Jill has been writing as The Dirt Farmer on HubPages for nine years.
Where Can You Find Free Contemporary Fiction Online?
Thanks to online magazines and journals, great quantities of short fiction and poetry are available free of charge on the web.
Published biannually, quarterly, monthly, or even daily, these online publications offer a trove of material by contemporary authors.
Although they probably won't replace the books and magazines readers already buy, online fiction sites and journals are a nice addition to anyone's rainy day stash of reads.
Below is a sampling of my current faves.
An amazing quantity of great fiction is available for free online. Like the fiction in most print publications, the works in the online publications below have been vetted by editors.
Anotherealm.com is a free online magazine that publishes a new science fiction, fantasy or horror short story each month.
It also publishes flash fiction and winners of the site's sponsored contests. From 2011 to the present, all the issues are available for free.
The site's homepage is rather uninspiring visually, but the story postings themselves are attractive and easy to read.
Sci-fi is my least favorite genre, and I haven't read more than 100 stories posted on Anotherealm.com, but the older stories seem to be the best of those I have read.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Growing Humans by Neil John Buchanan a truly creepy sci-fi tale told from the POV of an alien.
- Warning: Fictional Characters Contained Herein Might Not Exist by Nathan Witkin, a Douglas Adams-type story that mostly takes place in a mental ward.
- Heaven Photographed by Hubble Telescope by Rachel Jensen explores how the world reacts when heaven becomes visible.
Turning words into art is unnatural. It begins with a contrary attitude. It says, I am unhappy with the way things are and desire to make things different.
— John Olson
Subtitled the "Journal of Unpopular Discontent," Contrary Magazine is a quarterly lit mag predicated upon the idea that, by its very nature, all art is contrary and unnatural. (See John Olson's blog "Brought to a Boil: An Essay on Experimental Poetry," which is quoted on Contrary's About page.)
Each issue is both literary and eminently readable, including poetry and reviews and short fiction. Contrary has won numerous awards, including Best of the Web in 2007, 2008, and 2010.
I thought these stories from recent issues were particularly good:
- "The Horses of Sanlucar" by Richard Farrell focuses on a Navy wife and her attempts to break free from a stultifying marriage.
- "When We Were Birds" by Joe Wilkins, subtitled "an essay in one act."
- "Pablo Escobar's Hippos" by Jane Hammons is an intriguing piece of experimental fiction that breaks many "rules" yet still delights.
Every Day Fiction
Every Day Fiction's tagline is "bite-sized stories for a busy world," and it provides just that— flash fiction in a variety of genres, each at 1,000 words or less.
Stories are delivered for free to subscriber email accounts daily. (Formerly, delivery was every day; currently, it is every weekday.)
Subscribers may read the stories there or click the titles to read them on the Every Day Fiction website.
As noted above, stories on Every Day Fiction are diverse, ranging from fantasy to mystery to romance and everything in between, as the sampling below illustrates:
- "Vent Act" by Graham Brand, a sci-fi story narrated by a ventriloquist whose career evolves dramatically thanks to robotic technology
- "Stan" by Rosalie Kempthorne, a ghost story featuring eerie annual phone calls from the narrator's dead brother
- "Cup of Love" by Kathryn Trudeau, a gentle romance about the importance of the "little things" in a relationship.
Flash Fiction Magazine
Subtitled "Daily Flash Fiction Stories," Flash Fiction Magazine delivers flash for free via email to subscribers daily.
The quality of the fiction is sporadic and no better or worse than that published on Every Day Fiction; however, the commenters are wonderfully supportive. It's a nice site to visit! Also, readers get a complimentary Flash Fiction Magazine eBook when they subscribe.
Here are a few recent stories I particularly enjoyed:
- "Unmapped Country" by Lorrie Hartshorn, an ultra poetic flash about recapturing a former (perhaps imagined?) love.
- "The Dismal Swamp" by Amanda White gives readers a glimpse into an unusual moment in a bad relationship.
- In the humorous flash "On the Recent Untimely Passing of Blastocyst R. Foofaw" by Caleb Echterling, bounty hunters run up against bureaucracy as they attempt to collect the bounty on a dead leprechaun.
Flash Fiction Online
Flash Fiction Online (FFO) publishes a mix of genre flash fiction, including horror, fantasy, crime and science fiction every month. Each story is 500 to 1,000 words long.
Current and past issues are available online for free, but readers may buy digital copies of FFO issues and anthologies through Amazon for Kindle and Weightlessness.
Here's a sampling of stories from recent issues. They're all good, the first and last phenomenally so.
- In "Mamihlapinatapei" by Rachel K. Jones, a janitor at a dinosaur habitat on Navarino Island gives up her native language for the sake of ambition and loses more than she can ever express.
- "You Are Not a Metaphor" takes place in a future where reading "more novels than news" and obsessing about "plot holes in TV shows" is a treatable disease.
- "The Cell I'm In" by Eli Hastings is a first-person account of the narrator's complicity in his best friend's murder.
On the Premises
Like Anotherealm.com, On the Premises is not a particularly attractive website; however, it does offer free issues of wonderful fiction, each responding to a particular premise (hence the website name).
For instance, stories in the October 2015 issue are all told in chronological order— without flashbacks. The first-place story for October is an excellent fantasy by L.S. Johnson called "The Tale of King Edgar."
