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  1. #1

    Science Fiction's All Time Greatest Writers--Top Ten

    In the field of science fiction there have been countless good authors but a few of them can now be considered great.

    The following list is my opinion on the top ten authors of science fiction of all time. The list is in no particular order so number one doesn’t mean the greatest. Be sure to check out my Top 10 Science Fiction Books/Novels of all time also published here on Triond. Thanks.

    1. Jules Verne — Around the Moon, From Earth to the Moon, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in 80 days. Need I say more. Incredible author, one of the pioneers of science fiction novels.
    2. H.G. Wells– The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, Island of Dr. Moreau. Another pioneer of science fiction. War of the Worlds is considered to be one of the best science fiction novels of all time.
    3. Ray Bradbury– The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury’s Short Stories, Dandelion Wine. Still writing today and has not lost a bit of his talent. Fahrenheit 451 is considered one of the best works of all time in science fiction.
    4. Robert Heinlein– Stranger in a Strange Land, Starship Troopers, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The Stranger in a Strange Land novel has been mentioned as possibly the most important science fiction book ever written.
    5. Isaac Asimov — The Gods Themselves, Foundation Trilogy, I-Robot, Prelude to Foundation. Foundation Trilogy has been mentioned by numerous authors in the science fiction field as the best novel ever written.
    6. Arthur Clarke– 2001: A Space Odyssey, Childhood’s End, Rendezvous with Rama, The Fountains of Paradise. Incredible author who won numerous Hugos and Nebulas for his novels. 2001: A Space Odyssey was a huge success both as a book and as a movie
    .
    7. Frank Herbert — Dune, Sands of Dune, The Jesus Incident. Dune is considered one of the best novels of all time. This novel was also a huge success as a motion picture.
    8. Frederick Pohl– Considered to be the last living legend of the golden age of science fiction. Gateway, Man Plus, Homegoing, The Last Theorem. Both Gateway and Man Plus are considered masterpieces of science fiction.
    9. Ursula Le Guin– The only female author to make the top 10 list. Entire Earthsea Series, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed . She has won more Locus awards for her novels than any other writer in science fiction
    10. Robert Silverberg– A Time of Changes, Dying Inside, Majipoor Series, Kingdoms of the Wall. Considered to be one of the best authors of the 20Th century. Won numerous awards for his novels.

    Honorable Mentions

    Greg Bear — Numerous awards for his novels. Anvil of Stars, Blood Music, Darwin’s Radio.

    Kim Robinson – Entire Mars series is a classic. Incredible series. Red Mars, Green Bars, Blue Mars, The Martians.

    Harlan Ellison – He is second in number of awards (behind Le Guin) for all of his novels. Angry Candy, Deathbird Stories, A Boy and His Dog.

    Philip K. Dick, Jack Williamson, Philip Jose Farmer, E.E. Doc Smith, Douglas Adams, Ben Bova, Orson Scott Card are all other great authors in the field.

    [ADMIN EDIT: Link removed and article pasted in as we prefer. Hobbit]
    Last edited by Hobbit; August 29th, 2009 at 04:47 AM.

  2. #2
    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    Pretty good list.

    Ray Bradbury wins my personal award for Most Overrated Science Fiction Author of All Spacetime...

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    A servant of Lord Arioch FitzChivalry's Avatar
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    Bad List. Heavily biased towards old authors.

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    Member of the Month™ Ropie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nquixote View Post
    Ray Bradbury wins my personal award for Most Overrated Science Fiction Author of All Spacetime...
    I think Bradbury is appreciated more for his ability to write than the plots and details of his books. The Martian Chronicles, for example, is a strange collection of rather light tales but the way it is written is almost overpoweringly atmospheric and affecting.

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    Live Long & Suffer psikeyhackr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ropie View Post
    I think Bradbury is appreciated more for his ability to write than the plots and details of his books. The Martian Chronicles, for example, is a strange collection of rather light tales but the way it is written is almost overpoweringly atmospheric and affecting.
    I saw that OP and decided to wait for other responses.

    I put Ray Bradbury in a somewhat separate category from Heinlein, Asimov and Clarke. He wrote science fiction that was more literary than scientific. So talking about what is greatest depends on what the science fiction reader wants. The literary people don't often like or just don't care about the science but if the science fiction is attempting to extrapolate the future to a reasonable degree then the science must be somewhat realistic.

    We are currently evolving a cybernetic culture. But I was recently reading that a winner of some Turing prize in 1999 saying that artificial intelligence has not advanced since then. We just have more powerful but still dumb von Neumann machines. Human beings sorting out good and bad information is more important to what we do with info-tech than artificial intelligence.

    Korzybski's General Semantics is more important than this Singularity fantasy.

    So we need to separate the literary from the scientific science fiction. I suspect more people will prefer the literary style.

    psik
    Last edited by psikeyhackr; August 29th, 2009 at 12:21 PM.

  6. #6
    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    Actually, his bad writing is one reason I think Bradbury is overrated.

    Fahrenheit 451 is his most famous book. It is a tired retread of ideas from 1984 and Brave New World, only without the memorable characters and vivid descriptions of those earlier books. Its main motif - the scariness of Nazi-style book-burning - is politically timid, especially when compared with its predecessors. And the writing style is plodding and uninspired.

    When I asked my 11th grade teacher why we were assigned Fahrenheit 451 instead of 1984 or Brave New World (I had already read both), she replied that those other books were too "politically sensitive." In 1997. (This was a very well-regarded public high school in a conservative town in central Texas.) I rest my case, Bradbury!

