Future Tense

Read All of the Mind-Blowing Sci-Fi Stories We Published This Year

A collage of illustrations.
Photo illustration by Slate. Art by Natalie Matthews-Ramo and Shasha Léonard.

This year at Future Tense Fiction we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how, in many ways, 2021 has felt a lot like 2020. But at the same time, so much has changed—how we work and think, how we commute, how we interact with animals, technology, and our fellow humans. This year we published 11 stories (we took December off!) that touch upon relationships, transportation, right to repair and supply chain shortages, communication, information overload and scarcity, and much, much more. We broadly explored themes like learning futures, with Simon Brown’s “Speaker” (where humans learn to communicate with other species and struggle to overcome the assumption of human excellence), Leigh Alexander’s “The Void” (about the struggle with information scarcity in an information-overloaded world) and Shiv Ramdas’ “The Trolley Solution” (about a university attempting to automate how it teaches its students), as well as ideas of mobility—a theme we’re continuing into 2022, so stay tuned—with Linda Nagata’s “Ride” (about a neighborhood that’s embraced an algorithm to run all of its traffic and transit patterns).


We began publishing fiction back in 2016 and made it monthly as of January 2018. In that time, we have published stories not just by authors but by journalists and researchers, doctors and policymakers. As of earlier this year our authors have won between them (for various works) 13 Hugo Awards, five Nebulas, four Sturgeons and five John W. Campbell awards. We have featured authors from across the U.S. as well as from Australia, Canada, India, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Mexico, China, and South Africa. Their diverse perspectives and styles have helped us imagine the future from all angles, and their stories have once again reminded us of the power of science fiction to help shape perspectives, expand our sense of empathy, explore the possibilities of tomorrow, and imagine what the future might hold.


We have a lot planned for 2022 that we’re excited to share with you (to keep up, sign up for our newsletter), but in the meantime take a look at our full list of 2021 stories and their response essays below.

Speaker,” by Simon Brown
If Nonhumans Can Speak, Will Humans Learn to Listen?” by Iveta Silova

The Void,” by Leigh Alexander
The Conundrum of Information Scarcity in a Time of Information Overload,” by Andrea Thomer

The Trolley Solution,” by Shiv Ramdas
Just How Much of Higher Education Can Be Automated?” by Katina Michael

Congratulations on Your Loss,” by Catherine Lacey
There’s No Such Thing as Flawless Facial Recognition Technology,” by Nani Jansen Reventlo

In the Land of Broken Things,” by Josh Bales
We Are Living in a Land of Broken Things,” by Damon Beres


“The Skeleton Crew,” by Janelle Shane
The Ghost Work Behind Artificial Intelligence,” by Melissa Valentine

Collateral Damage ,” by Justina Ireland
Will Members of the Military Ever Be Willing to Fight Alongside Autonomous Robots?” by Andrew Liptak

“Beauty Surge,” by Laura Maylene Walter
Are You Entitled to Privacy Over Your Pee and Poop?” by Rolf Haden

The Wait,” by Andrea Chapela
Who Wins When the State Appropriates Self-Defense Technologies Developed by Communities?” by Vivette GarcÍa-Deister

Furgen,” by Andrew Silverman
Could a Dog Truly Love a Robot?” by Clive D.L. Wynne

Ride,” by Linda Nagata
What if an All-Knowing Algorithm Ran Traffic and Transit?” by Henry Grabar

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society.