Visitors to the site have access to all issues of On the Premises, including the current one.
Pure Slush, subtitled "flash . . . without the wank," is a fun site that publishes flash fiction, poetry, and short nonfiction that visitors can read for free.
Each issue is centered around a given topic. As of this writing, for instance, the topic of the next issue will be "cake," and all works in the issue will, at the very least, have the word "cake" in them.
Poems and stories on Pure Slush are displayed on a graphic that looks like the page of the book, and readers turn the pages by clicking arrows, getting a new piece on each page.
It's a pleasure to leaf through Pure Slush. Sometimes one comes across real gems, like these stories:
- "Nine Lives" by Lynn Mundell is the humorous story of an aging cat burglar's last heist.
- "Possession" is a creepy piece of flash fiction that features a surprise narrator and a woman who loves The Exorcist a bit too much.
- "I have come a long way" by Kathryn Lee tells the story of a girl coming to terms with her sexuality from her mother's point of view.
Toasted Cheese Literary Journal
Toasted Cheese is a free online literary journal that publishes poetry, flash fiction, short fiction, creative nonfiction, and reviews every quarter.
Topics and genres are diverse and include fantasy, mystery, and horror— but no porn or extreme violence.
Toasted Cheese's archives are also available, so visitors can read past and current issues for free.
They can also read current and former winners of the site's contents, including a 2014 winner by yours truly. (If you read it, be kind. I only had 48 hours.)
The site's three annual contests are
- The Three Cheers and Tiger 48-Hour Short Story Writing Contest
- A Midsummer Tale Narrative Writing Contest
- Dead of Winter Horror Writing Contest.
Selected stories are made into podcasts if you'd rather watch than read sometimes.
WOW! Women on Writing
The stories are not "chick lit"; they're not even all written by women. They concern a variety of topics, ranging from human trafficking to thieving musicians, and all genres are represented.
Here are a few of my favorite winners:
- "When You Wake Up" by Solange Hommel concerns a musician with a conscience who has a confession to make when her friend awakens from a coma.
- "Still Breathing" by Ellyna Ford Phelps is a stark, lyrical tale about a sex slave who refuses to be saved.
- In "Better Late" by Denise R. Graham, the police underestimate an older driver who causes a fatal "accident."
Nobel Prize Winners
To read some of the most prestigious contemporary works in prose and poetry online for free, check out Nobelprize.org.
The "Official Web Site of the Nobel Prize" provides selected whole works and/or excerpts from winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Here are links to the most recent:
- Excerpts from Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich (Prose, Winner 2015)
- Excerpt from Dora Bruder/The Search Warrant by Patrick Modiano (Prose, Winner 2014)
- "In Sight of the Lake" by Alice Munro (Prose, Winner 2013)
- Chapter 16 of The Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan (Prose, Winner 2012)
- "The Half-Finished Heaven" by Tomas Tranströmer (Poetry, Winner 2011)
Links to More Flash
Links to Free Books
- Read Other Fiction Books Online - Free
PublicBookshelf has free adult fiction novels that feature real people, places and some are just fully fictional. Subjects include action fiction, adventure fiction, historical fiction, contemporary realistic fiction.
Links to Free Short Stories & Novels
Links to Science Fiction & Fantasy Stories
- Original Fiction | Tor.com
Science fiction. Fantasy. The universe. And related subjects.
© 2016 Jill Spencer
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on March 06, 2017:
Natalie, thanks so much for commenting. I'm buying more eBooks too. I love to hold books in my hands, but . . . they take up so much room!
Natalie Frank on March 03, 2017:
Great article! I was familiar with some of the sites you mentioned but needed reminding they were out there. I'm always looking for new places to find online fiction as I have a bad habit of bringing home books and before I know it there's little room left for me! Thanks for the info. I'll be following you from now on! Looking forward to reading more of your articles!
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on October 25, 2016:
Good deal, Patricia! Hope you find something fun to read. (:
pstraubie48 on October 23, 2016:
I was familiar with a few of these but not all so am bookmarking this to reference later.
Thanks for doing the leg work :D
Angels are once again on the way to you ps
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on October 22, 2016:
Hi Faith Reaper. Thanks for your comments. Glad you found some links here that you like. If you have the names of those sites where other hubbers have published, let me know. I'd love to check them and out and add them to this list. Best, Jill
Faith Reaper on October 22, 2016:
Wow, thanks for all of this great information here on free sites to read fiction! I now some of our writers here on HubPages have some of their fiction available to read free on various sites as well.
I'm more of a traditional book reader, but do spend a lot of time reading on line, so I will be sure to check out some of these interesting sites. The contests sound fun too.
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 12, 2016:
Hi Larry! I'd love to hear what you think of the sites you visit. I think the fiction on Flash Fiction Online is particularly fine. Appreciate your comment! All the best, Jill
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on September 12, 2016:
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on August 25, 2016:
Hi Jodah! Thanks for the comment. I'll have to check out The Creative Exiles. There is a lot of good writing out there online. All the best, Jill
John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on August 24, 2016:
Thank you for this wonderful guide to online magazines, fiction, and creative writing sites. I will check them out especially those that run contests. There is also a free site for writers of poetry and fiction that I am a part of called: The Creative Exiles. We are always looking for new authors and readers.