A little while ago, EpicStream published its list of 10 Novels Every Sci-Fi Fan Should Read. It’s in a listicle format, so I’ll reproduce it here:
#10: Dune by Frank Herbert
#9: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
#8: Contact by Carl Sagan
#7: 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clark
#6: The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
#5: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
#4: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
#3: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
#2: 1984 by George Orwell
#1: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This list has the benefit of being entirely composed of books I’ve read, but notice anything strange about it?
Aside from the obvious problem that 1984 barely qualifies as science fiction, this list doesn’t even include Ursula LeGuin or Octavia Butler – who are the usual go-to “diversity” entries for lists written by people who don’t read diversely.
So I thought I’d come up with an alternate list. So here are my 10 Novels Every Sci-Fi Fan Should Read, in no particular order:
- A Door Into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski
- A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
- Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin
- Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
- The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
- Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
- Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler
- Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
- Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
- Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh
With honourable mentions:
- Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
- Grass by Sheri S. Tepper
These days, there simply is no excuse to come up with such a ridiculously narrow list. Novels from people of all sorts of different backgrounds and perspectives are more accessible than ever, and a great many of them are good. We don’t need to be reading the same stuffy handful with the okay writing style and the few thought-provoking ideas, because we are living in a buyer’s market. We can demand excellence, we can demand creativity, and we can demand different.
And little makes me quite so angry as a list, written in this scifi golden age, that trots out the same old slogs all over again. Particularly when the newest blood it sees fit to include is Ready Player One, of all books!