science fiction

Classic SF

You tell me… I put out a subtle call for this the other day, then decided I’d have to be a little more loud about it: I want to compile a list of classic SF. Nothing newer than, say, published 20 years ago. If you have a link to where the book can be read free, feel free to include it! I’ll create a page and coallate the list when we hit 50 or more books.



1. of the first or highest quality, class, or rank: a classic piece of work.

2. serving as a standard, modelor guide: the classic method of teaching arithmetic.

You can’t have a classic that has not shown enduring quality. I’m not looking for books that are popular simply because they ‘ought to be’ for the messages they contain. I’m looking for the books that you come back to time and again, that you recommend to friends, family, and anyone who will stand still long enough to fill their ear with it. Story is king, and without it, fiction is nothing.

I took a quiz, one of those silly ‘how many SF classics have you read? and was startled and dismayed to see many books that aren’t old enough to qualify as classics. I refuse to accept the idea of ‘instant classic,’ there is no such thing.<

Now, Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Edgar Rice Burrough’s Princess of Mars. HG Wells, Shelley’s Frankenstein… those are all classics. But I know that my education in SF is woeful, I am always learning and adding ‘Oh, I need to read that!’ titles.

So… What do you suggest? I have already had Robert Heinlein’s Door Into Summer, Asimov’s Foundation (which I have not personally read) and Olaf Stapledon’s Starmaker nominated.

Off topic: it’s certainly not a classic. I am, on the other hand, rather proud of this story, and it is free until May 17th. Click on the cover icon to get your free fiction from me!


36 thoughts on “Classic SF

  1. The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester.

    The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

    The Lensman Series, by E. E. “Doc” Smith

    The Witches of Karres by James Schmitz

    Rendezvous With Rama, Arthur C. Clarke

    Slan by A. E. Van Vogt


  2. Going to have to live vicariously (My definition of classic runs towards Harry Dresden and Larry Correia) through my (extremely well read) Father here. I asked him for recommendations about ten years ago and this is what he would consider classic scifi.

    Slan by AE Von Vogt (I read it and it left me a little “meh”). Dad said it was ground breaking back in its day (pub. 1938 or so.), but this is where I found out about differing tastes.

    Dad loves the Retief series and Bolo series by Keith Laumer (haven’t read them yet, but I have most on my shelves).

    Of course he liked anything by Heinlein (I got distracted about 2/3 the way through Starship Troopers and haven’t finished it yet), Andre Norton (I didn’t care for her Pern books), Gordon Dickson, and Philip K. Dick. Oh… and Sentinels from Space by Eric Frank Russell too.

    We both liked Weber’s Honor Harrington series and we both agreed that Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers was a little slow.

    Back to differing tastes… I have found that Dad’s scifi tends to make my mind wander while reading, and not in the good way. I like to stick towards the more modern urban fantasy.

    But… I found my way into reading through Star Wars so, even though it’s “tie-in” material, Tim Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy and follow up duology were fantastic scifi reads.

    And although it’s not scifi, John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series has some of the best descriptions, characterizations, and cultural observations that I’ve run across. I think of it as noir… in gritty techno-color.

    Gotta go… promised the daughter waffles after Mickey Mouse was over, and Mickey is now over. 🙂


      • I don’t see where that changes my statement. 🙂 I still didn’t like Pern.

        Can’t say that I’ve read Norton yet, but my Dad liked her. He was surprised when he found out that she was a she. But you’re right… Norton did not write Pern, that is my bad.


        • Sorry, I just have this thing about incorrect attributes. 😉

          The Dragonriders of Pern isn’t for everyone. In fact, most of its fan base seems to young females. At least that’s what’s in most of the fan/writing clubs.

          Ironically, I wasn’t surprised when it became “common knowledge” that Andre Norton was female. I guess it never occurred to me that it was supposed to be a masculine nom de plume.


          • No biggie. If that’s the biggest mistake I make today, I’ll consider it a good day. Thanks for the correction.


  3. I’d have to vote for Edwin Wylie and Phillip Balmer’s magnum opus of “When Worlds Collide” and “After Worlds Collide”. “When” was written in 1933, “After” in 1934, so if you are an SJW don’t read them, because they most assuredly reflect the social mores of the time, and virtually every character is a WASP and upper middle class to boot. (i.e., Privileged White Male). That said, the plots are tight, the action intense at times, and a nice microcosm of how European Communism and Fascism were viewed by people at the time. Also “Starship Troopers”, and “Double Star” (which other than taking place in a future, I’m not sure is even SciFi, more of a political morality play)


  4. I’m sure I’ll think of more later, but here’s a few off the top of my head.
    (Skipping some of the more obvious answers.)

