I remember the first speculative fiction book I ever read: Nicholas Fisk’s A Rag, A Bone and a Hank of Hair. I was about ten years old and it blew my tiny mind. For me, there are few things more thrilling than entering a whole new world, (so much so that I decided to make up my own). This list brings together some of my favourite authors who have asked the question: what if?
1. Margaret Atwood
A jack-of-all-trades - she writes about the future just as convincingly as she writes about the past. I was haunted by the oppressive dystopian society she created in The Handmaid’s Tale, and more recently, her speculation about the implications of genetic-engineering and an unchecked pharmaceuticals industry in Oryx and Crake, and The Year of the Flood. I can’t wait for the third book in the trilogy.
2. Doris Lessing is about a thousand years old (well, 93) and was a speculative fiction pioneer. She wrote all these whacky epic space-operas and adventure epics like Mara and Dann, set hundreds of years in the future. A true original and often overlooked in this genre.
3. Frank Herbert
Well, he wrote Dune, which is, hands-down, the best science-fiction of all time, bar none. ‘Nuff said!
4. Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey is my new favourite. His self-published post-apocalyptic novel Wool is FANTASTIC and I can’t wait to read his other books.
5. Justin Cronin’s first two books were literary fiction, and I liked them a lot, but he really hit his straps with The Passage. He basically converted me to the zombie genre in one fell swoop (no pun intended), with this psychological thriller.
6. Cormac McCarthy I know CMcC isn’t really a writer of speculative fiction; he loves to write about horses, for some reason, but The Road is a post-apocalyptic masterpiece so I have to include him in this list, even if he never writes another speculative fiction again. He makes Heart of Darkness look like, I don’t know, Glee.
7. Felix Gilman
The Half-Made World was my entry into the world of steampunk and I loved it. Funny, original and compelling, I’m eagerly anticipating the sequel.
8. Gillian Rubinstein I read a description of Rubinstein’s YA novel Galax-Arena as a lovechild of The Hunger Games and Cirque Du Soleil, which sounds pretty awesome, right? And it is. I loved the sequel too. Rubinstein’s books are much less spoon-fed than a lot of YA novels and the plots seem a little more original and less-predictable than the standard fare. I likey, a lot.
9. George Orwell
1984, hello! What a chilling book. Unlike a lot of older speculative fiction, it’s dated really well.
10. John Wyndham Unlike 1984, some of Wyndham’s novels look pretty silly from today’s perspective. Day of the Triffids is horribly sexist, for example. But there are still some rippers and The Crysalids is one of those.
Are you a fan of any of these authors? Or maybe you think my list is rubbish and you’ve got your own much better list? Put it in the comments - I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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