A Basic Science Fiction Library
Note: This list regularly undergoes updates. Please contact me with recommendations!
The first year James Gunn offered his Intensive Institute on the Teaching of Science Fiction, a teacher from Buffalo, New York, asked how many books someone should read in order to have a sound background for teaching science fiction:
"I said, offhand, about a hundred books and gave her a list prepared by a committee of the Science Fiction Writers of America and published, together with a commentary by Alexei Panshin, in the June 15, 1970, issue of Library Journal. Since then more than 30,000 books have been published and the list is dated. Below is my own list and my own comments. Though based on the original SFWA list, my list has deletions and additions, for the period not only after, but before 1970. An earlier version of this list also was published in Library Journal, November 15, 1988."
Since then, Chris McKitterick (cmckit.SF@gmail.com) has greatly expanded this list with assistance from experts and readers of this website.
Also check out James Gunn's essay about Libraries in Science Fiction.
We continually update this list to correct omissions, increase representation of diverse voices, and expand the period covered to include more recent SF novels of note. Please contact me with your recommendations!
We cannot provide much publishing data, for books go in and out of print rapidly and often are reissued by other publishers, so we attempt to link to online sources for most books. Many public libraries have copies; college libraries with science-fiction collections should have all of them, and many of the titles are available in Easton Press's Masterpieces of Science Fiction collector's editions, which used the 1988 list as a basis for its selections. For current information on availability, good sources are Books in Print and Paperback Books in Print, as well as the various online book dealers.
If you have read books by all the authors listed below, you have a solid acquaintance with the foundational and important novels of science fiction. Naturally, people differ in their definition of which books are important or have had a greater impact on the genre. This list will continue to grow as we receive more recommendations for what various scholars consider "important." At some point it will become difficult to read all the works listed here! However, well-read SF readers should be familiar with all of the authors listed below.
I provide this list as a resource for librarians and other scholars looking for a basis for what constitutes consensus. I hope you find it useful!
ABBOT, Edwin A. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions [Amazon|Powell's] (1884). British schoolmaster and theologian Edwin A. Abbot (writing this short novella under the pseudonym, "A Square") satirizes Victorian culture by developing a two-dimensional world interrupted by a three-dimensional visitor. This device helps expose a number of social issues such as class, gender, and religion. Still popular today, Flatland has been made into a number of short films and even a feature film in 2007.
ADAMS, Douglas. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [Amazon|Powell's] (1979) springboarded from the popular radio and television series into a series of best-selling comic send-ups of SF and society for this British author. In 2005, made into a popular movie.
ALDISS, Brian. The Helliconia trilogy: Helliconia Spring [Amazon|Powell's] (won the 1983 Campbell Award), Helliconia Summer [Amazon|Powell's] (1983), and Helliconia Winter [Amazon|Powell's](1985). The Long Afternoon of Earth [Amazon|Powell's] (Hugo, 1962). Also published as Hothouse [Amazon|Powell's]. A fantastic story of a future when Earth has a tropical climate, plants grow wild, animal life is strange, and spider webs reach to the moon. Other books of interest: The Dark Light Years [Amazon|Powell's](1964); Barefoot in the Head [Amazon|Powell's](1969), Aldiss's psychedelic, Joycean novel; and Frankenstein Unbound [Amazon|Powell's](1973).
ANDERSON, Poul. Tau Zero. [Amazon|Powell's] An Einsteinian novel in which a ram-scoop starship malfunctions and continues to accelerate while time passes ever more swiftly outside until the universe collapses. Second to Larry Niven's Ringworld for 1971 Hugo. Anderson is prolific and most of his books are relevant, hard-core SF. Of particular interest: Brain Wave (1954) [Amazon|Powell's]; The War of the Wing Men (1958) [Amazon|Powell's]; The High Crusade (1960), and Harvest of Stars (1993) [Amazon|Powell's]. He won the Campbell Award for 2001 with Genesis [Amazon|Powell's].
ANTHONY, Piers. Macroscope (1969) [Amazon|Powell's]. Although best known for his best-selling pun-filled fantasies typified by the Xanth series, Anthony has written some unusual SF such as his Battle Circle trilogy (1978) [Amazon|Powell's] and his Of Man and Manta (1986) Omnivore trilogy [Amazon|Powell's].
ASIMOV, Isaac. The Foundation Trilogy [Amazon|Powell's] (1951). A long-awaited sequel (Foundation's Edge [Amazon|Powell's]) became a bestseller in 1982, as did all of his 1980s novels binding together his Foundation and his Robot universes. Asimov is a central writer in the SF canon, and this trilogy is a central work in the SF myth of man's empire in space. All of Asimov's SF is worth reading, but particularly I, Robot (1950) [Amazon|Powell's], his first robot stories, which established the three laws of robotics; The Caves of Steel [Amazon|Powell's] (1954), his first detective novel, and its sequels The Naked Sun [Amazon|Powell's] and The Robots of Dawn [Amazon|Powell's], which became a bestseller in 1983; The End of Eternity (1955) [Amazon|Powell's]; and The Gods Themselves (1972 [Amazon|Powell's]). His anthology, Before the Golden Age (1974) [Amazon|Powell's], provides a good sample of magazine SF in the 1930s, and his two-volume autobiography (plus a final volume of memoirs) is a long but readable account of what it was like to be a science-fiction writer in the 1940s and 1950s.
ATWOOD, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale [Amazon|Powell's] (1985), a near-future fable about the Republic of Gilead (formerly the United States), where far-right extremists murder the government to bring about theocracy where women are strictly controlled and assigned to classes - the chaste, childless Wife, housekeeping Martha, or breeding Handmaid. In Oryx and Crake [Amazon|Powell's] (2003), she tackles not only social inequality but also genetic manipulation and climate change, which have added up to an undefined apocalyptic event. A Canadian poet and novelist of political works, Atwood long denied her association to science fiction, preferring Heinlein's term, "speculative fiction."
BACIGALUPI, Paolo. His debut novel, The Windup Girl [Amazon|Powell's], won the 2011 Campbell Award as well as also won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Compton Crook awards. Bacigalupi first visited KU when his story, "The Calorie Man," won the 2006 Sturgeon Award. As in these works, Bacigalupi often writes about the world as changed by bioengineering and depletion of natural resources, especially fossil fuels.
BALLARD, James. The Crystal World (1966) [Amazon|Powell's]. A strange, introspective novel in which a region of Africa is affected (as well as other parts of the world) by a condition in which living things are changed to crystal. Ballard was a major figure in the British New Worlds, new-wave fiction that emerged in the 1960s. Other books of interest: The Drowned World (1962) [Amazon|Powell's]; Love and Napalm: Export USA [Amazon|Powell's] (also titled The Atrocity Exhibition [Amazon|Powell's], 1970); and his autobiographical novel about growing up in a Shanghai internment camp, Empire of the Sun (1984) [Amazon|Powell's] that was filmed by Steven Spielberg.
BAXTER, Stephen. This British hard-SF writer won the 1996 campbell.htm">Campbell Award for The Time Ships [Amazon|Powell's], a sequel to H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. Also of note: Titan (1997) [Amazon|Powell's].
BEAR, Greg. Blood Music (1985) [Amazon|Powell's], Darwin's Radio [Amazon|Powell's] (2000 Nebula). The novella version of "Blood Music" won both the Nebula and the Hugo. Other books of interest: Eon (1985) [Amazon|Powell's], The Forge of God (1987) [Amazon|Powell's], Queen of Angels (1990) [Amazon|Powell's], Anvil of Stars (1992) [Amazon|Powell's], and Moving Mars (1993) [Amazon|Powell's], which won a Nebula.
