Literary Fiction Titles That Should Be Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books
Are you trying to tell me that ‘Wolf Hall’ is NOT about werewolves?
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
Pretty much everyone who reads sometimes uses books as a way to escape. A book is a door to another world, a way to get away from reality for a few minutes or hours and focus on characters and circumstances wholly and blessedly unrelated to one’s own life. Sometimes, the more unrelated to one’s own life, the better.
I love literary fiction; it’s the genre I read most frequently. But literary fiction also tends to be about things that are distinctly related to my life—heartbreak, money, family troubles. So when I have a particularly bad day, I tend to turn more and more to science fiction and fantasy. Reading a book about a wizard or a spaceship is my version of taking a stress nap. While literature about serious, familiar, recognizable problems is both necessary and important, sometimes life is hard and I want a space opera where the gods are real and teenagers can conjure up demons.
Like I said, though, literary fiction is the genre I read most frequently. Which is why sometimes, when I start to wish literature offered more of an escape from reality, I find myself scanning my shelves full of novels about family and death and imagining that they’re about wizards and dragons instead. Yes, The God of Small Things is great, but right now I want to read about Minimantia, deity of everything under one centimeter in diameter! Could someone please write that for me? And while you’re at it, write these:
Fates and Furies
In reality this is one of my favorite novels, but I would also probably love it if it were an epic battle between the actual Fates and the actual Furies, playing out partly in the realm of the Gods and partly in the lives of a few humans who gradually begin to wonder if they are being used as pawns. Part one in a trilogy.
The Sound and the Fury
This is the second book in the series that starts with Fates and Furies, in which the one Fury who survived the war with the Fates must live as a normal human while reconstructing her powers and plotting revenge. She starts a punk band called “The Sound.”
A small town in Maine is bewitched so that all the inhabitants live forever as long as they never stop laughing.
The exact same book, but with wolves.
The Corrections / Freedom / Purity
A Hunger Games-style trilogy about a spunky kid escaping a repressive dystopia in which “blood purity” is valued above all things and children are “corrected” in order to gain higher status and please the authorities. Our hero, Jonathan, sees his world’s cruelty for what it is and must infiltrate its highest echelons of power and take them down from within.
City on Fire
In a world ruled by a mysterious cult of fire worshippers, the perpetually burning city is a holy city, and can only be visited for the initiation trials that each youth must undergo before they enter adult society. Nothing is known about the trials before one enters the city, and far from everyone who goes into the burning city ever returns. Will our three heroes survive their upcoming trials in the city on fire?
The Things They Carried
Everyone in the city knows about Them, but no more name than that is ever given to them, and it is best not to speak about Them, and certainly never to approach them. These shadowy beings hover on the outskirts of a city, preventing anyone in the city from either coming in or leaving. They each hold a strange, glowing box. When a plague decimates the city’s populations, a few intrepid residents who are still healthy must confront these unknown beings and the things in the boxes that They carry, to try to win their escape from the city and gain help for the people within.
Slouching toward Bethlehem
A space opera about a single ship that has survived a debilitating space war and must use “slouching” — a dangerous, experimental time travel technology that allows them to travel undetected — to reach Bethlehem, a mythic oasis planet in a neutral zone which none of the characters have visited and which is perhaps not entirely what it seems.
The Sun Also Rises
A planet with two suns, and two warring religions, each of which worships a different one of the two suns. An epic told from the perspective of many different individuals on both sides of the conflict.
The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo
A heartwarming series of books about the adventures of a girl and her dragon, Tattoo.
An accident with a shrink ray.
A Clockwork Orange
A steampunk novel in which our hero must construct The Orange, a secret weapon disguised as a piece of fruit. He wears goggles to do it. The goggles are crucial for some reason.
Far from The Madding Crowd
The zombies are coming. But we’re still far away from them. For now.
Heart of Darkness
The Heart of Darkness was once the noblest ship in this galaxy’s fleet, but after its captain suffered a tragic loss, turned rogue and is now a space-pirate ship full of corruption and debauchery, hunting down other members of the fleet who were once its trusted friends. The book is written from multiple perspectives, including that of the ship itself.
The Glass Menagerie
A young girl discovers a secret portal in gift shop at the zoo, which transports her to an evil fairy queen’s private collection of living glass animals, whom she befriends and tries to free from their captivity.
Go Set a Watchman
A steampunk horror novel about the construction of surveillance robots. Despite terrifying obstacles and the opposition of the Society of the Changing Mirror — a cult of wizards who control society from afar and abhor all technological advances — the Watch-Man must be set.