The best lost classics of space science fiction

Why am I passionate about this?

Okay, so you’ve read Dune, you’ve read Starship Troopers, you’ve read 2001: A Space Odyssey, and maybe you’ve even read From Earth to the Moon and The First Men in the Moon. Seen the movies, too (or maybe you cheat and say you’ve read the books when you’ve only seen the flicks). Bet you think that makes you an expert on science fiction about space, right? Not even close! If you want to read more than just the well-known classics everyone else has, find these books. Some have become obscure and are now out of print, but they’re not hard to find; try ABE, eBay, and local second-hand bookstores. They’re worth searching for, and then you’ll really have something to talk about.


I wrote...

Book cover of Coyote

What is my book about?

Coyote is a novel of interstellar exploration by Hugo Award-winning author Allen Steele. It has been translated into several languages and published worldwide, entered the curriculum of several college science fiction courses, and been optioned for TV/film adaptation. It’s followed by four other novels in the same series, along with three spin-off novels and several related short stories. Of Steele’s many novels, this is his most popular book.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Marooned

Allen Steele Why did I love this book?

Okay, so you’ve read Dune, you’ve read Starship Troopers, you’ve read 2001: A Space Odyssey, and maybe you’ve even read From Earth to the Moon and The First Men in the Moon. Seen the movies, too (or maybe you cheat and say you’ve read the books when you’ve only seen the flicks). Bet you think that makes you an expert on science fiction about space, right? Not even close! If you want to read more than just the well-known classics everyone else has, find these books. Some have become obscure and are now out of print, but they’re not hard to find; try ABE, eBay, and local second-hand bookstores. They’re worth searching for, and then you’ll really have something to talk about.

This high-tech thriller about three astronauts stuck in Earth orbit aboard an Apollo spacecraft (in an earlier version, it was about one astronaut in a Mercury space capsule) was a big bestseller that was eventually made into a movie. As usual, the novel is way better than the movie. Today it can be read as historical or alternate-history SF, but either way, it’s a suspenseful novel and also a good inside-look at the NASA space program of the ’60s.

By Martin Caidin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Marooned as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Source for exciting movie of the same name, starring Gregory Peck.


Book cover of Beyond Apollo

Allen Steele Why did I love this book?

In contrast to Marooned (and, in fact, just about every other SF space novel of the ’60s and ’70s) is this short and very dark masterpiece. The first winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, this novel about the aftermath of a doomed mission to Venus is Malzberg’s dark answer to the over-optimistic view of space exploration that was prevalent in the post-Apollo period, and a stark reminder that the universe is an unforgiving and dangerous place.

By Barry N. Malzberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beyond Apollo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Two astronauts travel on the first manned expedition to the planet Venus. When the mission is mysteriously aborted and the ship returns to Earth, the Captain is missing and the First Officer, Harry M. Evans, can't explain what happened. Under psychiatric evaluation and interrogation, Evans provides conflicting accounts of the Captain's disappearance, incriminating both himself and lethal Venusian forces in the Captain's murder. As the explanations pyramid and the supervising psychiatrist's increasingly desperate efforts to get a straight story falter, Evans' condition and his inability to tell the "truth" present terrifying expressions of humanity's incompetence, the politics of space exploration,…


Book cover of In the Ocean of Night

Allen Steele Why did I love this book?

This novel, about the discovery of an alien probe hidden within an Earth orbit-crossing asteroid and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence it provokes, is the first volume of a long, six-volume epic, the Galactic Center series, that is regarded by most critics as a landmark work. You can read this novel on its own or you can go from there with the rest of the series; in any case, it’s hard SF at its thought-provoking best.

By Gregory Benford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Ocean of Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set in a world of lunar colonies, cybernetic miracles, fanatic cults, deadly pollution and famine, the first story in the GALACTIC CENTRE CYCLE. This world of social decay is facing hardship, but not far beyond the shores of space comes a mystery, which one man, astronaut Nigel Walmsley is about to touch. From the author of TIMESCAPE.


Book cover of The Descent of Anansi

Allen Steele Why did I love this book?

A near-future space thriller, about a revolution by an orbital space colony against the governments of Earth that seek to keep it under their control, is a fast-moving blend of action, politics, and speculation. Read this and see the sort of vision of humanity’s future in space that captivated people’s imaginations at the dawn of the Space Shuttle era.

By Larry Niven, Steven Barnes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Descent of Anansi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Tells the story of a spaceship attacked by pirates.


Book cover of Starfarers

Allen Steele Why did I love this book?

Before writing this little gem, the author produced some of the most notable Star Trek novelizations. Then she decided to create her own version of Star Trek and do the stuff she couldn’t do there. The first volume of a series, it kicks things off when the science crew of the good ship Starfarer, upon learning that their brand-new ship is about to be turned over to the military and become a warship, decides to take matters in their own hands and hijack their own starship. Space adventure at its best. 

By Vonda N. McIntyre,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Starfarers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the first in the Starfarers series of novels, the commander of the Starfarer spacecraft, scientist Victoria MacKenzie, must battle her own commanders on Earth to keep on her mission to find extraterrestrial life. Reissue.


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Shahrazad's Gift

By Gretchen McCullough,

Book cover of Shahrazad's Gift

Gretchen McCullough Author Of Shahrazad's Gift

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a fiction writer and currently live in Cairo, where I have lived for over twenty years. I noticed that the way I started telling stories was influenced by learning Arabic and by listening to the stories of the people in the city. My interest in Arabic also led me to read Arabic literature, like A Thousand and One Nights.   

Gretchen's book list on books influenced by Thousand and One Nights

What is my book about?

Shahrazad’s Gift is a collection of linked short stories set in contemporary Cairo — magical, absurd, and humorous.

The author focuses on the off-beat, little-known stories, far from CNN news: a Swedish belly dancer who taps into the Oriental fantasies of her clientele; a Japanese woman studying Arabic, driven mad by the noise and chaos of the city; a frustrated Egyptian housewife who becomes obsessed by the activities of her Western gay neighbor; an American journalist who covered the civil war in Beirut who finds friendship with her Egyptian dentist. We also meet the two protagonists of McCullough's Confessions of a Knight Errant, before their escapades in that story.

These stories are told in the tradition of A Thousand and One Nights.

Shahrazad's Gift

By Gretchen McCullough,

What is this book about?

Shahrazad's Gift is a collection of linked short stories set in contemporary Cairo-magical, absurd and humorous. The author focuses on the off-beat, little-known stories, far from CNN news: a Swedish belly dancer who taps into the Oriental fantasies of her clientele; a Japanese woman studying Arabic, driven mad by the noise and chaos of the city; a frustrated Egyptian housewife who becomes obsessed by the activities of her Western gay neighbor; an American journalist who covered the civil war in Beirut who finds friendship with her Egyptian dentist. We also meet the two protagonists of McCullough's Confessions of a Knight…


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