The 21 most significant science fiction storytellers of the 21st century (so far)

06 to 02

06. Elon Musk

Nobody understands the real-world power of science fiction storytelling better than Musk. Digital payments. Electric cars. Rockets to Mars. Neural interfaces. Even humanoid robots. There’s no implausible vision from science fiction that Elon won’t revive on his quest for immortality…and shareholder value.

05. Solarpunk

The genre without a story. While cyberpunk was defined by the stories of William Gibson and Japanese anime, solarpunk has emerged out of the collective subconscious. It’s an optimistic vision of the near future that exists as illustrations, 3D worlds and think pieces, but is yet to fund an actual story to weave together its disparate parts.

04. Hans Zimmer

In a very real sense Hollywood scifi blockbusters are just pop videos for the music of Hans Zimmer. No composer has been as influential, effectively defining the sound of cinematic scifi for the first two decades of the century. Zimmer’s style is heavily influenced by early 20th century experimentalists like John Cage, showing how in the age of science fiction the once avant garde becomes the mainstream.

03. Janelle Monáe

A David Bowie / Ziggy Stardust for the 21st century, Janelle Monáe’s music, videos and performances are the embodiment of science fiction. 

02. Ted Chiang

Chiang claims to write his stories a few sentences a day with a lot of deep thinking inbetween, which might explain why the modern master of science fiction has authored only a handful of short stories in his career. But what stories they are. The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate, Story of Your Life (filmed as Arrival) and The Lifecycle of Software Objects are among the highlights. No understanding if contemporary science fiction is complete without reading Ted Chiang.

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Who is the number 1?

Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

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