Science fiction has a lot of subgenres these days and far too often has Fantasy lumped into it, when they are truly different. I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy both since I was… well, I don’t really because it was that long ago.
Trying to distill my favorite science fiction authors and books down to a handful turned out to actually be a lot easier than I thought it would. The reason being that each of them approaches science fiction in a different way.
But trying to distill down to just share 2 favorites was harder than I thought it would be. In the end, I had to pick the 2 authors who each created a series of novels which continue to influence my imagination years and even decades after first reading them. They are part of the collection of books on my shelves which I will never get rid of – even though I mostly have them only has cheap-o pocket paperbacks.
I first read this series beginning when I was in Junior High. They had all been published by the time I found the series, but it took me time to find them (no Internet, lack of funds) so I eagerly awaited each new novel and devoured them as quickly as I could get my hands on them. In them, I found a world that was different than our own, but which struggled with the same problems. A world where a robot learned to achieve a level of humanity we all wish we could even come close to. It’s a series that remains relevant today, though the changes in modern technology might cause and accentuation of the noir. But really, is that bad?
I didn’t begin this series until about 5 years ago, but I finished every book I could find within only a few months. This series begins in the realm of “hard sci-fi” but ends in a metaphysical world where science is so far advanced that it is more like magic. The characters (generations of them) make sacrifices that are nearly unimaginable to me, but Clarke paints them with ease.
The interesting thing about these 2 authors is that they used sci-fi stories to actually tell us something about our own humanity. They didn’t use it to just show us something fantastical and entertaining. They also did it with elegance, though I would consider neither masters of the written word. Their stories transcended their language and built entire worlds in my mind. Also note that both were scientists as well as authors.
I left Gentry Lee out of consideration because I think he did (and continues to do) far better on his own. I do not mean that to discredit his contribution to the Rama series, as my understanding is he did a lot of the writing with Clarke doing editing and rewriting, but that I think Lee has his own unique style and superb imagination.
Runners up would include Stanislaw Lem for Solaris and Tales of Pirx The Pilot and Carl Sagan for Contact.
Who are your favorite sci-fi authors and novels?