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21 Fantasy and Science Fiction Stories Every Writer Must Read

Updated on October 24, 2016

The Top 21 Fantasy and Science Fiction Stories: An Introduction

The world of science and fantasy fiction has the ability to attract and enchant even the most irregular of readers. Its their consistent mystical journeys, fearful villains, and extraordinary heroes that make this genre a must read for anyone even slightly interested in reading.

Fantasy writers possess that special creative writing which enables them to lead audiences into a once-in-a-lifetime sensation. Fantasy writers and science fiction writers alike have done wonders over the past decades, leading to stories that have changed the experience of writing and reading a book forever.

This listicle presents the top 21 fantasy and science fiction stories that every writer and reader must read. These stories involve settings and characters that are something more than ordinary. Whereas the authors have set a benchmark on how to write a book and due to their efforts, writing books is more popular and sought after.

How to Write Realistic Monsters, Aliens, and Fantasy Creatures: The Top Writer's Toolkit for Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction (How to Write Realistic Fiction) (Volume 3)
How to Write Realistic Monsters, Aliens, and Fantasy Creatures: The Top Writer's Toolkit for Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction (How to Write Realistic Fiction) (Volume 3)

Description on Goodreads:

Do you suffer writer's block? This thrilling third volume in the #1 best selling How to Write Realistic Fiction series shows you how to create compelling monsters, aliens, and fantasy races the fast, easy way. It features over 150 plot ideas to jump start the plot of your next novel, short story, or screenplay. And that's not all! There's also a complete, detailed description of both the astral and ethereal planes where ghosts and demons live. Use the unique Monster Builder to create your own custom creatures and discover the best way to assign magic spells, psychic abilities, and supernatural strengths and weaknesses to your monsters.


What Makes The Chosen Science Fiction and Fantasy Books The Best?

This is a potentially tricky question but one that can be answered with experience and research. The top science and fantasy fiction books generally incorporate elegant story telling with vivid, imaginative questions that have us desiring all sorts of probing questions about the basis of everything from destiny and religion to society and politics. The question of ‘What if?’ is usually raised.

Of course, it’s easy to get so lost in unique and innovative ideas that the actual process of storytelling become merely a means to carry the main idea. One of the problems with science fiction includes the presence of ground breaking ideas, location, and a strong plot with deep characters but not at the same time.

This listicle tries to identify books with ample ideas that have altered the landscape of the genre that is fantasy and science fiction, this list is selected based on the energy of the story and characters. Nonetheless, some compromises have to be made, especially in this genre.

Many of the well-regarded classics science fictions lead towards ground breaking ideas but forego the importance of an adequate story and characters. However, modern science and fantasy fiction puts a lot more importance on story and characters and have influenced the modern day art of writing books.

One generally finds science fiction written in the past twenty years more entertaining than some of the older stories due to the addition of elements like a solid plot and impressive abilities and generation of characters.

But the older classics, despite their perceived weaknesses, still deserve a place for the immense and strong influence they have had on the genre.

Stories true to their character and strengths stand the test of time and the ideas presented remain in the reader’s thoughts for a long time. Science fiction has it a bit harder than other genres because the science in the books might end up wrong in light of recent discovery which then puts the book in an awkward place – a classic for its time but with faulty science.

These are the top 21 picks for the best fantasy and science fiction books one absolutely must read. Some of the listed books are popular and well known whereas some are not mainstream, but all are absolutely deserving of inclusion in this list and worth reading.

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Description on Goodreads:

Seconds before the Earth is demolished for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is saved by Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised Guide. Together they stick out their thumbs to the stars and begin a wild journey through time and space.


Writers, Find Inspiration in the Following 21 Works of Fantasy and Science Fiction!

1.The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Confirms the saying ‘Old is Gold’. The book begins with council workmen arriving at Arthur Dent's house. They wish to destruct his house in order to build a bypass.

The Guardian named it one of the 1000 novels everyone must read, and a BBC poll ranked it fourth, out of 200, in their Big Read poll.

2. Dune by Frank Herbert

One piece of science fiction one can never get enough of. Epic scenery, courageous heroes, and uncompromising villains. This novel had everything and 50 years on still comes out on top or somewhere near it when searching for all-time top science fiction stories.

The story begins with a drug, the "spice" melange, which is necessary for the mental powers of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, and also for space travel. Whoever controls melange, therefore, has absolute political power. The drug, however, is found in only one location, the desert world Arrakis, but when the Emperor gives control of Arrakis to the Atreides family it is actually a trap, and when power-hungry Baron Harkonnen springs the trap only young Paul Atreides and his mother are able to escape into the desert.