BENFORD, Gregory. Timescape [Amazon|Powell's], Campbell Award and Nebula Award, 1980. The author, a research physicist and astronomer, has written a number of other novels of interest, particularly his four-volume series about a world-shattering battle between organic and inorganic intelligence at the heart of the galaxy, Great Sky River (1987) [Amazon|Powell's], Tides of Light (1989) [Amazon|Powell's], Furious Gulf (1994) [Amazon|Powell's], and Sailing Bright Eternity (1995) [Amazon|Powell's], to which one might add his earlier Nigel Walmsley novels, In the Ocean of Night (1977) [Amazon|Powell's] and Across the Sea of Suns (1984) [Amazon|Powell's].
BESTER, Alfred. The Demolished Man [Amazon|Powell's]. Flamboyant novel of murder in a world where telepathy is common. Hugo, 1953. The Stars My Destination (also titled Tiger! Tiger!, 1957) [Amazon|Powell's] is another major novel, the Count of Monte Cristo in a world of teleportation. For his important short fiction, Starlight (1976) [Amazon|Powell's].
BISHOP, Michael. No Enemy But Time [Amazon|Powell's]. In a literate treatment of a novel kind of time travel, a unusual young black man lives with humanity's habiline ancestors and brings his child into the present. Nebula, 1982. Other works of interest: Ancient of Days (1985) [Amazon|Powell's] and Brittle Innings (1994) [Amazon|Powell's].
BLISH, James. A Case of Conscience [Amazon|Powell's]. A Jesuit priest in an extraplanetary contact team reaches a crisis of conscience when it seems that the inhabitants of a utopian planet are living in a state of grace without God. Hugo, 1958. Other books of interest: Cities in Flight (1955, 1957, 1958, 1962) [Amazon|Powell's]; The Seedling Stars (1957) [Amazon|Powell's].
BOVA, Ben. Won the Campbell Award for Titan [Amazon|Powell's]. Edited Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. IIA & IIB (1973) [Amazon|Powell's]. The best science-fiction novellas and short novels published up to 1965, as selected by the members of the Science Fiction Writers of America. See Silverberg for a similar volume of short stories; see annual Nebula Award Volumes [Amazon|Powell's] and Hugo Award Volumes [Amazon|Powell's], as well as Gardner Dozois's The Year's Best Science Fiction [Amazon|Powell's] for selections after 1964. Bova also has written a number of interesting novels of future speculation such as his Kinsman Saga [Amazon|Powell's], Kinsman (1979) [Amazon|Powell's] and Millennium (1976) [Amazon|Powell's]. He edited Analog magazine after Campbell's death.
BRADBURY, Ray. The Martian Chronicles (1950) [Amazon|Powell's]. Emotion-packed short stories based around a fantasy Mars. Bradbury is science-fiction's lyric talent. Other books of interest: The Illustrated Man (1951) [Amazon|Powell's], Fahrenheit 451 (1953) [Amazon|Powell's]; his collected stories in The October Country (1955) [Amazon|Powell's] and others; and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) [Amazon|Powell's].
BRADLEY, Marion Zimmer. The Planet Savers (1962) [Amazon|Powell's] and The Sword of Aldones (1962) [Amazon|Powell's] launched the popular Darkover series that developed its own fandom. Bradley also has written non-Darkover novels such as the best-selling Arthurian novel The Mists of Avalon (1983) [Amazon|Powell's].
BRIN, David. Startide Rising [Amazon|Powell's]. A carefully thought-out space epic by a physicist about a youthful humanity helped by mutated dolphins and apes in a galaxy dominated by older alien races. Nebula, Hugo, 1984. The Uplift War (Hugo, 1987) [Amazon|Powell's] and Brightness Reef (1995) [Amazon|Powell's] are set in the same universe. Other novels of interest: The Postman (Campbell Award, 1985) [Amazon|Powell's], Earth (1990) [Amazon|Powell's], and Kiln People (2nd place for the Campbell Award in 2003) [Amazon|Powell's].
BROWN, Fredric. What Mad Universe (1949) [Amazon|Powell's]. Hard-boiled mystery writer Fred Brown was also a talented SF writer, particularly at the shorter lengths. This is his amusing parallel-world story about the imagination of a science-fiction fan. Other books of interest: The Lights in the Sky Are Stars (1953); and Martians, Go Home (1955) [Amazon|Powell's].
BRUNNER, John. Stand on Zanzibar [Amazon|Powell's]. A long novel about overpopulation in the near future, whose style was influenced by John Dos Passos. Hugo, 1969. Other books of interest: The Jagged Orbit (1969) [Amazon|Powell's], racial prejudice; The Sheep Look Up (1972) [Amazon|Powell's], pollution; The Shockwave Rider (1975) [Amazon|Powell's], future shock; The Crucible of Time (1983) [Amazon|Powell's].
BUJOLD, Lois McMaster. Falling Free [Amazon|Powell's] won the 1988 Nebula and did much to popularize Bujold's future-universe that is mostly devoted to the epic struggles of the Vorkosigans, particularly disabled Miles. "The Mountains of Mourning" (in The Borders of Infinity, 1989 [Amazon|Powell's]) also won a Nebula; The Vor Game (1990) [Amazon|Powell's], Barrayar (1991) [Amazon|Powell's], and Paladin of Souls, (2003) [Amazon|Powell's] won Hugos.
BUTLER, Octavia E. Xenogenesis [Amazon|Powell's] (1989) is a compilation of her Xenogenesis novels about a human-breeding program by aliens, which echoes feminist and racist concerns, as does her earlier Patternist series typified by Wild Seed (1980) [Amazon|Powell's]. Her Parable of the Talents [Amazon|Powell's] won the 1999 Nebula; "Speech Sounds" (1983) won a Hugo; and "Blood Child" (1984) won a Nebula. She was a recipient of the MacArthur "genius" Prize.
BURROUGHS, Edgar Rice. A Princess of Mars, (1912) [Amazon|Powell's]. The first novel by this prolific adventure writer, best known for his Tarzan stories but best liked by fantasy and SF readers for his eleven-volume Martian series and his seven-volume Pellucidar series; this is the first, the most typical, and possibly the best of the Martian series.
CADIGAN, Pat. Synners [Amazon|Powell's] won the 1989 Arthur C. Clarke Award, Fools won the 1994 award for this author who won her first acclaim as the only female Cyberpunk author at the time; soon after considered the "Queen of Cyberpunk." Patterns (1988) [Amazon|Powell's] was her first major collection of short works, and Mindplayers (1987) [Amazon|Powell's] was her breakout novel.
CAMPBELL, John W. The Best of John W. Campbell (1976) [Amazon|Powell's]. Influential, longtime editor of Astounding/Analog, Campbell began as a writer of space epics and then turned to writing the more subtle psychological, philosophical stories collected here. McKitterick wrote an essay about this problematic but important editor who shaped SF's Golden Age here:
CAPEK, Karel. R.U.R., 1921 [Amazon|Powell's]. The initials stand for Rossum�s Universal Robots; the play created the word "robot" and was the first of the great robot stories. The Czech dramatist also wrote: War with The Newts (1937) [Amazon|Powell's]; Krakatit (1925) [Amazon|Powell's]; The Absolute at Large (1927) [Amazon|Powell's].
