Resources for Free and Out-of-Copyright Speculative Fiction
Project Gutenberg is the big daddy of public domain fiction and offer works in a bunch of different ways, including web browser- and Kindle-compatible formats. Sci-fi, fantasy, and horror bookshelves list many books in their respective genres.
The University of Adelaide’s eBook Library books have working table of contents and prefaces/appendixes (where applicable).
Amazon usually has several different editions of public domain works, but quality can be hit or miss. Some releases, such as this version of The Time Machine, have Audible narration, which can be added for a small fee.
Author websites can be a great place to find free spec-fiction, as some authors post their out-of-copyright short stories (and in some cases, full novels).
Publisher and publication websites can also be a good resource. Tor.com posts weekly fiction and Baen makes available a small library of their books. Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Uncanny Magazine, and Strange Horizons all post stories from their current issues on their respective websites.
The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, and “The Star” by H. G. Wells: Three timeless classics in time travel, horror, and alien invasion sci-fi. “The Star” is a “thing-in-the-sky” short story, also found in several anthologies, including The Country of the Blind, and Other Stories.
The Captain of the Polestar, and Other Tales by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Sir Arthur is best known for his Sherlock Holmes series, but has dabbled in other genres. This anthology of horror and horror-fantasy short fiction is a good read.
The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster: one of the best dystopian short fiction pieces ever written, exploring a very relevant idolization and over-reliance of technology — a fact made especially impressive as the story was written nearly 110 years ago!
Worm by Wildbow: Worm is an urban superhero fantasy story; its staggering length (almost 1.7 million words) is a result of its serial publication over more than two years.
Little Brother, Homeland, and Lawful Interception by Cory Doctorow: these books (and novelette) are labeled young adult but delve into relevant topical subjects like personal freedom, privacy, and cyber-security.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, A Journey into the Center of the Earth, and The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne: a trio of personal favorites of mine growing up; these works represent an era in Earthly sci-fi adventure.
A Connecticutt Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain: Twain’s trademark social commentary masquerading as a time-travel adventure story; an entry in SwordAndSpaceships’ best-of time travel list.
Frankenstein and The Last Man by Mary Shelley: most people will know Shelley’s Frankenstein and the titular character’s monstrous creation, few will know The Last Man, one of the first examples of post-apocalyptic spec-fiction written.
Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the David Balfour duology (Kidnapped and Catriona) by Robert Louis Stevenson: for Treasure Island and the two David Balfour books there is adventure over high seas and high mountains; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde gives you fantastical sci-fi horror.