The New Frontier of Science Fiction

Posted by Hayley on August 6, 2019
Goodreads SFF Week 2019

If you want to know the future, get a crystal ball. If you want to know how people feel about the future, read a science fiction book.

It's the genre of both wonder and anxiety. Think Jules Verne tapping into the thrill of scientific exploration in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Then remember how panicked listeners were convinced a radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells' tale of invading Martians, was a real news report.
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating


Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating

Science fiction reflects how we think about our world and its potential, but each story is limited by its author's own perspective. While American and European writers have long dominated the genre, a new wave of sci-fi authors from around the world is reshaping speculative storytelling and offering fresh takes on traditional tropes.

"I am a sci-fi fan, maybe the first generation of sci-fi fans in China," says Cixin Liu, author of the bestselling Remembrance of Earth's Past series, through a translator. "Science fiction has so much more to offer. Using my own imagination and experiences, I had a desire to create completely new science fiction."

His first book, The Three-Body Problem, did just that. On the surface, it's about first contact with aliens, but Cixin Liu taps into deeper topics, questioning how innovation has shaped our past and challenging our optimism about the future. It's an exhilarating blend of "hard" science fiction (where the emphasis is on scientific accuracy), thought-provoking ideas, and—in a unique turn for the genre—the history of the Chinese Revolution.

The book was an international success. In 2008, it won the Galaxy Award, China's most prestigious science fiction award; after an English translation by fellow writer Ken Liu was published in the United States in 2014, it also took home the Hugo Award for Best Novel.

For Cixin Liu, connecting with readers in other countries is more than a nice surprise—it's necessary for the continued evolution of science fiction.

"Different cultural backgrounds in different parts of the world give science fiction a richer cultural perspective," he says. "The genre can become more colorful and, thus, more vital."

Rate this book
Clear rating

Dominican writer Rita Indiana found inspiration close to home when creating her own science fiction tale.

"I live in Puerto Rico, the oldest colony in the world, a territory of the United States that was hit in 2017 by a category 5 hurricane, a scale we’ll see more and more due to global warming," Indiana told the Chicago Review of Books. "During the aftermath people in the mountains were left to starve and some buried their loved ones in their backyards... So, climate change is not just something I think about–it’s already affecting the way me and my family live."

Her dystopian novel, Tentacle, which was translated into English by Achy Obejas and published in the United States in 2018, is about a young maid named Acilde who travels back in time to save the ocean. It's a truly provocative work of speculative writing that tackles how our society is thinking about climate change, colonialism, technology, and queer politics.

Meanwhile, novelist Chen Qiufan focused his own dystopian future on the clash he currently sees between Chinese tradition and American ambition. His book, Waste Tide, is set on the fictional Silicon Isle, where downtrodden employees work day and night at an electronic waste-recycling plant. The novel was translated into English in the United States by Ken Liu earlier this year.
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating

"Science fiction should never stop evolving and self-refreshing," says Qiufan through a translator. "I am always thrilled to think about how incredible it is that people from totally different backgrounds, and diverse in all aspects, can be connected and touched by the same imagination."

Fellow Chinese writer Baoshu, who continued Cixin Liu's Remembrance of Earth's Past saga with The Redemption of Time, celebrates the recent boom of science fiction in his country.

"In the last 40 years, mainland China's science fiction has benefited so much from the stories coming from the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Hong Kong," he says through a translator. "It is a very exciting experience to absorb different, and even conflicting, traditions and make them your own, for writers as well as for readers."

As science fiction continues to embrace new voices, it evolves. That's what makes it such a vibrant genre, full of stories that reflect who we are and challenge who we will become, built by people from every corner of the globe.

If that's where sci-fi is today, then where will it go next? Baoshu has a prediction: "I hope artificial intelligence will become so developed that it can write much better science fiction."

Imagine a future where our best stories are written by AI. How does that make you feel?

Check out more translated science fiction books from around the world.

Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating
Rate this book
Clear rating

Where do you think science fiction will go next? Let's talk in the comments!

