Looking for more in Book Lists?

14 page-turning Scottish sci-fi, fantasy and horror books

Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction, Scotland
Age group: Adults
Cover collage of fantasy, sci-fi and horror book covers

Our friends at Cymera Festival recommend some of their favourite science fiction, fantasy and horror from Scottish and Scotland-based writers.

Scotland is a powerhouse of speculative fiction – from the much-missed Iain M. Banks to newcomers such as Harry Josephine Giles, who won the 2022 Arthur C. Clarke science fiction book of the year for her verse novel Deep Wheel Orcadia.

Since Cymera: Scotland's Festival of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror(this link will open in a new window) Writing began in 2019, our programme has featured close to a hundred brilliant Scottish and Scotland-based writers. Some are only at the beginning of their career, like Lyndsey Croal and Rachelle Atalla, and some have made Scotland their home, such as Christopher Priest, Nina Allan and Laura Lam. There are far too many to name here, so this list is a mere flavour of what the Scottish science fiction, fantasy and horror writing scene has to offer. The recommendations below are for adult readers – for younger readers, check out Ben Oliver, Alastair Chisholm, S.M. Wilson and Akemi Dawn Bowman.

New to SF? Join the Open Book Speculative Fiction Reading Group or dip your toe in through shorter fiction like Shoreline of Infinity (Scotland's award-winning science fiction magazine), the brilliant novellas from Luna Press Publishing, and titles from small but mighty publishers Haunt Publishing and Knight Errant Press.

Iain M Banks Consider Phlebas

Generally considered one of the finest science fiction writers, this is the start of Banks' The Culture series. Horza, a shape-shifter, and his mercenary crew are tasked with retreiving an artificial intelligence called the Mind against the backdrop of galactic war. For a gentler foray into Banks' work, pick up stand-alone The Algebraist, or start with The Wasp Factory, written by his alter ego Iain Banks.

Ken MacLeod Beyond the Hallowed Sky

A letter from her future self seems to confirm Lakshmi's paper on the possibility of faster-than-light travel. But her peers discredit the theory, sending her down an uexpected path to uncover new possibilities and new dangers. Space opera at its best, with hints of a familiar Scotland and a great blend of social issues, science and characters you can't help but love (or loath). Ken is also Guest of Honor at the WorldCon in 2024, which takes place in Glasgow.

Charles Stross The Atrocity Archives

Underappreciated techie Bob Howard has his dull but safe office job at a secret government agency turned upside-down by the end of the world. Another great author of space opera, if you love a healthy dose of anti-establishment satire with your Lovecraftian horror fantasy, pick up Stross' The Laundry Files too.

Rachelle Atalla The Pharmacist

This claustrophobic debut asks how far we would go to survive at the end of the world. Pharmacist Wolfe navigates the tensions and politics of life in an underground bunker – safe but trapped, and forced to grant favours to their increasingly paranoid leader.

Neil Williamson The Moon King

Complex worldbuilding, lyrical writing and a healthy dose of oddness make this a stand-out novel. Glassholm is dissolving into turmoil five hundred years after the tethering of the moon – plagued by troubled dreams, whispering children and the luck monkeys running wild. Three individuals have a part to play in the saving of the island, all while being subjected to the schemes of the mysterious Moon King.

Jane Alexander A User's Guide to Make-Believe

A near-future techno thriller which examines virtual reality and personal technology. The story follows Cassie, an ex-employee of tech giant Imagen, as she deals with losing access to the virtual reality experience Make-Believe and being legally gagged, preventing her from talking about her former employer. You will probably delete your social media account after reading this.

Helen Sedgwick The Growing Season

In a near future Britain, everyone can have a baby thanks to the baby pouch – what could possibly go wrong? We recommend the audiobook as its beautifully narrated, on top of being a brilliant story.

Ever Dundas HellSans

When the HellSans typeface is enforced in all communications and public spaces, society is divided between those who experience bliss when looking at the font and others who are persecuted for being allergic to it. A hard-hitting story about governmental control and manipulation and what happens to those who are outside the system or stand against it. Also, vomit. Lots of vomit.

Martin MacInnes In Ascension

Speculative writing at its best, both epic and intimate, asking the great questions of existence while also interrogating our day to day. Leigh and her exploration team make a discovery under the Atlantic that will call into question everything the world knows about the origins of the human race.

Joanna Corrance The Gingerbread Men

Dark fairy-tale meets The Shining. When Eric leaves his fiance to follow a mysterious woman back to the hotel she owns, he joins the group of trapped men who serve and entertain her with fireside horror stories. You might never be able to stay in a remote Highland hotel ever again.

Lorraine Wilson This Is Our Undoing

After moving to a remote outpost, the safety of Lina's family is threatened by the arrival of her enemy's son and widowed wife. Beautiful writing, intriguing folkloric influences and a strong environmental message make this an unforgettable debut novel.

T L Huchu The Library of the Dead

If urban fantasy set in a post-something Scotland with weird magic, secret societies and a prickly teenage protagonist is your cup of tea, this is the series for you!

L R Lam Goldilocks

Better know for her amazing fantasy novels, Goldilocks is Laura Lam's first foray into sci-fi. Part feminist call to arms, part near-future thriller, 100 percent edge-of-your-seat writing. And you learn about the importance of algae. (If you like the sounds of this, also check out Seven Devils and Seven Mercies, co-written with Elizabeth May).

Craig Paton Dave Cook Killtopia

Cyberpunk graphic novel made in Scotland! Shinji and his robot Crash are being hunted for the secret to curing a deadly nano-virus across a futuristic Japan. Get sucked in by the amazing art work, stay for the brilliant story.