The Top 10 Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Stories of All Time

What a close call!

With hundreds of total votes, our top two titles were running neck-and-neck for the entire voting period! And we had three titles in the middle that ended up four votes apart. Who knew apocalyptic stories were so hard to judge!

To review our proposed definition of apocalyptic stories, they generally revolve around the Earth's technological civilization collapse. Sometimes there are crossovers with the dystopian genre, so a novel could be dystopian as well as apocalyptic. Overall in these votes we leave it up to you readers to determine the parameters beyond that basic definition, and if there are any concerns we love to hear about it in the comments. 

As always, these top ten lists are not meant to be all-inclusive or definitive, but give a great finger on the pulse of our communities interests and favorites. Want to see who missed out? Here's the original nomination list from the blog.

Without further ado, based on the combined nominations and votes here on the Discover Sci-Fi blog and the Facebook group, here are your top choices for the best apocalyptic tales in literary science fiction.

10. One Second After by William R. Forstchen

New York Times best selling author William R. Forstchen now brings us a story which can be all too terrifyingly real...a story in which one man struggles to save his family and his small North Carolina town after America loses a war, in one second, a war that will send America back to the Dark Ages...A war based upon a weapon, an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP). A weapon that may already be in the hands of our enemies.

Find One Second After  here on Amazon. 

9. Commune by Joshua Gayou 

A fantastic post-apoc series if you haven't checked it out already. Author Joshua Gayou has also posted an reader's guide to beginning the series, as there are a few aspects of the novels that might need some help explaining. 

The series starts with the title opener Commune, with Jake and Billy rescuing two women who are being kept prisoner by scavengers. At the end of their world there's a commune called Jackson, and this is where their story all begins.

Find Commune on Amazon, here.

8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Here's an example of a dystopian and post-apocalyptic story. While the apocalyptic focus is primarily on the third novel of the series, The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins features a civilization coping with a collapse, a rebuild of a dystopian and classist society, and another collapse.

It opens with the story of Katniss, who steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games, an annual fight to the death on live TV between the segregated districts/classes. But Katniss has been close to death before-and survival, for her, is second nature. Still, if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Find The Hunger Games trilogy on Amazon, here.

7. The Postman by David Brin

The following three titles were nearly tied, separated by a mere four vote difference! 

Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author David Brin brought us this instant classic, The Postman, a complex cup brimming with the balance of despair and redemption.

We are introduced to Gordon Krantz, who survived the Doomwar only to spend years crossing a post-apocalypse United States looking for something or someone he could believe in again. Ironically, when he's inadvertently forced to assume the made-up role of a "Restored United States" postal inspector, he becomes the very thing he's been seeking: a symbol of hope and rebirth for a desperate nation. 

Find The Postman on Amazon, here.

6. Wool by Hugh Howey

One neat thing about this title is that if you read it on a device, it uses "Kindle in Motion" which features animation, art or video features. For some readers this might be a fun feature!

Hugh Howey's Silo series has taken the hard sci-fi, apocalyptic reading world by storm.

Wool'premise is titillating. It is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are allowed to go outside.

Find Wool and the sequels to it on Amazon, here.

5. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

A novel said to have inspired John Lennon, AlasBabylon​​​by Pat Frank, has been called a classic of literary and American fiction since shortly after its publication in 1959.

"Alas, Babylon." Those fateful words heralded the end. When a nuclear holocaust ravages the United States, a thousand years of civilization are stripped away overnight, and tens of millions of people are killed instantly. But for one small town in Florida, miraculously spared, the struggle is just beginning, as men and women of all backgrounds join together to confront the darkness.

Find the Kindle reprint version, or one of its many other formats, on Amazon, here.

4. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

A classic from 1959, Walter M. Miller Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz was a Hugo Award Winner in 1961 for best science fiction novel, and triggered a whole host of scholarly research based on its themes of religion, recurrence, and church versus state.

We are told the story of a monk order which seeks to preserve the surviving remnants of man's scientific knowledge until the world is again ready for it.

In the depths of the Utah desert, long after the Flame Deluge has scoured the earth clean, a monk of the Order of Saint Leibowitz has made a miraculous discovery: holy relics from the life of the great saint himself, including the blessed blueprint, the sacred shopping list, and the hallowed shrine of the Fallout Shelter.

In a terrifying age of darkness and decay, these artifacts could be the keys to mankind's salvation. But as the mystery at the core of this groundbreaking novel unfolds, it is the search itself—for meaning, for truth, for love—that offers hope for humanity's rebirth from the ashes.

Find A Canticle for Leibowitz on Amazon, here.

3. Hell Divers by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

A near tie with the A Canticle for Leibowitz, Nicholas Sansbury Smith's Hell Divers series passed it by to reach almost the tip top of our list of ten best apocalyptic sci-fi novels. 

