Nine SFF Short Stories That Explore the Meaning of Love

Most love stories start with two people meeting and end with a happily ever after, even though we all know that “happily ever after” is where the rest of the story actually begins. As I’ve grown up, I’ve had the opportunity to observe many different ways of loving and being loved, of showing care, affection, and understanding. There are so many possibilities. Here are nine SFF stories, each with a distinct take on the meaning of love.

First Dates” by Elizabeth Kestrel Rogers

Valerie is dying—a fact that she shares immediately with any potential partner, though they tend to flee without a backwards glance. She vents about this to a friend, who arranges an invitation to a special speed-dating event where she could meet not just humans, but also aliens. It’s new, unexpected. Valerie’s tried almost everything, so why not this?

The Day the Curse was Broken” by Tobias Bernstein

Leddie is old now. Behind her stretches a long history of a cursed land. Only now that the curse is broken are the flowers blooming again and color is returning to the world. Her memories aren’t clear, but her mind hasn’t forgotten a certain person, her gentle touch, her kiss and her promise. Are those possibilities still real, or is Leddie’s mind playing tricks with her on this joyous day?

Headphone Boy” by Nana Afadua Ofori-Atta

Rose was running away from home when she met the Headphone Boy on the bus. They would meet again and again, in different lifetimes, with different names. But that meeting on the bus was the first time. And first meetings are always special; their telling must be too. So lean in and listen—it’s a story that’s special and sweet and infectious.

Italic & Bold” by Dan Peacock

Two robots, Italic and Bold, are walking through the wreckage of cars on a highway, debating which foods can be categorized as soups or sandwiches, trying to make their way to their destination in time.

Every time I start thinking that I prefer humans over robots, I end up finding a story that has me laughing with and crying about the latter. And this one is perhaps my favorite: A wonderful little tale that could be about friendship or about love, showcasing enviably clever writing.

Wings” by Vanessa Fogg

In this breathtaking story by Vanessa Fogg, a princess falls in love with a court poet and marries him against the wishes of the queen, who then curses the poet. Every day he transforms into a new creature—a cat, a heron, a fish—which means the couple can’t always stay together. The princess isn’t able to hear him tell her stories, the very thing that made her fall in love with the poet. This, the queen believes, will cause her to fall out of love eventually and return to her mother. The couple have endured their separation for so long—can they keep going?

The Ramparts, as Cold and Implacable as Love” by Jess Hyslop

Jess Hyslop has written an epic story in less than a thousand words, the tale of a siege and a battle that takes an unexpected, creative turn. We zoom in and out, inside the characters’ heads, out over the battlefield. It’s the kind of story that deserves an epic soundtrack that slowly fades out to gentle, somber music. Saying anything more would kill the magic of the telling. Hyslop’s writing is magnificent and captivating.

Four Words Written on My Skin” by Jenn Reese

The Fae have stolen Jess, our narrator’s wife. She has left a trail behind in the forest—a notebook, a sweater—objects that are more than just their physical substance, holding memories of their time together. But perhaps it is too late—perhaps the Fae have taken her permanently. Is there a point in continuing the search?

And In the Silence After” by C.J. Lavigne

Now that his duties are done and the city is busy celebrating, no one would mind the king’s absence. He’s out in the woods, visiting the one who gave up much for him, so that they can watch the dazzling lights of the city and take comfort in each other’s presence. Lavigne builds a sparkling and cozy atmosphere in this comforting story about two men separated by curses and responsibilities, best read while cuddling a loved one of your own.

The Ramparts of Night” by Iori Kusano

Masae has been struggling with insomnia, and despite all her efforts, sleep remains out of her reach—literally. She envies how her girlfriend Ayane has a cloud full of sleep hovering above her. If only she could steal a little for herself. But she’d never do such a thing, not when she knows how terrible it is to stay awake all night. That’s how much she loves her girlfriend…but Masae needs to learn, as we’ve been discussing here, that love offers endless possibilities and surprises.


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