Check out complete coverage of Sci-Fi & Fantasy Week:
Top 50 Science Fiction Books on Goodreads
The Most Anticipated Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Top 50 Science Fiction Books on Goodreads

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Gretchen (new)

Gretchen Pierce Wow, can't wait to read these. So many look great, especially those by Cixin Liu. You forgot Silvia Moreno Garcia, though!


message 2: by Chris (new)

Chris S. I didn't know Bolano wrote sci-fi! I'll have to check that out.


message 3: by Kyle (new)

Kyle Goines yoss' planet for rent is an exquisite sci fi novel i cannot recommend it enough!


message 4: by Emmeline Joy (new)

Emmeline Joy I'm reading "Dark Forest" (book 2 in the 3-body trilogy) by Cixin Liu. They aren't easy reads for me, but they are very interesting, intelligent, and well written. So far a good experience for me! Sometimes stories can get lost in translation for me, and that has not happened with these books, so kudos to that great effort, and thank you for making them available in English!


message 5: by Katsuro (new)

Katsuro Ricksand Check out Space Truckers by Mikael Niemi for a fun, Htichhiker's Guide-inspired short story collection.


message 6: by Naomi (new)

Naomi I've never read any sci-fi books, but I really want to read a couple to see how I like this genre. Of course the dilemma is picking one.


message 7: by Eric (new)

Eric Mesa Kyle wrote: "yoss' planet for rent is an exquisite sci fi novel i cannot recommend it enough!"

Yup, ever since reading I've been recommending to everyone


message 8: by هشام (new)

هشام A fantastically informative piece! Well-written Mr. Hayley!


message 9: by Suz (new)

Suz I may be the only person on the planet that didn't like "The Three-Body Problem."


message 10: by Brian (new)

Brian Bakker Suz wrote: "I may be the only person on the planet that didn't like "The Three-Body Problem.""

You have to read it as part of the series...I don't get the praise it gets as a stand-alone work, but the trilogy is my favorite read of all time. The Three-Body Problem is not even close to being 'a third' of the story, it's more like the first episode to an entire series.


message 11: by Dee (new)

Dee i just finished reading The Three-Body Problem - it was an interesting read and i have the second one in my pile


message 12: by MD (new)

MD I wish you had highlighted more! We’ve been seeing some African SF, and even Saudi SF.


message 13: by Suz (new)

Suz Brian wrote: "You have to read it as part of the series...I don't get the praise it gets as a stand-alone work, but the trilogy is my favorite read of all time. The Three-Body Problem is not even close to being 'a third' of the story, it's more like the first episode to an entire series."

Thanks, Brian. That's good to know. I kind of thought that listening to it instead of reading it may have been part of the problem, too, but I found it horribly pedantic. I love everything I've heard Luke Daniels, the narrator, do except that. But I found trying to follow it as an audiobook just wasn't engaging.

If I do try again perhaps I'll read it instead of listening and see if it makes a difference.


message 14: by Luna (new)

Luna I've read the manga version of All You Need Is Kill. It's better than the movie adaptation The Edge of Tomorrow.


message 15: by Hazel B (new)

Hazel B I'm currently reading vita Nostra. It is so good.


message 16: by George D (new)

George D MacKinnon Cixin Liu, sounds like my kinda guy, and the type of stories that I am likely to read...as this is a completely new science fiction frontier, it's about first contact with aliens, but by the sounds of what I have read so far, it allows us to delve into our past and challenge what we think we know about our future.


message 17: by Sarah (last edited Aug 16, 2019 10:28AM) (new)

Sarah Tate The Hugo and Nebula Awards group is currently reading the Three-Body trilogy as a group challenge, so please hop over if you want to discuss this (or any other sci-fi) with some fellow genre enthusiasts! :)


message 18: by Akuma (last edited Aug 17, 2019 06:21PM) (new)

Akuma I'm happy that All You Need Is Kill is on here. Love the book and seeing it get some recognition is great.
Wish more JP novels appeared on these listings. But i shall happily settle for this.


message 19: by Alondra (new)

Alondra Wendy wrote: "BEST ONLINE LOVE SPELL CASTER TO GET YOUR EX LOVER, HUSBAND, WIFE, GIRLFRIEND OR BOYFRIEND BACK. ADD [DR IFADE] ON WHATSAPP: +2349060120490 Email ifadesolutionspell31@gmail.com WEBSITE https://best..."

SPAMMER!!!


message 20: by Keen (new)

Keen S. I'm glad to read such passionate written pieces on science fiction, Hayley. I'm very much a fan of the classics—Mr. Herbert's God Emperor of Dune just arrived in the mail⁠—but I'm working my way up to more modern stories as I'm completing The Harvest by Robert Charles Wilson. I'll definitely look into these recommendations. As for works to be written by artificial intelligence, I'm curious to see what is possible.


back to top