Genre Essentials: Science Fiction — 10 Science Fiction Books [Fiction] You Must Read

August 29th, 2012 by

When you are writing an original screenplay within a specific genre, you really should know the heart, soul and guts of that genre. This will inform every step of your creative and writing process: concept, character development, brainstorming, plotting, tone, style, atmosphere, voice, pace, and so on. There are certain attributes common to each genre, and you need to know as much about them as possible, if you want to follow, reverse or break those conventions.

Obviously you can’t read and watch everything, but isn’t there a way to cover the essentials?

Which led me to a new GITS series: Genre Essentials.

This week: Science Fiction.

Today: 10 Science Fiction Books [Fiction] You Must Read.

Please post your suggestions in comments. Tomorrow and the rest of the week, let’s do our best to generate quality suggestions for the other categories.

To read your suggestions for 10 Science Fiction Movies You Must See and add to the list of suggestions, go here.

To read your suggestions for 10 Science Fiction Scripts You Must Analyze and add to the list of suggestions, go here.

Next week: Thriller.

I’m happy to announce that Shaula Evans, who as I’m sure you have noticed has been an active presence in this series and others, has agreed to oversee the flow of resource suggestions for Genre Essentials. My current thinking is whittle down the choices to something on the order of 20 titles [where we have that many], then put them up to a vote of the GITS community to end up with 10 top choices. Meanwhile thanks, Shaula, for the help!

UPDATE: The votes are in for Action, Comedy, and Drama. Suggestions are also in for Family, Fantasy, and Horror. I will be posting those lists for voting soon. Thanks to everyone for participating with their suggestions and votes.

12 thoughts on “Genre Essentials: Science Fiction — 10 Science Fiction Books [Fiction] You Must Read

  1. Debbie Moon says:

    Only Forward, Michael Marshall Smith
    Roadside Picnic, Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
    The Mote In God’s Eye, Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
    Babel 17, Samuel Delany
    Neuromancer, William Gibson
    any of Isaac Asimov’s robot stories
    The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
    The Prestige, Christopher Priest
    The Star Fraction, Ken MacLeod

    and I’ll think of a hundred more the moment I hit ‘send’, no doubt…

    1. Lydia Mulvey says:

      Debbie,

      Only Forward is in my top ten all time favourite sci fi books along with Spares, which I’ve listed below.

      Have you read any of Smith’s other non sci fi stuff?

      1. Debbie Moon says:

        I read the first of his non- SF books, but it felt quite conventional, compared to the energy and wit of Only Forward and Spares. I often wonder what happened there…

  2. Dune – Frank Herbert
    Neuromancer – William Gibson
    Dangerous Visions – Harlan Ellison
    The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin
    Her Smoke Rose Up Forever – James Tiptree, Jr.
    Parable of the Sower – Octavia Butler
    Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
    On the Beach – Nevil Shute
    Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein

  3. Joe Parton says:

    I’ll add my seconds (thirds) for:

    Neuromancer
    Roadside Picnic
    Dune

    And add:

    Mission: Earth – L. Ron Hubbard (10 books combining to make 1 novel, insanely long, but well worth it. over all, it is the best sci-fi I have read)
    Final Blackout – L. Ron Hubbard (No, I’m not a Scientologist, but it has to be said that Hubbard is among the best sci-fi writers of the last 100+ years, although American’s might take offence to this novel)
    Foundation (the original – Isaac Asimov
    Crashlander – Larry Nevin
    The Stainless Steel Rat – Harry Harrison

    And many more that I am trying to remember right now.

  4. The Foundation Trilogy – Isaac Asimov
    Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
    Parable of the Sower – Octavia Butler
    1984 – George Orwell
    Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card (OSC)
    Speaker for the Dead – OSC
    Xenocide – OSC
    Armor – John Steakley
    Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
    The Time Machine – HG Wells

  5. BurnettRM says:

    Hyperion/Fall of Hyperion Dan Simmons
    Dune – Frank Herbert
    The Harvest – Robert Charles Wilson
    Mockingbird – Walter Tevis
    Stranger in a Strange Land -Robert Heinlein
    Snow Crash – Neil Stephenson
    Footfall – Larry Niven/Jerry Pournelle
    The Forever War -Joe Haldeman
    The Mars Trilogy – Kim Stanley Robinson
    The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin

