It’s National Science Fiction Day! A day to pause and give thanks for the genre that offers us an infinity of futures to inhabit, if only for the space of a novel. It’s also the time of year when I like to ponder why I find science fiction so captivating. Like many fans, it’s partly because I love immersing myself in a sense of possibility: these are civilizations that could happen, interstellar events that may well unfold, alien life yet to be encountered, worlds upon worlds waiting to be discovered (or explored or exploited or misunderstood). However, I think my great love for this genre largely lies in its ability to reframe how I perceive the world. Reading the great sci-fi classics in high school introduced me to an astonishing array of philosophical concepts and conundrums that shook up my belief systems. Modern sci-fi continues to do the same for me some twenty years later. So, in honor of National Science Fiction Day, here are five titles that will change the way you see the world.
Let me begin with Isaac Asimov’s classic Foundation Trilogy, a particularly apt pick given that National Science Fiction Day falls on his chosen birthday. The series won the Hugo Award for best all-time series (deservedly so) and is inspired by Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. What sets the trilogy apart from so many other series is the scope of its ambition. Asimov writes of the decline of the Galactic Empire and the forces at play to preserve its knowledge and help bring about the rise of another empire. Sound dry? It’s not! You’ll be swept up by the fascinating ebb and flow of power and politics and by the series end, be asking yourself profound questions about history, the human condition, and the cyclical nature of civilizations.