Science Fiction Genre Trends

Posted: October 15, 2019 9:00:00 AM CDT

It’s never been cooler to be a fan of science fiction. Fans of the genre are enjoying a renaissance of film, television, and books. But what exactly makes something science fiction?

Science fiction tells stories built within science and technology of the future. These stories involve partially true/partially fictitious laws or theories of science. It’s important, however, that they be believable because otherwise they would veer more into the fantasy genre. 

There is frequently a fine line between science fiction, fantasy, and horror. According to Joyce Saricks, author of The Reader’s Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, science fiction appeals more to our intellect, horror to our emotions, and fantasy to our imagination or mind’s eye.

Many of science fiction’s sub-genres could be claimed by either fantasy or horror such as time travel, alternative history, or superheroes. The difference depends on the mechanisms used. For example, a book is considered science fiction if a machine or device is created to send people back in time rather than magic or unexplained reasons.


Film and Television book adaptations are bringing more mainstream attention to the genre with shows like The Expanse based on James S.A. Corey’s series, the remake of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, Ready Player One, and heaps of superhero movies.

In addition, science fiction genre elements are more frequently being combined with other genres creating stories such as detectives who hunt aliens or women who fall in love with cyborgs. This has led some fans to pronounce the end of the proper science fiction genre meaning the fading of the traditional hard-science fiction tropes.

Like other genres, authors and what they write about are becoming more diverse and book award organizations are recognizing them for it. For example, The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal recently won the Nebula, Hugo, and Locus awards. Read the summary below.

On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.

Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.

Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.


Trending Up

  • Gender diversity
  • Space Opera (perennially popular)
  • Military sci-fi
  • Afrofuturism & Chinese sci-fi
  • Climate fiction

Trending Down (typically those trends in fiction which may have flooded the market recently and as a result have become tired and readers are ready to move on to something fresh.)

  • Dystopia
  • Time travel
  • Alternative worlds
  • Steampunk

Here are a few Science Fiction novels you might enjoy or suggest an item be purchased for the popular reading collection.

Happy readings!


Cover art for Dark MatterDark Matter

By Blake Crouch

Jason Dessen is walking home through the chilly Chicago streets one night, looking forward to a quiet evening in front of the fireplace with his wife, Daniela, and their son, Charlie—when his reality shatters.

It starts with a man in a mask kidnapping him at gunpoint, for reasons Jason can’t begin to fathom—what would anyone want with an ordinary physics professor?—and grows even more terrifying from there, as Jason’s abductor injects him with some unknown drug and watches while he loses consciousness.

When Jason awakes, he’s in a lab, strapped to a gurney—and a man he’s never seen before is cheerily telling him “welcome back!”

Jason soon learns that in this world he’s woken up to, his house is not his house. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born.

And someone is hunting him.

Cover art for Sleeping GiantsSleeping Giants

By Sylvain Neuvel

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square-shaped hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved - the object's origins, architects, and purpose unknown.

Cover art for Underground AirlinesUnderground Airlines

By Ben Winters

A young black man calling himself Victor has struck a bargain with federal law enforcement, working as a bounty hunter for the US Marshall Service in exchange for his freedom. He's got plenty of work. In this version of America, slavery continues in four states called "the Hard Four." On the trail of a runaway known as Jackdaw, Victor arrives in Indianapolis knowing that something isn't right--with the case file, with his work, and with the country itself.

Cover art for City in the Middle of the NightThe City in the Middle of the Night

Charlie Jane Anders

Set on a planet that has fully definitive, never-changing zones of day and night, with ensuing extreme climates of endless, frigid darkness and blinding, relentless light, humankind has somehow continued apace -- though the perils outside the built cities are rife with danger as much as the streets below.

But in a world where time means only what the ruling government proclaims, and the levels of light available are artificially imposed to great consequence, lost souls and disappeared bodies are shadow-bound and savage, and as common as grains of sand. And one such pariah, sacrificed to the night, but borne up by time and a mysterious bond with an enigmatic beast, will rise to take on the entire planet--before it can crumble beneath the weight of human existence.

Cover art for The Collapsing EmpireThe Collapsing Empire

By John Scalzi

Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible -- until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars.

Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war -- and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.

The Flow is eternal -- but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster than light travel forever, three individuals -- a scientist, a starship captain and the Empress of the Interdependency -- are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

Cover art for Autonomous Autonomous

By Annalee Newitz

Autonomous features a rakish female pharmaceutical pirate named Jack who traverses the world in her own submarine. A notorious anti-patent scientist who has styled herself as a Robin Hood heroine fighting to bring cheap drugs to the poor, Jack’s latest drug is leaving a trail of lethal overdoses across what used to be North America—a drug that compels people to become addicted to their work.

On Jack’s trail are an unlikely pair: an emotionally shut-down military agent and his partner, Paladin, a young military robot, who fall in love against all expectations. Autonomous alternates between the activities of Jack and her co-conspirators, and Elias and Paladin, as they all race to stop a bizarre drug epidemic that is tearing apart lives, causing trains to crash, and flooding New York City.

By: Anjanette Jones

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