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Science Fiction Stories with Good Astronomy & Physics: A Topical Index

Compiled by Andrew Fraknoi (Foothill College)
Version 6.3; Oct. 2015
© copyright 2015 by Andrew Fraknoi.  All rights reserved.  Permission to use for any non-profit educational purpose, such as distribution in a classroom, is hereby granted.  For any other use, please contact the author. (e-mail: fraknoiandrew {at}

This is a selective list of some short stories and novels that use more or less accurate science and can be used for teaching or reinforcing astronomy or physics concepts. I include both traditional “science-fiction” and (occasionally) more serious fiction that derives meaning or plot from astronomy or physics ideas. The titles of short stories are given in quotation marks; only short stories that have been published in book form or are available free on the Web are included. While one book source is given for each short story, note that some of the stories can be found in other collections as well. (See the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, cited at the end, for an easy way to find all the places a particular story has been published.) The author welcomes suggestions for additions to this list, especially if your favorite story with good science is left out.


  • Fireball

    Davies, Paul Fireball. 1987, Heinemann. Antimatter micrometeorites threaten Earth.

  • Flatlander

    Niven, Larry “Flatlander” in Neutron Star. 1968, Ballantine. Two explorers find a high-speed protostar and a planet made of antimatter, passing through the Galaxy.


  • Stonehenge

    Harrison, Harry & Stover, Leon Stonehenge. 1972, Scribners. A novel by a science fiction writer and an anthropologist.


  • Vacuum Diagrams

    Baxter, Stephen “Pilot” in Vacuum Diagrams. 1997, Harper Prism. Future space travelers hollow out Chiron and use it as a spaceship to escape invading aliens.

  • Dark Sanctuary

    Benford, Gregory "Dark Sanctuary" in Matters End. 1994, Bantam. A prospector finds an interstellar spaceship hiding among the asteroids in the main belt.

  • Summertime on Icarus

    Clarke, Arthur “Summertime on Icarus” in The Nine Billion Names of God. 1967, Signet. An astronaut is stranded on Icarus, the asteroid with the smallest perihelion distance, just as it is approaching the Sun.

  • Element 79

    Hoyle, Fred “Element 79” in Element 79. 1967, New American Library. An asteroid with significant amount of gold wreaks havoc with the Earth’s economy.

  • Nordley, G. David “This Old Rock.” 1997, available on the web. About a future when many asteroids in the belt are being outfitted as habitats for humans.

  • Small Bodies

    Preuss, Paul “Small Bodies” in Preiss, Byron, ed. The Planets. 1985, Bantam. A fundamentalist preacher and a scientist find fossils on an asteroid.

  • Vainglory

    Reynolds, Alastair "Vainglory" in Strahan, J., ed. Edge of Infinity. 2012, Solaris. An artist and an industrialist sculpt an asteroid and then send it to hit the small innermost moon of Neptune's to break it up and make a new, more impressive ring around the planet.


  • Doctor Copernicus

    Banville, John Doctor Copernicus. 1976, Godine. A fictionalized biography of the astronomer.

  • Kepler: A Novel

    Banville, John Kepler: A Novel. 1981, Godine. Fictionalization of Kepler’s life.

  • Bow Shock

    Benford, Gregory Bow Shock in The Years Best Science Fiction: 24th Annual Collection, Gardner Dozois, ed. (2007, St. Martins). A story set at the University of California, Irvine, which shows the daily life of an academic astronomer who eventually makes a startling discovery.

  • Timescape

    Benford, Gregory Timescape. 1981, Bantam Spectra. Eater. 2000, Eos/HarperCollins. Many of the novels of physicist Benford portray what it is like to be a scientist. In these two books, some of the astronomer characters are based on real astronomers.

  • Benford, Gregory Bow Shock in Dozois, G., ed. The Years Best Science Fiction 24th Annual Collection. 2007, St. Martin. A young astronomer at UC Irvine studying high-speed pulsars discovers an alien spaceship. (Available on line at:

  • Hubble Time

    Bezzi, Tom Hubble Time. 1987, Mercury House. A fictional memoir of Hubble’s life; gets some of the facts wrong, but an intriguing effort.

  • Galileo

    Brecht, Bertold Galileo. A 1938 stage play available alone (Grove Press) or in many collections; not historically accurate, but with strong political points to make.

  • The Falling Sky

    Goldschmidt, Pippa The Falling Sky. 2013, Freight Books. A complex modern novel by a British astronomer/writer, about a post-doc grappling with her sexuality, her place in academic research, and family issues.

  • Background, in Deepen the Mystery

    Gunderson, Lauren Background, in Deepen the Mystery. 2005, iUniverse. A play about Ralph Alpher on the day that Penzias and Wilson receive the Nobel Prize for discovering the cosmic background radiation and he is not included.

  • Silent Sky

    Gunderson, Laura Silent Sky. 2015, Dramatist’s Play Service. A play about the life and work of Henrietta Leavitt, her discovery of the Cepheid period-luminosity relationship, and her struggle with hearing impairment.

  • McDevitt, Jack & Shara, Michael “Lighthouse” in Cryptic: The Best Short Fiction of Jack McDevitt. (2009, Subterranean Press) [also on the web. A story about astronomical discovery told within the frame of a thesis defense colloquium; what it would be like if an astronomer discovered the existence of intelligent life out there by means of modifications they made to astronomical objects.

  • Lamp at Midnight

    Stover, Barrie Lamp at Midnight. 1966, Bantam Books. Revised edition of a 1942 play about Galileo and his conflict with the Church.

  • Schwarzschild Radius

    Willis, Connie “Schwarzschild Radius” in Preiss, Byron & Fraknoi, Andrew, eds. The Universe. 1987, Bantam. Haunting story combines episodes from the life of Karl Schwarzschild and black hole images.