1 A Case of Conscience (1958)
James Blish

One Catholic reader responded to Blish's theologically-
infused outer space story by sending him a copy of
Church doctrine relating to extraterrestrials.

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2 The Sirens of Titan (1959)
Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut's formative experiences were marked by
tragic death, rampant destruction and thwarted ambitions.
Later he decided to treat his characters as he was treated.

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3 A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960)
Walter M. Miller

Can epistemology serve as a unifying theme of a sci-fi
novel? Walter Miller thought so, and proved that genre
fiction can also delve into the deepest philosophical issues.

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4 Solaris (1961)
Stanislaw Lem

Stanislaw Lem claimed that science fiction is poorly written,
ill conceived and too focused on clichés. That didn't stop him
from writing one of the finest sci-fi books of the 20th century.

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5 Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)
Robert Heinlein

Two years after his Starship Troopers incurred charges that
he was a militarist, Heinlein served up
Stranger in a Strange
Land
, with its paean to free love and 1960s-era self-actualization.

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6 The Soft Machine (1961)
William Burroughs

Few sci-fi concepts are more used, and abused, than the time
travel meme. But William Burroughs delivered, without question,
the oddest time travel novel of them all in this 1961 work.

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7 A Clockwork Orange (1962)
Anthony Burgess

Long before the rise of the punk ethos, Burgess anticipated its
themes of violent disenchantment and transformed them into
a magnificent sci-fi-flavored literary symphony.

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8 The Drowned World (1962)
J.G. Ballard

This book is still the gold standard for global warming fiction.
But be forewarned: the really bizarre stuff in a J.G. Ballard
story always takes place inside the characters' heads.

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9 Hothouse (1962)
Brian Aldiss

Is Brian Aldiss's global warming novel really science fiction?
It unfolds more like a Homeric epic, or a cataclysmic Old
Testament story about the wandering exploits of a chosen people.

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10 The Man in the High Castle (1962)
Philip K. Dick

In this cryptic alternative history, Philip K. Dick explores the
unexpected ramifications of a world in which the United
States lost World War II.

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11 Cat's Cradle (1963)
Kurt Vonnegut

Over the course of 127 miniature chapters, Kurt Vonnegut
constructs a madcap adventure mixing New Age philosophy
and end-of-the-world hijinks.

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12 Cosmicomics (1965)
Italo Calvino

Cosmicomics is my favorite Italo Calvino work, a heady
mixture of postmodern posturing and science fiction concepts.  
Think of it as human interest stories, but without the humans.

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13 The Genocides (1965)
Thomas Disch

Mix together The Grapes of Wrath, The Book of Job and The
War of the Worlds
. Stir it up violently, and wait for it to explode.
Such is Disch's
The Genocides.

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14 Dune (1965)
Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert's Dune represents the purest example in science
fiction of what anthropologist Clifford Geertz described as
"thick description" ethnography.

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15 Mindswap (1965)
Robert Sheckley

Is Robert Sheckley's 1965 novel Mindswap a rambling and
disjointed disaster or a virtuosos postmodern pastiche?  Or
perhaps a bit of both?

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16 This Immortal (1965)
Roger Zelazny

Roger Zelazny found inexhaustible inspiration for science
fiction adventure stories in the oldest myths,  legends and
religious belief systems.

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17 Babel-17 (1966)
Samuel R. Delany

Rydra Wong, the protagonist of Samuel Delany's Babel-17
is a poet, skilled linguist and intergalactic literary celebrity
…and, yes, a starship captain in her spare time.

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18 Giles Goat-Boy (1966)
John Barth

Think of John Barth's oddball novel as a cross between
Tarzan of the Apes and the Holy Bible. It's almost as long
as the King James Version, and roughly follows the same plot.

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19 The Crystal World (1966)
J.G. Ballard

Few authors found more ways of destroying planet Earth
than J.G. Ballard. In
The Crystal World, he turned to the killing
properties of ice, and found that it, too, will suffice.

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20 The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966)
Robert Heinlein

Heinlein never wrote with more panache or intensity than in this
1966 story of rebellious lunar settlers demanding their
independence from Mother Earth.

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21 Flowers for Algernon (1966)
Daniel Keyes

In a strange twist, Daniel Keyes' career followed the arc of his most
famous protagonist, marked by a rise to the heights that neither
was capable of sustaining.

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22 Report on Probability A (1967)
Brian Aldiss

Others write meta-narratives. But Brian Aldiss goes several steps
further with this story within a story within a story within a story
within a story.  

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23 The Ticket That Exploded (1967)
William S. Burroughs

"Anyone with a tape recorder controlling the sound track,"  William
Burroughs insists in these pages, "can influence and create events
...This produces a strong erotic reaction."

