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My Top Ten Science Fiction Authors Of All Time

Updated on January 17, 2015

1. Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke was a titan of science fiction. His contributions to the genre and to the world's perspective on futurism are unparalleled. From writing the screenplay and the novel series 2001: A Space Odyssey, to winning an endless number of Hugo and Nebula awards. My favorite series to this day remains his Rendezvous With Rama, a bone chilling science fiction tale that makes what is "alien" or "out there" believably eerie instead of the cliched 'little green men' we are so used to. Clarke also included philosophy, politics, ethics, social themes, religion, and most of human culture in his hard science fiction, something rarely done, and especially rarely done well.

Favorite Novels: Rendezvous With Rama, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Childhood's End, The Nine Billion Names of God

2. Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov was another unforgettable titan of science fiction, one whose name often is synonymous with hard scifi. His countless stories sparked the imagination of countless numbers of children and adults, making us ask all the important questions. One of the first science fiction books I read was I, Robot, and the themes from it really got me thinking about artificial intelligence as a teenager.

Favorite Novels: Foundation, The End of Eternity, I, Robot

3. Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick has had an enormous impact on human culture, even if many aren't aware of it. His stories inspired an enormous number of films, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, Terminator, and Minority Report. Dick delivered stories that made us question our perspectives and biases on the world, insinuating that maybe our perspective as humans isn't so great after all.

Favorite Novels: Ubik, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, The Man in the High Castle

4. Ray Bradbury

Although Ray Bradbury himself insisted that he wasn't a science fiction author, his work has ultimately been received as blurring the lines between science fiction and fantasy, bringing many to the genre. Regardless of his intentions, his contribution to science fiction was immense, attracting people of all ages to read his accessible stories. His prose was remarkably efficient, consisting in simple, short sentences yet delivering a bone-chillingly vivid punch.

Favorite Novels: The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Dandelion Wine

5. Robert Heinlein

Robert Heinlein is a titan of science fiction, commonly regarded as part of the "Big Three" with Clarke and Asimov. In other words, my placement of Heinlein at #5 is a bit controversial, but I have what I feel like is a good reason. Heinlein was monumentally important for delivering soft scifi and the occasional hard scifi to the masses. Some of his novels got many people reading the genre that wouldn't have otherwise and similarly, I picked up Starship Troopers as a young boy because I was looking for a machismo novel. The part I fault Heinlein on is his Ayn Rand level political commentary and understanding. At one point during Citizen of the Galaxy, he hijacks the plot of the book to tell us that being poor is easier than being a wealthy businessman, because of responsibilities. His books without his backwards political views, such as The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, are incredibly superb, but I don't feel like he deserves a number three spot in my list over Bradbury and Dick for that.

Favorite Works: The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Stranger In A Strange Land, Citizen Of The Galaxy, Starship Troopers

6. Frederick Pohl

A lifelong fan and friend of both Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, Frederick Pohl is a legend that should be more widely known. Starting off as an editor and an agent for Isaac Asimov, Pohl found himself to compelled to write short stories. His career exploded shortly after, writing dozens of short stories, many receiving high marks by critics. His feel of dystopian satire mediated with focused intensity is how I best remember him, especially with The Last Theorem, a book initially written by Clarke that Pohl finished after Clarke became fatally ill.

Favorite Novels: Gateway, The Far Shore of Time, Man Plus, The Last Theorem

7) H.G. Wells

Who could forget the iconic H.G. Wells that started it all? While pre-dating the Golden Age of science fiction, H.G. Wells' stories inspired most of the authors on this list, and still serve as fascinating, even if we're more accustomed to some of the ideas. Put frankly, without Wells, science fiction probably wouldn't even exist today.

Favorite Novels: The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The Island of Doctor Moreau.

8. Frank Herbert

The Dune series alone solidifies the legacy of Frank Herbert, but luckily for us he published more than that. This is not to say that the Dune series is not his magnum opus, because it was. However, the Dune series took a more literary approach to science fiction and brought many people to the genre who hadn't been there before, exploring endless social themes and building unforgettable characters.

Favorite Novels: Dune, Destination Void, The God Makers, The Eyes of Heisenberg

9. Dan Simmons

Dan Simmons is best known for Hyperion, a novel and series that explored, overlapped, and integrated a lot of literary themes some thought impossible in hard science fiction. Yet Hyperion not only does that, it does it remarkably well, with an incredible, long-running plot, and equally interesting, diverse characters. Simmons is also known to have a wide degree of writing interests, including mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and thriller novels.

Favorite Novels: Hyperion, Ilium, Endymion, Hardcase

10. Larry Niven

Larry Niven is memorable for his hard scifi that employs a lot of theoretical physics and philosophy to put the reader in an exciting and mind-boggling futuristic world. He's also written for DC Comics on the Green Lantern and Star Trek:The Animated Series, including concepts in physics such as time dilation, redshift, and entropy .

Favorite Novels: Ringworld, Oath of Fealty, The Magic Goes Away

Honorable Mentions:

Ursula K. Le Guin

Jules Verne

Orson Scott Card

Michael Crichton

Terry Pratchett

William Gibson


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    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      As you say, this is your list. Mine would have to start with Heinlein, not because I agree with the philosophies he espoused, or even with his technological extrapolations. For example, the idea that when enough synaptic connections were made, the supercomputer in "Moon" would wake up and become a mixture of man and child, but fundamentally human in outlook, is in my eyes very far fetched. But Heinlein got me thinking about such things at a young age, and did so to a greater degree than Clark or Asimov or other SF writers did.