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Literary Science Fiction

What is Literary Science Fiction?

Exciting and well-written Science Fiction stories that can be recognized outside of the Science Fiction world as great literary works. These stories are polished, clever, and skillfully written. When compared to earlier ages of Sci Fi, they lack the pulp fiction feel. Literary works like to play with the form, with structure and themes, which can be very interesting when combined with the speculative nature of Sci Fi.

You can view the crowd-ranked "Popular" Literary Science Fiction Books list and vote and/submit entries to it.

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Other Features of Literary Science Fiction

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  • Level of Real Science

    Variable. If the writer is caught up in the literary side, the book will focus less on the science. However, in some books the science is at the core of the story and readers get a full sense of understanding.

  • Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications

    High. Literary Sci Fi is generally dense because of its tendency to explore grand ideas and their social implications.

  • Level of Characterization

    Variable. Characters can be deep and the story can be character-driven. Alternatively, the characters can be mere vehicles to move the book forward because the writer prefers to experiment with the story's form or some other aspect of story.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    Variable. As with character, the writer's focus will determine the level of plot. Many Literary Sci Fi stories offer complex and meaningful plots, while others focus on style and ideas.

  • Level of Violence

    Low. Again, level of violence will depend on where the writer is focusing, so there is a possibility of violence. However, because Literary Sci Fi is more concerned with literary devices and exploration of story violence is frequently not front and centre.

Related Science Fiction subgenres

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    Anything. Any sub-genre of Science Fiction can contain literary elements because Literary Sci Fi and any other sub-genre want to make the reader see something in a new way. One highly "literary" sci-fi subgenre would be Slipstream which tends to incorporate various literary conventions or is generally so strange that it has to be classified as literary.

Literary Science Fiction isn't for you if

You like books where everything is explained. Literary Sci Fi likes to explore and play, but that does not mean the writer will slow down long enough to explain what is going on or why.

Popular Literary Science Fiction books
  • 1 The Handmaid's Tale


    By Margaret Atwood. An award winning, Canadian novel that explores themes of women in subjugation and agency in a futuristic theocracy.

  • 2 Ghostwritten


    By David Mitchell. A complex book where its characters are caught up in the relationship of cause and effect.

  • 3 Never Let me Go


    By Kazuo Ishiguro. The story takes place in an England much like ours, but darkly different. A well written and intense read about the sinister fate for a group of school children because of certain technological advances.

  • 4 Ender's Game


    By Orson Scott Card. The first in a famous series that seems to become more literary as its characters age. Follows a child prodigy and in the process makes the reader think about war, the means to war, and even loneliness.

  • 5 The Left Hand of Darkness


    By Ursula Le Guin. A groundbreaking feminist science fiction book. It explores and challenges sexuality, social organization, and sexism.

  • 6 The Prestige


    By Christopher Priest. The Sci Fi elements of this book sneak up on reader, but by the end you will see the ideas that Priest has been exploring. Not to mention electricity itself nearly becomes a character.

  • 7 A Canticle for Leibowtiz


    By Walter M. Miller Jr A classic of 20th century literature and a 1961 Hugo award winner, this book explores the human condition in a future, post-nuclear world and enlightens the reader along the way.

  • 8 The Mars Trilogy


    By Kim Stanley Robinson. An award winning series that delves into ecological and sociological themes. Covers 200 years of the history of settling on Mars.

  • 9 Air


    By Geoff Ryman. An award winning novel concerned with information technology and its potential for change.

  • 10 Babel-17


    By Samuel R. Delany. The literary side of this Sci Fi book is high in its experimentation with language and its exploration of language's role in meaning, action, identity, politics, and culture.

  • 11 Book of the New Sun


    By Gene Wolfe. Wolfe is one of the best "writers" in the genre and Book of the New Sun is his magnum opus. A wonderfully written tale set in the far future with a poetic lyrical style and impregnated with literary themes. Don't miss this one if you are a fan of "literary" works.