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Science fiction has never been an easy genre to pin down. Space opera, cyberpunk, science fantasy, and hard sci-fi all exist within one overall label, but which is which? These days it’s even tougher, which is why the label speculative fiction has gained popularity.
Still science fiction is a genre where you know it when you see it, and there are some fantastic authors working in the genre these days. We’re focusing on writers who are still releasing new works, so that’s why you won’t see certain big names on here. Plus, there are too many great authors to mention them all. This is just a starting point.
1. Ann Leckie
If you haven’t already heard of Ann Leckie, you’ve probably at least heard of Ancillary Justice, which was published in 2013. Why? It won the Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, Arthur C. Clarke, and Locus Awards, to start. Since then she has published two direct sequels to that novel, another set in the same universe, and a fantasy novel, The Raven Tower.
2. Martha Wells
Martha Wells Murderbot Diaries kicked off with All Systems Redin 2017, quickly winning several awards including a Nebula and a Hugo. Wells followed with several more in the series about a security AI that calls itself Murderbot and really just wants to be left alone to watch its shows in peace.
3. Tamsyn Muir
It’s possible that Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth could be the sci-fi equivalent of grimdark fantasy, at least if it wasn’t so laugh out loud funny. That first book in the series is enough to have many fans eagerly awaiting the next title in the trilogy and calling Muir one of the writers to keep a closest eye on for the next few years.
4. Cixin Liu
Cixin Liu wrote several novels before The Three Body Problem, but it’s that novel that got him recognition in the western world. It’s the rare science-fiction novel that takes place in “the real world” but still conjures ideas and concepts that are terrifying in their enormity. Read that novel, and you’ll need to finish the series.
Charles Stross has been writing since the late 1980s, but it was only in the early 2000s that his work began to make its way to the masses. His Laundry Files series is my personal favorite, combining James Bond-style science fiction, workplace humor that wouldn’t be out of place in a (albeit very strange) sitcom, and Lovecraftian horror.
6. John Scalzi
John Scalzi first made a name for himself with Old Man’s War in 2005 and hasn’t stopped delivering quality sci-fi since, including the award winning Redshirts from 2012. While he doesn’t shy away from big ideas and impactful events, an underlying humor in many of his books keeps them from ever becoming unbearably dark.
Alastair Reynolds began his science fiction career in 2000 with the hard sci-fi novel Revelation Space, which kicked off an entire universe of books. As someone who holds a PhD in Astronomy, he seems uniquely suited to the world of science fiction, which explains why he has maintained a steady stream of output since that first novel.
Peter F. Hamilton has been writing even longer than fellow British author Alastair Reynolds, releasing Mindstar Rising, the first novel in his Greg Mandel trilogy in 1995. It was 2004’s Pandora’s Star and its 2005 follow-up Judas Unchained that brought him to the attention of many and also fleshed out the Commonwealth universe initially set up by the earlier Misspent Youth.
James S.A. Corey doesn’t really exist, but is instead a pen name for the team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Together they write The Expanse, a series of novels that began with Leviathan Wakes in 2011. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because the books became so popular they spawned a TV series of the same name.
10. Yoon Ha Lee
Military science fiction isn’t nearly as big as it used to be, but Yoon Ha Lee seems set to change that. His novel Ninefox Gambit won the Locus Award for Best First Novel in 2017 and began the Machineries of Empire series, which has been popular with both readers and critics.
11. Dennis E. Taylor
Best known for his Bobiverse series, Dennis E. Taylor won Audible’s Best Science Fiction Book award in 2016 for the first in the series, We Are Legion (We Are Bob). The series is about a former tech CEO who, after several unfortunate accidents finds himself floating as a satellite drone in space, decides to start cloning himself.
What About Classic Sci-Fi?
All of these authors produce work that is unique, but it still owes a debt to the science fiction writers of the past. If you want to dig in and see what inspired the authors listed here, take a look at our roundup of classic sci-fi novels that are still worth reading.