There's so much that can fall under this category. Kurt Vonnegut, who fought the label most of his life in order to avoid being marginalized, has written some incredible science fiction, including Galapagos, Cat's Cradle, and Player Piano. Sticking with the dystopian novels, George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World are often considered the most "academic" science fiction (along with Ursula K. LeGuin). Richard Matheson, author of What Dreams May Come, Stir of Echoes, and I am Legend, among others, wrote some "hard" science fiction early in his career. Terry Pratchett probably falls more in the fantasy category, but he has elements of science fiction in his Discworld series. Those books read like Monty Python writing fantasy.
My personal favorite is Harlan Ellison. He's not for everybody: graphic images, disturbing themes, a rather no-nonsense approach to life all mark his style. In fact, many people are turned off by a perceived cynicism and rather curmudgeonly attitude. But I tend to think of that more as a persona, & I think his stories are actually quite optimistic. His short stories will give you the best intro, especially "Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman!"
The genre of Science Fiction is a very popular one for readers and movie-goers alike. Indeed, there is hardly a science fiction novel or short story of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries that hasn't been made into a movie, or at least garnered plenty of attention from Hollywood.
Among teachers (and therefor here at enotes) science fictions rates up there in works assigned to young readers. Hardly a day goes by here without reference to Ray Bradbury's, Fahrenheit 451, (the story of a controlled society of the future where fireman are sent out to burn books) or to George Orwell's 1984 (another tale of a controlling society gone out of control).
Some of the most popular modern science fiction writers and their works are:
Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game
Frank Herbert, Dune
Isaac Asimov Foundation
Douglas Adams Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Robert A Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
Arthur C Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey
William Gibson, Neuromancer
Philip K Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
Most of the science fiction genre's greatest novels and short stories have come from writers of the 1900s. Even the finest sci fi writers of the 1800s, H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, completed much of their work during the past century. The masters of 20th century sci fi--Ray Bradbury, Arthur Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein--will not soon be equaled by our modern writers.
If you are looking for stories set in the 20th century, below are three of my favorites.
- 1984 by George Orwell (set in 1984)
- SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut (set shortly after WWII)
- DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? by Phillip K. Dick (set in 1992)
As with many survey question such as this one, you can find many thinkers which would satisfy such conditions. Ursula LeGuin is an interesting science fiction writer in that she writes about themes that might be considered "traditional science fiction," but also incorporates gender related and ecological ideas in her work. Frank Herbert's work "Dune" seems to be a benchmark of all science fiction literature. Michael Crichton, in particular with works such as "Jurassic Park," emerged as a science fiction voice in the close of the century with his works that probed the limitations of scientific inquiry and progress. Douglas Adams' works such as "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" have also been seen essential to the appreciation of the genre.
The very first science fiction book I ever read at the age of thirteen was the novel 'The Day Of The Triffids' by John Wyndham - (Parkes Lucas Beyn Harris) My goodness, I struggled through it hardly daring to turn the next page, and by the time I got to the next bit (where the Giant Snails the size of buses start slithering over the houses and windows - I was gone! Science Fiction was not for me. However, it is a very important genre. What was so scary about the ugly menacing giant triffid plants? Well, they were bad enough going wild in peoples gardens when they got out of the profitable experiment fields - but when they grew legs! - well ! i was off! Their scariness emanted from their inevitability - they just kept going and seemed indestructible.
Although there were many science-fiction authors and science-fiction works mentioned in the above answers, I was disappointed that no one mentioned Theodore Sturgeon. At one time his novel More Than Humanwas considered one of the best sci-fi novels of all time. His specialty was psychological and biological science fiction. I highly recommend the novel, and I also recommend any collection of his short stories. More Than Humanis covered by an eNotes study guide which can be accessed on the link below. There is also an eNotes study guide for an anthology of Sturgeon's stories titledA Touch of Sturgeon with a reference link below. I am not a great fan of scientce-fiction, but I have been recommending Theodore Sturgeon for years.
There are so many authors of science fiction and fantasy from the 20th Century... And there are lots of different kinds of science fiction and fantasy. Here are some famous authors of science fiction:
HG Wells wrote around the turn of the century. His most famous work was The War of the Worlds, but there were many others.
Ray Bradbury wrote in the middle of the century.
Isaac Asimov wrote many stories. Two famous types of stories of his were robot stories (I, Robot) and the "Foundation" series.
In terms of fantasy, Robert Jordan and Piers Anthony are two big names.
The list could go on and on and I expect it will once more people see this question.
Issac Asimov wrote an obscene amount of science fiction. You could spend a lifetime reading and analyzing his work. His Foundation Series and Robot series broke away from the dystopian robot standards before him. He created the three robot rules.
Douglas Adams wrote the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series which is a satirical comedy.
Orson Scott Card wrote the Ender's Game series which is very similar to the Foundation series in that both are an alternative future history. However, the Ender's Game series is more militant and the Foundation series is more philosophical.
The twentieth century had had a plethora of writers who have produced some wonderful novels in the science fiction genre. The novel “The Dispossessed published in 1974 by Ursula LeGuinan is about an archist-feminist society. “Kindred” by Octavia Butler is about a young black woman who is sucked back into time only to find herself as a slave. “A Fire Upon the Deep” published in 1992 by author Vernor Vinge is one of the first novels to address the Internet age. The novel “The Sparrow (by Mary Doria Russell tells the story of two species of aliens versus a priests interpretation of what makes an alien. “ Newton's Wake” written by Ken MacLeod and published in 2004 tells the story of a group of men who find and travel through a worm hole in space. Ray Bradbury is probably one of the best known writers of science fiction. His novels have been commercially accepted world wide.