CARD, Orson Scott. Ender's Game [Amazon|Powell's] and Speaker for the Dead [Amazon|Powell's] swept the Nebula and Hugo Awards in 1985 and 1986. Xenocide (1991) [Amazon|Powell's] completed the series. A prolific author, Card also has created several more series, including his Tales of Alvin Maker [Amazon|Powell's] and his Homecoming [Amazon|Powell's] sequence.
CHABON, Michael. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000) [Amazon|Powell's] won the Pulitzer Prize, and The Yiddish Policemen's Union (2007) [Amazon|Powell's] won both the Hugo and the Nebula, and took 2nd for the Campbell. Chabon is also known for his critical work on genre.
CHARNAS, Suzy McKee. Walk to the End of the World (1974) [Amazon|Powell's] was one of the early post-holocaust feminist dystopias, followed by Motherlines (1978) [Amazon|Powell's], a feminist utopia. "Boobs" won the 1989 Hugo.
CHERRYH, C. J. Downbelow Station [Amazon|Powell's]. Hugo, 1982. This former high school Latin teacher writes about carefully designed future civilizations and alien societies, as well as fantasy novels, such as her Rusalka trilogy.
CLARKE, Arthur C. Childhood's End [Amazon|Powell's] (1953). A visionary, eschatological novel about Earth's children changing into pure mentality and joining the Overmind. Clarke is one of the three best-known contemporary science-fiction writers of his time (the other two were Asimov and Heinlein) and worth reading in any of his three moods: extrapolative, poetic, philosophical. Other important books: The City and the Stars (1956) [Amazon|Powell's]; Rendezvous with Rama [Amazon|Powell's], Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, 1974; The Fountains of Paradise [Amazon|Powell's], Hugo, Nebula, 1979; and the novelization of the Stanley Kubrick film, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) [Amazon|Powell's].
CLEMENT, Hal. Mission of Gravity [Amazon|Powell's] (1954). A basic, hard-science novel about a planet on which the gravity is several hundred times that on Earth, diminishing to only two or three times Earth's gravity at the equator, and the efforts of caterpillar- like natives to adapt to different conditions. Clement (real name Harry Stubbs) was a high-school general-science teacher. Other books of interest: Needle (1950) [Amazon|Powell's]; Iceworld (1953) [Amazon|Powell's].
CONKLIN, Groff, ed. The Best of Science Fiction, 1946. One of the two influential postwar anthologies. Conklin was a major anthologist, and all of his collections are valuable.
DE CAMP, L. Sprague. Lest Darkness Fall (1941) [Amazon|Powell's]. A contemporary man thrown back in time to 6th century Rome tries to stave off the Dark Ages by introducing modern technology and organization. The Complete Enchanter (1975) [Amazon|Powell's], whose parts date back to 1940 and 1941, written with Fletcher Pratt, contains amusing fantasies about modern man transported to mythological worlds. De Camp also has worked extensively in the heroic fantasy tradition of Conan and in his own heroic fantasy worlds.
DELANY, Samuel R. The Einstein Intersection [Amazon|Powell's]. This world of Einsteinian laws has intersected another universe with different rules, and alien creatures with human attributes interact with human myths and legends. Nebula, 1967. Delany is a literary writer of what might be called meta-science fiction. Other books of interest: Babel-17 [Amazon|Powell's], Nebula, 1966; Dhalgren [Amazon|Powell's] (1975); Triton [Amazon|Powell's] (1976); and Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand (1984) [Amazon|Powell's], the first of a series.
DICK, Philip K. The Man in the High Castle [Amazon|Powell's]. The United States has lost World War II, and Japan and Germany have divided it up, except for the Rocky Mountain states, where a novelist is writing a book in which the United States won the war; one of the best of the alternate-history novels. Hugo, 1963. Dick, who died in 1982, was a prolific author whose books, all of interest, dealt often with the nature of reality: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? [Amazon|Powell's] (upon which the film "Blade Runner" was based, 1968); Ubik [Amazon|Powell's] (1969); Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (Campbell, 1974) [Amazon|Powell's]; and Valis (1981) [Amazon|Powell's].
DICKSON, Gordon R. Three to Dorsai (1975) [Amazon|Powell's]. Dickson, a prolific author of science fiction on various themes, is involved in writing a multi-volume series chronicling an evolutionary development in the human race; these are the three novels in this Childe Cycle [Amazon|Powell's] dating back to 1959.
DISCH, Thomas M. On Wings of Song [Amazon|Powell's] won the 1979 Campbell Award for this author of experimental stories and novels such as Camp Concentration (1967) [Amazon|Powell's] and "The Asian Shore" (1970), which is collected in Getting into Death and Other Stories (1976) [Amazon|Powell's].
DOCTOROW, Cory. Doctorow is an SF author, blogger, and technology activist. He co-edits Boing Boing and contributes to many other publications. Formerly Director of European Affairs for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. His fiction has been nominated for all the major awards and won the Locus Award and the Sunburst Award. Doctorow speaks frequently about copyright, technology, and post-scarcity economics. As with most of his work, Doctorow freely released his first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom [Amazon|Powell's] (2003), under a Creative Commons license, and is a major advocate of intellectual freedom (and critic of copyright); in this novel, he introduces the idea of "whuffie," a reputation-based currency. His YASF novel set in the day after tomorrow, Little Brother [Amazon|Powell's], won the 2008 Campbell Award. Author's website here.
ELLISON, Harlan, ed. Dangerous Visions [Amazon|Powell's] (1967). This anthology and its sequel, Again, Dangerous Visions [Amazon|Powell's] (1972), were showcases of personal, style-conscious fiction sometimes identified with the "new wave." This also describes the provocative short fiction of Ellison himself, which has been collected in a number of volumes, such as Deathbird Stories [Amazon|Powell's] (1975) and Angry Candy [Amazon|Powell's] (1988).
FARMER, Philip José. To Your Scattered Bodies Go [Amazon|Powell's]. The first novel in Farmer's Riverworld series, in which all past human beings are revived to find themselves living along the banks of a long river. Hugo, 1972. The first had Richard Burton as its hero, the second, The Fabulous Riverboat [Amazon|Powell's] (1971), Mark Twain. Farmer is prolific, and delights in reviving old heroes in fiction or fictionalized biography such as Tarzan Alive [Amazon|Powell's] (1972) and Venus on the Half Shell [Amazon|Powell's] (1975).
FINNEY, Jack. The Body Snatchers [Amazon|Powell's] (1955) has been filmed three times as Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Two parallel world novels by this mainstream writer for the slick magazines are The Woodrow Wilson Dime (1968) and Time and Again [Amazon|Powell's] (1970).
GIBSON, William. Neuromancer [Amazon|Powell's] launched, but did not name, the Gyberpunk movement. Hugo, Nebula, Philip K. Dick, 1984. The trilogy continued with Count Zero [Amazon|Powell's] (1986) and Mona Lisa Overdrive [Amazon|Powell's] (1988). His early stories, including the story that inspired the film Johnny Mnemonic, were collected in Burning Chrome [Amazon|Powell's] (1986).
