The Sci-Fi & Fantasy Trends of 2018

Posted by Hayley on December 14, 2018

A medical student grappling with the afterlife. A misfit demigod who can turn her rivals into monsters. An office drone clocking in during the apocalypse.

These aren't your mother's science fiction and fantasy heroes.

Catch up with the big trends in the genre before the new year begins. And put your thinking caps on, please: We want to hear your predictions for 2019 trends in the comments!


Haven't I heard this one before?
Trend #1: Retellings and reimaginings of beloved stories.

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No, the human species is not running out of new ideas—we just really love our old ones.

While readers have always had a soft spot for retellings, this year was something special. Take a look at the top three fantasy books in the 2018 Goodreads Choice Awards: Madeline Miller's Circe, a reimagining of Homer's The Odyssey from the perspective of a misunderstood side character; The Shape of Water, the novelization of Guillermo del Toro's evocative movie; and Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver, a clever retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale.


Of scientific fantasies and magical futures.
Trend #2: Books that blur the line between fantasy and science fiction.

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This year's Goodreads Choice Award for Best Science Fiction went to V.E. Schwab's Vengeful, a dark tale about scientific experiments pushed to the edge, resulting in a transformative exploration of the afterlife and supernatural abilities.

A bit of science and a bit of magic? There's long been a foggy realm between sci-fi and fantasy, but for the most part, readers could categorize their favorites without much strain. That job proved more difficult in 2018 (especially for Goodreads editors!).

Take Peng Shepherd's dazzling debut, The Book of M, which is set on our world in the near-future, a postapocalypse dystopia, where trees sing, wolves talk, and shadows can disappear. Then there's Rosewater by Tade Thompson, a thriller set in Nigeria where an alien biodome and mystical healing powers draw in hopeful outcasts.

As always, it's the stories that matter in the end, not the genre categorization. Spaceships landing in Westeros and witches on Mars? We could be persuaded.


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The future is female.
Trend #3: More fantastical stories about women, by women.


More than half of the nominees for Best Science Fiction and Fantasy in this year's Goodreads Choice Awards were written by women, and both categories' winning authors were women (Miller for Circe, and Schwab for Vengeful).

And it wasn't just the authors getting in on the action. "Behind every great man is a great woman," the old saying goes, but in 2018, female characters stepped into the spotlight, even if they had to go to another timeline to do it. In Mary Robinette Kowal's The Calculating Stars, Elma York hushes her detractors to become the first female astronaut in an alternate 1952 United States.

Rin, in R.F. Kuang's The Poppy War, defies societal conventions, escaping marriage to join a military academy. And when she gets there, she is no wallflower or even Hermione-esque "smart best friend." Rin is the one in charge of her story and her trajectory in the world. And like so many of the other heroines from this year's best fantasy and science fiction books, she's standing in no one's shadow.

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Those are the trends of 2018 in science fiction and fantasy. What are your predictions for next year?

Check out more recent articles:
The YA Trends of 2018
Mystery Solved: The Thriller Trends of 2018
Catch Up Now: These Big Series All Have Books Coming Out in 2019


Comments Showing 1-25 of 25 (25 new)

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message 1: by Ziggy (new)

Ziggy Nixon Whereas I concur that V.E.Schwab's 'Vengeful' was a masterful tale and a more-than-fitting follow-up to 'Villains', I just can't continue to buy into the 'fantasy' label for books of this ilk. And no, 'urban fantasy' doesn't cut it either. I could list a dozen examples including what's on my reader right now, namely, Marcus Sakey's 'Brilliance' trilogy! Heck, I click 'fantasy' as well in my reviews just because there's not a better descriptive. 'Sci-Fi', sure, a little but otherwise...?


message 2: by Aaa (new)

Aaa CAN YOU PLEASE update your shoddy 2013-era app? Yor homepage always takes the longest to load (and no its not my internet every other app i have is Fast) and i cant even see someone else's FULL list of shelves. it cuts right off halfway thru. and u dont even allow refreshing when i pull the screen down on my profile page so i.can see my newly posted status update. FIX IT JESUS


message 3: by Amber (new)

Amber looking forward to reading the Poppy war in the future


Phil On The Hill JEONSUS wrote: "CAN YOU PLEASE update your shoddy 2013-era app? Yor homepage always takes the longest to load (and no its not my internet every other app i have is Fast) and i cant even see someone else's FULL lis..."

