Friday 11 September 2020

The absolute, unquestionable, definitive and unalterable science fiction canon

Over the past few weeks, prompted by events at the recent Worldcon, the science fiction blogging
There are no politics
in this novel at all. 
(Image via Amazon)

community has been engaged in one of our regularly occurring debates about what is the literary canon of our genre.

There are, of course, interesting and compelling arguments being presented on both sides of this debate. While some people suggest that the genre is a vibrant, ever-evolving, smorgasbord of creativity in which it would be foolish to try and codify a list of great works, other (more reasonable) voices have been pledging their undying fealty to what are obviously the greatest works of science fiction that will ever be written.

Using a methodology that we will not explain — but which is nonetheless unquestionable and scientifically accurate — our panel of experts has meticulously compiled the definitive list of which works that every human being absolutely must read in order to be taken seriously in any discussion of science fiction.

It should be obvious to all that the fact that most of the great works were written by able-bodied straight white men who died decades ago is entirely a coincidence. The questionable political views of some of these authors is likewise immaterial, as all works are obviously separate from their author.

1. O-Zone by Paul Theroux
(Image via Goodreads)

Whitbread Prize-winner Paul Theroux delved into science fiction in 1986 with this apocalyptic tale of radiation and racism in a vast uninhabited area of the Midwest USA. Theroux uses his literary skills to find the redemptive nature of decay and abandonment. The New York Times praised it as a book that “tells us what we already know, but it does not tell us this well, or interestingly, or vividly.” 

2. Mission Earth Volume 2: Black Genesis by L. Ron Hubbard

One of the most famous science fiction authors of the Golden Age, L. Ron Hubbard’s final magnum opus is the 10-volume Mission Earth saga. This second novel is the most iconic of the series, as it sees anti-hero Soltan Gris allying himself with the mafia to undermine Jettero Heller, who is trying to save planet Earth from environmental destruction. Reading this novel really makes you understand why so many enthusiastic fans (apparently all living at the same address) bought Worldcon memberships for no other reason than to nominate L. Ron Hubbard for a Hugo award.

3. The Blindness by Philip Latham

Writing under the pen name Philip Latham, the American astronomer Robert S. Richardson published several iconic science fiction novels such as Five Against Venus and Missing Men of Saturn. But are any of them as well-remembered as The Blindness, his 1946 work in which he depicts the advent of Haley’s Comet’s return in 1987 as a parable for cultural collapse? 
There is no subtext
in this novel. 
(Image via Amazon)

4. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

This empowerment fantasy about a messianic young person who is the most special person in the history of specialness has absolutely no subtext. Our unmitigated love for Orson Scott Card’s novel should not be questioned. It is a classic that has shaped generations of science fiction fans.

5. Earth Final Conflict: The First Protector by James White

Northern Ireland’s James White is known for empathy-driven big space science fiction tales. In his final novel, he delivered this character study of an alien who lives among humanity for generations. To fully appreciate the richness of this text, readers may find it helpful to re-watch all five seasons of the 1990 syndicated television series Earth Final Conflict

6. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Just when we thought that there were absolutely no new ideas to explore in science fiction, Ernest Cline wrote this entirely unique novel. In Ready Player One, readers are introduced to “the Oasis,” a virtual reality world in which people compete to see who can memorize The Goonies better. Better yet, Ready Player One encourages readers to completely ignore any political subtext in the pop culture spoon-fed to us by multimedia conglomerates. No wonder Stephen Spielberg adapted it into a blockbuster!


  1. Mission Earth? This is September 11, not April 1st. Shame.

    1. Wasn't looking at the date when I posted this.

      (The whole list is a joke.)

  2. Somebody has their sarcasm knives well sharpened. :)

  3. I unabashedly love Black Genesis. It's the book that taught me that I didn't need to be a completist and that it was OK to drop a series I wasn't enjoying.

  4. Although undoubtedly a dead straight white man, James White's diabetes impaired his sight to the extent where he had to take early retirement.

    1. I have an unabashed love of James White. Included this work in the (joke) list mostly because if I were to recommend a James White book to someone, it would most certainly not be The First Protector.