The best gothic science fiction books that explore the darkness of mankind

Mikhaeyla Kopievsky Author Of Tasmanian Gothic
By Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

Who am I?

All my life, I have been drawn to the dark, twisty, unconventional, rebellious stories; I was always a little disappointed with the Disney-fied fairytales, always enthralled by the dark imaginings of the originals. As I grew older, I recognised that these dark fables were not just confined to stories of fantasy, but present as seeds of discontent and destruction in our own reality—in the injustices of the present, and disasters of our potential future. As an author, I use these modern parables and prophecies—in dystopian, weird, and gothic science fiction—as a way to explore and critically reflect on our humanity and its future.  

I wrote...

Tasmanian Gothic

By Mikhaeyla Kopievsky,

Book cover of Tasmanian Gothic

What is my book about?

A dark biopunk thriller of gothic proportionsSolari wasn’t alive when the radiation rained down, but she’s living with the consequences—the mutations, the gangland war, and the wall that divides Tasmania’s affluent North from its contaminated South. Alone in the southern reaches, Solari survives by cooking wildly addictive snowrock for the local crime lord and avoiding the city’s mutants. 

But, when a bad deal turns worse, Solari is forced to run—escaping retribution with a stolen van and a pair of giant wings cleaved from a mutant moth. Grafting the wings to her body will disguise Solari as one of Tasmania’s most reviled, and set her on a dangerous journey through gangland strongholds to get to the Border Wall, and safety, in the north.

The books I picked & why

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By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Book cover of Frankenstein

Why this book?

The original gothic science fiction novel and a classic in its own right, Shelley’s Frankenstein is brimming with human need, trauma, disgust, and the tragic folly of seeking perfection. The quintessential blend of grotesque and sublime, the story turns the mirror on the worst parts of humanity and forces us to both confront the misery and appreciate the tainted beauty. And Shelley, with her incomparable prose, leads us to this with her opening page, as our frame narrator, Robert Walton, remarks: “I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks, which braces my nerves, and fills me with delight.” The ultimate expression of gothic science fiction. 

Perdido Street Station

By China Miéville,

Book cover of Perdido Street Station

Why this book?

I fell in love with this book the moment I read its opening pages, and the love affair continued up to the final pages and still to this day. China Miéville does weird like no one else. And in this, his multi-award-winning sophomore novel and the first book in the Bas-Lag series, Miéville intelligently fuses a stunning array of genres and modes, from steampunk science fantasy to dystopian and gothic science fiction. So much of this book has lived in my subconscious for decades, inspiring a love for bug-punk, gangland-dystopian worlds with complex and flawed characters. The best book to read when looking to enter the world of weird fiction and gothic sci-fi. 


By Jeff VanderMeer,

Book cover of Annihilation

Why this book?

You can’t talk about weird, gothic science fiction, without mentioning Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation. The first in the Southern Reach trilogy, VanderMeer’s novel is a complex, surreal, and terrifying tale of four scientists who brave the uninhabited, quarantined, and inexplicable ‘Area X’ in search of answers. Annihilation expertly blends science fiction with the terror and mystery of the gothic: fusing scientific inquiry (“Remember that we are to put our faith in your measurements…The measurements do not lie”), with hallucinations, temporal ambiguity, and mind manipulation. The lush, sentient, and menacing ecosystem is the quintessential gothic setting, and the story, revealed through the journal of the protagonist, is a perfect throwback to the original gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto. A standout example of modern, intelligent, gothic sci-fi.

The Island of Doctor Moreau

By H.G. Wells,

Book cover of The Island of Doctor Moreau

Why this book?

Animal/human hybridisation is ripe for gothic sci-fi stories. Whether the sentient flora of Annihilation, the insectoid-human khepri of Perdido Street Station, or the brutal stitching together of human and animal in The Island of Doctor Moreau—each offers its own shade of terror, grotesque beauty, and ethical complications. Don’t let the clusterf*ck of its movie adaptation dissuade you; H.G. Wells’ classic is a beautiful exploration of the grotesque and terrifying—a darker, twistier version of Orwell’s allegory, Animal Farm, where humanised animals tell the story of mankind’s descent from humanity. 


By Octavia E. Butler,

Book cover of Dawn

Why this book?

Having started this list with the titan of gothic science fiction, Mary Shelley, it is appropriate to close out the list with another titan, Octavia Butler. Dawn is the first book of the Xenogenesis series, which—though long-recognised as a science fiction classic—has deep connections to the gothic genre with its “A live! Still alive. Alive…again” (surely a contender for the best opening to a novel), and its captors, strange Awakenings, creatures covered in writhing tentacles, and hybridisation of the human and alien. Underneath all of this, is the complex interrogation of what it means to be human—an exploration suited exceptionally well to both gothic fiction and science fiction.

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