Lists

Digital Escapes for Readers & Writers: 20 Must-Read Online Literary Journals

We are in a renaissance for online literary journals. Especially in regards to the pandemic, reading online is the easiest and fastest way to digest the most current literature. It’s also becoming easier for writers and readers to find their niche journals, from dark literary fiction to genre fiction, varying in length from novelettes to drabbles (a short work of fiction precisely 100 words in length). If you have a domain, you can start a journal. If you have access to the internet, you can read it. And in a world of isolation and burnout, the online literary journal, especially for me, has been an essential source of community among editors, writers, and readers.

List Criteria

In compiling a list of online literary journals, I leaned heavily on those that are only online. Some may do a print anthology over a volume of issues. Yet for the most part, these journals publish exclusively via their website or through digital issues (PDFs, ebook, etc.).

I also wanted to showcase an array of genres and lengths, from flash fiction publications to those specializing in science fiction and fantasy. Some literary journals below feature multiple mediums, including art and photography. I was tempted to split the list into categories (speculative, flash, etc.) but so many online journals belong in more than category; they are chameleons of literature, pushing against restrictions and labels.

Finally, I wanted to highlight some online journals that debuted within the past year or two. These new online literary journals are making great impacts on the literary scene, featuring voices from the around the world, sometimes in more than one language, and giving voice to marginalized communities. Especially having debuted during a pandemic and featuring such astounding work, these particular journals deserve much gratitude and celebration.

Online Literary Journals Are For Both Readers and Writers

The below roundup is by no means an exhaustive list of what’s all out there. If you’re a reader looking for new outlets to discover the latest in fiction, this will act as a jumping-off point. The same goes for writers. As you dive into creating worlds and characters, perhaps you’ll find a journal seeking precisely the work you write.

So, without further ado, I give present the below list in alphabetical order by name.

20 Must-Read Online Literary Journals

Image of the cover of Apparition Lit issue 16

Apparition Literary Magazine

Apparition Literary Magazine is an online speculative journal that publishes fiction, poetry, and nonfiction essays. Each issue is compiled around a theme, from Transfiguration, Contamination, Chance, to its latest issue: Wonder. Recently, Apparition has brought on talented guest editors, such as Premee Mohamed, Aigner Loren Wilson, and Maria Dong.

I had the honor of having a short story published in the Transfiguration issue in 2020. There is so much amazing work coming out of this magazine, with a staff that deeply cares for its writers and growing readership. I highly recommend Zebib K.A.’s story “Commodities” in the Justice issue, published in January 2021.

Image of Baffling Magazine's Issue 4 cover

Baffling Magazine

Let’s start off strong and bow down to that cover art. Baffling Magazine is a project of Neon Hemlock Press. It publishes quarterly, and features speculative flash work with a queer bent. Its first issue published in October 2020 featuring work by renown writers of speculative fiction, such as Nino Cipri and Izzy Wasserstein. Its first year of issues is forthcoming as a print volume with Neon Hemlock Press.

There are SO many brilliant stories just in the first four issues. I especially fell in love with Hailey Piper’s robot western “The Heart is a Spare Part” from Issue 4 and M.L. Krishnan’s “A Lamentation, While Full” from Issue 3.

Image of Beneath Ceaseless Skies online magazine cover

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Those in an escapist mood with a taste for secondary world fantasy, BCS is the online journal for you. Even more specific, BCS is a nonprofit, SFWA pro-qualifying online literary journal that publishes “literary adventure fantasy: fantasy set in secondary-world or historical paranormal settings, written with a literary focus on the characters.”

For writers who enjoyed Alix E. Harrow’s brilliant novels The Once and Future Witches and The Ten Thousand Doors of January, she also published a brilliant story in BCS titled, “Do Not Look Back, My Lion.”

Image of Catapult online literary journal logo

Catapult

Catapult is an independent online literary journal publishing essays, fiction, poetry, and art. In 2020 it won the National Magazine Award for columns and commentary.

Since its inception, Catapult as grown and now publishes books and offers online classes. I can personally attest to how awesome the Catapult classes are, having taken a flash fiction online workshop with Lindsay Hunter.

Image of Clarkesworld Magazine issue 145 cover

Clarkesworld Magazine

Clarkesworld magazine first published in 2006 and has been presenting monthly online issues ever since. In almost 15 years of publishing, Clarkesworld has accumulated many awards, including nominations and/or winning the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, BSFA, Sturgeon, Locus, Shirley Jackson, Ditmar, Aurora, Aurealis, WSFA Small Press and Stoker Awards.

It is a solid magazine for dipping into the very latest science fiction and fantasy, and it’s a pro-paying publication for writers looking to break into SFWA-qualifying markets.

Image of The Deadlands online literary journal cover

The Deadlands

For those of the gothic heart, I give you The Deadlands, a new online literary magazine publishing speculative fiction, non-fiction, and poetry surrounding the subject of death.