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24 The Einstein Intersection (1967)
Samuel R. Delany

"If the Holy Bible were an Ace Double, it would be cut to two
20,000-word halves with the Old Testament retitled as 'Master of
Chaos' and the New Testament as 'The Thing With Three Souls'."

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25 Dangerous Visions (1967)
Harlan Ellison, editor

Harlan Ellison really wanted dangerous visions for his anthology,
stories that confronted taboos and themes too hot for the science
fiction magazines of the day.

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26 Lord of Light (1967)
Roger Zelazny

Others look to Eastern spirituality for transcendence and
enlightenment, but Zelazny sized up the ancient deities and
saw that they had potential as sci-fi superheroes.

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27 I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream (1967)
Harlan Ellison

"A special word about the stories in this book," Ellison explains,  
"they come from someplace special in me.  Someplace I don't
care to visit too frequently."

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28 Stand on Zanzibar (1968)
John Brunner

John Brunner drew on the techniques of John Dos Passos's USA
Trilogy
in constructing in the prescient work. In fact, o sci-fi work of
its era predicted the future more accurately.

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29 Nova (1968)
Samuel R. Delany

Delany is up to his usual tricks. Sci-fi plot lines get turbocharged
with archetypes. Astronauts are fetishized beyond recognition.
They invariably ally announce they would rather be writers.

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30 Camp Concentration (1968)
Thomas M. Disch

"I have a class theory of literature," Disch explained. "I come from
the wrong neighborhood to sell to
The New Yorker. No matter how
good I am as an artist, they always can smell where I come from."

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31 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)
Philip K. Dick

Dick asserted his squatter's rights at the intersection where the
unreal crosses the more unreal. He owned this type of story, and
for the worst possible reason: he had to live it.

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32 His Master's Voice (1968)
Stanislaw Lem

Stanislaw Lem once summed up the worldview underpinning
his science fiction in a few choice words: "People are terrible
and the future is bleak."

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33 The Final Programme (1968)
Michael Moorcock

If Nietzsche had collaborated with Eugène Ionesco and Ian Fleming,
he might have come up with a character as odd as Moorcock's
Jerry Corrnelius.

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34 Dimension of Miracles (1968)
Robert Sheckley

Dimension of Miracles has no structure, no narrative arc, but
Sheckley compensates with his deft prose, wild sense of humor,
and acute eye for the foibles of his fellow earthlings.  

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35 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Arthur C. Clarke

“If you understand 2001 on the first viewing, we will have failed,”
Arthur C. Clarke said in regard to the famous Kubrick film. By all
means, see it again; even better, read the book.

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36 The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
Ursula K. Le Guin

Le Guin set the standard for the sociological sci-fi of the 1960s,
in which gender roles, economics and political institutions
outrank spaceships and warp drives.

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37 Slaughterhouse Five (1969)
Kurt Vonnegut

What could be a more fitting symbol of the plight of a prisoner-
of-war than a person who no longer has control over his time
or space? Thus was born Vonnegut's sci-fi World War II novel.

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38 Ada or Ardor (1969)
Vladimir Nabokov

"I loathe science fiction," Vladimir Nabokov declared to a
BBC interviewer in 1968. A few months later Nabokov
published an elaborate sci-fi novel.

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39 Ubik (1969)
Philip K. Dick

"Pop tasty Ubik into your toaster, made only from fresh fruit and
healthful all-vegetable shortening.  Ubik makes breakfast a feast,
puts zing into your thing."

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40 Barefoot in the Head (1969)
Brian Aldiss

Aldiss convinces us, in these pages, that if you give people a
sufficient amount of mind-altering narcotics, they might start
talking like characters in
Finnegans Wake.

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41 Behold the Man (1969)
Michael Moorcock

Members of a gentle religious community flock around our visitor
from the future, excited by this mysterious man who has appeared in
their midst.  Let’s even call them apostles…..

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42 Emphyrio (1969)
Jack Vance

Jack Vance may have been too much of a perfectionist for genre
fiction, yet limited by the divided literary culture of his day that
scorned writers who set stories in outer space.

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43 The Atrocity Exhibition (1970)
J.G. Ballard

When Ballard's lawyer asked the author how he would explain to
the court that his book was not obscene, he responded: "of
course it was obscene, and intended to be so."

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44 The World Inside (1971)
Robert Silverberg

In this dark comic novel about claustrophobia, Robert Silverberg
serves up a variant of Winesburg, Ohio set in a 1,000 story
skyscraper with one million residents.

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45 The Lathe of Heaven (1971)
Ursula K. Le Guin

In this Hugo-winning novel, the "effective dreams" of Le Guin's
hero George Orr not only change the future . . . they also
alter the past.

