When someone comes to the desk asking for science fiction recommendations, I rattle off the names of the classic writers, like Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Ray Bradbury, or Ursula K. Le Guin.  The response is usually, “I’ve already read those.”  

Then, I’m at a loss, because science fiction is not my genre of choice.  Thus this column.  It’s time for me to delve in the world of science fiction in order to provide more robust readers’ advisory.

First, what is the difference between science fiction and fantasy?  They are often lumped together, but I find that while many people read both, there are devotees of each.

In their article “Science Fiction & Fantasy: A Genre with Many Faces,” Amy Goldschlager and Avon Eos explain that many people, “are unaware that the two though close kin (emphasis theirs) are very different.” They refer to author Asimov saying that science fiction is grounded in science, while fantasy is not.

“By my own definition, SF is the branch of literature which deals with the response of human beings to changes in the level of science and technology,” Asimov told a class at the State University of New York College at Brockport.

Elsewhere I read that fantasy is set apart from science fiction by a system of magic.

Susan Larson, Milton Public Library Director

With that very basic understanding, there are two places to look for authors and titles beyond the classics in science fiction: The Nebula and Hugo Awards.

The Nebula Awards, bestowed annually in May, follow a voting process by some 1,500 members of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of American, Inc.

Readers vote for The Hugo Awards, presented each August to the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year.

Based on the 2018 winners and nominees, consider these science fiction novels.

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
2018 Hugo nominee for best novel
The novel is the first in Scalzi’s space-opera sequence The Interdependency Series.  The second book is The Consuming FireThe Last Emperox, third in the series, is expected in 2020.

Provenance by Ann Leckie
2018 Hugo nominee for best novel
Although set in the same universe as her Imperial Radch space-opera trilogy (Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy), it is not itself a sequel. 

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
2018 Hugo nominee for best novel
Six Wakes is a science fiction mystery novel.

Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee
2018 Hugo nominee for best novel
This is book two in the Machines of Empire series, which also features Ninefox Gambit (book one) and Revenant Gun (book three).

New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson
2018 Hugo nominee for best novel
The New Yorker called the book, “surprisingly utopian. New York may be underwater, but it’s better than ever.”

The Calculating Stars: A Lady Astronaut Novel by Mary Robinette Kowal
2018 Nebula Award for best novel
Kowal has named this the first book in a forthcoming Lady Astronaut series.

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller
2018 Nebula nominee for best novel
Blackfish was also named a 2018 Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus Reviews best book.

References:

Goldschlager, Amy and Avon Eos. “Science Fiction & Fantasy: A Genre With Many Faces.” https://www.sfsite.com/columns/amy26.htm 1997. Accessed March 10, 2019

Ingersol, Earl G. “Science Fiction Studies, #41 = Volume 14, Part 1 = March 1987.” https://www.depauw.edu/sfs/interviews/asimov41interview.htm Accessed March 10, 2019.

Rothman, Joshua. “Kim Stanley Robinson’s Latest Novel Imagines Life in an Underwater New York.” The New Yorker.  April 27, 2017.  https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/kim-stanley-robinsons-latest-novel-imagines-life-in-an-underwater-new-york  Accessed March 11, 2019.