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Sports in Sci-Fi/Fantasy That Are Better Than March Madness

If you have a college hoops hangover, try diving into these spectacular races and contests.

Cover of The Rookie by Scott Sigler depicts a man holding a football

One of the things that readers love in science fiction and fantasy is immersive world building. These aren’t simply settings in which a story takes place, but living, breathing worlds that go beyond what exists on the page. It’s easy to imagine living in the streets, eating in the cafes, trekking through the wilds. And one element that helps create this layered approach to storytelling is through inventing a sport.

Sports tell us a lot about a civilization. Everything from the rules to the players offers us a glimpse into what people living in that world value. These games don’t have to be a large part of the story, but their mention still offers us depth as we read. We learn about the characters based on how they interact or watch the sport, or if they’re part of the games, how they intend to win. Here are nine science fiction and fantasy books with an element of competitive sport woven into the storyline.

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe (The Salvagers Book 1)

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe (The Salvagers Book 1)

By Alex White

The sport: Galactic racing

Nilah Brio dominates the Pan Galactic Racing Federation. Until she witness a fellow driver’s murder. On the run, framed for murder, the only clue she has is that the killer is after famed treasure hunter Boots Elsworth. Together, the pair may have found the one thing that will not just keep them alive, but bring them the fame and riches they both desire.

There’s racing, and then there’s space racing. With a plot that ricochets at a breakneck speed and character you can’t help but love, A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe will keep you heart pumping through every pivotal twist and turn.

The Lies of Locke Lamora Tyrion Lannister's Reading List

The Lies of Locke Lamora

By Scott Lynch

The sport: Handball

The Thorn of Camorr has a deadly reputation. Master swordsman, cunning thief, and possible ghost. But the truth is more ordinary. He’s simply a man named Locke Lamora. He steals from the rich to line his pockets, leading his Gentleman Bastards in various misdeeds across the city. But when they are swept into a murderous game, it will take everything the Bastards have to survive.

A Theirn pastime that is highlighted briefly in the story, handball serves to illuminate the severity of the Camorri and how high the stakes are for Locke and his crew.



By S. B. Divya

The sport: Cyborg marathon running

It’s a marathon on the level of the Tour de France using an exoskeleton and internal augmentations to race across the Sierra Nevada’s. Marmeg Guinto doesn’t have the funding or the support. But the Minerva Sierra Challenge is the only chance she has to give her family a better life. And she’s ready to risk everything to try. 

Life, the Universe and Everything (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Book 3)

Life, the Universe and Everything (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Book 3)

By Douglas Adams

The sport: Brockian Ultra-Cricket

In book three of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the killer robots on planet Krikkit are tired of looking at the night sky. So, they plan to destroy it. And with it, the universe. Only five people stand in their way: Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Slartibartfast, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Trillian. 

There are six rules to Brockian Ultra-Cricket. Grow three extra legs, clone a good player, build a wall around the field, throw sporting equipment over the wall—any will do, strive to hit the other players but apologize sincerely, emphatically, and concisely when you do, and the first team to win wins.

The Rookie (Galactic Football League Book 1)

The Rookie (Galactic Football League Book 1)

By Scott Sigler

The sport: Galactic football

Seven hundred years in the future, football has evolved into a lethal game. Humans and aliens both play, relying on extreme physiology to win. Receivers can jump 25 feet in the air, linemen bench press over a ton, and linebackers might literally eat you. And running it all is a brutal organized crime syndicate dictating who wins, who loses, and who dies. Nineteen-year-old Quentin Barnes has been raised for the game. He hates the aliens he plays against and is willing to do anything to stay off the “killed on the field” column at the end of the game.

asian authors tbr list jade city

Jade City

By Fonda Lee

The sport: Martial arts

An epic fantasy story exploring intergenerational blood feuds, calculating politics, magic, and Kungfu. On the island of Kekon, two crime families vie for control. It’s the only island that produces a rare magical jade that gives wearers superhuman magical abilities. The Green Bone clans used to protect the island from invaders. Now, they use the jade for power and control. But as the simmering tension explodes into outright war, the outcome will determine the fate and future of not just the Green Bones, but the entire island.

Brave New World

Brave New World

By Aldous Huxley

The sports: Electro-Magnetic Golf and Escalator Squash

In the future that Aldous Huxley envisioned, humanity found a type of peace. By eliminating human desire through a drug, babies are conceived in artificial wombs and indoctrinated at an early age. They’re then organized into an intelligence-based hierarchy. One that works, until it doesn’t. 

Restructuring learning, reproduction, and classical conditioning aren’t the only things modified in the name of control. Sports like Electro-Magnetic Golf, Escalator Squash, Reimann Surface Tennis, and Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy are all used to induce happiness and contentment through increased leisure time.



By K. J. Parker

The sport: Fencing

After a brutal war lasting almost half a century, there’s finally an uneasy truce between two kingdoms. Now, diplomatic talks have begun and with them, a chance at peace. It also marks the beginning of the games. A team of fencers represent each kingdom. When peace perches precariously on the tip of a rapier, one misstep could bring the end of peace.

The political intrigue and scheming works well within the strategic fencing matches, where wins mean less about the points and more about revenge.



By Scott Reintgen

The sport: Phoenix Horse Racing

Centuries of blood have led to the ultimate spectacle—the Races. The gods gifted the Ashlords the phoenix horses for battle. Now, they’re raced in a multi-day event where elite riders compete for the ultimate prize. But these races require more than riding skills. Through a complex mix of ash and alchemy, the horses are summoned back to life each sunrise before bursting into flames at sundown. Murder is illegal. Poisoning ash or breaking bones isn’t. 

Let the games begin.