Issue 4 published in August, and I had the honor of having one of my own short stories included (a Bluebeard retelling where his ghost brides get revenge!). From ghostly stories, to stories of the afterlife, to an essay on being a mortician, The Deadlands will provide all the spooky, ethereal, haunting vibes readers crave.

Image of Electric Lit online literary journal's logo

Electric Literature

Electric Literature is a well-known headquarters for those seeking quality online literature. It offers two online journals under its umbrella, from Recommended Reading, which publishes short fiction and novel excerpts with personal recommendations, to The Commuter, which caters to flash fiction, poetry, and graphic narratives.

Electric Lit began as a quarterly in 2009 and then became a nonprofit in 2014. All of Electric Lit’s content is free, and it has received numerous accolades, including selection in the Best American Short Stories, Essays, Poetry, and Comics, the Pushcart Prize, Best Canadian Short Stories, and The Best of the Small Presses.

Image of FFO literary journal August 2021 cover

Flash Fiction Online

When one thinks flash fiction online literary magazine, FFO is often a favorite. First published in 2006, FFO publishes fiction from 500 to 1,000 words in length in just about every literary and speculative genre. In 2020, FFO had three stories listed in Best Small Fictions, and much of its work is widely shared on social media.

My most recent favorite flash story is a heart-wrenching piece by Aimee Ogden titled “The Songs Her Mother Used to Sing.”

Image of Khoreo online literary journal issue 3 cover

khōréō

khōréō is a quarterly magazine of speculative fiction and migration and seeks to feature voices of immigrant and diaspora authors. its focus is on stories, essays, and art as long as there is a speculative element.

The first issue published in February 2021 with much acclaim. From its most recent issue, I recommend the brilliant (and awesomely-titled) story, “Evelina, My Tentacles!” by Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas.

khōréō recently closed submissions for its next themed issue but will open again in October.

Image of the cover of Issue 3 of the online literary journal Lolwe

Lolwe

Troy Onyango started the online literary journal Lolwe in 2020, with the mission to publish more Black writers, poets, and photographers in Africa and around the world.

In a profile in The New York Times, he explained that the name Lolwe comes from “Luo name for Lake Victoria, whose waters hug this city in western Kenya, and means ‘endless lake or water body’.” Lolwe recently opened for submissions for the month of August for its fourth issue, which will be guest-edited by Nsah Mala, Harriet Anena and Loic Ekinga.

Image of Mermaids Monthly issue 7 cover

Mermaids Monthly

Do you like mermaids? Do you like anything and everything related to mermaids? Look no further, because you can find your mermaid lore fix with the recently-established Mermaids Monthly. Its tagline is “a magazine about mermaids. that’s it. that’s the shell.”

It recently published Issue 7 in July 2021, which revolves around the ever-popular selkie, with beautiful fiction, art, and poetry. Jennifer Mace’s brief but gorgeous poem “Seal Bride” is fantastic.

Image of an illustration of two rabbits under a full moon

Milk Candy Review

Milk Candy Review is a lovely online literary journal run by the talented flash writer Cathy Ulrich. MCR publishes fiction under 750 words and caters to “beautifully weird flash fiction.” I had the pleasure of having my own weird flash published here, though my favorite story in MCR is by another fellow Book Riot writer, Annika Barranti Klein titled, “Anaphora (Ten Ways to Greet a Time Traveler).”

I highly recommend Milk Candy Review, both as an outlet for readers seeking to dive into flash fiction and for writers seeking a place to send work that may not quire fit at other venues.

Image of "The Offing" text

The Offing

The Offing is an online literary magazine that publishes a wide spectrum of literature and art, from micro fiction (“10 to 560-character works — or one to five tweets — in any genre”) to poetry, fiction, and essays/memoir. It actively seeks to feature underrepresented voices as well as challenge writers to use their fiction to experiment and provoke.

The recently-published micro “I feel like an adult when I worry about money,” by Raina Greifer is particularly stunning.

Image of the Cover of issue 72 of SmokeLong Quarterly

SmokeLong Quarterly

Created in 2003, SmokeLong is one of the longest-running online literary journals, and recently published Issue 72. According to its website “The term “smoke-long” comes anecdotally from the Chinese, who noted that reading a piece of flash takes about the same length of time as smoking a cigarette.”

SmokeLong recently established two competitions in the past year, one for comedic flash fiction and one for micro fiction. They also publish global flash fiction, as well as flash in Spanish. One of my all-time favorite flash stories, which still resonates today, is the 2019 flash by Amber Sparks titled “Everything is Terrible but You Should Read This Story.”

Image of "Strange Horizons" online literary journal text logo

Strange Horizons

Strange Horizons is an online literary journal publishing weekly issues of and about speculative fiction. Founded in September 2000, Strange Horizons has since published critically-acclaimed speculative fiction, having been nominated or won Hugo, Nebula, Rhysling, Theodore Sturgeon, James Tiptree Jr., and World Fantasy Awards.