    Andre Norton:
    Lord of Thunder
    Daybreak 2250AD
    The Stars are Ours

    C.J. Cherryh: Charnur Series

    Harry Bates: Farewell to the Master (short story)

    Orson Scott Card: Ender’s Game

    Gordon Dickson:
    Childe Cycle (not just the Dorsi subsets, the whole thing)
    Dragon Knight. (okay, this is more close to fantasy, but it is a trip)

    Larry Niven:
    Mote in Gods Eye.


  5. C. J. Cherryh’s Downbelow Station is something I’ve reread many times.

    Asimov’s Foundation series is fundamental to the genre, but hasn’t aged well.

    Also: Hal Clement’s Mission of Gravity and Lester del Rey’s Helen O’Loy.

    I’d also suggest some short story collections, especially from the Best of … set. Clement and del Rey did some of their best work in that form.


  6. individual books are hard to list, authors are easier. (with the stipulation that when talking about “Classic SF” we are talking about books that I will pick up and re-read on a rainy afternoon, Ripping good stories, not that literature crap) . Andre Norton. H. Beam Piper. Jerry Pournelle. RAH (of course) E.E. (Doc) Smith. Gordon Dickson. Larry Niven. Jules Verne. Randall Garrett. Arther C Clark. Issac Asimov. Poul Anderson. John Campbell. Lester Del Rey. Harry Harrison. now, not everything written by every author is a “willing to re-read book”. no one writes everything that suits everybody, but all on that list wrote stuff that I liked and some of their work has a permanent place on my book shelves. and while I might not have totally enjoyed everything, nothing wound up being thrown against the wall or into the fireplace.

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  7. Let’s start with the most recent – On Basilisk Station, by David Weber. JUST squeaks into qualifying.

    Job: A Comedy of Justice *and* Time Enough For Love, both by Heinlein (though there are few Heinlein books that are NOT worth reading/rereading).

    Footfall – Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle – one of THE classics of the ‘alien invasion’ genre.

    The Long Walk – Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman) – I suspect that this was some inspiration for The Hunger Games.

    The Callahan’s series, by Spider Robinson.

    The Retief stories, Keith Laumer

    Emergence, David R. Palmer – what do you do in a post-Armageddon world if you’re 11 and the next iteration of humanity?

    The Gandalara Cycle – Randall Garrett and Vicki Ann Heydron. One of my first exposures to alternate history

    Rissa Kerguelen – FM Busby. Think 1984 crossed with Star Wars

    If I think of more later (and I likely will) I’ll add to the post.


  8. A few more that I thought of.

    Fred Saberhagen – The Berserkers

    Arthur C. Clarke :
    Childhood End
    The Star (short story)
    The Nine Billion Names of God (short story)

    Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles

    Jules Verne:
    20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

    HG Wells:
    The First Men in the Moon
    The Time Machine
    The Island of Dr. Moreau


  9. I wanted to read all the comments before adding mine. One of the ones I didn’t was A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter Miller, Way Station by Clifford Simak, and Mission of Gravity (already mentioned above). All three were classics I mentioned to my daughter and she has read and reviewed on her blog (favorably).


  10. I do like the Pern stories, I think because I like ‘settling new world’ stories best (my favorite fiction story of all time is Swiss Family Robinson, which probably OUGHT to be classified as science fiction, LOL!). I also liked quite a few of the stories/authors mentioned above.

    But, breaking one of the rules because they aren’t over twenty years old, I think the Temeraire stories by Naomi Novak are going to be classics. There are eight out so far, with, I believe, one more to come. It’s an alternate history series, very well done in my opinion (not perfect, but good).


  11. 2001: A Space Odyssey — Arthur C Clarke
    A Fire Upon The Deep — Vernor Vinge
    Psychohistorical Crisis — Donald Kingsbury (Courtship Rite is too weird. Mmmmm Longpig!)
    Impossible Things — Kate Wilhelm (Her time-travel novels are a good choice too)
    An Alien Light — Nancy Kress
    In Conquest Born — C S Friedman
    A Fire on the Border — Kevin O’Donnell


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