Galactic Empires

Neil Clarke, publisher of the award-winning Clarkesworld magazine, presents a collection of thought-provoking and galaxy-spanning array of galactic short science fiction.

From E. E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman, to George Lucas’ Star Wars, the politics and process of Empire have been a major subject of science fiction’s galaxy-spanning fictions. The idiom of the Galactic Empire allows science fiction writers to ask (and answer) questions that are shorn of contemporary political ideologies and allegiances. This simple narrative slight of hand allows readers and writers to see questions and answers from new and different perspectives.

The stories in this book do just that. What social, political, and economic issues do the organizing structure of “empire” address? Often the size, shape, and fates of empires are determined not only by individuals, but by geography, natural forces, and technology. As the speed of travel and rates of effective communication increase, so too does the size and reach of an Imperial bureaucracy.Sic itur ad astra—“Thus one journeys to the stars.”

At the beginning of the twentieth century, writers such as Kipling and Twain were at the forefront of these kinds of narrative observations, but as the century drew to a close, it was writers like Iain M. Banks who helped make science fiction relevant. That tradition continues today, with award-winning writers like Ann Leckie, whose 2013 debut novel Ancillary Justice hinges upon questions of imperialism and empire.

Here then is a diverse collection of stories that asks the questions that science fiction asks best. Empire: How? Why? And to what effect?


“Over all this anthology is mostly hits, remarkably few misses. Highly recommended.”

N.K. Jemisin, author of the multiple Hugo Award-winning Broken Earth Trilogy, New York Times Book Review

“This hefty anthology of imperial SF covers great space battles, small dramas within an empire, hopeless bureaucracy, and even living space stations, zooming in and out to capture every nuance [...] The diverse array of stories ensures that there’s plenty of interest for any fan of large-scale SF.”

Publishers Weekly

“As editor Clarke points out in his introduction, when most people hear the term galactic empire, they immediately picture Darth Vader and Star Wars. But there is a long history of star-faring empires in the genre, with stories that imagine our human tendencies to explore and conquer among the stars. [...] The stories gathered here, all of which have appeared elsewhere, show the huge range of possibilities of the chosen theme.”

Library Journal

“Masterful editor Neil Clarke has assembled an exotic, bountiful treasure chest of reprint tales dedicated to that mode of SF that can arguably be said to constitute the very core of the field, the space opera.”

Asimov's Science Fiction

“The first must-read anthology of the year, no question, is Neil Clarke’s Galactic Empires, an ambitious (read: huge) collection of SF tales featuring far-flung confederations in the stars. The TOC is a who’s-who of virtually everyone doing important work at short length in science fiction.”

Black Gate

“The meat of any anthology is, of course, the stories selected. Here, Clarke shows that one can have one’s cake and eat it too [...] this is a strong set of stories, showing the anthologist’s sure hand, and a marker to readers of what Galactic Empires in the 21st century are like in science fiction.”

Skiffy And Fanty

“Brings together some of the best voices writing in the genre today [...] a stunning collection of short fiction.”

Words in Ink

“This is an engaging anthology with a wide variety of themes and approaches, and that should appeal to science fiction readers of all generations. Even though it can be great escapist reading, at the same time many of the stories are shot through with themes applicable to contemporary society on this island Earth.”

The Future Fire

“Ambitious and impressive [...] I can honestly say that it’s been a while since I’ve read a science fiction anthology that is as good and diverse as this one [...] one of the best and most captivating science fiction anthologies of the year. Highly recommended!”


Awards & Accolades