When it comes to all things gothic, most readers probably think of the horror genre first. Gothic horror is a major subgenre, after all, and some of the most foundational horror works fall into this category. But gothic doesn't have to mean horror and horror alone; it can blend with all types of genres. In the end, gothic is a mood, an aesthetic, and a feeling.
That brings us to gothic science fiction. Some of the classic hallmarks of gothic fiction translate perfectly to sci-fi.
A claustrophobic house that induces madness? Instead of a crumbling mansion, imagine a spaceship. Supernatural monsters like vampires and ghosts can easily fit into a sci-fi novel. Maybe they have the fantastical underpinnings we see in horror, but who says they can't have a scientific explanation? And cosmic horror? Welcome to the grand vastness of outer space where, as the 1979 film Alien reminded us, no one can hear you scream.
To get you started on this often-overlooked subgenre, here are 10 gripping gothic sci-fi books.
While Shelley's novel certainly features a gothic aesthetic, it also bears the distinction of being arguably the first science fiction novel ever published.
Thanks to the iconic 1931 film adaptation and Boris Karloff's memorable portrayal of the monster, most people are probably familiar with this updated take on the Prometheus story.
The key thing to remember, though, is that Frankenstein refers to the scientist who realizes his dream of creating life—only to regret it—and not the monster.
Cosmic horror meets outer space in George R.R. Martin's novella about a team of scholars who seek first contact with a mysterious alien race. While the mission seems straightforward, their means of accomplishing it are less so.
Their ship, Nightflyer, is captained by a man no one has ever seen in the flesh, but that's merely the start of their problems. Because, as it turns out, something else is on their ship—something decidedly not human. And if you think it's the alien race they're seeking, you'd be wrong.
The Cold War may be over, but its shadow stretches long. Psychic spies, the product of a Soviet-era program, have scattered across the globe.
Now, these agents are being activated for a bigger purpose. Some of them are not so keen to give up their new lives, though.
If you like espionage stories and don't mind them being mixed with supernatural elements and no small amount of chaos, Nickle's book will deliver.
Gideon the Ninth
Who says you can't mix necromancy with science fiction? In Tasmyn Muir's Locked Tomb series, an immortal Emperor rules over a galactic empire where advanced technology exists alongside necromancy.
The Emperor, in particular, draws his strongest supporters from the Nine Houses. Now, the Houses' heirs and their bodyguards must undergo a test to select those worthy to become his new companions. But there's more to the test than meets the eye.
We most associate Stephen King with horror, but The Tommyknockers marked his first foray into science fiction.
It features some classic King elements: We have a character that's a working writer. The novel takes place in a small New England town. But in this New England town called Haven, residents encounter a crashed alien spacecraft.
As the townsfolk unearth the spaceship—thereby increasing their contact time with it—they begin to change. Some people become brilliant and invent wondrous things. Sounds great, right? Not so fast.
Others, unfortunately, become violent, which is a problem when the residents are no longer able to leave town. It turns out the spaceship may have an agenda of its own.
Love the original Dracula by Bram Stoker? Aldiss puts a time-traveling spin on the vampire tale when one man discovers that the undead can travel through time.
To avoid a far-flung future where humans have been enslaved by vampires, he travels to the past where he meets none other than Bram Stoker himself. Together, they set out to defeat the original and greatest vampire of all, Dracula.
Black Sun Rising
Millennia before the start of Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy, Terran space travelers attempt to colonize a faraway planet.
But the planet isn't some interstellar paradise. It's imbued with a natural force that preys on the mind. It can bring your greatest dreams, and nightmares, to life.
Centuries later, humans are locked in a stalemate with this natural force, which has since been dubbed the fae. But now something is about to upset this balance, and not in the humans' favor.
I Am Legend
The classic science fiction novel from the 1950s brought vampires—an iconic gothic horror monster—into a modern setting.
A global epidemic has killed most of the world's population and transformed those who survive into vampiric creatures. The story follows Robert Neville, the last untransformed human on earth, as he struggles to survive and find a cure. If you're looking for the originator of zombie movies and disease-induced apocalypses, I Am Legend is it.
The first installment of Dan Simmons' four-book Hyperion Cantos, this novel introduces us to seven travelers on a pilgrimage. Where are they headed? The Valley of the Time Tombs, where awaits a creature named the Shrike.
Like its namesake, the Shrike has a fondness for impaling things. Why would anyone seek out something so monstrous?
Each of the pilgrims shares their own story, and realize that they're all connected to the Shrike in some way. Their lives were all impacted by the Shrike, and it seems the mysterious creature is not yet done.
Does anything live on the moon? Is such a thing possible? Rogue Moon explores those questions.
In the novel, the United States government discovers a strange alien artifact on the moon. But any volunteers they send to explore the structure meet unfortunate ends.
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