This New York Times and USA Today bestselling series opens two centuries after World War III, above a poisoned planet. The final bastion of humanity lives on massive airships circling the globe in search of a habitable area to call home. Aging and outdated, most of the ships plummeted back to earth long ago. The only thing keeping the two surviving lifeboats in the sky are Hell Divers—men and women who risk their lives by skydiving to the surface to scavenge for parts the ships desperately need.

When one of the remaining airships is damaged in an electrical storm, a Hell Diver team is deployed to a hostile zone called Hades. But there’s something down there far worse than the mutated creatures discovered on dives in the past—something that threatens the fragile future of humanity.

Check out the Hell Divers series on Amazon, here.

2. The Stand by Stephen King

We've reached the overwhelmingly top two apocalyptic sci-fi novels of all time, according to our tasteful readers and fans of Discover Sci-Fi. The Stand by Stephen King totalled well over a hundred votes, coming in close with number one.

In 1978, Stephen King published what many believe to be his finest novel. The Stand was originally published in a much shorter form, and has since been published in its complete and uncut edition. Do any of our readers have experience reading both? What did you think of each?

According to The Stand, this is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death.

And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides -- or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abigail -- and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the dark man.

Check The Stand out on Amazon, here.

1. Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Closing the poll with first place is the joint effort by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Lucifer's Hammer. So many of you said you had a hard time choosing, but we commend you on your decision. 

Lucifer's Hammer was first published in 1977 and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1978 and was adapted to comic book 1993. It's only one of several fantastic novels by this formidable sci-fi duo, so if you've already read this one, check out some of their others, like The Mote In God's Eye.

Balancing suspense, humor, and interesting little lectures, Niven and Pournelle create one of the first novels to realistically describe the effects of a comet striking earth. 

Find Lucifer's Hammer on Amazon, here.

Of course, the story doesn't end here, does it?

If we asked you another year from now the literary and political scene will already look different enough that what's termed the "best" apocalyptic science fiction will be considered through a different historical lens. For now, visit us  here in our Facebook group to chime in on the debate, and then check out our most recent poll while you're there. Don't have Facebook? Feel free to add to the comments below.

*All book-related copy in this post was pulled from Amazon & Wikipedia, unless otherwise credited.

What are the Top 10 Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Books or Stories of All Time?

We have our group of ten!

All kinds of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic tales were suggested over the past week. Some discussion this week revolved around what exactly fit the definition of "apocalyptic." While we generally leave the decision up to you as to how to define it, there are a few parameters to genres in order to be true to the discussion.

So, a quick refresher is that apocalyptic stories, which can include sci-fi, horror, and fantasy, revolve around the Earth's technological civilization collapse. It's not quite the same as a dystopian novel, which is sometimes similar, which explores social and political structures in a dark, nightmarish world, in which everything oppression often reigns. Both subgenres are excellent fields of play for science fiction and speculative fiction, and many stories have a bit of both (for example, The Hunger Games trilogy, which starts out a bit more dystopian, and over the course of the series becomes apocalyptic). But the issue of genre is a world of greys, not black and white, so what do you think? Share your comments below.

With all of that in mind, we narrowed down the list of your nominations to the ten most voted for. Let's figure out what the best ones are out of this group!

*this list is made up by combining votes from this blog and our Facebook group​​​​

Out of these nominations, what is the best apocalyptic story of all time?

Make your choice: Best Romantic Relationship in Sci-fi Books?

This week, due to–ahem–unconventional nominations over on the Facebook group, we have, for the first time ever in Discover Sci-Fi history, a top 10 poll with eleven options! Not wanting to leave out the strongest nomination which is, not exactly aligned with the parameters of “romantic relationship” we had in mind, we are stretching our own rules a bit. Nevertheless! The readers and fans have spoken! Whether or not they are of sound mind is to be determined in the comments below!

So, based on the combined nominations here on the Discover Sci-Fi blog and the Facebook group, here are the top choices for best romance in literary science fiction. This week you'll only be able to choose one, so make it count!

Click here to see the full list of nominations on the blog, or here to see the full list of nominations on the Facebook group.

Out of these nominations, what's the best romantic relationship in a science fiction book, short story, or series?

The Top 10 Title Names in Science Fiction

Funniest titles, most provocative titles, or titles that just sum up a book or story's contents really well, you nominated dozens of great science fiction titles that are all worth reading their full contents (here's the original nomination list from the blog, and the original nomination list from the Facebook group, with well over 80 titles!). After meanly forcing a choice between the top 10 selections from the combined lists, we have the top 10 title names Discover Sci Fi readers and fans enjoy. Happy reading!

10. Have Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein

At tenth place we have Robert A. Heinlein‘s Have Space Suit–Will Travel. It's a short book for young readers, as well as old, which some of you on our Facebook site shared was your first science fiction read! Heinlein's presence is also closer to the top of our list as you scroll down, but this title is certainly charming.

