In the birth of science fiction we saw many writers attempt to make a name, but none were more recognized then Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Robert A. Heinlein.
These three writers have been dubbed the ‘Big Three’ of science fiction. All three were close friends and Clarke and Asimov even began a friendly rivalry when they met in 1953 and even traded friendly jabs and insults for decades until they signed the Clarke – Asimov treaty.
All three have made major contributions to the genera with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, Clarks Three Laws of prediction, and the militaristic writings that began the space warfare genera. These three earned the titles of “The Big Three” but as all three have passed on and science fictions has expanded and moved into a new era the time has come to question who will become the new Clarke, Asimov and Heinlein?
Arthur C. Clarke:
As a part of the Clarke – Asimov Treaty both agreed that when asked who was best, the two would say Clarke was the best science fiction writer and Asimov was the best science writer. In his writings Clarke has often been quoted as being a ‘Hard Science Fiction” writer. This means that his writing has an emphasis on scientific or technical detail, and on scientific accuracy. While we have seen many writers use this, Larry Niven, Kim Stanley Robinson and Greg Egan, the best example of Clarke’s writing and themes can be found in the juggernaut Orsen Scott Card’s writing. We see elements like technology versus religion, Relativity in space travel, and transcendence through evolution.
This author is most famous for his Three Laws of Robotics, I, Robot and his The Robot series, but some of his themes in his science writing have been powerful ones that have influenced the genre as a whole. Much of Asimov’s fiction dealt with the relationship between robot and humans and the impact upon both parties, though most particularly humans. Asimov has also written about a planet called Gaia where every animal, plant, and mineral on Gaia participated in a shared consciousness, forming a single super-mind working together for the greater good that evolves into a sentient life form. We have seen this in works of James Cameron in avatar, the living planet in both Star Wars and Green Lantern. Asimov was also criticized for the general absence of extraterrestrial life in his science fiction, very similar to the cult favourite Firefly and Serentity by Joss Whedon. Despite the heavy influences on TV and film, the writer that most follows the writing examples of Asimov is Canada’s own Robert J. Sawyer. Both have very little in the use of aliens; instead they rely on scientific events, like robotic life forms, worldwide premonitions and alternate reality Neanderthals, and how humanity deals with these situations.
Robert A. Heinlein:
Heinlein is most known for his epic space warfare novel Starship Troopers. This book, which pits humanity against an army of insects, opened up a universe of militant and imtelligent insects for humanity to fight against. The very writing of Heinlein has led to direct influences of some of science fiction most famous insects, The Zerg from Starcraft, the Tyranid from Warhammer 20k, the Racnoss from Doctor Who, the Prawns from District 9 and the Killiks from Star Wars. Robert A Heinlein was a writer whose life in the Vietnam War influenced his writing style and themes. He wrote about sexual liberation, race equality, and bundled them in military sci-fi. Heinlein held foresight in his writing. He has come up with numerous concepts that late became actual products. These included solar panels, hand dryers, drafting software, online newspapers, screensavers, vehicle remote keyless systems, solar panels and even waterbeds. Greg Bear is a militaristic science fiction writer who best follows in the Heinlein title. He writes with a background of war and terrorism, but looks to the future as he predicts the future in technology and equipment.
So in recap
Arthur C. Clark – Orsen Scott Card
Isaac Asimov – Robert J. Saywer
Robert A. Heinlein – Greg Bear
These are the current big three in my opinion, but the title will be one that is passed down as each generation steps up to the literary plate. Expect to see writers like David Webber, Robert Buettner, Elizabeth Moon, Jeff Somers, Karen Traviss and Drew Karpyshyn fighting for their bid for the title.