Top 10 Authors in the Science Fiction Genre
Pick on the genre all you want, but Science Fiction usually becomes Science Fact!
Good SciFi literature requires a special type of reader and an even more special kind of writer. The reader has to be able to escape the bonds of reality and transport themselves to a world consisting of galactic level crisis, strange worlds, and fantastic races of creatures. The writer, on the other hand, has to create this world. They have to create our release from reality, and make it believable enough that we want to be there.
So before any of you say it to yourself, no; science fiction is not the only genre I enjoy. My favorite authors are Tom Clancy, Conan Doyle, R.A. Salvatore, and Robert Heinlein. Out of those four, only one was a SciFi author. It's also important to note that while this list is a "Top Ten", they are in NO particular order as I feel it would do all of the authors an injustice. They are all experts at they're craft for very different reasons. Therefore, it didn't seem right to rank one over the other.
#1 Philip K. Dick- "The electric things have their life too. Paltry as those lives are."
It strikes me as odd that so few people know who Philip K. Dick was. However, if I mention Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Adjustment Bureau, and Next; people are like, "oh yeah, I remember those movies." Even the Terminator series is loosely based on a Dick story; Second Variety.
PKD was an amazing author, and much like another author on this list, he challenged us to use our brains and think when we spent time with his stories. He also wasn't afraid to broach tough topics that still ring true even more so today with the level of technology we have attained. All of PKD's works, in my opinion, force you to ask yourself the same question. Are the good guys really doing the right thing? Which begs the follow up..."Are the bad guys really bad or is their position being forced upon them by the so called good guys?"
I challenge you to read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner) and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and from there you will see how PKD really gets your synapses firing.
#2 Douglas Adams- "Don't Panic!"
For every genre, you have to have comic relief. Douglas Adams is SciFi Literature's comic relief. The amazing thing is that he was able to do this and be intelligent in his writing. And I must admit, that even though I do have a hard time with some sections of his works, being that I am a man of faith (Adams was a radical atheist), I still am able to find his books enjoyable and see them as works of fiction.
Any SciFi Geek will tell you that you must own a copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, then again so would most hippies. It's a 5 book trilogy actually, and no, that's not a typo. The Guide is Adams' magnum opus to be sure and belongs on any bookshelf. While humorous, it will force you to think about things that are difficult to address without some humor thrown in for good measure. It's also a great story, especially if you are a fan of British humor.
I also challenge you to read Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and it's sequels. I could describe it for you but I think Adams put the best definition on it when he said it was "a kind of ghost-horror-detective-time-travel-romantic-comedy-epic, mainly concerned with mud, music and quantum mechanics."
What's your type?
What is your favorite sub-genre of Science Fiction?
#3 Isaac Asimov- "There is no belief, however foolish, that will not gather its faithful adherents who will defend it to the death."
Asimov is the first of the "Big Three" authors of the golden age of Science Fiction. Asimov also has the added distinction of actually being a scientist, having been a tenured professor of Biochemistry at Boston University.
As an author, he is best known for the Foundation Trilogy and the Robot series of works. The Foundation Trilogy tells the story of the rise and fall of an interstellar government in a history of the future. The Robot series lays down the 3 Fundamental Laws of robotics and their interaction with their creator human race. The recent film, I, Robot with Will Smith was a take on one of the books by Asimov.
What made Asimov stand out is that he really focused on the human condition in his approach to science fiction as opposed to overwhelming his readers with the typical scifi machinations of space travel and fanciful alien races. Add Asimov to your bookshelf and broaden your mind.
#4 Orson Scott Card- "What does it matter if, by following my heart, I also fulfill someone else's plan?"
Orson Scott Card (OSC for short), in my opinion, is just now receiving the accolades he should have been getting for years. The Ender's Game saga is one of the most well known science fiction stories of our age. I am happy to see they are finally making a big budget movie to allow people to actually visualize OSC's hard work on this story.
OSC has branched off into many genres since Ender's Game including comics, video games, and other scifi series. However, his story about Ender Wiggin will truly stand the test of time. Ender's Game tells the story of a distant future where an Alien Race has nearly wiped out the human race twice. It is decided that exceptional young people will be carted off to a special "battle school", where they will participate in advanced testing and increasingly harder game exercises so that one day, they can eliminate the "Bugger" threat.
OSC is one of those authors that can make you feel like certain characters in his book depending on your own disposition. I always enjoy artists that have that ability, after all, we enjoy books, games, and movies because they give us a break from our daily lives.
Book to Movie Translations
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#5 Robert Heinlein- "How can I possibly put a new idea into your heads, if I do not first remove your delusions?"
Robert Heinlein is definitely my favorite author on this list, and another one of the "Big 3". I received my introduction to "hard" science fiction with Heinlein. Oddly enough, if it hadn't been for Heinlein, I doubt I would have been able to grasp some of the stuff written by others such as Asimov, Clark, Card, and Dick.
Heinlein was a "cowboy" of a writer. No topic was off limits, no matter how controversial it was. I think the man enjoyed stirring up trouble, so to speak. It was amazing how prophetic some of his works like Space Cadet mentioned technology not even dreamed of, especially considering that the majority of his works were written in the 50's and 60's.
He was extremely controversial and politically pointed in most of his works. You may think Starship Troopers was just a story about a military unit killing bugs to save humanity, when it's truly about the everyday person putting society's needs before their own. This is portrayed in the book by requiring earth's citizens to serve in the military to become citizens. Farnham's Freehold explored the idea and ferocity of nuclear war in a time when people were building bomb shelters on their property (including Heinlein!)