The story follows Kip Russell who wants nothing more than to go to the moon. But after entering a contest to help realize his dream, he is thrust into a space adventure he could never have imagined—with the most unlikely of friends and enemies.

9. (a) The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

We had a tie for ninth place!

By far the oldest title on this list, The War of the Worlds was written by H.G. Wells in 1898. It's been adapated to other media, including film, but also to radio drama by Orson Welles in 1938. That live broadcast became a bit famous for having incited panic in listeners who allegedly believed it was a real newscast, but that panic seems to have been hyperbolized over the years.

In the original novel, Earth is invaded by Martians and is one of the earliest stories to detail a conflict between mankind and an extraterrestrial race. In first-person narrative we follow an unnamed protagonist in Surrey and his younger brother in London as southern England is invaded. Apparently, Wells said that the plot arose from a discussion with his brother Frank about the catastrophic impact of the British on indigenous Tasmanians. He wondered what would happen if Martians did to Britain what the British had done to the Tasmanians. (Although the Tasmanians did not have the lethal pathogens that Britain is armed with in the novel!)

Not only did this work numerous adaptations it even influenced the work of scientists, notably Robert H. Goddard, who, inspired by the book, invented both the liquid fuelled rocket and multistage rocket, which resulted in the Apollo 11 Moon landing!

9. (b) So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams

Coming in tied for ninth place is So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. This is the fourth book in the Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy (not a typo) by Douglas Adams. It continues to follow Arthur Dent, who we met in the first book of the series, who is now back on earth. He wonders whether the last few years of his life were a complete figment of his imagination. But then he receives a mysterious fishbowl and realizes all the earth's dolphins have disappeared. When he uncovers his badly battered copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy he begins to realize something really did happen, and God left a Final Message of explanation as to what it all means.

7. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury has a number of curious titles, so it's interesting that this is the one that made the cut. Something Wicked This Way Comes is a slightly unsettling story of friendship and balances dualities like childhood versus the old, dark versus light, and good versus evil. A strange show comes to town one week before Halloween. Two boys, Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway, soon discover the evil of this carnival, which promises to make your every wish and dream come true. But with those wishes and dreams comes a price that must be paid. Behind the mirrors and the mazes is the nightmare of a lifetime.

6. I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison

A creepy title for an appropriately creepy shorty story by Harlan Ellison! One of our Facebook members read it as a fairly young child and still shudders thinking of it.

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is set in a post-apocalyptic world where four men and one woman are all that remain of the human race. Programmed to wage war on behalf of its creators, AI became self-aware and turned against all humanity. The five survivors are prisoners, kept alive and subjected to brutal torture by the hateful and sadistic machine in an endless cycle of violence.

5. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

The original title that the 2004 movie is based on, I, Robot is a short story collection by Isaac Asimov. It covers a number of robots of all kinds: funny ones, insane ones, and ones with a cult-personality complex. Many of the stories are rooted in the often-referenced “Three Laws of Robotics:”

1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm
2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Another title that was adapted to film is this novel with this curious title, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by one of the masters of curious titles, Philip K. Dick (PKD). Another of his interesting titles that was discussed was Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said. Of course, the movie adaptation is a bit different.

Simulacra of humans are built and sent along with immigrants to Mars to take the place of the millions of humans that have died after the World War in 2021. The governments on Earth become fearful of these androids abilities to blend in, and ban them from Earth. Rick Deckard, an officially sanctioned bounty hunter, is commissioned to find rogue androids and “retire” them.

3. Stranger In a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein

This is only Robert Heinlein's second title that made it to the top 10 titles list here at Discover Sci-Fi (yep, wait for it, there's one more). Stranger In a Strange Land is a Hugo Award-winning novel about a man raised by Martians on Mars. He has never seen another member of his species. When he is sent to Earth, he is a stranger who must learn what it is to be a man. But his own beliefs and his powers far exceed the limits of humankind, and as he teaches them about grokking and water-sharing, he also inspires a transformation that will alter Earth’s inhabitants forever.

This title comes from the Biblical book of Exodus 2:22 “And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land” (King James Version). The verb “grok” became part of our English vernacular, thanks to Heinlein. It roughly means to understand (something) intuitively or by empathy.

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Yep, it's the titular series-opener by Douglas Adams. Not only is this series featured twice in this list, it's also been nominated several times in other lists here at Discover Sci-Fi, including as a top film sci-fi book-to-film adaptation, and as the source of a most iconic character, Arthur Dent.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy‘s title is based off a book within the story itself. Ford Prefect, a friend of Arthur Dent, reveals himself to be a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and has been, for the last fifteen years, posing as an out-of-work actor. The contents of The Guide have all sorts of advice, including drinks recommendations. It also is the source of the famously supreme utility of the towel:

… a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: nonhitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

(The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, chapter 3.)

1. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein.

Discover Sci-Fi readers are smitten with Heinlein! The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is Heinlein's third title in our top 10 titles list, threading his way to the very top. It really is an evocative title name, as well as one of Heinlein's greatest works.

In this novel we witness a revolution on a lunar penal colony—aided by a self-aware supercomputer. This is the framework for a story of a diverse group of men and women grappling with the ever-changing definitions of humanity, technology, and free will—themes that resonate just as strongly today as they did when the novel was first published.

So, did your favorite title make through the nominations and to the top ten list? There are so many great titles out there! Some of the runners-up include The Lefthand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin and “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman by Harlan Ellison. Share some of your favorites below and let us know what you thought of some of the winners of this list.

And don't forget to make your voice heard during future nominations round to be sure your vote can be considered for the top 10 finale.

*Some copy in this post was pulled from Amazon & Wikipedia.

The Top 10 Greatest Sci-Fi Writers

It was a painful vote for many of you, especially to narrow it down from over one hundred nominations to the top ten sci-fi writers of all time. As so many of you pointed out, there are wonderful writers that should have been on the list! But, according to our tallies here on the Discover Sci-Fi blog, and over on the Facebook group these were the top 10 writers you all voted for, interestingly, in a slightly different order on Facebook than on the blog.

If you'd like to view the original nomination list here on the blog, you can find it here.

Of course, it's impossible to really list all the great works of these phenomenal writers, so we've just chosen one to highlight, but please, share with us your favorites in the comments below!

And now, without further ado, here are the top 10 writers in order from tenth to the very best sci-fi writer of all time (according to you!)!

*The results were decided by you based on votes tallied up between our Facebook group and on our blog.

10. Frederik Pohl

Frederik Pohl (1919 – 2013) had an illustrious career spanning nearly 75 years. He won four Hugo and three Nebula Awards among many other awards. He wrote under a number of pseudonyms including Charles Satterfield, Paul Flehr, Ernst Mason, Jordan Park (two collaborative novels with Kornbluth), and Edson McCann (one collaborative novel with Lester del Rey). One of his later works, The Last Theorem, he worked on with Arthur C. Clarke, another writer on this list!

It was The Space Merchants with which Pohl blasted onto the literary scene, writing it while he was fighting during World War II. As would become his future style, The Space Merchants demonstrates his uncanny trend-forecasting style for futurism and satire. An author within a genre that wasn't really a genre for another decade or so.

Share some of your other favorites of Pohl's incredibly long and varied career in the comments below. And if you're looking for The Space Merchants, you can find it on Amazon, here.

9. Larry Niven

Larry Niven (1938 – ) has won Hugo, Locus, Ditmar, Nebula awards, among others. (You're going to see a lot of award winners on this list!) He has written numerous novels and short stories, beginning with his 1964 story “The Coldest Place”. His other writing endeavours have included TV scripts and also writing for the DC Comics character Green Lantern!

One of his most famous books (which became a series) is Ringworld. The concept is based on his idea of a kind of Dyson sphere world, in this case, a Ringworld: a band of material, roughly a million miles wide, of approximately the same diameter as Earth's orbit, rotating around a star. This influenced Iain M. Banks in his Culture series, which features about 1/100th ringworld–size megastructures.

As a mega sci-fi influencer there are many other works we could have highlighted to demonstrate Niven's influence on the sci-fi genre. Want to recommend some others? Drop a line in the comments below. You can find book one of Niven's influential Ringworld series on Amazon here.

8. Anne McCaffrey

We are so proud to have Anne McCaffrey (1926 – 2011) on this list as she is the only woman to have made this top 10 list… something we hope to see changing over the coming years as more female authors get exposure. McCaffrey held a 46-year career as a writer, and she became the first woman to win a Hugo Award for fiction and the first to win a Nebula Award.

She is probably best known for her Dragonriders of Pern series. Marvellously, her 1978 novel The White Dragon (the third in the series) became one of the first science-fiction books to appear on the New York Times Best Seller list. Another favorite that we've shared when McCaffrey was on our top 10 list of favorite bio-tech enhancements was The “Brain & Brawn Ship series” (or Brainship or Ship series) which starts with The Ship Who Sang.

Please share with us your other McCaffrey favorites in the comments below. And you can find the first book of the Dragonriders of Pern (Dragonflight) series on Amazon, here.

7. Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury (1920 – 2012) worked in a number of genres, including fantasy, horror and mystery fiction, but is perhaps best known for his science-fiction. He was the recipient for numerous awards, including a Pulitzer citation, and had an impact crater on the Earth's moon named Dandelion Crater by the Apollo 15 (1972) astronauts, in honor of his novel Dandelion Wine!

One of his most famous works is Fahrenheit 451, a dystopian science-fiction novel in which television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, since rather than putting fires out, firemen start them, and have burned almost all the books known to have existed. This kind of dystopic, societal-critique is a common theme in Bradbury's work, including in his many short stories.