GOONAN, Kathleen Ann. Goonan's novels have been finalists for many awards, including the British Science Fiction Award for Queen City Jazz [Amazon|Powell's]; the Arthur C. Clarke Award for The Bones of Time [Amazon|Powell's]; and the Nebula Award for Crescent City Rhapsody [Amazon|Powell's] and Light Music [Amazon|Powell's]. In War Times [Amazon|Powell's] (author's back-story here), was honored as the best SF novel of 2007 by the ALA and won the 2008 John Campbell Memorial Award.
GREGORY, Daryl. Always intriguing and thoughtful, Gregory's works also receive strong critical reception. His 2014 novel Afterparty, centered around the consequences of printing pharmaceuticals, was a finalist for the Campbell Award.
GRIFFITH, Nicola. Her 1993 novel, Ammonite, [Amazon|Powell's] won the Lambda, Premio Italia, and James Tiptree Jr. Awards; and Slow River [Amazon|Powell's] won the 1996 Nebula Award. Her long-running Bending the Landscape [Amazon|Powell's] series of original anthologies garnered much critical attention.
GUNN, James. The Listeners [Amazon|Powell's] (1972). The difficulties and successes in a century-long project to listen for messages from the stars. Strongly influenced Carl Sagan to write his book, Contact [Amazon|Powell's], and inspired a generation of SETI researchers. Other Gunn novels of interest: The Joy Makers [Amazon|Powell's] 1961; The Immortals [Amazon|Powell's] (1962); Kampus [Amazon|Powell's] (1977); The Dreamers [Amazon|Powell's] (1981). He is equally renowned for his scholarly work, including the definitive six-volume historical SF anthology series, The Road to Science Fiction [Amazon|Powell's], most of which has remained in print since the first edition's 1977 release. In 2013, Gunn completed the sequel to Transcendental [Amazon|Powell's], entitled Transgalactic, and - at age 93 - concluded his first and only trilogy in 2017 with Transformation, then continued to write short works in the series, published in Asimov's, until the week of his death in December, 2020. More info on Gunn's bio page.
HALDEMAN, Joe. The Forever War [Amazon|Powell's]. An episodic novel of a centuries-long war between aliens and humans fought in space, with ships going faster-than-light and compressing subjective time, focusing on what happens to two soldiers, male and female, caught up in the war. Nebula & Hugo, 1976. The Hemingway Hoax [Amazon|Powell's] (1990) won a Nebula in its novella version. Forever Peace [Amazon|Powell's] won the 1998 Campbell and Nebula Awards. Author's website here, and his blog here.
HAND, Elizabeth. Last Summer at Mars Hill [Amazon|Powell's] (1995) won both the World Fantasy Award and Nebula Award for best novella. Probably her highest-regarded book-length work is the series that began with Winterlong [Amazon|Powell's] (1990).
HARRISON, Harry. The Deathworld Trilogy [Amazon|Powell's](1960, 1964, 1968). Harrison is a prolific author of satire, humor, adventure, and naturalistic extrapolation (such as Make Room, Make Room [Amazon|Powell's], 1966, the basis for the motion picture Soylent Green); these are adventure stories with sociological overtones. His satirical works include The Stainless Steel Rat [Amazon|Powell's] and Bill the Galactic Hero [Amazon|Powell's] series. The Eden trilogy, beginning with West of Eden [Amazon|Powell's] (1984) describes a world in which dinosaurs did not become extinct but instead developed intelligence and a different kind of science and civilization.
HEINLEIN, Robert A. The Past Through Tomorrow [Amazon|Powell's] (1967); this collection of early "Future History" stories still is a favorite of many readers. Many consider Starship Troopers [Amazon|Powell's](1959) to be Heinlein's finest work of philosophical SF, and it was made into a movie (1997) and other properties. Perhaps the most influential figure in modern science fiction, Heinlein has excelled in many fields of SF, including juvenile (personal favorite: Have Spacesuit-Will Travel [Amazon|Powell's] 1958) and sexual-religious themes (Stranger in a Strange Land [Amazon|Powell's] Hugo, 1962), as well as straightforward adventure (The Puppet Masters [Amazon|Powell's], 1952; Glory Road [Amazon|Powell's] 1963).
HERBERT, Frank. Dune [Amazon|Powell's] (1965). This long novel of imperial intrigue and ecology on a desert world, organized around a messiah theme, shaped an audience for its many sequels and an impressively produced film and mini-series. Won the Hugo and Nebula awards. Other books of interest: The Dragon in the Sea [Amazon|Powell's] (1956); The Santaroga Barrier [Amazon|Powell's] (1968).
KEYES, Daniel. Flowers for Algernon [Amazon|Powell's]. This study of a mentally retarded man who becomes a genius through an operation and then regresses to his previous condition won a Hugo in 1960 as a novelette and a Nebula in 1966 as a novel.
KNIGHT, Damon, ed. The Best of Damon Knight [Amazon|Powell's] (1976). Knight may be best known as a pioneer critic who became an anthologist and editor, particularly of the original anthology Orbit, but he was the author of great short fiction. Recent novels include his CV utopian trilogy and Why Do Birds? [Amazon|Powell's](1992).
KORNBLUTH, C. M. The Best of C. M. Kornbluth [Amazon|Powell's] (1976). Kornbluth died in his thirties after a promising beginning as a collaborator with Judith Merril (under the name of Cyril Judd) and Frederik Pohl (The Space Merchants [Amazon|Powell's] 1953, and others), and on his own The Syndic [Amazon|Powell's] 1953; Not This August [Amazon|Powell's] 1955). He was particularly effective at the shorter lengths.
KOWALL, Mary Robinette. The Calculating Stars [Amazon|Powell's] (2018), the first in the alternate-history Lady Astronaut series that suggests how human space exploration might have progressed much sooner in the face of worldwide disaster and under different leadership. Won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards, and won 2nd place for the Campbell Award.
KRESS, Nancy. Beggars in Spain [Amazon|Powell's] (1992) is an expanded version of the novella that won a Nebula for 1991. The capstone novel of her Probability series, Probability Space [Amazon|Powell's], won the 2003 Campbell Award . She won the 1997 Sturgeon and Nebula Awards with the novelette, "The Flowers of Aulit Prison."
KUTTNER, Henry. Fury [Amazon|Powell's] (1950). An angry man pushes humanity out of the comfortable underwater Keeps on Venus onto the ravening land. Kuttner and his wife, C. L. Moore, herself a distinguished science-fiction author, collaborated under a variety of pen names, which included Lewis Padgett and Lawrence O'Donnell. They were particularly effective at the shorter lengths, as illustrated in The Best of Henry Kuttner [Amazon|Powell's] and The Best of C. L. Moore [Amazon|Powell's] (both 1975).
LE GUIN, Ursula K. In 2014, was awarded the National Book Awards' Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, one of literature's most prestigious honors, recognizing individuals who have made an exceptional impact on this country's literary heritage. Important works include The Left Hand of Darkness [Amazon|Powell's] (1968): Nebula winner; effective, multi-leveled novel about human contact with a wintry world where the natives are neuter most of the month and may then be either sex (and both a mother and a father), and its psychological and sociological effects. The Dispossessed [Amazon|Powell's] Nebula, Hugo, 1974, is a much-praised political novel; and the third book in her Earthsea trilogy, The Farthest Shore [Amazon|Powell's], won the National Book Award in 1973 (acceptance speech in .pdf). "Forgiveness Day," collected in Four Ways to Forgiveness [Amazon|Powell's] (1995), won the 1995 Sturgeon Award.
