Robert A. Heinlein is one of the most famous names in sci-fi. He's considered one of the "Big Three" - along with Arthur C. Clark and Isaac Asimov - and written famous works such as Stranger in a Strange Land, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, and Starship Troopers. But perhaps even more noteworthy are his other contributions to the field. Heinlein was one of the authors who helped lead the genre out of mediocrity and “pulp” status, and into literary significance. Heinlein considered it of the utmost importance that everything space related in his novels be mathematically accurate and scientifically plausible, making his works much more realistic than their predecessors. Furthermore, his novels leave behind the early "space opera" configuration and instead focus on important social issues, such as liberty and government, sexuality and religion. It is because of Heinlein's influence that selected science fiction works are now accepted into the literary canon.
Even readers who have no interest in the science fiction genre have heard of the infamous L. Rob Hubbard. Hubbard first came into the public eye through his contributions to popular pulp fiction magazines in the 1930’s, most notably Astounding Science Fiction. There he began a close professional relationship with the magazine’s editor, John W. Campbell, who Isaac Asimov described as the “most powerful force in science fiction”, and credited with shaping the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Campbell helped Hubbard test out his theory of Dianetics, and published a paper on it in Astounding. It was with Campbell’s – and the science fiction magazine’s – help that Hubbard was able to expand Dianetics into the organization that made Hubbard famous, The Church of Scientology.
Frank Herbert is without a doubt one of the most commercially successful science fiction writers. In fact, his most famous novel - Dune - is the bestselling sci-fi novel of all time. Compared with Heinlein's seminal Stranger in a Stranger Land, Dune marks a shift away from pulp fiction and into literary significance. Furthermore, Herbert changed the direction of sci-fi by focusing on technology’s affect on humanity within his stories, rather than writing a story for the sake of technological advancement alone. Herbert deliberately suppressed technological elements within the Dune series in order to focus on more character driven aspects; this successful approach marks him as the creator of a new sub-genre within the field – "Ecological" Science Fiction.
Last but not least, I’d like to discuss the great Aldous Huxley. Heinlein and Herbert were instrumental in elevating the quality and public opinion of science fiction, but it was Huxley that finally cracked his way into the literary canon. Along with Orwell’s 1984, Brave New World is one of the only sci-fi novels I remember reading as part of my high school curriculum. Furthermore, Brave New World was ranked fifth after Ulysses, The Great Gatsby and Lolita in Modern Library’s “100 Best English-Language Novels of the 20th Century”. This is a remarkable shift from previous sci-fi works that critics barely considered literature. Brave New World marks a perfect blend between scientific and technological advancement, and the social and moral issues that define human society.
This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2012. My theme is (in case you didn’t already guess) science fiction. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the rest of the participants, simply click here.