It's terribly hard to choose just one Bradbury work to feature, and his Martian Chronicles would be the next we would choose. Do you have another recommendation? Share it with us below!

And you can find Fahrenheit 451 on Amazon, here.

6. H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells (1866 – 1946) is often referred to as the “father of science fiction” alongside Jules Verne. He wrote in many genres and, as many of these great authors, was a social critic and wrote about politics. The science fiction historian John Clute describes Wells as “the most important writer the genre has yet seen”, and notes his work has been central to both British and American science fiction.

A renowned futurist and “visionary”, Wells foresaw the advent of aircraft, tanks, space travel, nuclear weapons, satellite television and something resembling the World Wide Web. His first novel was The Time Machine, a science fiction tale about a gentleman inventor living in England, who traverses first thousands of years and then millions into the future, before bringing back the knowledge of the grave degeneration of the human race and the planet.

As a prolific author, it's hard to recommend just one of his titles. What do you think, have you read this one, or do you prefer one of his others? Share in the comments below. And as always, you can find The Time Machine on Amazon, here.

5. Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert (1920 – 1986) held a number of other titles (ecological consultant, photographer, journalist, etc.) as well as being a famous science-fiction author. As with many other of these great authors, Herbert's debut on the sci-fi scene was with a short story, “Looking for Something”, in 1952. Herbert was the first science fiction author to popularize ideas about ecology and systems thinking. He stressed the need for humans to think both systematically and long-term.

Herbert's novel Dune is the best-selling science fiction novel of all time, and the whole series is widely considered to be among the classics of the genre. The novel originated when he was supposed to do a magazine article on sand dunes in the Oregon Dunes near Florence, Oregon. He became too involved and ended up with far more raw material than needed for an article. The article was never written, but instead planted the seed that led to Dune.

The Dune series is a marvelous one, but he wrote several others, including some that were published posthumously. Do you have a preference for one of his other works? Please let us know about it!

And you can find the first novel in the Dune saga on Amazon, here.

4. Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick (1928 – 1982), sometimes known as PKD, also wrote under a couple pen names, including Richard Phillipps and Jack Dowland. He started publishing science fiction in 1951 but it wasn't until 1962 when he published the alternative history novel The Man in the High Castle that Dick earned acclaim, including a Hugo Award for Best Novel.

A variety of popular Hollywood films based on Dick's works have been produced, including Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (adapted twice: in 1990 and in 2012), Minority Report (2002), A Scanner Darkly (2006), and The Adjustment Bureau (2011). Meanwhile, the novel The Man in the High Castle (1962) was made into a multi-season television series by Amazon, starting in 2015.

The movie Blade Runner (1982) is now a classic, and the novel that inspired it Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a thrilling one, published in 1968 in the middle of Dick's heyday. It's a prescient novel to read (or re-read) now, since it is set in 2021, when the World War has killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Driven into hiding, unauthorized androids live among human beings, undetected. Rick Deckard, an officially sanctioned bounty hunter, is commissioned to find rogue androids and “retire” them. But when cornered, androids fight back—with lethal force.

Philip K. Dick's works are stunning and thought-provoking. What are some of your favorites? Mention them in the comments below. Or check out Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? on Amazon, here.

3. Arthur C. Clarke

Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917 – 2008) was a British science fiction writer, science writer and futurist,[3] inventor, undersea explorer, and television series host. He was made a Knight Bachelor “for services to literature” at a ceremony in Colombo.

Clarke was a lifelong proponent of space travel and he is famous for being co-writer of the screenplay for the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Clarke was a science writer, who was both an avid populariser of space travel and a futurist of uncanny ability. 2001: A Space Odyssey, was extended well beyond the 1968 movie as the Space Odyssey series. This allegory about humanity’s exploration of the universe—and the universe’s reaction to humanity—is a hallmark achievement in storytelling that follows the crew of the spacecraft Discovery as they embark on a mission to Saturn. Their vessel is controlled by HAL 9000, an artificially intelligent supercomputer capable of the highest level of cognitive functioning that rivals—and perhaps threatens—the human mind.

What are your other favorites of Clarke's? Share them below and check out 2001: A Space Odyssey, the first in the Space Odyssey series, on Amazon, here.

2. Robert Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein is another author who has made our top 10 lists multiple times, including top military sci-fi books and top sci-fi books of all time. The favorite around here is often Starship Troopers.

Heinlein was an American science-fiction author, aeronautical engineer, and retired Naval officer. Sometimes called the “dean of science fiction writers,” he was among the first to emphasize scientific accuracy in his fiction, and was thus a pioneer of the subgenre of hard science fiction. His published works, both fiction and non-fiction, express admiration for competence and emphasize the value of critical thinking. His work continues to have an influence on the science-fiction genre, and on modern culture more generally. And rightfully so! His work has appeared in almost every one of the top 10 lists we host here on this blog.

