10 Sci Fi and Fantasy Works Every Conservative Should Read

Monday, February 25th, 2013

China Miéville recently compiled a list of 50 Sci Fi and Fantasy Works Every Socialist Should Read.

In response, Samuel Goldman has comprised a list of 10 Sci Fi and Fantasy Works Every Conservative Should Read — ignoring too-obvious examples, like The Lord of the Rings, and not limiting himself to conservative works so much as works that raise issues conservatives might address:

David Brin, The Postman

Very different from the awful movie starring Kevin Costner.

Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Also very different from the movie (which is in this case excellent).

William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, The Difference Engine

A revision of Disraeli’s “State of England” novels for the information age.

Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers

Classical republicanism meets interstellar warfare

Joe Haldeman, The Forever War

Out of alphabetical order, but an essential companion to Starship Troopers.

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

The classic depiction of Nietzsche’s Last Men, who enjoy “happiness” without ever questioning the meaning of their lives.

Robert E. Howard, Conan stories

“Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.”

H.P. Lovecraft, anything really, but particularly the “Cthulhu cycle”

To quote Rick Brookhiser: “One way to think of Lovecraft is as a demented anticipation of Russell Kirk. Kirk praised the permanent things. The permanent things in Lovecraft are revolting monsters from outer space or undersea who, it turns out, have been here for eons, and sometimes have interbred with us. Connecting with the past in Kirk guides and inspires us. Connecting with the past in Lovecraft makes us lose our minds.”

Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz

What if some calamity destroyed modern civilization, and its knowledge were preserved as incoherent fragments? Here, the Catholic Church reprises its historical role as the conservator of civilization through a new Dark Age

Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash

Although it is best known for its pioneering depiction of virtual reality, the most interesting feature of Snow Crash is its depiction of anarcho-capitalism.


  1. Buckethead says:

    The list should include:

    Dosadi Experiment by Frank Herbert
    Dune by Frank Herbert
    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein

    Dosadi Experiment is probably the most underrated sf novel ever, and very, very political. A thoughtful meditation (packed with action) on the meaning and purpose of law, the dangers of power and the obverse, and why both democracy and bureaucracy are dangerous.

    Dune, for probably obvious reasons — but notably issues of sovereignty and its origins and the power and place of religion in government.

    Both might really be viewed as reactionary books.

    Moon is a Harsh Mistress is usually cited as a libertarian fantasy, but the issues are significant for conservatives, and for anyone planning a revolution.

  2. Phil B says:

    Try Eric Frank Russell’s The Great Explosion or Next of Kin. Witty, mordant in poking societal concepts and formats and laugh-out-loud on most pages.

    He’s a Brit so may not be familiar to many Americans but worth looking out for.

  3. Isegoria says:

    It looks like I have to add Dosadi Experiment to my to-read pile. Dune is a classic, but it never really spoke to me. When I first heard about The Moon in a Harsh Mistress — a libertarian sci-fi novel by Heinlein — I assumed I’d love it. I didn’t. It was… fine.

    When I read H. Beam Piper’s Space Viking, it struck me as rather Moldbuggian.

    In fact, much classic science-fiction strikes me as conservative — even Asimov’s technocratic Foundation series — because it’s concerned with societies rising and falling, the long-term consequences of culture, etc.

    Poul Anderson’s works run the gamut from deeply thoughtful to light and pulpy. Many feature interstellar traders as heroes and overreaching governments as villains or obstacles.

  4. Isegoria says:

    I’ve been meaning to read Eric Frank Russell’s Wasp.

    I found the anarchists of Russell’s “And then there were none,” the short story that became The Great Explosion, a little too silly.

  5. Aretae says:

    I have had a number of friends, including Perfidy [Buckethead], recommend The Dosadi Experiment. Naturally, I read it after the first one. I was underwhelmed. I continue to think of CJ Cherryh’s Cyteen series as better on almost all axes.

    On the other hand, I love Moon. It’s my second favorite Heinlein after Assignment in Eternity.

    Shouldn’t something post-singularity be floating in here as well? Fire upon the Deep? Iain Banks?

  6. Buckethead says:

    I don’t understand why people fail to recognize the greatness of The Dosadi Experiment. Maybe I was at some weird mental place when I first read it that it just struck me in a way that it doesn’t almost anyone else, but I still believe it is second only to Dune in Herbert’s oeuvre.

    Moon is not my favorite Heinlein, but it is one of the two most overtly political of his novels. On a second thinking, it occurs to me that Double Star is a more conservative book than either Moon or Starship Troopers — it has a constitutional monarchy that is not derided.

    A Deepness in the Sky merits consideration. The problems of ubiquitous surveillance and the control aspects of dust and focus are real concerns, and impressive that Vinge raised these things about a decade before it became obvious to most people.

    Banks is an avowedly socialist science fictional Scotsman. But I repeat myself. The culture books are among my favorites — but there is no particularly conservative lessons there.

    And of course, every reactionary should read The Veil War.

  7. Isegoria says:

    One could argue that a post-singularity scenario is one of the few that a conservative philosophy couldn’t really address — except, perhaps, to warn against.

  8. Isegoria says:

    Foseti immediately thought of Earth Abides, and I must agree. Post-apocalyptic tales generally present civilization as fragile and valuable, if flawed.

    Certainly Lucifer’s Hammer qualifies as post-apocalyptic and conservative. Most of Pournelle’s works are overtly conservative.

  9. Anomaly UK says:

    Agree about The Dosadi Experiment, but nobody’s mentioned Whipping Star which it was a sequel to. I haven’t read it either.

    It’s not normally counted as science fiction, though it’s set in the future: A Clockwork Orange has a very reactionary message, particularly in the final chapter which the American publishers hated so much they left out.

  10. Isegoria says:

    That reminds me, Dalrymple called A Clockwork Orange a prophetic and violent masterpiece.

  11. Baduin says:

    I would suggest Lindsay’s The Voyage to Arcturus. It is not conservative, in any sense, rather post-modern.

    It is a pseudo-Gnostic (it appears to be Gnostic, but contains elements fundamentally opposed to it, especially Krag) deconstruction of the Western civilisation written using the mental apparatus of Hegelian philosophy.

    The details may be very difficult to grasp – but it is the only book I know which managed to show that a lot of ice-cream is not the ultimate happiness and purpose of Man, and morality which is about ensuring equal and/or abundant, or, for that matter, unequal, access to ice-cream is wrong and deadly, no matter how attractive it looks.

  12. Isegoria says:

    The Voyage to Arcturus is available via Project Gutenberg, by the way.

    (John Rateliff wrote up one of his “classics of fantasy” essays about it, too.)

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