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46 Bug Jack Barron (1969)
Norman Spinrad

Norman Spinrad managed to bug just about everybody with Bug
Jack Barron
(1969). The book got attacked in Parliament. The
Daily Express
branded it as filth. The printers refused to print it.

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47 Nine Hundred Grandmothers (1970)
R.A. Lafferty

In Nine Hundred Grandmothers, R.A. Lafferty violates the most
basic rule of science fiction. Instead of leaping into the future,
he descends into the past.

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48 Ringworld (1970)
Larry Niven

Imagine a very, very large hula hoop in the cosmos.  Add floating
buildings, hostile sunflowers and various fascinating gadgets. Such
is Larry Niven's Ringworld.

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49 Moderan (1971)
David R. Bunch

David R. Bunch, who passed away in 2000 at age 74, may be the
best kept secret in New Wave sci-fi. Sad to say, almost everything
he wrote is now out of print.

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50 To Your Scattered Bodies Go (1971)
Philip José Farmer

You may be surprised when the hero of this novel dies in the opening
paragraph. But you better get used to it, because he will die hundreds
of times before you get to the final page.

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51 Love in the Ruins (1971)
Walker Percy

And why shouldn't Walker Percy, winner of the National Book
Award, write a Roman Catholic science-fiction comic existential
romance novel?

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52 Dying Inside (1972)
Robert Silverberg

In his early career, Silverberg wrote a million words per year. But at
the very moment he found he could no longer maintain this pace, he
wrote a sci-fi novel about a man whose talents were eroding.

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53 Gravity's Rainbow (1973)
Thomas Pynchon

Is Gravity’s Rainbow a work of science fiction? For my part, I have
no problem acknowledging Pynchon's sci-fi credentials. Then again,
almost every other kind of ingredient shows up eventually in this book.

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54 Herovit's World (1973)
Barry N. Malzberg

Malzberg bites the hand that feeds him, delivering a caustic
science fiction novel that savagely critique of sci-fi, heaping
scorn on editors, writers, agents and fans.

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55 Crash (1973)
J.G. Ballard

No author has ever lavished more sensually-charged adjectives on
the various parts that make up a typical car. Even better if they are
smashed to smithereens.

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56 The Dispossessed (1974)
Ursula K. Le Guin

While others turn to sci-fi to present dystopian nightmares, Le Guin
prefers to explore what might happen if a utopian political structure
were realized in an isolated lunar environment.

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57 Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (1974)
Philip K. Dick

Here are all the classic Dicksian ingredients: sudden alterations in  
reality, a harassed protagonist, an authoritarian society, high tech
gadgets and, of course, mind-altering substances.  

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58 The Forever War (1974)
Joe Haldeman

This novel is often viewed as a considered response to Robert
Heinlein's
Starship Troopers. But The Forever War is more than
a polemic; Haldeman is also an impressive storyteller.

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59 Dhalgren (1975)
Samuel R. Delany

Delany's 800-page novel aimed to do for science fiction what
Joyce had done for literary fiction. A million copies were sold,
but how many actually were read to the end?

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60 Norstrilia (1975)
Cordwainer Smith

Did author Cordwainer Smith really believe he was "Lord of a
planet in an interplanetary empire in a distant universe"?  Was
Norstrilia a work of fiction, or just an extended hallucination?

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61 The Illuminatus Trilogy (1975)
Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea

"It is not the intent of this book to confuse fact with fancy," the
authors proclaim on page 760 of this 800-page work. But it's
already too late. They should have put that on page one.

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62 The Female Man (1975)
Joanna Russ

Joanna Russ's The Female Man, from 1975, stands out as a
defining work of feminist science fiction, and a milestone in
mixing polemic and genre literature.

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63 The Centauri Device (1975)
M. John Harrison
 

"I once made the mistake of telling Mr. Harrison how much
I was inspired by The Centauri Device. 'Well you shouldn't be,'
he said truculently. 'It's a very bad book
.'"

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64 Warm Worlds and Otherwise (1975)
James Tiptree, Jr.  

"It has been suggested that Tiptree is female," Robert
Silverberg wrote, "a theory that I find absurd." Nice try! Tiptree
turned out be one of the leading female sci-fi writers of her era.

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Science Fiction in Transition (1958-1975): New Wave & New Directions

A Reading List of 64 Works (with links to individual essays by Ted Gioia)
conceptual fiction
Exploring the Non-Realist Tradition in Fiction
This reading list is intended to accompany Ted Gioia's essay "When Science Fiction Grew Up."
Each title on the list below links to an essay on the book.
To purchase titles, click on image.