So if you want the challenge of truly digesting some good science fiction, pick up copies of Stranger in a Strange Land, Starship Troopers (no, the crappy movie version will not suffice), Space Cadet, Have Spacesuit Will Travel, and Glory Road.
#6 Timothy Zahn- "But... it was so artistically done."
Most people outside the Star Wars community may have no earthly idea who Timothy Zahn is. Yes, I also know that Star Wars is not truly science fiction. However, Zahn has an incredible handle on how to write science fiction because of his grasp of two things. One, he has a remarkable instinct when it comes to how a character should act and what they would think in a given situation. Two, the level of detail he gets into with the tech in his novels is astounding.
I'm sure he will be best known for the Thrawn Trilogy in the Star Wars expanded universe as it was the catalyst for the expanded universe. At the very least, it got people buying Star Wars books as viable stories in the canon. Is the Thrawn Trilogy good? Heck yeah, it's good. All of Zahn's Star Wars books are great! He'll remind you a lot of a Grisham or a Clancy.
He has also written other science fiction and fantasy works, all of which are good because he brings his trademark dialogue and use of his experience with the "human condition" to bear in all that he writes.
I would recommend his Star Wars novels though starting with Outbound Flight and the Thrawn Trilogy as it exposes the Emperors plans to eliminate the Jedi during the prequel stories and also tells a post Return of the Jedi story that's well worth the read.
A somewhat funny poll...
How often do you read a book?
#7 Frank Herbert- "If you ask "Should we be in space?" you ask a nonsense question. We are in space. We will be in space."
If there had been a "Big 4" instead of a "Big 3", Frank Herbert would have been that 4th member. Somehow the man took his love of the environment and all living things and created one of the most phenomenal scifi settings ever with the Dune universe. He also had a tremendous grasp of politics, religion, and corruption.
Dune is a literary masterpiece, especially for the science fiction reader. It's not an "easy" read by any stretch of the imagination, but once you are into it, you are hooked. You had 3 warring houses, a bunch of mystical guilds, and a commodity that is only found on one planet in the whole universe. It also happens that this planet is the most unfriendly, destitute place you can imagine never wanting to not visit. And yet, all 3 houses would die to control it. If you fancy yourself a "green" person, you'll love it. If you like the ideas of a religion's grasp on a society's very existence, you'll love it. If you're a closet tactician, you'll love it. If you are a self proclaimed academic, you'll love it.
Herbert was a true science fiction genius to be able to intertwine so many issues that are "hotseat" issues even in today's world. So if you haven't included Herbert's works into your reading, then "the sleeper must awaken"!
#8 Kevin Anderson- "Facts mean nothing when they are preempted by appearance. Do not underestimate the power of impression over reality."
Speaking of "sleepers", I'm not quite sure that Kevin Anderson ever sleeps! The man has over 40 bestsellers to his name. He has written in the Star Wars universe, X-Files, and Dune. My hope is that he will be best remembered for continuing the Dune series.
Anderson, unlike any of the other authors on this list, can get from point A to B without ever losing his reader. As much as I love the other authors on this list, I find myself jumping back and forth sometimes to catch something I missed. This doesn't happen with Anderson. He has an almost care free style to his writing. It's almost like he's sitting in front of you and you are discussing the story with him.
Anderson's 3 "house" prequels to the Dune series should not be missed, as they discuss the inner workings of the Houses Atreides, Harkonnen, and Corrino prior to the events of Herbert's first novel. The 3 "event" prequels to Dune are also enticing as they lay the backdrop as to why the universe was the way it was prior to the events of Dune.
And being that he's the only author on this list that I have actually met, I can tell you that he's also just a great guy.
#9 Drew Karpyshyn- "You're unique. Not just in terms of what you've accomplished, but what you represent."
We've reached a time in human history where not all great stories are achieved in the medium of books. I would venture a guess that most people reading this Hub will have no idea who Drew Karpyshyn is. I even think that Mr. Karpyshyn may not know who he is or why he made this list.
Well I'm going to tell you that this man will be a driving force in science fiction for years to come. He reminds me a lot of a scifi version of R.A. Salvatore. Karpyshyn writes stories that you just blaze through because they are just that good! His stories for the games Mass Effect 1 and 2 painted a story that you wanted to be a character in. His novelizations of the Mass Effect prequels and middle stories gave closure where the games could not.
Karpyshyn even went back to tell the story of one of the most famous Sith Lords with his Darth Bane Trilogy in the Star Wars universe. Karpyshyn is a gifted story teller and always has you on the edge of your seat whether it be by book or game. I truly look forward to his future writings and wish him the best!
#10 Arthur C. Clarke- "Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."
Ah...the last member of the "Big 3". Arthur C. Clarke (ACC for short) gave us one of the most seminal works in all of science fiction; 2001: A Space Odyssey. He was also an inventor and a futurist.
Like Heinlein and Asimov, ACC was very concerned with the direction society was taking in it's views on ecology and advanced warfare. He addressed congress on the matter of the SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative, "Star Wars") which led to fallout between he and Heinlein. And while Asimov always contended that Heinlein was the best of the "Big 3", Clarke and Asimov had a standing agreement to always say the other was the best when asked publicly.
My recommendations for seeing the world through Clarke's eyes would be Songs of a Distant Earth and 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequels. Through these you will see a vision of the future world that ACC envisioned and how it relates to the technology of today.