With the 1985 release of his Hugo and Nebula award-winning epic Ender’s Game, sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card cemented himself as a giant of the genre. In an interview with Five Books, the author extolled on the SFF books that most inspire him:

“I love all five of these works I have chosen. I have reread all of them, and they hold up well. They were my education in the field, but more importantly they helped shape my vision of what storytelling is, and what it needs to be in order to matter in the lives of readers. Few of these writers wrote primarily to be admired or studied. They wrote to carry the reader into vicarious lives that were worth living. The characters and the worlds they lived in were the stars, not the writer. Having read these works, I’m afraid I became impatient with most – though not all – contemporary literary writing. So be warned. They might have the same effect on you.”

Showcasing some of the very best storytelling, worldbuilding, and character development in the field, find a list of Orscon Scott Card’s most beloved science fiction books below. Complement with the reading lists of George R.R. Martin, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, N.K. Jemisin, Ray Bradbury, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov (also rec’d by Elon Musk)

Foundation and its sequels show you the scope of first-rate extrapolative science fiction, and there is no better writer of the American plain style than Isaac Asimov. He never calls attention to himself as writer, but invisible as he is, he writes with such lucidity that everything is always clear and you slip through the story effortlessly. I loved it when I first read it at 16, and I loved it still when I reread it recently in my late 50s.” -OSC

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

“Bradbury’s martian stories are infused with tragedy, lost dreams, ancient glories and hope resurgent. And the way he writes! This is language that is meant, like ancient Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse, to be read aloud. It contains its own music. It is music.” -OSC

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (also rec’d by Elon Musk)

“This account of a revolutionary struggle between lunar colonists – many of whom came there (or their parents did) as exiles and prisoners – and the exploitative government agency that controls their lives is, like Foundation, a working out of historical forces. But Heinlein sticks with a cast of a few main characters and, with a charmingly colloquial writing style, makes us care about them all.” -OSC

Dangerous Visions by Harlan Ellison

“He came up with the idea of a collection of stories that could not be published in the somewhat rule-bound magazines of the day. He found a publisher and the writers responded to his call. The result was Dangerous Visions and AgainDangerous Visions, two of the greatest original anthologies ever created in any genre. Almost all the giants in the field responded, giving if not their best work then credible, delightful samples of what they brought to sci-fi. The only fly in the ointment is that the anthology was so successful, influential and widely read that today, any magazine would be proud to publish any of these stories. This collection remade the field.” -OSC

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame by Robert Silverberg

“Where Dangerous Visions is a brilliant snapshot of a moment in sci-fi, The Science Fiction Hall of Fame is the whole background of the field. After the Science Fiction Writers of America began giving out the Nebula Awards and publishing annual anthologies of the winners and runners-up, many felt that it was a shame that they couldn’t retroactively give awards to the stories that had come before – the ones that shaped their reading, the ones that taught them what science fiction could and ought to be. So the SFWA members at the time nominated and voted on memorable stories that had stood the test of time. The result was The Science Fiction Hall of Fame. There is simply no better introduction to the whole history of science fiction than this book.” -OSC

(via Five Books)

Categories: Writers

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