Best Social Science Fiction

Ursula K. Le Guin coined the term "social science fiction" to describe speculative fiction that explores social evolution, change, alternatives, and science impacts on human relationships, rather than the mechanics or physics of technology. It's a fuzzy definition, that would probably include "anthropological" science fiction, cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic narratives, and a number of other hard-to-pidgeonhole works set in alternative universes or on alternative timelines - but what they all have in common is that they do not narrowly confine the "science" of science fiction to physics, weaponry, or aerospace technologies.
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393 books · 321 voters · list created January 30th, 2011 by Jennifer Pournelle (votes) .
149 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Jennifer 620 books
35 friends
Xenophon 2124 books
30 friends
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads 3261 books
861 friends
Austin 160 books
18 friends
Alleigh 636 books
30 friends
Stan 646 books
21 friends
Richard 3795 books
8 friends
Tatjana 1413 books
263 friends

More voters…


Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Xenophon (new)

Xenophon Hendrix I think most of the best science fiction, defined as books that experienced SF readers tend to call the best, does try to describe the effects of science and technology--or sometimes new human abilities, e.g., Dune, More Than Human--on society. Science fiction that doesn't is what some persons call "gadget stories," and at the moment, I'm drawing a blank trying to think of a popular gadget story.


message 2: by Jennifer (last edited Jan 30, 2011 08:57PM) (new)

Jennifer Pournelle I generally agree, but "social science fiction" as I intended for this list goes beyond describing the effects of technology on society; it puts social questions at the center of plot and characterization. The "Star Wars" series includes strong characters and moral dilemmas, is tremendously popular, and great fun, but I'd call it grand space opera, not social science fiction. In the Mote in God's Eye series, I'd definately put The Gripping Hand in the pure space opera category; Outies in social science fiction. Mote itself certainly considers social questions, but its "naval cadet" point of view, and strong emphasis on and concern with spacefaring, propulsion systems, Imperial hierarchies, and warfare technologies, would generally lend it a space opera classification -especially in comparison to other books of its era, like Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. There's good and bad space opera, and good and bad social science fiction -- and I agree that the best of the best in any sub-genre is likely to defy classification.


message 3: by Marjorie (new)

Marjorie Friday Baldwin Xenophon wrote: "I think most of the best science fiction, defined as books that experienced SF readers tend to call the best, does try to describe the effects of science and technology--or sometimes new human abilities, e.g., Dune, More Than Human--on society. Science fiction that doesn't is what some persons call "gadget stories," and at the moment, I'm drawing a blank trying to think of a popular gadget story."

#1 All-Time Best Gadget Story (and a sort of time travel story which might well have originated the term, "grandfather paradox") is Robert A. Heinlein's The Door into Summer. The MC is an engineer ((grin)) Kinda hard to write a book about an engineer without making it an amazing gadgetry book--and Heinlein, of course, did it exceedingly well!


message 4: by Marjorie (new)

Marjorie Friday Baldwin Jennifer wrote: "I generally agree, but "social science fiction" as I intended for this list goes beyond describing the effects of technology on society;it puts social questions at the center of plot and characterization...."

I love this description of a "type" of science fiction book. It's the kind of SciFi I write, somewhat coupled with "gadgetry" type stories but my books are always about societal issues and how civilizations are borne, exist, cease to exist. I find those kinds of anthropological questions fascinating--as do most of us humans. It's why we have so many fields devoted to understanding ourselves (anthropology, archaeology, psychology, medical research into "brain science," memory research and thought analysis as a function of the biochemical process vs. the psychological process - and that's not even touching on the whole RELIGIOUS set of human investigation into ourselves).

How our technologies affect us culturally or societally is also interesting, but I like this concept, Jennifer. Thanks for creating the list.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Hamlet???????


message 6: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Removed the following non-speculative fiction books:
Romeo and Juliet
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Gone With the Wind
Jeremy Bentham: The Panopticon Writings
The Principles of Morals and Legislation
Hamlet


message 7: by A.C. (new)

A.C. Flory Marjorie wrote: "Xenophon wrote: "I think most of the best science fiction, defined as books that experienced SF readers tend to call the best, does try to describe the effects of science and technology--or sometim..."

Door into Summer was the first Heinlein story I ever read... and it made me want more, but definitely a gadget story. :)


message 8: by A.C. (new)

A.C. Flory I added Cyteen, by C.J.Cherryh to the list because it is the social issues that really drive the story.


message 9: by Robert (new)

Robert Eggleton Hard science fiction writers would have a harder time keeping up with the pace of today's advancing technology than at any other time. It was science fiction that first presented cell phones to the world. Now, they are yesterday's discards with phones capable of so much more than imagined.


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