  7. #7
    Live Long & Suffer psikeyhackr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nquixote View Post
    When I asked my 11th grade teacher why we were assigned Fahrenheit 451 instead of 1984 or Brave New World (I had already read both), she replied that those other books were too "politically sensitive." In 1997. (This was a very well-regarded public high school in a conservative town in central Texas.) I rest my case, Bradbury!
    I have seen that pattern before. The truly good, thought provoking and controversial gets swept under the rug and something lesser gets promoted as GREAT. Consequently most people end up not even knowing about what is under the rug.

    psik

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    Member of the Month™ Ropie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nquixote View Post
    Actually, his bad writing is one reason I think Bradbury is overrated.
    Bradbury is one of America's great 20th C writers and would not be out of place near the the top of any list of modern literary talents. I can't understand why anyone would think otherwise. More than just about any other SF writer, there's a real beauty to his prose, especially the earlier novels and collections. I have read 1984 and BNW and, whilst both are very good, I think you were luckier to be exposed to Bradbury at school.

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    Webmaster, Great SF&F owlcroft's Avatar
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    Off the beaten track . . . .

    Try these on for size:

    • Brian Aldiss
    • Douglas Adams
    • M. John Harrison
    • Doris Piserchia
    • Cordwainer Smith
    • Brian Stableford
    • Gene Wolfe
    • Jack Vance


    A few other names--folk who have done some good sf but whose best work is in fantasy:

    • Avram Davidson
    • Ray Bradbury
    • C. J. Cherryh
    • Glen Cook
    • John Crowley
    • Avram Davidson
    • Ursula K. Le Guin
    • Tanith Lee


    And yet a few others, folk who have done fine work but who have only one or two books (of sf, anyway):

    • Paul Auster [In the Country of Last Things; Man in the Dark]
    • Stepan Chapman [The Troika]
    • Alan Lightman [Einstein's Dreams]
    • Magnus Mills [The Scheme for Full Employment ("economic sf")]
    • Herbert Read [The Green Child]


    (All lists are simply alphabetical.)

    And then there's R. A. Lafferty, whose work might be classed sf, or might be classed fantasy, or might be unclassifiable . . . .

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    trolling > dissertation nquixote's Avatar
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    For some more modern writers, you might include:

    • Vernor Vinge
    • Lois McMaster Bujold
    • David Brin
    • Neal Stephenson
    • Dan Simmons
    • William Gibson
    • Larry Niven
    • Frederick Pohl


    For some overlooked classic greats, you might include:
    • Jack Vance
    • Roger Zelazny
    • Samuel Delaney
    • John Bruenner
    • A.E. Van Vogt
    • E.E. "Doc" Smith

  11. #11
    Live Long & Suffer psikeyhackr's Avatar
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    I think it is kind of unhelpful to name authors and titles without explaining what you consider to be worthwhile about them.

    I have recently reread some Bujold books because so many recommendations just don't seem to deliver what I care about in stories. I thought there was a good chance I would like Terok Nor because I enjoy DS9 so much but it has just been too slow. I've stopped at page 60 and don't know if I'll start again. A number of people on a Trek site say it's great. But it wasn't as bad as Revelation Space that took me weeks to force myself through. LOL

    But Lois Bujold and say Mack Reymolds are extremely different writers but I like both of them for very different reasons. Mack Reynolds characters contain so much corrugated cardboard you can smell the glue but stories that he wrote in the 60s are more relevant to what is happening in the world today than anything I have read by Bujold. But Bujold creates characters that are so textured and stories sufficiently complex that they can maintain my interest even though I have read them before. I confess that this even surprises me. But I can't see the technology of Bujold's stories being possible and affecting society to nearly that degree in the next 50 years.

    The novel Diplomatic Immunity depends on the technologies of uterine replicators and genetic engineering. I'll ignore the business of FTL travel for the moment. Uterine replicators eliminate the need for women to carry babies to term. Just pop the fertilized egg into the machine and get a baby out 9 months later. Genetic engineering makes it possible to design people and create diseases to specifications. The genetic engineering is in its infancy now but where is the decision making power about what is to be done with it? Which countries and corporations have the most control of it now. I think it will be a long time to custom designed people but the genetically engineered diseases as weapons is probably our most pressing concern now.

    http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/nonfiction/diplomatic.htm

    But Mack Reynolds dealt more with the economic and political effects of technology even though his characters were rather shallow. How do people with technology manipulate people without it, for their own good of course? Mack Reynolds' story Adaption isn't so much about the story as it is a thought experiment for the reader to consider.

    Adaption, MR

    So the writing and the story and the intent of the story need to by regarded separately.

    I think it is a mistake to try to evaluate sci-fi as merely writing. If anything, the better the sci-fi the more of a mistake that is.

    psik
    Last edited by psikeyhackr; August 30th, 2009 at 11:20 AM. Reason: 8 instead of 9

  12. #12
    HG Wells: great author. Jules Verne: SF pioneer, but not in the same class as Wells from a literary point of view.
    Same might be said for Asimov.

    Does this list judge the literary weight of the person or their original contribution to the genre? Falls a bit flat from both angles.

  13. #13
    Webmaster, Great SF&F owlcroft's Avatar
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    Oh dear . . . .

    I think it is a mistake to try to evaluate sci-fi as merely writing. If anything, the better the sci-fi the more of a mistake that is.
    Which necessarily brings to mind:
    I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies all right. But my damn friends, my goddamn friends. They're the ones that keep me walking the floor nights.
    - Warren G. Harding

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