I have to agree the app is dreadfully slow, and so is the web page.


message 5: by Michael (new)

Michael Sands JEONSUS wrote: "CAN YOU PLEASE update your shoddy 2013-era app? Yor homepage always takes the longest to load (and no its not my internet every other app i have is Fast) and i cant even see someone else's FULL lis..."

Could just use the website, like an adult.


message 6: by Whitney (new)

Whitney ^ that’s not always feasible. Many of us are on the go and are consuming books on our phones or via audiobook more than ever. It’s not fair to say asking for an update is “childish”. There’s nothing more adult about using the website over the app. It’s just a matter of how you’re accessing Goodreads.


message 7: by Michael (new)

Michael Sands Whitney wrote: "^ that’s not always feasible. Many of us are on the go and are consuming books on our phones or via audiobook more than ever. It’s not fair to say asking for an update is “childish”. There’s nothin..."

Fair, but it's still free and the sense of entitlement in the post deserved to be chided a bit. I do all those things on my phone, as well, and the website is generally fine if you enable the desktop version on your mobile browser. Then again, i prefer browser sites over clunky apps in general because they are usually just reskinned websites, or worse, reasons to collect more information to sell.


message 8: by Anissa (new)

Anissa I've no predictions for 2019 except there will be awesome science fiction books to read. I'm looking forward to A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine.

Shepherd's The Book of M is still my favourite read of 2018. I loved it and was actually surprised because magical realism isn't usually my thing. Shepherd sold me. My second favourite is Places in the Darkness by Chris Brookmyre (though it came out in 2017).

I've read lots of good science fiction this year and plan to get in at least one more before year's end. I admit that I haven't particularly sought out books AWBW. Places in the Darkness is written by a man but the two main characters are women. I finished Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Retrieval Artist series this year and the main character is a man. One of the best things ever is the Murderbot novellas by Martha Wells and the main character is genderless and not human. I quite loved them all. Another novella I read & loved this year, that fits the AWBW theme is Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I didn't want it to end (published in 2017 though).

I still need to read Rosewater, Vox & Severance. So many books.


message 9: by Laura (last edited Dec 14, 2018 02:17PM) (new)

Laura Dam This year i discovered N. K. Jemisin, Mary Robinette Kowal and Aliette de Bodard which are amazing sci-fi writers (and female). I look forward to read Mecha Samurai Empire as well, the second book on the United States of Japan universe. Also, i´m looking forward to the next William Gibson book and i really hope that GRRM launches his delayed book (The Winds of Winter) on the SOIAF saga this year!


message 10: by Emma (new)

Emma Phil wrote: "JEONSUS wrote: "CAN YOU PLEASE update your shoddy 2013-era app? Yor homepage always takes the longest to load (and no its not my internet every other app i have is Fast) and i cant even see someone..."

That's weird. The app works great for me and is pretty fast. I do prefer the website though. I only use the app for scanning books in libraries and bookstores.


message 11: by Agnes (new)

Agnes Michael wrote: "JEONSUS wrote: "CAN YOU PLEASE update your shoddy 2013-era app? Yor homepage always takes the longest to load (and no its not my internet every other app i have is Fast) and i cant even see someone..."