It's an adventurous action-packed story that grabs the reader’s attention instantly and does not let go until the last page. Once you get started, it's really very hard to slow down. But alongside the action, there's a critical ecological message that just gets more relevant and of importance to the entire world.

3. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein

Robert Heinlein was the embodiment of aesthetic science and fantasy fiction writing. One of the top science fiction writers of his generation.

It's the story of a revolt by a lunar colony that is mostly made up of crooks and political traitors. The hero is Mannie, a computer technician who finds out that the Lunar Authority's master computer has achieved self-awareness, and through the computer, he learns that if the colony doesn't stop exporting hydroponic wheat to Earth there will soon be starvation.

4. Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney

A cult classic in every sense of the world. Loved and hated in equal velocity by fans all over the world since its publication 35 years ago.

An elongated trip to and through Bellona, a fictional city in the American Midwest cut off from the rest of the world by some unexplainable catastrophe. William Gibson has referred to Dhalgren as "A riddle that was never meant to be solved."

Dhalgren has remained immensely popular throughout the years, being reprinted 7 times since 1975. And most of all, this is one of the books most often mentioned when authors mention works that spurred them to invention and boldness of experimentation with form.

5. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

One can safely assume that possibly every writer of fantasy writing today who began writing after the publication of the RINGS trilogy owes a great deal to Tolkien. He may not have invented the genre, but he provided it with its most important model in modern times and every writer is aware of its various components. Few will disagree with this. Moreover, the material has impacted writers working in other categories of fiction as well, not so much by its content as by its style.

The title of the novel refers to the story's main antagonist, the Dark Lord Sauron who had in an earlier age created the One Ring to rule the other Rings of Power as the ultimate weapon in his campaign to conquer and rule all of Middle-earth. From quiet beginnings in the Shire, a hobbit land not unlike the English countryside, the story ranges across Middle-earth, following the course of the War of the Ring through the eyes of its characters.

6. War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

A story that led to the golden era of science fiction. Adapted into numerous films, comic books, radio, and computer games. Few ideas and storylines have captured the imagination of the audience than the War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells.

One of the initial stories that describe a conflict between mankind and an extraterrestrial race.The story is a first-person narrative of both the protagonist in Surrey and of his younger brother in London as southern England is invaded and taken over by Martians. The novel is one of the most commented-on works in the science fiction genre.

7. Hyperion by Dan Simmons

An incredible Hugo-winning space opera that combines the narrative element of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales with a futuristic space opera set in the distant future. The whole series, and not just the first book, is based on the idea that man's conquering the stars is imminent and the complexities and consequences this brings. It's a rough and exhausting ride and one of the best science fiction books ever written.

The novel explores real human themes. Many commentators describe the narrative structure of the characters as a work of pure imagination and genius and literary elegance that's hardly found in science and fantasy fiction.

8. Neuromancer by William Gibson

Neuromancer wasn't the first science fiction story that depicted the life of people on the streets, but Gibson displayed that with complete control, making up a street slang that was adopted by the real world.

Through a savage world of greedy corporations and government negligence, Case and Molly risk their lives in the bright and fatal landscape of cyberspace, following a trail that ultimately leads them to Wintermute, a powerful artificial intelligence at a time when it is prohibited.

An effective combination of computer knowledge and action, Neuromancer is unlike any novel before it, a totally unique and absolutely exhilarating stance on the near future.

9. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

The first science-fiction work to be included in the New York Times Book Review's bestseller list. Stranger sold 100,000 copies worldwide. On the occasion of the novel's 30th anniversary, many called it "a wonderfully humanizing artifact for those who can enjoy thinking about the place of human beings not at a dinner table but in the universe."

10. Childhood’ End by Arthur Clarke

The story follows the bloodless alien invasion of Earth by the mystical Overlords, whose arrival initiates decades of apparent bliss under indirect alien control, at the cost of human identity and culture.

Childhood's End was one of those stories that enhanced the genre early and helped make it more open-ended and open to change. Childhood's End was nominated for a retro Hugo award in 2004.

11. The Man in the High Castle by Philip Dick

The novel seems like a fairly conventional alternate history in which the Axis Powers won the Second World War. As a result, in the 1960s of the novel, America is divided in three; Germany rules the East Coast, Japan controls the West Coast, while a narrow independent buffer state exists between the two.

