11 May 2018

9 British Sci-Fi Writers You Should Read (or Reread) Today

Science fiction is a look into the future through book pages. Find out more about 9 heart and award-winning British sci-fi writers who dare take this look.

If until today you haven’t been a great fan of science fiction – and I’m giving you high five if you’ve been – let’s remember the best sci-fi movies of all times. I’m sure you’ve watched them.

I’d start this list with Robert Zemeckis’s trilogy “Back to the Future”. You could add “The Fifth Element” and “Matrix” to it. Can you feel that touching nostalgy when you remember episodes from these films? I think that’s the best indicator of the quality of sci-fi cinematography.

Yet let’s go back to books. As an eager aficionado of both sci-fi novels and movies I can say for sure that it’s never possible to decide which is more worthwhile: to read or to watch.

Besides, as a freelance provider of a review and essay writing service, I simply have to do both.

Taking a more careful look at my customers’ preferences and global trends in literature and cinema, I notice that science fiction isn’t going to lose its popularity. On the contrary, this genre seems to be taken really seriously nowadays, taking into consideration the fact that sci-fi writers’ literary forecasts for our world’s future look more than realistic.

So, whose forecasts are worth our attention? These 10 British authors have a few (hundreds of thousands) thought-provoking words to tell us.

1. Lewis Carroll
What can a children’s fairy tale be like if it’s written by a mathematician, logician, and Anglican deacon? Reread “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and you’ll know the answer.

Lewis Carroll was a notable scientist, taught at Oxford, had a keen interest in arts, and liked children. He dedicated a story of a little girl’s adventures in an imaginary world to absolutely real Alice Liddell, one of the three daughters of his friend, Dean Henry Liddell. However, the creative scholar is said to worry that the tale had no obvious moral, though he was sure of its intellectual potential.

The story is full of references to English folklore and other literary works. Everything in the world of the Looking-Glass is based on laws of logic and math, though functions rather opposite to some of them. Besides, Carroll’s work is partly a bitter satire of the English society of his time.

It looks like this fairy tale should be read along with textbooks in mathematics, history, and literature studies.

2. Herbert George Wells
At the very end of the 19th century this daring author tried to imagine what our world and the whole universe would be like a few hundred years later. Advanced technology, a prototype of artificial intelligence, space journeys, and original philosophy distinguishes HG Wells’s books from the rest of literary masterpieces of the Victorian era.

Check out his “The Time Machine”, “The War of Worlds”, or “The First Men in the Moon” to make sure NASA and Elon Musk are serious about their intentions and prognoses.

The very titles of these and many other Herbert’s books promise fascinating stories.

3. Michael John Harrison
In 2012 his book “Empty Space: A Haunting” was shortlisted as one of the best modern sci-fi novels by the British Science Fiction Association. Let alone a few other literary prizes and awards he got for his work. Besides, Harrison’s literary brainchildren are highly recognized by his brothers and sisters in arms.

The author masterfully ties together science, human psychology, and fantasy in order to introduce an original, though not always rosy, prospects of our future life.

Try his earlier Viriconium sequence or “Climbers”. But if you plan to start getting acquainted with this author through the mentioned latest award-winning novel, you should know that it’s the last part of the trilogy. So, first pay attention to highly praised “Light” and “Nova Swing”.

4. Douglas Adams
A copy of his most famous novel “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” is now somewhere in outer space. Elon Musk lists it among the books that inspired him to do what he’s now famous for, so there’s little wonder he decided to put it into his Tesla Roadster, launched into orbit on the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in February 2018.

The words “Don’t Panic”, cited from the novel too and programmed to appear on the dashboard display, are more than telling to denote such adventure.

Today you can enjoy the inspiring collection of five Adams’s sci-fi novels in “The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide”. Just so you know, its inspirer was the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to Europe by Ken Welsh. Young Adams took it to a trip when his great idea struck him.

5. Alan Moore
An avid reader since childhood, Alan Moore is well-known for his comic books, unusual hobbies (with occultism among them), and remarkable appearance.

If his name still doesn’t evoke any associations in your memory, I think you’ll easily recognize his style in such movies as “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, “Batman: The Killing Joke”, “V for Vendetta”, or “Watchman”. Plus, he’s Superman’s father.

Despite the apparent comic element in his books, Alan Moore’s interest in politics and history, which manifests itself in his writings, makes them considerably different from other pieces of the genre.

So, opt for Alan Moore’s works if you want to read something both sci-fi and really entertaining.

6. Ken MacLeod
And his novels will suit everyone who seeks topical, thorny science fiction, touching on history, politics, technology, and ethics.

In 2012 Ken MacLeod also won a BSFA award for “Intrusion”, reviewed as a “dystopian novel” that could annoy every reader with its “fine tune” and “in-your-face argument”. But this annoyance comes from realization of what the author actually means to tell his readers. After all, the issue of freedom as a human right and the issue of choice between the correct and the necessary have never been pleasant to discuss.

If that’s what you expect to taste in modern literature, you can also try his “The Star Fraction”, “The Corporation Wars”, or “The Cassini Division”.

7. Ian M Banks
The other inspirer of Elon Musk and many budding sci-fi authors, Iain Banks devotes his acute novels to everything that can shake (and is shaking) the modern world. Well, if we can’t sense or know something, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, right?

The range of themes the author covers include scientific and technological advances, culture and ethics, politics and economy, as well as general evolution (or degradation?) of human civilization.

Iain Banks is an active author, so you can choose from a large variety of his novels: “Use of Weapons”, “Matter”, “The Hydrogen Sonata”, etc.

8. Chris Beckett
Experiences in writing textbooks, giving lectures at university, managing a children and families social work team might have significantly influenced Chris Beckett’s creative writing style.

In 2013 the Arthur C. Clarke Award for his “Dark Eden” confirmed that his original style is recognized on a national scale. The novel’s characters are descendants of humans whose spaceship crashed on the planet Eden. So, the author explores their individualities and relationships. Who knows, probably in 100-200 years our great-grandchildren will need to remember the moral revealed by the book.

You might also like to check out the other two books of the trilogy – “Mother of Eden” and “Daughter of Eden”.  Besides, Beckett is well-known as a master of a modern sci-fi short story, so the collection of these works might be interesting for you too.

9. Neil Gaiman
His childhood favorite was Carroll’s “Alice”, along with the masterpieces of J. R. R. Tolkien, Rudyard Kipling, and (I’m really not surprised by this fact) Alan Moore. So, there’s no wonder Neil Gaiman chose the path of writing science fiction, as well as short stories, film scripts (including an episode for “Doctor Who”), comic books, and even children’s books.

His currently most popular and best acknowledged work is “American Gods”. The originality of the novel lays in an intelligent medley of ancient and contemporary mythology, fantasy, and so-called Americana (simply put, it covers everything that relates to geography, history, and culture of the United States).
But if you aren’t likely to read an “everyone-is-reading-now” book, you might choose from Gaiman’s other award-winning novels: “Stardust” (yes, it was adapted for the movie), “The Graveyard Book”, or “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”.

10. Adam Roberts
When a professor of 19th-century literature writes novels that combine the genres of science fiction and crime fiction, that’s a good reason to reconsider our attitude to the concepts of creativity and vocation.

Meet Adam Roberts and his “Jack Glass”, the book that won the BSFA Award for Best Novel in 2012.
He’s a multi-faceted author, who is also well-known for novellas and short stories, parodies of famous literary works (among them “Soddit” for “Hobbit” and “Star Warped” for “Star Wars”), critical review, and even tips for aspiring sci-fi writers, presented in the book “Get Started in: Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

Choose and enjoy!