In addition to fiction, they also publish poetry, art, interviews, and reviews. In the August 23, 2021 issue, for the Writing While Disabled column, Kristy Ann Cox interviewed the great Nisi Shawl on upcoming projects, how disability informs and impacts her work, and how women and nonbinary folk often come to milestones one expects of a writer later in life because of all the marginalization. A necessary, important read.

Image of Sukoon online literary journal Issue 11 cover

Sukoon: Arab-Themed Art & Literature

Sukoon‘s last-known issue was in Winter 2020, but it’s an important literary journal to feature nonetheless. It is an independent, online literary journal publishing Arab-themed art and literature in English, with an aim to show the diversity of Arab identity.

It was founded by the poet and writer Rewa Zeinati. According to its website, the name Sukoon is an Arabic word meaning stillness. “What we mean by Sukoon is the stillness found within as the artist follows his/her inner calling to express and create; a calling that compels the artist to continue on his/her creative path for the sole reason that he/she doesn’t know how not to.”

Image of Uncanny Magazine's issue 41 cover

Uncanny Magazine

One can’t do a list of online literary journals without mentioning Uncanny. A staple in the science fiction and fantasy community, Uncanny has racked up the nominations and awards year-to-year, publishing the most established and up-and-coming names in SFF.

One of my favorite stories in Uncanny (and it’s hard to choose because there are so many excellent stories) is the award-nominated “My Country is a Ghost” by Eugenia Triantafyllou from Issue 32.

Image of black and orange Uncharted literary journal logo

Uncharted

Uncharted launched in August 2021and has already published a collection of talented writers and stories, including “Evolution” by Paul Crenshaw. Additionally, its first judge for the inaugural Science Fiction & Fantasy contest is the award-winning author Ken Liu.

Uncharted is under the same umbrella company as other well-known online literary magazines, such as The Masters Review, Craft, and Fractured Lit. They, too, are all excellent online literary journals, but I wanted to highlight Uncharted for debuting this year. Uncharted publishes science fiction, fantasy, horror, crime, and thriller fiction.

Image of title Words Without Borders overlaid on a map of the world

Words Without Border: The Online Magazine for International Literature

WWB was founded in 2003 and has published more than 2,700 writers from 140 countries, translated from 126 languages. It has a monthly online magazine showcasing contemporary fiction, with the aim to introduce writers from around the world to the general public. Some major writers it’s published include Elena Ferrante, Mariana Enríquez, Svetlana Alexievich, and more.

In the latest monthly issue for July/August 2021, WWB featured Afro-Italian Women Writers.

Image of Wrongdoing Magazine's issue 1 cover

Wrongdoing Magazine

Last but certainly not least is the achingly beautiful Wrongdoing Magazine. Another debut on the list, Wrongdoing published its first issue in Spring 2021 and makes the offer to writers that if they’ve ever written work “so blatantly wrong for most markets, then pretty please, do try us out.”

As an examples, Lindz McLeod’s fiction story “Heavenly Bodies” is about a woman who keeps the sun in a spare room. A haunting and sensual story.

Other Resources

If you’re looking to find more online literary magazines, or really any literary magazine, here are a couple resources to utilize:

The Submission Grinder

The Submission Grinder is run by Diabolical Plots (another fantastic online literary journal of speculative fiction) for writers to search for markets and track their submissions. It is completely free to use, and has a database of more than 11,000 markets.

Duotrope

Duotrope is another resource for searching and tracking submissions for writers, though it does require a monthly or yearly subscription. It lists more than 7,000 active markets (including literary agents, for those querying their longer projects) and features a new market every day for writers to discover.

Lit Mag News Roundup

Becky Tuck started The Review Review in 2008, providing information on literary magazines, interviews with editors, and calls for submissions. In 2019, she sold the site to Gonzaga University, which still continues its mission. Becky continues her good work and now offers a bi-weekly newsletter via Substack with news on all things literary magazine. You can read free content or sign up for a subscription to pay for premium content.

Finally, Book Riot continues to provide great content about varying genres, structures, and forms. You can read a couple of my own articles, such as a small roundup of flash fiction journals, definitions of speculative fiction and slipstream, and a roundup of 2021 speculative short story collections.

Support Your Favorite Online Literary Journals

One of the best ways to support online literary magazines — in addition to subscribing and donating — is sharing the work of their writers. Tweet, post, TikTok, etc. As I mentioned; this list is by no means exhaustive. If your favorite online literary journal was not listed, highlight that journal on social media. Share your favorite stories, essays, poetry, and art. Celebrate and applaud the work of these brilliant journals and give thanks to their hard-working staff.

Many literary journals are discovering and publishing the next great writers. By reading these, you may just discover the future of the literature.

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