LEIBER, Fritz. Conjure Wife [Amazon|Powell's] (1953). Leiber was a long-time author of science fiction and fantasy, and is particularly noted for his heroic fantasy about Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser; this is unheroic fantasy involves a wife who learns that witchcraft is being practiced on a quiet college campus and learns to do it herself in self-defense. Other books of interest: The Big Time [Amazon|Powell's] Hugo, 1958; The Wanderer[Amazon|Powell's] Hugo, 1965.
LEM, Stanislaw. The Cyberiad [Amazon|Powell's] Polish 1967, English 1974. Subtitled "Fables for the Cybernetic Age," The Cyberiad wittily describes the predicaments of two robot inventors in a robotic galaxy. One of the most famous science-fiction writers in Europe, Lem has written a number of significant novels (Solaris [Amazon|Powell's] 1970) and story collections (Mortal Engines [Amazon|Powell's] 1977) distinguished by wit, complexity, and style.
LEWIS, C. S. Out of the Silent Planet [Amazon|Powell's] (1938). The first of a series of anti-utopian novels (the others: Perelandra [Amazon|Powell's] 1943, and That Hideous Strength [Amazon|Powell's] 1945), applying Christian theology to Mars, Venus, and technology on Earth.
LINK, Kelly. Won the World Fantasy Award for the story, "The Specialist's Hat" (1999). Her short work was collected in Stranger Things Happen [Amazon|Powell's] (2001). Also a frequent anthology editor.
LONDON, Jack. Before Adam [Amazon|Powell's] 1907. One of the best of the prehistoric-man novels. Other books of interest: The Scarlet Plague [Amazon|Powell's] (1915); The Star Rover [Amazon|Powell's] (1915).
LOVECRAFT, H. P. The Shadow over Innsmouth (1936). A short novel that introduces the reader, like the unsuspecting narrator, to the horrors of the Cthulhu Mythos that Lovecraft and his followers celebrated in dozens of short stories. This piece is available in The Dunwich Horror and Others [Amazon|Powell's].
McCAFFREY, Ann. The Ship Who Sang [Amazon|Powell's] (1969), a tied collection of stories about a living starship. She is perhaps most famous for her Dragonflight series beginning in 1968 and first compiled into novel form in The Dragonriders of Pern [Amazon|Powell's] (1978), which elicit much debate over whether they are SF or fantasy. Two of the novellas that comprise the book made McCaffrey the first woman to win the Hugo Award and the first woman to win the Nebula Award. In 2005 she was named a SFWA Grand Master.
McDONALD, Ian. This Irish author's novel set in 2027 Turkey, The Dervish House [Amazon|Powell's] (2010), won the Campbell Award and the British Science Fiction Association Award (sample here), and his story "Tendel�o's Story" (part of the Chaga Saga) won the 2001 Sturgeon Award, and his work has also won the Hugo, Philip K. Dick, and Locus awards. McDonald's work is always excellent, including River of Gods [Amazon|Powell's], set in 2047 India, and Desolation Road [Amazon|Powell's] (1988), set on Mars. His works often examine post-colonialism and often celebrate emerging nations.
McDEVITT, Jack. His novel, The Engines of God [Amazon|Powell's], started a four-book series concluding with Omega [Amazon|Powell's], which won the 2004 Campbell Award . His novel, Seeker [Amazon|Powell's], won the 2006 Nebula Award. McDevitt's work is both epic and dramatic.
McINTYRE, Vonda N. Dreamsnake [Amazon|Powell's] (1978), about a young woman who heals by the use of biological medicines produced by snakes in a post-holocaust world, won a Nebula and a Hugo, as its novelette predecessor had won the Nebula five years earlier. Her novel, The Moon and the Sun [Amazon|Powell's], won the 1997 Nebula.
MALZBERG, Barry. Beyond Apollo [Amazon|Powell's], a novel about an astronaut's attempt to understand what happened on a disastrous expedition to Venus, won the first Campbell Award in 1973. This prolific author has used SF motifs to produce a number of brooding, skillfully written, sometimes satirical stories and novels, including Herovit's World [Amazon|Powell's] (1973), Guernica Night [Amazon|Powell's] (1974), and Galaxies [Amazon|Powell's] (1975).
MARTIN, George R.R. Sandkings [Amazon|Powell's] (1981) is a collection of Martin's short stories that includes his Hugo-winning novelette. His SF is at his best in the shorter lengths. Now a screenwriter and Hollywood story editor, Martin had moved toward the mainstream with novels such as Fevre Dream [Amazon|Powell's] (1983) and The Armageddon Rag [Amazon|Powell's] (1985). He is most famous today for his fantasy series that was made into the Game of Thrones TV show.
MERRITT, A. The Moon Pool [Amazon|Powell's] (1919). A lost-race novel about an epic struggle between good and evil in a cavern beneath the South Pacific once occupied by the moon, told in Merritt's lush, romantic prose. Other books of interest: The Ship of Ishtar [Amazon|Powell's] (1926); The Face in the Abyss [Amazon|Powell's] (1931); Dwellers in the Mirage [Amazon|Powell's] (1932).
MIÉVILLE, China. Perdido Street Station [Amazon|Powell's] (2000) is often considered seminal to the "New Weird," combining elements of noir, steampunk, fantasy, and horror into a new interstitial subgenre populated by strange creatures. Miéville's work almost always receives positive critical attention; see also The City & the City [Amazon|Powell's] (2009) and Embassytown [Amazon|Powell's] (2011). See some of Miéville's talk at KU here.
MILLER, Walter M., Jr. A Canticle for Leibowitz [Amazon|Powell's]. After an atomic war, a monastic order preserves blueprints and technological artifacts, and civilization is rebuilt over 1,800 years. Hugo, 1961.
MOORCOCK, Michael. Gloriana: or the Unfulfill'd Queen: Being a Romance [Amazon|Powell's] (1978) won the Campbell Award for this author better known for his Elric of Melniboné heroic fantasies and his postmodern commentaries on contemporary society, and as the New Worlds editor who helped create the New Wave.
MORGAN, Richard. His brilliant cautionary tale, Market Forces [Amazon|Powell's] (2004), which won the 2005 Campbell Award, is an indictment of the contemporary political-corporate culture and an homage to Frederik Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth's The Space Merchants [Amazon|Powell's]. Beyond mere satire or dressing up current political affairs in the clothing of corporations, it's a projection of the core-SF theme of, "if this goes on..."
MORROW, James. His stand-alone novella, Shambling Towards Hiroshima [Amazon|Powell's], won the Sturgeon Award. His The Philosopher's Apprentice [Amazon|Powell's] (here is an interesting overview of the novel with an interview, both by the author) and The Last Witchfinder [Amazon|Powell's] both placed for the Campbell Award. Only Begotten Daughter [Amazon|Powell's] (1990) and Towing Jehovah [Amazon|Powell's] (1994) both won the World Fantasy Award. Morrow's work is often satirical and examines questions about religion.
NAGATA, Linda. Won the 2001 Nebula for best novella with "Goddesses." Her novels, such as 1997's Deception Well [Amazon|Powell's], 1998's Vast [Amazon|Powell's] and 2003's Memory [Amazon|Powell's] often involve the far future and nanotechnology in new societies on Earth and in space. Her recent trilogy that started with The Red: First Light (3rd place for the 2014 Campbell Award) is a study of cybernetics and the power-shift attendant with emerging AI.