Heinlein used his science fiction as a way to explore provocative social and political ideas, and to speculate how progress in science and engineering might shape the future of politics, race, religion, and sex. Within the framework of his science-fiction stories, Heinlein repeatedly addressed certain social themes: the importance of individual liberty and self-reliance, the nature of sexual relationships, the obligation individuals owe to their societies, the influence of organized religion on culture and government, and the tendency of society to repress nonconformist thought. He also speculated on the influence of space travel on human cultural practices.

What are your other favorites of Heinlein's? Share them below and check out Starship Troopers, here.

1. Isaac Asimov

We heard you! With over 500 total votes, Isaac Asimov (1920 – 1992) was the resounding top science fiction favorite of all of us Discover Sci-Fi readers.

Asimov was one the world's most celebrated and prolific science fiction writers, having written or edited more than 500 books over his four-decade career. His Foundation Trilogy is recognized by sci-fi fans everywhere as one of the greatest books in the genre. In 1966, the Foundation Trilogy received the Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series, beating out the Lord of the Rings.

Some well-deserved praise for Isaac Asimov and his Foundation series:

“A true polymath, a superb rationalist, an exciting and accessible writer in both fiction and nonfiction, Isaac Asimov was simply a master of all he surveyed.”Greg Bear

“Asimov served wondrous meals-of-the-mind to a civilization that was starved for clear thinking about the future. To this day, his visions spice our ongoing dinner-table conversation about human destiny.” David Brin

What are your other favorites of Asimov's? Share them below and check out the Foundation Trilogy on Amazon.

So… What do you think of that list? Did you agree with all of the books chosen on this list? Join us here in our Facebook group to chime in on the debate, and then check out our most recent poll while you're there. Don't have Facebook? You can share your views in the comments below.

*Some book-related copy in this post was pulled from Amazon & Wikipedia.

Top Ten Poll: Who is the greatest sci-fi writer of all time?

Over on the Facebook group, we were discussing how selecting the “greatest sci-fi writer of all time” is a bit silly in its over-selectivity, however, it does promote some excellent conversation and debate! And it is a fun way to pick each other's brains on what makes some writers so good. To say nothing of getting more ideas for future authors to check out!

From over 100 total nominations and nearly 300 voters from this blog and the Facebook group, we have narrowed down the list of nominations to a top 10 list. Your heavy task this week is to take a look at the authors and choose just one. Don't forget you can check out the full list of nominations from last week's post to get even more ideas for your reading list!

Who out of these top 10 authors is the greatest sci-fi writer of all time?

The Top 10 Bio-Tech Enhancements from a Sci-Fi Book or Series

The variety of biotech in science fiction novels is inspiring and mind-boggling. Some of it is even literally for mind-boggling! From super-soldiers, to brain implants, to hormone glands, to extracorporeal pregnancies, you nominated an eclectic assortment of biotech on this blog and on the Discover Sci-Fi Facebook group which you would most like to have or see in existence in the real world.

Our definition of biotech was “any biotechnology that has modified humans, or another species to soup them up to anything more than they were when they were born, for example, a fancy eyeball, extra appendages or replaced appendages, brain implants, a productivity drug etc.” Some of the nominations are a little on the fringe of that, as is always the case in the weird and wonderful world of science fiction, and the discussion has been interesting particularly on the Facebook group. Click here to view the original poll that inspired this list. As always, if you don't agree with the nominations, make your voice heard! Are you a fan of one of the books below and want to add more details? Post here in the comments and be sure to participate in the next poll so our democracy can be perfected!

Finally, from 10th to the most desirable piece of biotech, we present the top 10 selections for the best pieces of bio-tech from a sci-fi book or series of all time.

Click on the links to check out the books featuring these favorites to add to your collection, and then add your comments at the bottom of this post (or in our Facebook group) to let us know if you agree (or not!).

*The results were decided by you based on votes tallied up between our Facebook group and on our blog.

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10. Gamera Special Forces in “Old Man’s War” by John Scalzi

Old Man's War by John Scalzi was also in last week's poll. It is a six-book, military space opera series and an extra short fiction. Each book is set in the same world, but follows a different main character.

The first book in the series opens with John Perry, a 75-year old whose wife has just passed and he has become a volunteer recruit for the Colonial Defense Forces who protect human interplanetary colonists. He joins other retirees who all obtain souped-up bio-tech younger bodies to fight the war. The story follows Perry's tale from recruit through battles and challenges to his eventual promotion as captain.

The Gamera Special Forces are a new humanoid special-forces race. One could argue that calling the Gamera Special Forces a unique option isn't fair, because they also use BrainPal, a computer in their brains that enable things like communication, but there is more to them than just that. They have also been engineered to survive in open space! Their need for communication via Brainpal is because their unusual bodies have no audio.

