Last week, io9 released their list of the ten books that influenced history and those who made it. From inspiring literary greats to works that motivated science to create artificial intelligence and lifeforms, this list demonstrates the power of fiction to affect change.

1. The Tom Swift Series – “Victor Appleton” (pseudonym for several writers) was a game changer for inspiring SciFi greatsRay Kurzweil, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Steve Wozniak.

2. Neuromancer– William Gibson’s classic that supposedly birthed the Internet and popularized the cyberpunk genre.

3. Gladiator– Philip Wylie’s 1930 novel predicted the genesis of nearly every superhero origin.

4. The War of the Worlds– H.G. Wells’ epic that was the first true alien invasion novel scared the crap out of radio listeners and inspired Robert H. Goddard, inventor of the liquid-fueled rocket. Goddard’s invention lead to the Apollo program.

5. The World Set Free– Known for H.G. Wells’ prediction of atomic energy, this novel is responsible, in part, for the creation of the H-bomb. “Physicist Leo Szilard — another incredible name – read the story in 1932, and the neutron was discovered later that year. In 1933, inspired by the story, Szilard developed the idea of a neutron chain reaction, patented the idea in 1934, and eight years later, we saw the development of the Manhattan Project.”

6. Brave New World– Aldous Huxley’s novel that is another example how fiction influences opinion and prediction, this novel scared G.W. Bush so much that, after he read it, he felt stem cell reseach should be explored cautiously. “We’re on the edge of a cliff. And if we take a step off the cliff, there’s no going back. Perhaps we should only take one step at a time.”

7. Shockwave Rider-John Brunner’s 1975 novel accurately predicted large-scale computer networks, hacking, phreaking, genetic engineering and the computer virus.

8. Snow Crash– Neal Stephenson’s popular novel gave us ‘Second Life’ and the term “avatar.”

9. 1984– Big Brother is always watching and Orwell’s masterpiece proved it. The novel also created the quintessential terminology in every conspiracy theorists vernacular including: “Big Brother,” “Room 101,” “the Thought Police,” “thoughtcrime,” “unperson” “doublehink” and “memory hole.”

10. Frankenstein– Mary Shelley’s classic that helped to inspire the real-life science of synthetic biology. Scientist Craig Venter and other innovators have created synthetic organisms in the lab, including a complete M. capricolum organism. People regularly refer to the creation of synthetic life forms as the “Frankenstein moment” for biology.

5 thoughts on “10 Science Fiction Books That Changed the Course of History”

  1. Interesting list.

    Omits a few important authors:

    Cordwainer Smith, his collection of short stories within their expansive future history dabbles with so many idea, genetic engineering, speciation and even a post god society.

    Larry Niven's teleport series forsaw the consequences of instant portable communication, anticipating the phenomena of flash crowds and flash riots by decades.

  2. I've read 4 – WoW, HG Wells; 1984, George Orwell; Brave New World – Aldous Huxley and of course, Frankenstein. Not bad for a sci-fi hater. Where's Jules Verne?

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