  6. A Scanner Darkly — Philip K Dick
    The Martian Chronicles — Ray Bradbury
    Stranger in a Strange Land — Robert Heinlein
    Foundation Series — Issac Asimov
    The Brentford Triangle — Robert Rankin
    The Dancers at the End Of Time — Michael Moorcock
    Illuminatus! — Robert Anton Wilson
    Foucault’s Pendulum — Umberto Eco
    Snow Crash — Neal Stephenson
    Neuromancer — William Gibson
    The Midwich Cuckoos — John Wyndham
    War of the Worlds — H.G. Wells
    The Stars My Destination — Alfred Bester
    Gormenghast Series — Mervyn Peake

  7. Lydia Mulvey says:

    Ooh, my favourite genre!

    These are the books I return to again and again.

    -Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

    -Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

    -Children of Men by P.D. James

    -Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

    -Spares by Michael Marshall Smith

    -Mistress of Silence by Jacqueline Harpmann

    -Drowned World by J.G. Ballard

    -One of Us by Michael Marshall Smith

  8. HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
    Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
    Dune by Frank Herbert
    Illuminatus Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson
    Neuromancer by William Gibson
    The Time Machine by HG Wells
    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A Heinlein

    I’ll leave the last one off, because I just realized I haven’t named any non-American, non-European books. I’m sure there are some out there that should be on this list.

  9. 7LDR says:

    Foundation – Asimov
    Misc short story collection – Asimov (IMO his best stuff)
    2001 – Clarke
    Phillip k dick – take your pick
    Bradbury – Martian. Chronicles / farenheit
    Dune – Herbert
    Enders game
    The doomsday book connie willis (barely sci fi but heh)
    Something somebody cyberpunk (not an actual title just think something in the sub genre is required sci fi reading)
    something somebody space opera.

  10. Shaula Evans says:

    What a fantastic list. Here are the 64 suggestions to date. Anything else?

    1. 1984 by George Orwell
    2. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
    3. 2001 by Clarke
    4. A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick
    5. any of Isaac Asimov’s robot stories
    6. Armor by John Steakley
    7. Babel 17 by Samuel Delany
    8. Bradbury by Martian. Chronicles / farenheit
    9. Children of Men by P.D. James
    10. Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
    11. Crashlander by Larry Nevin
    12. Dangerous Visions by Harlan Ellison
    13. Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
    14. Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
    15. Dune by Frank Herbert
    16. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (OSC)
    17. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
    18. Final Blackout by L. Ron Hubbard (No, I’m not a Scientologist, but it has to be said that Hubbard is among the best sci-fi writers of the last 100+ years, although American’s might take offence to this novel)
    19. Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
    20. Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
    21. Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov
    22. Gormenghast Series by Mervyn Peake
    23. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree, Jr.
    24. HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
    25. Hyperion/Fall of Hyperion Dan Simmons
    26. Illuminatus Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson
    27. Misc short story collection by Isaac Asimov (IMO his best stuff)
    28. Mission: Earth by L. Ron Hubbard (10 books combining to make 1 novel, insanely long, but well worth it. over all, it is the best sci-fi I have read)
    29. Mistress of Silence by Jacqueline Harpmann
    30. Mockingbird by Walter Tevis
    31. Neuromancer by William Gibson
    32. On the Beach by Nevil Shute
    33. One of Us by Michael Marshall Smith
    34. Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith
    35. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
    36. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
    37. Phillip k dick by take your pick
    38. Roadside Picnic by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
    39. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    40. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
    41. Spares by Michael Marshall Smith
    42. Speaker for the Dead by OSC
    43. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
    44. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
    45. The Brentford Triangle by Robert Rankin
    46. The Dancers at the End Of Time by Michael Moorcock
    47. The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
    48. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
    49. The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
    50. The Harvest by Robert Charles Wilson
    51. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
    52. The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson
    53. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
    54. The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
    55. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A Heinlein
    56. The Mote In God’s Eye by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
    57. The Prestige by Christopher Priest
    58. The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison
    59. The Star Fraction by Ken MacLeod
    60. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
    61. The Time Machine by HG Wells
    62. War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
    63. Xenocide by OSC
    64. Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

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