Click here to find the first book in the series, Old Man's War, on Amazon.

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9. Uterine replicators from the “Vorkosigan” series by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold is another series that has been nominated on previous Discover Sci-Fi polls. It includes a remarkable series of 30-publications and counting, including novels and a few shorter stories. While it is a series, each book is written intended to be a stand-alone piece, so a reader could theoretically jump in anywhere. Works in the series have received numerous awards and nominations, including five Hugo award wins including one for Best Series. The order of recommended reading is a bit up for debate since the chronology of publication does not follow the internal chronology of the Vorkosigan world. The author recommends reading the books in order of the internal chronology. So that's probably the best place to start!

The uterine replicators is a technology that allows for unborn human fetuses to be gestated in vitro, rather than in a woman's body. This is what spurred all sorts of experimentation on the human species and triggered the development of Quaddies and Betan hermaphrodites. This fascinating biotech definitely fits into our local definition of a piece of technology that has modified humans! It's also related to something that current scientists research, namely, a biobag that is used to support prematurely delivered lambs.

For the first book in the internal chronology of the Vorkosigan Saga, Falling Free, click here.

8. Protomolecule enhancement from “The Expanse” series by James S.A. Corey

Yet another novel series that has been previously nominated on Discover Sci-Fi polls, the Expanse is a series of (so far…) eight science fiction novels (and related novellas and short stories) by James S. A. Corey, the joint pen name of authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

The first novel, Leviathan Wakes introduces Captain James Holden, his crew, and Detective Miller. When they are confronted with a case of a single missing girl they realize it leads to a solar-system-wide conspiracy. With fantastic character development and truly Space Opera-tic levels of adventure, it seems almost cinematic.

The protomolecule is used to create enhancements in humans by infectious means. It is used for alterations like creating super-soldiers, and the creation of a hive mind out of an entire population which then links to a computer.

Click here to find the first book in the Expanse series, Leviathan Wakes on Amazon.

7. The gland options in “The Culture” series by Iain M. Banks

The Culture series by Iain M. Banks has been a top 10 lister for Discover Sci-Fi readers before! The series gets its name from an extremely advanced, post-scarcity society called The Culture comprised of various humanoid races and AIs. There is little need for laws or enforcement since there are no dramatic needs such as food, or work. The members live in spaceships and other off-planet constructs. However, The Culture is just one of several “Involved” civilizations that take an active part in galactic affairs. And the differences between these civilizations has landed them in inter-galactic warfare.

The glands are an interesting hormonal source of drugs that a Culture individual can use for hundreds of enhancements. A handful are described on the ScifiFandom Wiki:

These allow owners to secrete on command any of a wide selection of synthetic drugs, from the merely relaxing to the mind-altering: ‘Snap' is described in Use of Weapons and The Player of Games as “The Culture's favourite breakfast drug”. “Sharp Blue” is described as a utility drug, as opposed to a sensory enhancer or a sexual stimulant, that helps in problem solving. “Quicken”, mentioned in Excession, speeds up the user's neural processes so that time seems to slow down, allowing them to think and have mental conversation (for example with artificial intelligences) in far less time than it appears to take to the outside observer. “Sperk”, as described in Matter, is a mood- and energy-enhancing drug, while other such self-produced drugs include “Calm”, “Gain”, “Charge”, “Recall”, “Diffuse”, “Somnabsolute”, “Softnow”, “Focal”, “Edge”, “Drill”, “Gung”, and “Crystal Fugue State”. The glanded substances have no permanent side-effects and are non-habit-forming.

Click here to find the first book in the series, Consider Phlebas, on Amazon.

6. Nano-tech enhancement from “The Jon and Lobo” series by Mark L. Van Name

Mark L. Van Name is the author of the five-book Jon and Lobo military sci-fi series. It opens with the book One Jump Ahead which introduces us to Jon Moore and Battlewagon Lobo. Moore is a nanotech-enhanced soldier-of-fortune who grew up in a prison laboratory, and Lobo an A.I.-equipped intelligence and weapons platform/assault vehicle. With a bounty on Moore's head, they attempt to rescue yet again the young woman they accidentally delivered into the wrong hands. But with the help of an old lover and under-the-table support from the mercenary outfit that made him, Moore just might beat the odds, save the girl, and get out of this one a little richer and one step closer to making it back to the strange world of his origin. Jon Moore's nanotech enhancements include nano-machines (and the ability to talk to machines) but it's difficult to describe much about them at risk of spoilers!

Find One Jump Ahead and the rest of the Jon and Lobo series here on Amazon.

5. BrainPal in “Old Man’s War” by John Scalzi

Is this déja-vu? Yes, Old Man's War by John Scalzi was nominated twice this week for different biotech!

