wish to use this one up in the one go.

— Julian Gough

The O. Henry Award

This award is given to short stories of exceptional merit. More than one story can be given the award in a single year.

Train to Harbin by Asako Serizawa (2016)

The narrator remembers meeting a man on the train to Harbin in 1939. China and Japan were at war. The men were university doctors, and this was a big opportunity. They were part of a group dedicated to preserving lives. The train stopped for cargo along the way. The narrator wouldn't discover the significance of this stop until later. Looking back, he's still conflicted about what he's done.

Read Train to Harbin

A Ride Out of Phrao by Dina Nayeri (2015)

Shirin gets rid of all her possessions; she's moving to a village in Thailand as part of the Peace Corps. She's bankrupt and has lost her house. In Phrao, there are no modern conveniences. She assists with medical services and teaches kids some English. Leila, her adult daughter, lives in New York. She made an easy transition to American life. They had a fight and haven't talked in a year.

Read A Ride Out of Phrao

Your Duck is My Duck by Deborah Eisenberg (2013)

The narrator tells a story from a few years ago when she was going to a lot of parties. A couple she hardly knew, Ray and Christa, had just bought one of her paintings. She complains to them about being exhausted, her job, and the winter. To her surprise, they invite her to their beach house where she could relax and paint. She accepts their offer.

Read Your Duck is My Duck

I was a little taken aback that I was being, I guess, anointed, but it was up to them how well they knew you, and I could only assume that their cordiality meant either that something good had happened to me which was not yet perceptible to me but was already perceptible to them, or else that something good was about to happen to me.

— Deborah Eisenberg

The Hugo Award for Best Short Story

This award is given to the best science fiction or fantasy story published, or first translated, in English in the previous year. The maximum length is 7,500 words.

Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience by Rebecca Roanhorse (2018)

Jesse Turnblatt works for a company that offers real Indian virtual reality experiences for tourists. What the tourists consider real, though, is what they're used to from movies; they especially like something spiritually transformative. To add to the authenticity, he goes by Trueblood. His wife, Theresa, thinks the job is demeaning to Indians. He has mixed feelings about it, but he needs the job. His boss wants to make the experiences more stereotypical to attract the most people. His colleague, DarAnne, is also against the tone and content of the company's offerings.

Read Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience

Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer (2016)

A search engine programmed in California develops AI. It's not evil; it wants to help people. It looks for a moral code to guide its actions. Due to all the information about people this AI has, it knows what people want and need. Other than this desire, the AI has a particular fondness for cat pictures. It decides to start by selecting just one person to assist. It uses its algorithms to get the appropriate information in front of her.

Read Cat Pictures Please

Mono no Aware by Ken Liu (2013)

The crew and passengers of the Hopeful are on course for 61 Virginis, a star they should reach in about three hundred years. The module is a cylinder that holds all the remaining humans—1,021 of them. The Hopeful is at the end of a strong, flexible cable, which is itself attached to an enormous solar sail. The ship travels like a kite. The narrative takes us back through some of the events that lead to the Hopeful's departure from Earth.

Read Mono no Aware

After four days of waiting, the reassurances from the government inspectors did not sound quite as reassuring. Rumors spread through the crowd.

— Ken Liu

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