You may or may not have noticed that I’m a speculative fiction evangelist. It’s a broad genre, covering horror, dystopian fiction, science fiction and alternate/future histories. My favourite description of the genre comes from Margaret Atwood who calls speculative fiction a “‘no Martians’ type of science fiction—about things that really could happen.”
Here are 10 speculative fiction books on my bookshelf. Perhaps they belong on yours too:
- Lord of the Flies (1954)—William Golding. The ultimate dystopian novel. On watching “The Walking Dead” and “Survivors” I’m brought back to the themes of this book—the essence of what humans are capable of doing to one another (and it aint all butterfly kisses and sunshine).
- A Brave New World (1932)—Aldous Huxley. One of the first truly speculative dystopian fiction novels and still one of the best.
- A Handmaid’s Tale (1985)—Margaret Atwood. My favourite book by my favourite author OF ALL TIME. I hold A Handmaid’s Tale up as my most esteemed piece of aspirational fiction.
- Frankenstein (1818)—Mary Shelley. Shelley was writing speculative fiction even before it was a thing. “Frankenstein” is the original gothic science fiction.
- Signal to Noise (1992 Graphic Novel)—Neil Gaiman. It’s very meta, which one might expect from Neil Gaiman, about a filmmaker who learns he has a terminal disease, and imagines his last film, which he won’t have time to make before he dies.
- Riddley Walker (1980)—Russell Hoban. I was forced to read Riddley Walker at university and I hated it at the time, but that was because I was young and stupid. Don’t listen to that person—she knows nothing.
- The Time Machine (1895)—H.G. Wells. The insights Wells generated from the world he created in the 19th century was so far ahead of its time, it’s staggering.
- Nineteen Eighty Four (1949)—George Orwell. It’s almost a shame 1984 is studied so fervently in schools, at a time when kids are likely to dismiss the book as a necessary academic evil. I did, but picked it up again as an adult. I’m glad I did—it impacted me more than I could have imagined.
- White Noise (1985)—Don DeLillo. Covers off most of the themes of speculative fiction, including some of my favourite tropes—the “Airborne Toxic Event” and an experimental drug that (apparently) treats the extreme terror of death.
- Something Wicked this Way Comes (1962)—Ray Bradbury. Ah, the mysteries and horrors of the traveling carnival. I expect to see plenty of references from this book in the new “American Horror Story” season.
There are others, such as Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury) and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Philip K. Dick), that have become displaced from my bookshelf over the years, probably borrowed out in a frenzy of literary sharesies and not returned. It happens (but don’t let it happen to you).
What is your favourite speculative fiction book?