NIVEN, Larry. Ringworld [Amazon|Powell's]. A crew made up of three different races sets out to discover and explore a gigantic world fashioned into a ring around its sun by vanished master engineers. Nebula, Hugo, 1971. Other books of interest: The Mote in God's Eye [Amazon|Powell's] (with Jerry Pournelle), 1974, and later collaborations, as well as collections of his Known Space stories, Neutron Star [Amazon|Powell's] and Tales of Known Space [Amazon|Powell's].
NORTON, Andre. Star Man's Son [Amazon|Powell's] (1952). The first of a long series of romantic juveniles popular with young readers and adults as well. Norton is even better known for her fantasy novels, particularly her Witch World sequence.
ORWELL, George. Nineteen Eighty-four [Amazon|Powell's] (1949). A famous anti-utopian novel about total psychological and political control, even of history and language, in the near future (now the past). Animal Farm [Amazon|Powell's] (1945) about communism treated as a farmyard fable.
POHL, Frederik. The Space Merchants [Amazon|Powell's] (with Cyril Kornbluth) (1953). The advertising agencies, with the aid of the multinational corporations, run the world in this dystopian novel of overpopulation, pollution, and scarce resources. Pohl has collaborated frequently but is a rewarding author on his own, particularly at the shorter lengths. Other books of interest: The Age of the Pussyfoot [Amazon|Powell's] (1970); The Best of Frederik Pohl [Amazon|Powell's] (1975); Man Plus [Amazon|Powell's], Nebula, 1975; Gateway [Amazon|Powell's] won the trifecta: Nebula, Hugo, and Campbell Award , 1977; Jem [Amazon|Powell's], ABA award, 1979; The Years of the City [Amazon|Powell's], Campbell, 1984. Author's Hugo Award-winning blog here. Pohl also won the Hugo Award for fan writing with his The Way the Future Blogs.
POURNELLE, Jerry. The Mote in God's Eye [Amazon|Powell's] (1974) was Pournelle's first collaboration with Larry Niven and a best seller, as was their Lucifer's Hammer [Amazon|Powell's](1977). Pournelle, on his own, has written a number of combat SF novels and edited a variety of anthologies.
PRIEST, Christopher. The Glamour [Amazon|Powell's] (1984) confirmed the transition of a British writer of speculative fiction such as The Inverted World [Amazon|Powell's] (1974) and A Dream of Wessex [Amazon|Powell's](1977) into the mainstream with its consideration of hard-to-notice people who perfect an ability to become invisible. His The Islanders [Amazon|Powell's] won the 2012 Campbell Award (tie with Joan Slonczewski). A recent novel of distinction is The Separation [Amazon|Powell's].
ROBERTS, Adam. Jack Glass: The Story of a Murderer [Amazon|Powell's] (2012) won the British Science Fiction Award and the Campbell Award. His 2014 novel, B�te, is a fascinating exploration of animal (and hybrid) intelligence. Roberts has been a perennial award nominee for futuristic and often-brutal works that push the edge of what makes characters likeable.
ROBINSON, Kim Stanley. Red Mars [Amazon|Powell's] (1992) won a Nebula and Green Mars [Amazon|Powell's] (1993) won a Hugo. These two parts of Robinson's Mars trilogy (third, Blue Mars [Amazon|Powell's]) compare with his earlier Orange County "trilogy" The Wild Shore [Amazon|Powell's] (1984), The Gold Coast [Amazon|Powell's] (1988), and Pacific Edge [Amazon|Powell's] (1990), which won a Campbell Award.
ROBINSON, Frank. The Glass Inferno [Amazon|Powell's] (1975) was the first of Robinson's best-selling disaster novels with the late Thomas N. Scortia and was filmed (along with Richard Martin Stern's The Tower) as The Towering Inferno. Robinson's earlier solo novel, also filmed, was The Power [Amazon|Powell's] (1956).
ROBINSON, Spider. Stardance [Amazon|Powell's] (1979, with Jeanne Robinson) won a Hugo and a Nebula for its novella version, and was followed by Starseed [Amazon|Powell's] (1991) and Starmind [Amazon|Powell's] (1995). He also is known for his Callahan's Crosstime Saloon stories.
RUSS, Joanna. The Female Man [Amazon|Powell's] (1976) may be the basic feminist SF statement by one of the most eloquent of its proponents. Her stories have been collected in The Zanzibar Cat [Amazon|Powell's] (1983) and (Extra)ordinary People [Amazon|Powell's] (1984). She won the Hugo for the novella "Souls," and the Nebula for the short story "When It Changed."
SARGENT, Pamela. Venus of Dreams [Amazon|Powell's] (1986) launched her terraforming of Venus series. Her feminist utopia The Shore of Women [Amazon|Powell's] (1986) was well received, and her feminist anthologies Women of Wonder (1975, 1976, 1978, 1995) are essential reading; the latest editions are Women of Wonder: The Classic Years [Amazon|Powell's], which reprint the first three volumes; and Women of Wonder: The Contemporary Years [Amazon|Powell's].
SAWYER, Robert. Hominids [Amazon|Powell's] won the Hugo (2003), The Terminal Experiment [Amazon|Powell's] won the Nebula (1995), and Mindscan [Amazon|Powell's] won the Campbell Award (2006). At the 2007 China International Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival and Conference, Sawyer won the Galaxy Award, which recognizes the most popular foreign author of the year for his or her body of work.
SCALZI, John. Old Man's War [Amazon|Powell's] (2005) earned Scalzi the Campbell-not-a-Hugo-Award for Best New Author, Redshirts [Amazon|Powell's] (2012) won the Hugo Award, and Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future (2014) - a detective-adventure with a disabled protagonist - was a finalist for the Campbell Memorial Award. The title derives from how 75-year-old citizens of Earth are recruited to join the defense forces of human colonies in space. Alternative-publishing advocates often point to Scalzi as an example of how "giving it away" can lead to success: He serialized Old Man's War on his website starting in 2002, which drew Tor Books' interest, who later published it traditionally. He also self-published Agent to the Stars [Amazon|Powell's], later published first by Subterranean Press (2005) and then by Tor (2008). Scalzi is often compared to Heinlein - especially in theme - though many critics feel his writing is more reminiscent of Joe Haldeman. Author's website here.
SHECKLEY, Robert. Untouched by Human Hands [Amazon|Powell's], 1954. Sheckley is a brilliant, innovative writer of short, often satirical, science fiction. Other story collections (Pilgrimage to Earth [Amazon|Powell's], 1957; Store of Infinity, 1960; Is That What People Do? [Amazon|Powell's], 1984) also are recommended. Novels include Mindswap [Amazon|Powell's] (1966), Dimension of Miracles [Amazon|Powell's] (1968), and Options [Amazon|Powell's] (1975).
SHEFFIELD, Charles. Brother to Dragons [Amazon|Powell's] (1992), about economic breakdown and population control, won the Campbell Award for this space scientist. He has written hard SF speculations such as The Web Between the Worlds [Amazon|Powell's] (1982) and his Heritage Universe series beginning with Summertide [Amazon|Powell's] (1990).
SHELLEY, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein [Amazon|Powell's] (1818) is the classic tale of the monster and his failed creator, often cited as the first work of true SF. Shelley - whom many consider "the mother of science fiction" - also wrote The Last Man [Amazon|Powell's] (1826), one of the first "last man on Earth" stories.