The BrainPal is semi-organic computer, thoroughly integrated with the human brain which enables a number of extra-human functions including communication abilities. It also has other nifty feature, like the ability to suddenly charge your blood so you can pop mosquitos while they bite you! And much more…

Scroll up to the tenth nomination to find out more about Old Man's War. And click here to find the first book in the series, Old Man's War, on Amazon.

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4. The “sleeve” consciousness back-up from “Altered Carbon” by Richard K. Morgan

Altered Carbon is the first book in the Takeshi Kovacs Novels series by Richard K. Morgan. In it we meet ex-U.N. envoy Takeshi Kovacs. Having just been killed (again) he is dispatched one hundred eighty light-years from home, re-sleeved into a body in Bay City and thrown into the dark heart of a shady, far-reaching conspiracy.

It's the “sleeve consciousness” back-up that makes it possible for Takeshi to live again, of course. A sleeve is a body you can transfer your consciousness into via an implant is a spare body you can transfer your consciousness into by use of an implant called the Stack. Religious groups have condemned the company behind the body transfers, saying that the technology is immoral, and that lab-grown bodies and clones are an affront.

You can find the start of the Takeshi Kovacs series, Altered Carbon, here on Amazon.

3. Super soldier enhancements from “The Portal Wars” series by Jay Allan

Jay Allen‘s Portal Wars series is an alien invasion/colonization series of (currently) three books. Although Jay's books have been nominated as Top 10's in our polls before, this is the first time for Portal Wars.

The series opens with Gehenna Dawn, a reference to the searing hot, hostile planet Gehanna where men from earth, like Jake Taylor, a regular New Hampshire farmboy, are sent to fight. In this alien hell, Jake and his cybernetically-enhanced comrades fight their never-ending war against the servants of the Tegeri, the manufactured soldiers they call simply, the Machines. When he finally discovers a terrible secret…that everything he’d believed, all he’d fought for his entire life, was nothing but a monstrous lie, he must decide who is the real enemy, and how far he is willing to go to right a horrific wrong.

The super-soldier enhancements are on both sides of the battles, including the protagonist, Jake Taylor himself, the aliens called Tegeri, and the Black Corps, a force created by Earth's government to destroy them. Some of the enhancements include things like being unable to go against orders, which creates fierce weapons out of humans!

You can find the first book in the Portal Wars series by clicking here.

2. The brain ships from the “Brain & Brawn” series by Anne McCaffrey

The “Brain & Brawn Ship series” (or Brainship or Ship series), written by Anne McCaffrey and others, is sometimes called the “Ship Who Sang series” based on the first book in the series.

The Ship Who Sang introduces us to a brainship, Helva. She was born human, but only her brain had been saved—saved to be schooled, programmed, and implanted into the sleek titanium body of an intergalactic scout ship. She must choose a human partner—male or female—to share her exhilirating excapades in space!

Although McCaffrey wasn't the first to come up with the concept of brainships, her original imaginings of it are unique:

I remember reading a story about a woman searching for her son's brain, it had been used for an autopilot on an ore ship and she wanted to find it and give it surcease. And I thought what if severely disabled people were given a chance to become starships? So that's how The Ship Who Sang was born.
— Anne McCaffrey, Anne McCaffrey: Heirs to Pern, Locus Magazine

Click here to find the first book in the Brain & Brawn Ship series on Amazon.

1. The Babel Fish from “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” (series) by Douglas Adams

Hitchhiker's Guide is a long-time, comic beloved classic of science fiction readers and is the title of a book series that has been adapted to film, TV, radio and even more forms of media.

With the opening book, author Douglas Adams introduces us to hapless hero Arthur Dent as he travels the galaxy with his intrepid pal Ford Prefect, getting into horrible messes and generally wreaking hilarious havoc. Dent is grabbed from Earth moments before a cosmic construction team obliterates the planet to build a freeway… and comedic chaos ensues.

Some famous pop-culture slogans are from The Hitchhiker's Guide, including “Don't Panic,” “42,” and references to a towel being the most useful thing a hitchhiker can have.

A “Babel Fish” is an admirably useful piece of biotech. According to one of the BBC broadcasts of Hitchhiker's Guide describes it thus:

“The Babel fish is small, yellow, leech-like – and probably the oddest thing in the universe. It feeds on brain wave energy, absorbing all unconscious frequencies and then excreting telepathically a matrix formed from the conscious frequencies and nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain, the practical upshot of which is that if you stick one in your ear, you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language: the speech you hear decodes the brain wave matrix.”

Click here to find The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on Amazon.

What do you think? Is there a piece of bio-tech your fellow readers should know about that didn't make it on the list? Join us here in our Facebook group to chime in on the debate, and then check out our most recent poll while you're there. Don't have Facebook? You can share your views in the comments below.

*Some book-related copy in this post was pulled from Amazon & Wikipedia.