Top science fiction short stories published in December by Joe Stech

Before we jump into the top stories from December, I want to mention that the inspiration for the story I published last week (Continuity of Self) was's Absurd Trolley Problems game. I had some fun conversations with friends about it that ultimately led to the story. I appreciate the warm reception, it's the first story I ever personally wrote that I've posted here! Huge thanks to Ken Alba and Josh Thomas for their editing suggestions.
Back to the topic at hand, you'll notice I skipped writing a post for the top stories in November — I will not pretend that I'll get back to those stories, November is just going to be a lost month. Let's get into the December picks:
  1. Murder by Pixel: Crime and Responsibility in the Digital Darkness, by S.L. Huang (published by
  2. Last Stand of the E. 12th St. Pirates, by L.D. Lewis (published by
  3. Upstart, by Lu Ban, translated by Blake Stone-Banks (published by
  4. Left to Die, by Vandana Singh (published by
  5. The end of infinity, by Filip Wiltgren (published by
The top story for the month of December (and therefore our t-shirt winner!) is Murder by Pixel: Crime and Responsibility in the Digital Darkness by S.L. Huang. The story is a fun and insightful piece of fictitious journalism. It's rare that I see near-future AI stories that really feel true-to-life and are also page-turners, Huang knocked this one out of the park.
Last Stand of the E. 12th St. Pirates by L.D. Lewis is a near-future slice of life set in a city beset by rising sea levels. The story setting is exquisitely crafted — I had a very strong image of the place in my head after reading the story. The author doesn't get very deep into character backgrounds, but what she reveals is just enough to understand their motivations. It's a really well-built story.
Upstart by Lu Ban was originally published in Chinese in the Nebula XI anthology (Science Fiction World, August 2021). Blake Stone-Banks translated the story to English. It's a relatively long Novelette, following the story of a man who is paid cash by the government in his 20s in exchange for terminating his life in his mid-40s. The story has a relatively novel ending that I really enjoyed.
Left to Die by Vandana Singh is a fun story of survival on an alien planet that felt shorter than its 5410 words. Excellent incorporation of semiotics into the story.
The end of infinity by Filip Wiltgren is an entertaining piece of flash fiction. While the main conceit is clearly ridiculous when you actually compare the computing power required to find hashes and the computing power required to simulate reality, it's a fun one to think through (feels a little like the brain teasers that used to be used in tech interviews long ago). I love the concept.
That's it for now! I hope you're having a wonderful month.
As always I want to point out that the magazines that publish these stories operate on a shoestring budget and immense amounts of passion, and if you've been meaning to get a subscription to support their work you should go do immediately!

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