SHEPARD, Lucius. Green Eyes [Amazon|Powell's], Shepard's first novel, ranked close to Gibson's Neuromancer for all the awards of the year, but Shepard's strength may lie in the shorter forms such as his pieced-together look at a near-future Central American conflict, Life During Wartime [Amazon|Powell's] (1987), and fabulations such as The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daughter [Amazon|Powell's] (1988). He won the 2003 Sturgeon Award for "Over Yonder."
SHIEL, M. P. The Purple Cloud [Amazon|Powell's] (1901). Shiel was a turn-of-the-century author who wrote cautionary tales such as The Yellow Dangerer [Amazon|Powell's] (1899) and The Lord of the Sea [Amazon|Powell's] (1901). This is a low-keyed end-of-the-world story about three survivors of poisonous gases that pour from the ground.
SILVERBERG, Robert. Dying Inside [Amazon|Powell's] (1972). A telepath has found his gift both a source of power and curse; now he finds it slowly fading. Other books of interest: The Science Fiction Hall of Fame [Amazon|Powell's], editor, 1970; Nightwings [Amazon|Powell's](1969); Tower of Glass [Amazon|Powell's] (1970); Lord Valentine's Castle [Amazon|Powell's] (1980).
SIMAK, Clifford. City [Amazon|Powell's]. A civilization of intelligent dogs has inherited Earth from man; their commentary unites these stories about the decline and fall of humanity. International Fantasy Award, 1953. Other books of interest: Time and Again [Amazon|Powell's] (1951); Way Station [Amazon|Powell's], Hugo, 1964; A Choice of Gods [Amazon|Powell's] (1972) ; The Marathon Photograph and Other Stories [Amazon|Powell's] (1986).
SIMMONS, Dan. Hyperion [Amazon|Powell's] (1989) won a Hugo and with The Fall of Hyperion [Amazon|Powell's] (1990) form the single, large Hyperion Cantos [Amazon|Powell's] (1990), but Simmons may be better known for his horror with such novels as Children of the Night [Amazon|Powell's] (1992) and his 1992 Sturgeon Award story "This Year's Class Picture."
SLONCZEWSKI, Joan. A Door into Ocean [Amazon|Powell's] won the Campbell Award in 1986, and The Highest Frontier [Amazon|Powell's] won the 2012 Campbell (tie with Christopher Priest) - only the second time in Award history that an author has been so honored twice (after Frederik Pohl). This Professor of Biology at Kenyon College informs her fiction with knowledge about genetics and Quaker beliefs.
SMITH, Cordwainer. Norstrilia [Amazon|Powell's] (1975). Under this pseudonym, Paul Linebarger wrote colorfully fantastic fables of the future gathered in The Best of Cordwainer Smith [Amazon|Powell's] (1975) and The Instrumentality of Mankind [Amazon|Powell's] (1979). His short stories are available in a single volume from the New England Science Fiction Association, and his manuscripts and notes are available for researchers to use at the University of Kansas Spencer Library's special science-fiction collection.
SMITH, Edward E. Gray Lensman [Amazon|Powell's] (1951). E. E. Smith, Ph.D., called Doc Smith by a generation of fans, wrote great, sprawling space epics; this is a good sample involving a galactic battle between good and evil. There are five more volumes in the Lensman series, four novels in the Skylark series.
SPINRAD, Norman. Bug Jack Barron [Amazon|Powell's] (1969) was Spinrad's first big success about a television talk-show host who uncovers a plot to provide immortality to the powerful by the deaths of black children. Other books of interest: The Iron Dream [Amazon|Powell's] (1972); The Void Captain's Tale [Amazon|Powell's] (1983); Child of Fortune [Amazon|Powell's] (1985).
STAPLEDON, Olaf. Last and First Men [Amazon|Powell's] (1930). An English philosopher describes the next two billion years in the future of mankind--or seventeen different kinds of men, from First to Last. The Star Maker [Amazon|Powell's](1937), is even more visionary, traversing the whole universe and the whole history of creation; Odd John (1935) [Amazon|Powell's], on the other hand, is an intimate description of the birth and development of a superman, and one of the best.
STEPHENSON, Neal. Snow Crash [Amazon|Powell's] (1986) had a major influence on the genre, transforming Cyberpunk into a modern interpretation. The Diamond Age [Amazon|Powell's] won 2nd Place for the 1996 Campbell Award, heralding a new era of SF that examines the future through the lens of how nanotech and AI will change the world, and suggesting what would soon become known as Posthuman fiction. Stephenson's other important work includes Anathem (finalist for the 2009 Campbell) and Seveneves (finalist for the 2016 Campbell), among a great many other rich works brimming with ideas.
STERLING, Bruce. Islands in the Net [Amazon|Powell's], Campbell, 1988, is a cyberpunk novel by one of its major figures and publicists, who edited the definitive cyberpunk anthology Mirrorshades [Amazon|Powell's] (1986). He and Gibson collaborated on The Difference Engine [Amazon|Powell's] (1990), which has been called "steampunk."
STEWART, George R. Earth Abides [Amazon|Powell's]. Many non-science-fiction writers have written ineptly when they ventured into the field; a few have done well. This careful narrative of survival after a worldwide plague has decimated humanity and destroyed most of civilization is excellent. International Fantasy Award, 1951.
STURGEON, Theodore. More than Human [Amazon|Powell's]. An unusual treatment of superman as a Gestalt of six human outcasts with unusual abilities, written in Sturgeon's sensitive, stylish prose. International Fantasy Award, 1954. Sturgeon was even better as a writer of short fiction, of which a complete edition is in process. Many earlier collections exist of which The Worlds of Theodore Sturgeon [Amazon|Powell's] (1972) and Sturgeon Is Alive and Well... [Amazon|Powell's] (1971) are representative.
SWANWICK, Michael. Stations of the Tide [Amazon|Powell's], an SF novel that resembles fantasy, won the 1991 Nebula. It was followed by The Iron Dragon's Daughter [Amazon|Powell's] (1993), a fantasy novel with SF elements. Won the Sturgeon Award in 1990 for "The Edge of the World."
TENN, William. The Wooden Star [Amazon|Powell's] (1968) and other Tenn collections, available from New England Science Fiction Association, bring together the wondrous stories of this magical author whose real name is Philip Klass.
TEPPER, Sheri S. The Gate to Women's Country [Amazon|Powell's] (1988) marked Tepper's breakthrough into feminist (and critical) awareness. Since then she has produced a series of strikingly original novels including the Marjorie Westriding trilogy Grass [Amazon|Powell's] (1989), Raising the Stones [Amazon|Powell's] (1990), and Sideshow [Amazon|Powell's] (1992). She has written many fantasy novels including the fabulous Beauty [Amazon|Powell's] (1991) and A Plague of Angels [Amazon|Powell's] (1993).
TIDHAR, Lavie. Central Station [Amazon|Powell's] (2016), a brilliant mosaic novel set in a high-tech city hosting the titular spaceport near Tel Aviv, Tidhar's lush prose modernizes cyberpunk while expanding the boundaries of the SF genre. Won the 2017 Campbell Award.
TIPTREE, James Jr. Crown of Stars [Amazon|Powell's] (1988), among a number of Tiptree's story collections, collects most of her great stories. Tiptree was a pseudonym for the late Alice Sheldon. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever [Amazon|Powell's] includes her Hugo-winning stories "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" (1973) and "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?" (1977), and her Nebula story "Love Is the Plan, the Plan Is Death," as well as "The Women Men Don't See." Tiptree also wrote two novels, Up the Walls of the World [Amazon|Powell's] (1978) and Brightness Falls from the Air [Amazon|Powell's] (1985).
