Science fiction is our passion, and the reason that our store exists. Our current bestsellers, for example, were written by Neal Stephenson, James S.A. Corey and Andreas Eschbach – but classics and dark horses can fly off the shelf too, such as Ann Leckie’s unconventional award-winning space opera novels, Jeff VanderMeer’s subtly uncanny Southern Reach trilogy, the works of genre grandmaster Ursula K. LeGuin and the politically and scientifically astute hard SF of Kim Stanley Robinson.
Science fiction is a genre of ideas and scientific thought experiments, pioneered by the French author Jules Verne, the Englishman H.G. Wells and Kurd Laßwitz from Germany. Many of the early stars of science fiction literature are still very popular today, foremost the “Big Three”: Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke. Their books deal predominantly with the exploration and colonisation of space and generally have a very techno-optimistic tone.
This changed in the fifties and sixties: authors like Joe Haldeman and Philip K. Dick begin exploring the social consequences of so-called progress. Towards the end of the sixties and during the seventies, science fiction fully begins to confront the future of our societies, beyond the focus on technical achievements. Writers like Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia E. Butler, James Tiptree Jr. and Samuel R. Delany belong to a new generation of authors who critically examine the worldview of their readers and open up a “new wave” of style and storytelling.
The eighties bring yet another wave: Cyberpunk, a subgenre of science fiction which prefigures the excesses of the information age. John Shirley, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling are its vanguard. The typical elements of cyberpunk – virtual worlds, the permeation of information technology through all aspects of society, and technical alterations made directly to the human body and consciousness – can now be found in practically all subgenres of science fiction. Authors such as Neal Stephenson, Max Berry, Richard Morgan and Ian McDonald make particularly heavy usage of cyberpunk themes and motifs.
But the late eighties and early nineties also bring a resurgence of space-related science fiction, collectively known as the “New Space Opera” in the works of authors such as Iain M. Banks, Vernor Vinge, Peter F. Hamilton and Alastair Reynolds. One popular variation on this theme is represented under the label of “Military SF”, with new authors such as Marko Kloos and Jack Campbell.
Once the 21st century comes around, genre borders begin to blur even more than previously. Where exactly should one place “Perdido Street Station” by China Miéville? (Our answer currently: science fiction) Or “City Of Saints And Madmen” by Jeff VanderMeer? (We put it up on the fantasy shelf) What about “MonstroCity” by Jeffrey Thomas? (That’d be horror, it’s the only one left). Not to mention our namesake tetralogy Otherland by Tad Williams. Thankfully we no longer have to debate whether and what novels and stories by Margaret Atwood lie within the genre, the boundaries between “highbrow literature” and “entertainment” have all but evaporated, increasingly also for German authors such as Dietmar Dath and Georg Klein.
At the same time, our horizon is expanding culturally and geographically: Cixin Liu is a Chinese author of bestselling science fiction (who followed our invitation to come to Berlin and presented his books here in 2018), and there are authors of African background such as Nnedi Okorafor and Tade Thompson who bring an heretofore unknown level of diversity to the genre. Occasionally we ourselves feel quite astonished at the variety of new books that we have on display...