The story is full of betrayals and deceptions; several major characters are travelling under false identities, which only serves to increase the intrigue of the reader.

12. Use of Weapons by Iain Banks

Zakalwe is a mercenary, a bloody and effective soldier, who has worked for Special Circumstances on a number of occasions before and is called on for one last mission. The final revelation about Zakalwe's true identity is brutal and breathtaking.

The innovative structure of the novel is what makes this an especially powerful story. And it is told with a mixture of cruel, unrelenting violence and sparkling intellect that is true of Banks and helps to explain his extraordinary popularity.

13. The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov

The story begins with a great galactic empire that has spread peace and civilization far and wide across space. But Hari Selden has adopted the science of psychohistory which mixes sociology, history, and mathematics as an effective way of foreseeing the future.

Epic in scope, determination, and readability, the Foundation Trilogy deservedly won the Hugo Award for the best ever series, the only time that award was ever handed out.

14. Ringworld by Larry Niven

The novel starts in 2850 AD on Earth. Louis Gridley Wu is celebrating his 200th birthday. Despite his age, Louis is in perfect physical condition but is bored. He thinks of taking a trip to and beyond the reaches of known Space, all alone in a spaceship for a year or more.

As well as having had a huge impact on nearly all succeeding space, the book has helped developed a multi-billion-dollar industry.

15. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

The book depicts the Sumerian language as the firmware programming language for the brainstem, which is supposedly functioning as the BIOS for the human brain. According to characters in the book, the goddess Asherah is the personification of a linguistic virus, similar to a computer virus.

The book presented, for the first time ever, the interaction of humans and the digital world. Leading to wide-spread popularity.

16. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

From its first publication in 1996, this book and its sequels helped develop a new, darker revival of epic fantasy that turned the genre's expectations on their heads

The novel includes recounting of events from various points of view, Martin introduces the plot-lines of the noble houses of Westeros, the Wall, and the Targaryen. The novel has inspired several spin-off works, including several games. Indeed the zenith of creative writing.

17. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Written among the events of the Great Depression, Brave New World states that stability is the most important need of civilization, and the world state of the novel is that of peace where all needs are being met, and everyone is content.

It is a perfect example of the sort of dystopian fiction written between the 1920s and 1950s, and even after all this time it is an interesting and an engaging read.

18. Kindred by Octavia Butler

A dark fantasy novel that presents the tricky core of American history: slavery. This novel, in which a young middle-class black woman finds herself mixed between 1976 California and Maryland.

While Butler's novels intend to the feminist majority and regions that experience hate, her stories are not sold up by that appeal. Reading Octavia Butler is to enjoy one of literature’s finest.

19. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games is a novel about a young woman who fights for her life and eventually her civilization's well-being in a post-apocalyptic society.

It has initiated a whole new variety of books set in a bleak future where an oppressive regime is facing an imminent coup. Experts guide on how to write a book.

20. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

The Forever War is a classic combination of military science fiction and social manipulation. While some aspects might be far-fetched, there's no denying that it's a powerful work. William Mandella is no hero. He's just an average guy who gets picked and has the misfortune to actually survive an unforgiving war.

Haldeman won numerous top awards for this book. It has helped inspire generations of more realistic military science fiction authors. The inspiration of many science fiction writers.

21. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

The novel exhibits the journey of Severian, a humiliated journeyman torturer who is outlawed and forced to travel to Thrax, set in the distant future when the Sun has lost its spark and the Earth is colder.

The Book of the New Sun is famous for its slight and expert combining of science fiction and fantasy. Writing books never seemed this easy and enjoyable.

In conclusion, all of these above listed science and fantasy fiction novel and stories have contributed immensely to the popularity of the genre and a writer must read all of the above mentioned novels in order to truly appreciate the genre and the ability of the authors.

Images: © justdd / Adobe Stock; diversepixel / Adobe Stock; Angela Harburn / Adobe Stock.

Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction: How to Create Out-of-This-World Novels and Short Stories
Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction: How to Create Out-of-This-World Novels and Short Stories

Description on Goodreads:

Craft an otherworldly experience for your readers!Do you envision celestial cities in distant, fantastic worlds? Do you dream of mythical beasts and gallant quests in exotic kingdoms? If you have ever wanted to write the next great fantasy or science fiction story, this all-in-one comprehensive book will show you how. "Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction" is full of advice from master authors offering definitive instructions on world building, character creation, and storytelling in the many styles and possibilities available to writers of speculative fiction.



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