TOLKIEN, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings [Amazon|Powell's]. This modern epic fantasy once was a campus craze and has become the template for an entire genre, retaining considerable popularity, especially after three immensely popular movies. International Fantasy Award, 1957.
TUCKER, Wilson. The Long Loud Silence [Amazon|Powell's] (1952). A novel of survival after a disastrous biological war. Other books of interest: The Year of the Quiet Sun [Amazon|Powell's] (1970), retrospective Campbell award, 1976.
VANCE, Jack. The Dragon Masters [Amazon|Powell's]. Far-out fantasy in the far-distant future. Hugo, 1963. Other books of interest: The Dying Earth [Amazon|Powell's] (1950); The Languages of Pao [Amazon|Powell's] (1958); several series.
VAN VOGT, A. E. The World of Null-A [Amazon|Powell's] (1948). Van Vogt was the great action-adventure writer of the 1940s who dealt with great powers and undiscovered science as if they were magic and he was writing myth; this one deals with teleportation and a superman trying to discover his powers and the nature of a galactic conspiracy. The Pawns of Null-A [Amazon|Powell's] (1956) is one of the first of two sequels. Other books of interest: Slan [Amazon|Powell's] (1946); The Voyage of the Space Beagle [Amazon|Powell's] (1950); The War Against the Rull [Amazon|Powell's] (1959).
VARLEY, John. The Persistence of Vision [Amazon|Powell's] (1978). Varley was recognized as a star almost immediately, and this collection includes his Nebula and Hugo award-winning title story. Other books of interest: The Barbie Murders [Amazon|Powell's] (1980, republished as Picnic on Nearside, [Amazon|Powell's] 1984); The Ophiuchi Hotline [Amazon|Powell's] (1977); his Titan (or Gaia) trilogy [Amazon|Powell's]; and Steel Beach [Amazon|Powell's] (1992).
VERNE, Jules. Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea [Amazon|Powell's] (1870). The great French master's greatest science-fiction novel. All of Verne's many science-fiction novels have historical interest. Most important: From the Earth to the Moon [Amazon|Powell's] (1865); Journey to the Center of the Earth [Amazon|Powell's] (1864); Robur the Conqueror [Amazon|Powell's](1886).
VINGE, Joan. The Snow Queen [Amazon|Powell's] (1981), based upon Hans Christian Anderson and Robert Graves's The White Goddess, won a Hugo; sequels were World's End [Amazon|Powell's] (1984) and The Summer Queen [Amazon|Powell's] (1991).
VINGE, Vernor. A Fire Upon the Deep [Amazon|Powell's] (1992) shared a Hugo with Willis's Doomsday Book with its portrayal of a galaxy dominated by artificial intelligences. Other books of interest by this professor of mathematics: True Names [Amazon|Powell's] (1981), Across Realtime [Amazon|Powell's] (1988), and A Deepness in the Sky [Amazon|Powell's], which won the Campbell Award in 2000. Began discussion of the "Singularity" with this essay
VONNEGUT, Kurt, Jr. The Sirens of Titan [Amazon|Powell's] (1959). Early Vonnegut, when he still was considered a science-fiction writer, but perhaps his best--about a search for meaning in the universe. Other books of interest: Player Piano [Amazon|Powell's] (1952); Cat's Cradle [Amazon|Powell's] (1963); Slaughterhouse-Five [Amazon|Powell's] (1969).
WATSON, Ian. The Embedding [Amazon|Powell's] (1973). Watson's first novel, about the influence of language on perceptions of reality, is still one of his best. He has continued to produce effective novels and short stories such as those collected in The Very Slow Time Machine [Amazon|Powell's] (1979).
WELLS, H. G. The War of the Worlds [Amazon|Powell's] (1898). The classic Wells novel about invasion from Mars. All Well's early science fiction (before 1902) is important, particularly The Time Machine [Amazon|Powell's] (1895); The Invisible Man [Amazon|Powell's] (1897); When the Sleeper Wakes [Amazon|Powell's] (1899); and The First Men in the Moon [Amazon|Powell's] 1901. His short stories also are excellent and less familiar.
WILHELM, Kate. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang [Amazon|Powell's] (1976). A post-catastrophe novel about an isolated group that tries to survive through cloning. Hugo, 1976. Her short fiction is collected in such books as The Downstairs Room and Other Speculative Fiction (1968) and The Infinity Box [Amazon|Powell's] (1975).
WILLIAMSON, Jack. The Humanoids [Amazon|Powell's] (1959). The perfect mechanical servants destroy human incentive and are battled by a strange group with unusual talents. His career, spanning eight decades, has produced novels ranging from The Legion of Space [Amazon|Powell's] (1934, 1936, 1939) to Beachhead [Amazon|Powell's] (1992). His novel, Terraforming Earth [Amazon|Powell's], won the 2002 Campbell Award (a tie with The Chronoliths, by Robert Charles Wilson).
WILSON, G. Willow. Though she is primarily a comics and graphic-novel writer, Wilson's brilliant first novel, Alif the Unseen [Amazon|Powell's] - a hybrid Middle-Eastern fantasy cyberpunk story - won the 2013 World Fantasy Award and 3rd place for the Campbell Award.
WOLFE, Gene. The Book of the New Sun tetralogy, beginning with The Shadow of the Torturer [Amazon|Powell's] (1980). Four long novels (with a fifth added later), that are really one very long novel, about the wanderings of a young torturer through a strange future world. Novels in the series have won, variously, the World Fantasy Award, the Nebula Award, and the Campbell Award. Other books of interest: a new Long Sun series began with Nightside the Long Sun [Amazon|Powell's] (1993).
WYNDHAM, John. The Day of the Triffids [Amazon|Powell's] (1951). John Beynon Harris assumed the pen name of John Wyndham and re-created the typically English small-scale narrative of a worldwide catastrophe, in this case universal blindness combined with carnivorous, mobile plants. Other books of interest: The Midwich Cuckoos [Amazon|Powell's] (1957) and The Chrysalids [Amazon|Powell's].
ZEBROWSKI, George. Macrolife [Amazon|Powell's] (1979, rev. 1990). A Stapledonian novel about starfaring in space habitats as the proper form of human existence. Other novels of interest: Stranger Suns [Amazon|Powell's](1991), The Killing Star [Amazon|Powell's] (1994, with Charles Pellegrino), and Brute Orbits [Amazon|Powell's], which won the 1999 Campbell Award.
ZELAZNY, Roger. Lord of Light [Amazon|Powell's]. A group of humans on a colony planet use advanced technology to give themselves immortality and godlike powers in a guise of Hindu gods, until one of them leads a revolt. Hugo, 1968. Other books of interest: This Immortal [Amazon|Powell's] (1966); The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth and Other Stories [Amazon|Powell's] (1974) with its Nebula-winning title story. Zelazny may have been better known for his Amber novel series that began with Nine Princes in Amber [Amazon|Powell's] (1970) but his SF was special.
To aid in tracking down these books, here are search engines for two of the main online booksellers:
We continually update this list to include more recommended reading, especially from recent years. Do you see important omissions or books that you feel need to be added to help fill in the last 30 years? Please let me know: Chris McKitterick (cmckit.SF@gmail.com).
In the mean time, here are some more great recommendations:
Last updated 3/12/2021