Need Your Help: Literary SF?


I need your help, everyone. I’m considering doing an independent study course on literary SF and I’ve come to the realization that I don’t really know of any literary SF. So far my potential options include Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, which I’m told is SF, and something by Haruki Murakami (possibly Kafka on the Shore, if that is an SF/F title as some have told me).

So, can you name any books that fall into the literary SF category? When I say literary SF I mean titles that are written in a more literary style. I don’t mean a confusing style, just something more deeply written than mainstream SF (and I do love mainstream SF, just so nobody throws a fit and thinks I’m being snooty here…the styles are just different and I’m looking for a specific style).

So, can you help? I would like it to be SFish if possible, however works of contempary fantasy in a literary style are welcome too. Anyone can comment, so don’t be afraid!


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About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Florida studying science fiction, postcolonialism, posthumanism, and fantasy.

11 thoughts on “Need Your Help: Literary SF?

  1. John Crowley’s works (Aegypt, Little, Big, etc.) are a good starting place. Gene Wolfe, naturally. Ursula Le Guin. J.G. Ballard. Adam Roberts. Terry Goodkind… 😉

  2. Adam Roberts? The guy who wrote Splinter?
    For Guin were you thinking of Left Hand of Darkness or something else in particular? And Terry Goodkind?

    I’m curious about J. G. Ballard. Never read him and I almost bought a Crowley book while I was in Oregon, but decided against it for some reason…

  3. Literary-in-style books that I love by SF writers:

    J.G. Ballard: The Terminal Beach
    John Crowley: Engine Summer
    Samuel R. Delany: Dhalgren
    Thomas M. Disch: 334; On Wings Of Song
    Ursula K. LeGuin: The Left Hand Of Darkness
    Kelly Link: Magic For Beginners
    Michael Moorcock: Mother London (but most of his other books are *not* particularly “literary” in style)
    Geoff Ryman: The Child Garden
    Gene Wolfe: The Fifth Head Of Cerberus

    SF-in-content books that I love by “mainstream” writers:

    John Fowles: A Maggot
    Alasdair Gray: Lanark
    Richard M. Powers: Galatea 2.2

  4. Thanks so much for the suggestions! I really appreciate it!

    I bought Gravity’s Rainbow while on vacation because I’ve been wanting to read some Pynchon. It doesn’t have to be blaringly SF, but if it sort of flirts with the edges that’s okay with me. I started reading it and it’s quite interesting. I’m not used to his style, so it might take me a bit to dig through it.

  5. I’d recommend Robert J Sawyer’s works. Especially his latest works Rollback and Mindscan have a lot of literary weight to them. Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars would be another good one to take note of.

  6. Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris is great to start with. All about people connecting with themselves, others, and god, and the impossibility of even our advanced science truly uncovering the universe.

    I haven’t read any other works by Lem yet, but they’re also supposed to be pretty high-minded.

  7. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut uses time travel as a plot device despite it being primarily an anti-war novel, so that might count.

    Though it’s kind of ambiguous whether or not Billy Pilgrim is really time traveling…

  8. Tim Walters-

    Moorcock has written a lot of other literary works other than Mother London. I just checked out a few from my library- the only problem is, his Elric stuff isn’t really literary. And his literary stuff usually isn’t SFNAL

    Although his Dancers at the End of Time sequence is both, literary and SFNAL.

    and Le Guin- Left Hand of Darkness and Tehanu. Both really literary and ground breaking.

    Also, Hal Duncan’s Ink and Vellum are both excellent.

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