Have you considered that the slowness can also be due to your device and your connection? Checked those out already?
As others mentioned, you could use the website, if the app is too slow for you. You could also use the HELP PAGE there, as there's a nice "Contact us" link, which would be the appropriate place to leave such complaints. And you could use more polite language, that would certainly not hurt, unless you've been sending such complaints for months without receiving an answer.


message 12: by Claire (new)

Claire The search function either drives me to tears or laughter. It usually lists foreign language or technical publications until I've finished entering the whole title.

I agree it's churlish to complain but now goodreads us so linked with Amazon you'd think it would be upgraded.


message 13: by Jaime (new)

Jaime JEONSUS wrote: "CAN YOU PLEASE update your shoddy 2013-era app? Yor homepage always takes the longest to load (and no its not my internet every other app i have is Fast) and i cant even see someone else's FULL lis..."

Please, be patient.


message 14: by Jaime (new)

Jaime I am noticing that books are getting darker. I do not embrace this trend.


message 15: by Avishek (new)

Avishek Ghosh Can anyone please recommend some good hard science fiction? I'm not into fantasy.


message 16: by Persephone6 (new)

Persephone6 I'd recommend The Martian by Andy Weir; it 's about a NASA astronaut who gets stranded on Mars. Very scientifically accurate for the most part.


message 17: by Phil On The Hill (new)

Phil On The Hill Avishek wrote: "Can anyone please recommend some good hard science fiction? I'm not into fantasy."

Try Chasm City, Pandora's Star or Raft


message 18: by Michael (new)

Michael Ostrogorsky Jaime wrote: "I am noticing that books are getting darker. I do not embrace this trend."

No surprise. Our times are getting darker.


message 19: by Maria (new)

Maria Avishek wrote: "Can anyone please recommend some good hard science fiction? I'm not into fantasy."

I really liked Cixin Liu's trilogy, which includes "The Three Body Problem," "The Dark Forest," and "Death's End"--hard physics paired with geopolitics (or in this case, universe-politics). Adrian Tchaikovsky's "Children of Time" was pretty good, too, if you like your hard science to be the biosciences. Also, a couple years ago I read Neal Stephenson's "Seven Eves," followed by Kim Stanley Robinson's "Aurora," and they made an awesome pair to read together, with 2 very different takes on whether humanity could survive the move to outer space.


message 20: by Colleen yarnold (new)

Colleen yarnold Best supernatural books I've read ever! Is the archangel series by Nalini Singh. So if you like angels. Vampires shapeshifters then this author is a must


message 21: by Nico (new)

Nico Janow I agree about the prevalence of dark/depressing books. If the blurb sounds dark and depressing, I don't bother trying the book. One of my librarians had the same complaint, and asked for some recommendations for some fluffier books. I'm hoping the dark/depressing trend will be short-lived.


message 22: by Phil On The Hill (last edited Dec 22, 2018 11:04AM) (new)

Phil On The Hill Nico wrote: "I agree about the prevalence of dark/depressing books. If the blurb sounds dark and depressing, I don't bother trying the book. One of my librarians had the same complaint, and asked for some recom..."

Read Becky Chambers. Always uplifting in a gentle way.


message 23: by Michael (new)

Michael Ostrogorsky Nico wrote: "I agree about the prevalence of dark/depressing books. If the blurb sounds dark and depressing, I don't bother trying the book. One of my librarians had the same complaint, and asked for some recom..."

Unfortunately fiction books simply mirror our times, which are dark and depressing. So we may be in for a rough ride for a while. I try to lighten the mood of my own fantasy books with a touch of humor.


message 24: by Danielle (new)

Danielle Graham Personally, it is very hard for me to find really worthy books of this genre, but these books are awesome.So far I have read only 2 books from this list, but I really want to read them all.


message 25: by Selby (new)

Selby Lovegrove Aaa wrote: "CAN YOU PLEASE update your shoddy 2013-era app? Yor homepage always takes the longest to load (and no its not my internet every other app i have is Fast) and i cant even see someone else's FULL lis..."

What has this got to do with the topic? Nothing. If you don't like the app, don't use it. Entitled.


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