12 great vintage sci-fi stories that are available as free ebooks

Vintage sci-fi stories that are available as free ebooks from Project Gutenberg

If you love science-fiction, and would like to discover new titles to read, consider pulp sci-fi from the XX century – and consider getting the books in digital format. The site that you can explore great ebooks is Project Gutenberg.

Books on Project Gutenberg are the titles that moved to public domain (their intellectual property rights have expired) – but don’t expect to find here only classics from the XIX century. Actually, you’d be surprised how many books from the 40s or 50s are already offered.

I’ve prepared a list of 12 sci-fi stories and novellas, including three from Philip K. Dick, that were published in sci-fi magazines between 1930 and 1963. They are high-quality ebooks, prepared by the team from Online Distributed Proofreading. The ebooks are available in many formats, including: epub (for Nook, Kobo), mobi (for Kindle), html (to read online).

Some of these titles are offered in Kindle Store, Nook Store, or Kobo ebookstore, but usually they are not free. The thing is that as the titles are in public domain, they are available for public use. Anyone can republish them, charging money for that. The major source of public domain ebooks is project Gutenberg, and it’s the place where different publishing companies get content from and publish it in major ebookstores, setting prices at $0.99 or more.

So, instead of paying $1.22 for Sam Merwin’s Final Figure on Kobo, download it from the original place.

Project Gutenberg is the mother of all ebook sites. It started back in… yes, 1971, and offers over 40,000 ebooks. The repository is not stunningly huge (Kindle Store has 1.5 million titles), but you can find here for free the titles that you’ll probably have to pay for elsewhere.

For more science-fiction books, check this bookshelf on Project Gutenberg.

Second Variety – Philip K. Dick

Space Science Fiction, May 1953

A nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the West has reduced much of the world to a barren wasteland. The war continues however among the scattered remains of humanity. The Western forces have recently developed “claws”, which are autonomous self-replicating robots to fight on their side. It is one of Dick’s many stories in which nuclear war has rendered the Earth’s surface uninhabitable.

Mr. Spaceship – Philip K. Dick

Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy, January 1953

The story is set in the distant future, where mankind is at war with “Yuks”, an alien life form which doesn’t use mechanical spaceships nor constructions. Instead, it relies on life forms. The war has been going on for a long time, and mankind hasn’t been able to come up with a solution against the life-form based ships and mines that the Yuks use. One day, a team of researchers led by Philip Kramer decide to build a spaceship which is powered by a human brain. They find the ideal candidate, Kramer’s old professor, a dying man who volunteers to donate his brain to the project.

The Variable Man – Philip K. Dick

Space Science Fiction, September 1953

The Terran system is growing and expanding all the time. But an old and corrupt Centaurian Empire is holding Terra down, as it encircles the Terran system and will not let the humans grow out of their current empire. For this reason Terra is at war with Proxima Centauri and is trying to find a way of breaking free from the Centaurian’s hold upon them.

A Traveler in Time – August William Derleth

Orbit, volume 1, number 2, 1953

He threw open the thick-walled door of his time-machine and pulled it shut behind him. He sat down before the controls and began to chart his course for 1650. If his calculations were correct, he would shortly find himself in the vicinity of that sturdy if autocratic first citizen of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, Peter Stuyvesant, as well as Governor Stuyvesant’s friend and neighbor, Heinrich Vanderkamp. He gave not even a figurative glance over his shoulder before he started out.

Spacewrecked on Venus – Neil R. Jones

Wonder Stories Quarterly, Winter 1932

Interplanetary commerce, if and when it begins, will be fraught with all of the dangers that accompany pioneering expeditions. There will be the terrible climatic conditions on other worlds to be faced, strange beasts and plants; and perhaps desperate and greedy men. That was the case when every new land was opened on earth and it may be expected to be true when we conquer the solar planets.

The Sex Life of the Gods – Michael Knerr

Uptown Book No. 703, 1962

Beth Danson was about twenty-five and, besides her deep auburn-brown hair and lovely face, she boasted an equally attractive body. He found himself captivated by the warm thrust of her breasts beneath the silk blouse. The clear milk of her flesh, at the “V” of her throat excited him in a strange way. When he thought of her as his wife, it was frightening. It was as though someone had tossed him a woman and expected him to just fall into the routine of marriage. It wouldn’t be hard to come to love this woman, but it would take awhile. Hell, he didn’t know her. She was a complete stranger who had suddenly told him they were married. There was nothing familiar about her; even the fingers that were softly working over his face were alien.

Tony and the Beetles – Philip K. Dick

Orbit, volume 1, number 2, 1953

World-by-world, Terran colonists have driven the Beetles—the original inhabitants of the Betelgeuse system—from the star’s 23 planets. This is the last planet, and the aliens’ last stand. Young Tony Rossi has moral qualms and shiny-shelled Beetle playmates, much to the disgust of his father, and trouble is coming.

The Chapter Ends – Poul William Anderson

Dynamic Science Fiction, January 1954

Far, far in the future the Earth is still spinning around the Sun, on the edge of the galaxy, dozing in obscurity, forgotten by it’s trillions of progeny and completely irrelevant. But this doesn’t matter to the few millions who still live there in simplicity and quiet happiness. But then interstellar politics dictates that they must all leave Earth because … well, listen to the story as told by the great Poul Anderson as he explores what the Earth means to humans and to one man in particular.

The Onslaught from Rigel – Fletcher Pratt

Wonder Stories Quarterly, Winter 1932

We know that many scientists believe that life may originally have come to earth in the form of spores, from other solar systems and other universes. We therefore might really have had our home dim ages ago, on worlds distantly removed from our earth.

The ability to travel the interstellar spaces, however, might also be possessed by other creatures—creatures driven by fear, necessity and by the will to conquer. And if they come, in mighty waves, with scientific powers far beyond us, to dominate the earth, a terrible time will face the puny human race.

And in this story they do come, and provoke some of the strangest and most exciting adventures that have yet been recorded.

The Cosmic Computer – H. Beam Piper

Ace Books, 1963

During the System States’ War, Poictesme was the general HQ and supply depot for the final thrust at the enemy. And, persisting over the decades, is the legend of Merlin, the super-computer said to have planned the grand strategy which successfully concluded the war. “If we could only find Merlin,” the inhabitants said to each other, “all our problems would be solved.”

Then young Conn Maxwell returned from Earth, with a university degree, and a few clues about the location and the true nature of Merlin. And the sure knowledge that finding the Cosmic Computer would be the worst thing that could possibly happen to his home world.

The Door Through Space – Marion Zimmer Bradley

Ace Books, 1961

… across half a Galaxy, the Terran Empire maintains its sovereignty with the consent of the governed. It is a peaceful reign, held by compact and not by conquest. Again and again, when rebellion threatens the Terran Peace, the natives of the rebellious world have turned against their own people and sided with the men of Terra; not from fear, but from a sense of dedication.

There has never been open war. The battle for these worlds is fought in the minds of a few men who stand between worlds; bound to one world by interest, loyalties and allegiance; bound to the other by love.

Such a world is Wolf. Such a man was Race Cargill of the Terran Secret Service.

The Final Figure – Sam Merwin

Dynamic Science Fiction, January 1954

The General was in mufti. He stood briefly within the entrance of Models and Miniatures, Inc., feeling a mild envy of the civilians who brushed past him, coming and going. They looked so easy, so relaxed, so casual in posture and dress. He was wistfully aware of the West Point ramrod that was his spine, the razor-edged bandbox neatness of his banker’s grey suit, the Herbert Hoover four-squareness of his homburg, the stiff-symmetry of his dark-blue fore-in-hand.


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